EGYPT. Alexandria. Domitian, 81-96. Obol (Orichalcum, 18 mm, 3.35 g, 12 h), RY 11 = 91/2. ΑΥΤ ΚΑΙϹΑΡ ΔΟΜΙΤ ϹЄΒ ΓЄΡΜ Laureate head of Domitian to right. Rev. L IA Sphinx reclining right. Dattari (Savio) 570. Emmett 326.11. K&G 24.181. RPC II online 2645.10 (this coin). An exceptional example, certainly among the finest known of this difficult issue. Patina stripped, otherwise, good very fine.
Ex Naville E-Auction 76, 2 October 2022, 185.
While many Alexandrian coins adhered to Greco-Roman motives, the coinage was also suffused with typical Egyptian elements, such as local deities, canopi, or temples. One of the most impressive reverse types in this regard is no doubt the sphinx. While the winged sphinx was no novelty due to her role in Greek tragedy, or even as an iconographic element on coins, the sphinx on our coin is decidedly more Egyptian in outlook (and male, unlike the Greek sphinx), immediately bringing to mind the Great Sphinx of Giza. Whether the latter is actually depicted is uncertain - the nearby Great Pyramids were never featured on Alexandrian coins and sphinxes were relatively ubiquitous in Egypt (the dromos connecting the temples of Karnak and Luxor, for instance, was lined with smaller sphinxes). Still, the wonderful appearance of the sphinx on Alexandrian coins shows Rome's appreciation, perhaps even admiration, of Ancient Egypt's monumental art.