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Authentic Ancient Roman Coin of:
Gordian III - Roman Emperor: 238-244 A.D. -
Silver Antoninianus 23mm (4.59 grams) Rome mint: 241-243 A.D.
Reference: Reference: RIC 95, C 404
IMP GORDIANVS PIVS FEL AVG - Radiate, draped and cuirassed bust right.
VIRTVTI AVGVSTI - the "Farnese" Hercules standing facing, head right, resting hand
on hip and placing left on club set on rock; lion skin beside club.
The model for this reverse type is the famed marble Farnese Hercules statue that was discovered in the excavations of the Btahs of Caracalla in 1546. It stood for over 200 year sin the Palazzo Farnese in Rome, from whence it gained its name, and was moved to Naples in 1787, where it is now displayed in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale. The statue is thought to be an enlarged copy sculpted in early 3rd Century AD by Glykon based on an original by Lysippos dating to the 4th century BC. The statue depicts Hercules at rest after completing his labors: he is shown standing with his club, draped in the skin of the Nemean lion, set upright on a rock, propped under his left arm supporting the weight of his muscular frame, his head slightly nodding forward in a weary attitude, and he holds the apples of the Hesperides behind his back in his right hand. The sculpture was apparently well-liked by the Romans, and copies have been found in Roman palaces and gymnasiums.
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The Farnese Hercules is an ancient sculpture, probably an enlarged copy made in the early third century AD and signed by a certain Glykon, from an original by Lysippos (or one of his circle) that would have been made in the fourth century BC. The copy was made for the Baths of Caracalla in Rome (dedicated in 216 AD), where it was recovered in 1546.
The heroically-scaled Hercules is one of the most famous sculptures of Antiquity, and has fixed the image of the mythic hero in the European imagination. It quickly made its way into the collection of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, grandson of Pope Paul III. Alessandro Farnese was well placed to form one of the greatest collections of classical sculpture that has been assembled since Antiquity.
It stood for generations in its own room at Palazzo Farnese, Rome, where the hero was surrounded by frescoed depictions of his feats by Annibale Carracci and his studio, executed in the 1590s.
The Farnese statue was moved to Naples in 1787 and is now displayed in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale.
The type was well known in Antiquity: a Hellenistic or Roman bronze reduction, found at Foligno is conserved in the Musée du Louvre; a small marble, probably Greek of the Roman period, is to be seen in the Museum of the Ancient Agora, Athens (illustration).
The Farnese Hercules is a massive and muscular marble statue, following a lost original cast in bronze through a method called lost wax casting. It depicts a weary Hercules leaning on his club, which has his lion-skin draped over it. He is performing one of the last of The Twelve Labours, which is suggested by the apples of the Hesperides he holds behind his back. This prominently-sited statue was well liked by the Romans, and copies have been found in Roman palaces and gymnasiums: another, coarser, stood in the courtyard of Palazzo Farnese; one with the feigned (but probably ancient) inscription "Lykippos" has stood in the court of Palazzo Pitti, Florence, since the sixteenth century.
Guglielmo della Porta, the head had been recovered separately, from a well in Trastevere, and was bought for Farnese through the agency of della Porta, whose legs made to complete the figure were so well regarded that when the original legs were recovered from ongoing excavations in the Baths of Caracalla, della Porta's were retained, on Michelangelo's advice, in part to demonstrate that modern sculptors could bear direct comparison with the ancients. The original legs, from the Borghese collection, were not reunited with the sculpture until 1787. Goethe, in his Italian Journey, recounts his differing impressions upon seeing the Hercules with each set of legs, marvelling at the clear superiority of the original ones.
Hercules is caught in a rare moment of repose. Leaning on his knobby club which is draped with the pelt of the Nemean Lion, he holds the apples of the Hesperides in his right hand, but conceals them behind his back like a baseball pitcher with a knuckleball. Many engravings and woodcuts spread the fame of the Farnese's Hercules. By 1562 the find was already included in the set of engravings for Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae ("Mirror of Rome's Magnificence") and connoisseurs, artists and tourists gaped at the original, which stood in the courtyard of the Palazzo Farnese, protected under the arcade. In 1590-91, during his trip to Rome, Hendrik Goltzius sketched the statue in the palazzo courtyard. Later (in 1591) Goltzius recorded the less-common rear view, in a bravura engraving (illustration, right), which emphasizes the already exaggerated muscular form with swelling and tapering lines that flow over the contours. The young Rubens made quick sketches of the Hercules' planes and massing. Before photography, prints were the only way to put the image into many hands.
The Farnese Hercules, engraved by Hendrick Goltzius, 1591. Two onlookers give scale.
The sculpture was admired from the start, reservations about its exaggerated musculature only surfacing in the later eighteenth century. Napoleon remarked to Antonio Canova that its lack in the museum he accumulated in Paris was the most important gap in the collection, and the sculpture was more than once crated ready for shipment to Paris before the Napoleonic regime fled Naples.
Wealthy collectors could afford one of the numerous bronze replicas in sizes for table-top display. A full-size marble copy that belonged to the Bourbons of Naples is at the National Museum, Naples.
Copies of the Farnese Hercules appeared in 16th- and 18th-century gardens throughout Europe. During construction of the Alameda de Hercules (1574) in Seville, the oldest public garden preserved in Europe, on the cover were installed two columns from a Roman temple, an unquestionable sign of admiration for the Roman archaeological sites, elements of a building still preserved in the Marble Street. On them were placed two sculptures by Diego de Pesquera, in 1574, of the Farnese Hercules, as founder of the city, and of Julius Caesar, restorer of Híspalis. The first was a copy of the Farnese Hercules, near the monumental size of the famous Roman marble from the Baths of Caracalla. At Wilhelmshöhe, near Kassel, a colossal version 8.5 m high produced by Johann Jacob Anthoni, 1713–1717, has become the city's mascot. André Le Nôtre placed a full-size gilded version against the skyline at the far end of the main vista at Vaux-le-Vicomte. That at Versailles is a copy by Jean Cornu, 1684–1686. In Scotland a rare copy in lead, of the first half of the 18th century, is sited incongruously in the central Highlands, overlooking the recently restored Hercules Garden in the grounds of Blair Castle.
Marcus Antonius Gordianus Pius (January 20, 225 – February 11, 244), known in English as Gordian III, was Roman Emperor from 238 to 244. Gordian was the son of Antonia Gordiana and his father was an unnamed Roman Senator who died before 238. Antonia Gordiana was the daughter of Emperor Gordian I and younger sister of Emperor Gordian II. Very little is known on his early life before becoming Roman Emperor. Gordian had assumed the name of his maternal grandfather in 238.
Following the murder of emperor Alexander Severus in Moguntiacum (modern Mainz), the capital of the Roman province Germania Inferior, Maximinus Thrax was acclaimed emperor, despite strong opposition of the Roman senate and the majority of the population. In response to what was considered in Rome as a rebellion, Gordian's grandfather and uncle, Gordian I and II, were proclaimed joint emperors in the Africa Province. Their revolt was suppressed within a month by Cappellianus, governor of Numidia and a loyal supporter of Maximinus Thrax. The elder Gordians died, but public opinion cherished their memory as peace loving and literate men, victims of Maximinus' oppression.
Meanwhile, Maximinus was on the verge of marching on Rome and the Senate elected Pupienus and Balbinus as joint emperors. These senators were not popular men and the population of Rome was still shocked by the elder Gordian's fate, so that the Senate decided to take the teenager Gordian, rename him Marcus Antonius Gordianus as his grandfather, and raise him to the rank of Caesar and imperial heir. Pupienus and Balbinus defeated Maximinus, mainly due to the defection of several legions, namely the II Parthica who assassinated Maximinus. But their joint reign was doomed from the start with popular riots, military discontent and even an enormous fire that consumed Rome in June 238. On July 29, Pupienus and Balbinus were killed by the Praetorian guard and Gordian proclaimed sole emperor.
Due to Gordian's age, the imperial government was surrendered to the aristocratic families, who controlled the affairs of Rome through the senate. In 240, Sabinianus revolted in the African province, but the situation was dealt quickly. In 241, Gordian was married to Furia Sabinia Tranquillina, daughter of the newly appointed praetorian prefect, Timesitheus. As chief of the Praetorian guard and father in law of the emperor, Timesitheus quickly became the de facto ruler of the Roman empire.
In the 3rd century, the Roman frontiers weakened against the Germanic tribes across the Rhine and Danube, and the Sassanid kingdom across the Euphrates increased its own attacks. When the Persians under Shapur I invaded Mesopotamia, the young emperor opened the doors of the Temple of Janus for the last time in Roman history, and sent a huge army to the East. The Sassanids were driven back over the Euphrates and defeated in the Battle of Resaena (243). The campaign was a success and Gordian, who had joined the army, was planning an invasion of the enemy's territory, when his father-in-law died in unclear circumstances. Without Timesitheus, the campaign, and the emperor's security, were at risk.
Marcus Julius Philippus, also known as Philip the Arab, stepped in at this moment as the new Praetorian Prefect and the campaign proceeded. In the beginning of 244, the Persians counter-attacked. Persian sources claim that a battle was fought (Battle of Misiche) near modern Fallujah (Iraq) and resulted in a major Roman defeat and the death of Gordian III. Roman sources do not mention this battle and suggest that Gordian died far away, upstream of the Euphrates. Although ancient sources often described Philip, who succeeded Gordian as emperor, as having murdered Gordian at Zaitha (Qalat es Salihiyah), the cause of Gordian's death is unknown.
Gordian's youth and good nature, along with the deaths of his grandfather and uncle and his own tragic fate at the hands of another usurper, granted him the everlasting esteem of the Romans. Despite the opposition of the new emperor, Gordian was deified by the Senate after his death, in order to appease the population and avoid riots.
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