Herakleia, Lucania (hippocamp coll.)
[b]Herakleia, Lucania (hippocamp coll.; 433-330 BC.)
[u]Obv[/u]: Head of Athena wearing Corinthian helmet decorated with hippocamp, facing right.
[u]Rev[/u]: Herakles kneeling right, wrestling with the Nemean lion while holding club; EY between legs of Herakles.
[u]Attribution[/u]: SNG ANS 18
[u]Provenance[/u]: ex. Busso Peus Nachf 393 (#51), 10.31.07
[u]Weight[/u]: 1.09 gm
[u]Maximal Diameter[/u]: mm
[u]Notes[/u]: The first labor for the hero Herakles, was to rid the Nemean plain of the wild, enormous and extremely ferocious beast known as the Nemean Lion. This huge creature was reportedly the son of the monsters Orthos (dog) and Chimera and the brother of the Theban Sphinx. In some legends, it is said that the Nemean lion was suckled by Selene the goddess of the moon, other versions say that it was nursed by the goddess Hera.
Herkales set out to find the monster, which roamed the land of Argolis. Armed with his bow and arrows and his olive tree club. Hunting through the Nemean forest trying to find the lions lair, he suddenly stopped in his tracks when he heard a fearsome roar. Herakles turned and saw the huge lion rushing toward him. Quick as a flash Herakles drew his bow and released an arrow, but it failed to harm the lion. As the monster bore down on Herakles he quickly fired another arrow, and again it did no harm, the bronze heads bending as if hitting solid rock; the skin of this creature could not be penetrated by the sharpest of points. The lion pounced, but Herakles smashed his heavy club into the on coming monster, stunning it.
Realizing no weapon could kill this monster he rid himself of them, and fought the monster with his bare hands, with incredible strength, Herakles wrapped his great arms around the lions neck and strangled it to death. Once the huge monster was dead Heracles set about skinning the beast, but the skin was so tough he could neither tear or cut it. Then he tried the enormous claws which were very sharp, this time it penetrated the hide and Herakles removed his trophy. Realizing how impenetrable it was he threw it over himself as a cloak, and pulling the head over his own as a helmet making the pelt into armor which would make him even more powerful. From this time on the skin of the Nemean Lion became one of the attributes of Herakles, and so did the olive-wood club.
The reverse motif of Herakles fighting the Nemean lion used on this silver diobol of Herakleia is the "tondo" scene of a crouched Herakles wrestling the Nemean lion with a stranglehold (a design also used on the Syracusan gold 100 litrae issue of Dionysios I).