Authors:Francesca Ceci and Aleksandra Krauze-Kołodziej
The myth of Orpheus experienced a great popularity in ancient world, covering the path from a mythical legend to a complex and sophisticated mystic cult. There were many various features of Orpheus that characterized the Thracian singer, being the result of his different adventures: from the quest of the Argonauts and the pathetic story of love of Eurydice, to his journey to the underworld.
The myth of Orpheus was highly represented in iconography. The most frequent representations are those showing Orpheus as a singer surrounded by the beasts and, in smaller amount, in the scene representing the story of descent to the underworld in search of Eurydice. Numerous images connected with the legend of Orpheus, dating from the Classical times to Christian era, are the proof of a wide influence of the mystery cult of Orpheus on ancient and late antique culture.
This paper aims to present an overview of ancient coinage iconography representing Orpheus. Various motives considering the story of Orpheus appear on one of the most powerful means of propaganda – the coins, particularly from the Roman provinces, that were easily able to reach a wide audience. In the limited space of coins, the engravers could highlight effectively the most important and popular events from the story of Orpheus.