Ancient Gold: The Wealth of the Thracians

A fertility symbol or a piece of Thracian porn? The 2-inch-high, gilt silver appliqué presents one of the most intricate—and explicit—scenes known from Thracian iconography. It depicts a seated man (right) copulating with a woman (center), while a third figure (left) blesses the happy couple with a sacred branch. The scene probably represents the archetypal “dragon fighter myth,” in which a triumphant hero rescues a beautiful princess, marries her and then receives traditional blessings of power and fertility from the gods. (The best known example of such a story in classical Greek mythology is that of Perseus and Andromeda, but it is unknown what specific tale is being represented here.)