FORVM`s Classical Numismatics Discussion Board

Numism => Reading For the Advanced Collector => Topic started by: Jochen on January 12, 2006, 04:58:45 pm

Title: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on January 12, 2006, 04:58:45 pm
As motto on top of this thread I have chosen the following word of Gottfried Benn ('Roman des Phänotyps'):

Aber Jahrtausende leben in unseren Seelen,
Verlorenes, Schweigendes, Staub; Kain, Zenobia,
die Atriden schwingen ihre Thyrsosruten her.

(But millenia are living in our souls,
Lost, silent, dust: Kain, Zenobia,
The Atreids sway their Thyrsos rods from afar.)

This thread should present coins in loose order with its mythological background. Please wait for some of my contributions to see how it works! The target group is not the scientific world but the interested layman as I am too. If you see errors please send me a PN. I will try to correct them.

The first coin I want to present is a coin of Caracalla. It is an AE22 from Alexandria/Troas with the depiction of Apollo Smintheus on the reverse. The legends are in Latin because this city was a Roman colony.

Apollo Smintheus

Caracalla AD 198-217
AE22, 6.1g
bust, draped and cuirassed, laureate, r.
rev. GEN CO - L - AUG TRO
Genius standing facing, head l., holding cornucopiae l. and statue of Apollo Smintheus
in his outstretched r. hand.
cf. Lindgren & Kovacs 331 (different obv. and rev. legends)
about VF

The worshipping of Apollo Smintheus interestingly extends only to Asia Minor and not the Greek mainland. Especially Alexandria/Troas was the center of this cult. This is as is generally known one of the strongest arguments for the thesis that the origin of the Apollo cult was Asia minor. Here we have the mythological  explanation:

After the fall of Troy the Greeks start to spread to the East. They settled on the Aegaen islands and the western coast of Asia Minor. The worshipping of Apollo in this region have had a curious origin. When the old Teukri under their king Teucer came from Crete to the coast of Asia Minor, the oracle have said them to stay there where they could see their enemies creeping out of the ground. When they came to Hamaxitos, a city in this region, the mice creeping out of the ground gnaw at their shields in the night. So they saw the oracle of the god fulfilled, settled down and built up a statue of Apollo and at his feet laying a mouse, which in the Aeolian dialect was called Smintha. (Ovid Met. II, 5685)

There are known two different versions of Apollo Smintheus depictions:
a. A cult statue where he stands frontal holding a mouse in his hand. This version is characteristic of Alexandria/Troas. This is depicted too on my coin. The fact that the statue is hold by the Genius of the city may be an allusion that the temple of Apollo got governmental benefits. (Pat Lawrence)
b. A cult statue where Apollo is standing l. and has a mouse under his foot. Iin Chryse there was a statue made by Scopas, showing exactly this position. This statue too could be seen on coins.

The meaning of the epitheton 'Smintheus' is interpreted different ways:
1. The origin of the name is the city of Sminthe in Troas, where Apollo was worshipped  
    already in pre-hellenic times. So Apollo Smintheus = Apollo from Sminthe.
 2. In the Aeolian dialect 'smintha' means 'mouse'. So Apollo Smintheus = the mice-god.
     The mouse in ancient times was a symbol of prophetic power because it was thought
     mice were inspired by the exhailing coming out of the gound.
3. Apollo the mice-killer. The Greek already had recognized the mice as vermin and
    worshipped Apollo as protector against mice.

I for myself tend to #2. The last I think is too rationalistic.

(will be continued)

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on January 12, 2006, 05:00:03 pm

The first mention of Apollo Smintheus is found in Homer's Ilias I, 39. The beginning of the Ilias describes how Apollo strikes the Greeks with a plague because Agamemnon has raped Chrysis, the daughter of Apollo's priest Chryses, and so has humiliated his priest.

The old man, afraid, obeyed his words, walked off in silence,
along the shore by the tumbling, crashing surf.
Some distance off, he prayed to Lord Apollo,
Leto's fair-haired child:
"God with the silver bow,
protector of Chryse, sacred Cilla, 40
mighty lord of Tenedos, Sminthean Apollo,
hear my prayer: If I've ever pleased you
with a holy shrine, or burned bones for you— [40]
bulls and goats well wrapped in fat—
grant me my prayer. Force the Danaans
to pay full price for my tears with your arrows."
So Chryses prayed. Phoebus Apollo heard him.
He came down from Olympus top enraged,
carrying on his shoulders bow and covered quiver,
his arrows rattling in anger against his arm. 50
So the god swooped down, descending like the night.
He sat some distance from the ships, shot off an arrow—
the silver bow reverberating ominously.
First, the god massacred mules and swift dogs, [50]
then loosed sharp arrows in among the troops themselves.
Thick fires burned the corpses ceaselessly.

(Translation by Ian Johnston, )

To say the Greeks have recognized the mice already as transmitters of plagues, as I have read too, I would refuse because it is the rat flea, which is transferring plague, and so the bad guy is the rat and not the mouse.

Some more information under

Der kleine Pauly
Homer, Ilias
Ovid, Metamorphosen

Thanks to Pat Lawrence for the other two coin pics!.

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on January 12, 2006, 05:27:15 pm
Apollo Sauroktonos - The Lizardkiller

Nikopolis ad Istrum/Moesia inferior, Geta 198-202
Ae 25, 11.38mm
       bust draped, bare head r.
      Apollo, naked, laureate, with crossed legs, stg. r., r. hand raised behind holding arrow, l.     
      hand resting on tree before him; at the tree a lizard, touching Apollo
AMNG 1654, VF (lizard only partially visible due to a weak strike)

When we look at the reverse we see Apollo who looks a bit strange. We see the smiling Apollo looking relaxed at the lizard climbing a tree. But in the same moment he has already the arrow in his hand to spear this small animal. A shudder runs across our back! What's the matter with Apollo?

With this question we aim into the heart of the greek mythology. Because the greek mythological figures are not the invention of the Greeks alone, but have a long prehistory leading into dark times long ago and pointing mostly to the East, not only to ancient Asia but Sumer and Babylon. And this is fact with Apollo too!

We all know Apollo as bright god of light (Phoibos), the god of science, of the Muses and of prophecy. Nietzsche had called this 'Apollonian' in contrary to the 'Dionysian', the dark side of the libidinous and uncontrolled. Apollo so is the greek god kat' exochen. But if we look behind the curtain then we recognize strange, awful features. Already in his first days of life he strangled the Python (therefore the Pytheas in Delphi), he killed with his arrows unpitying the sons of Niobe and skinned the Marsyas. He 'is vwalking like the night' (Homer), launches the plague and assisted the Trojans against the Greek. Is the ethymology of Phobos actually 'phobos = terrible'? The Greeks were saying his name descends from 'apolymmi' (Apollo the annihilator).

He has an affinity to the chthonic-natural which we can see not only by his relations to trees and groves but to related deities too like Poseidon, Hermes, Dionysos and Hades. so he could become the master of Nymphes, Muses and other natural spirits. Bow and lyre - these two contrarion attributes characterize his ambivalent nature.

Because one of his epithetons is Lykeios, scholars has challenged an anatolian origin or his source should be Babylonian because altars were found inscribed with 'Apolunas' and cuneiform writings of 'Ap-pa-li-u-na-as' in a contract between the emperor of Wilusa and the hethitian king Muwatalli. But in the last time the name Lykeios is interpreted as 'god of the wolfs' and so the Hellenestic part of Apollo was strengthened. The result of all research is that we must confess we don't know his origin (Der kleine Pauly).   

In the mythology of Apollon I couldn't find a story with a lizard. From Pliny we know the description of a famous bronze sculpture of Praxiteles (4th century BC) named Sauroktonos, the Lizard-killer. He gave the description: A youthful Apollo standing beside a tree, holding an arrow and looking at a lizard crawling up a tree. The original sculpture is lost. We have two Roman marble copies, now in the Louvre and in the Musei Vaticani in Rome. 2004 the Cleveland museum of arts purchased a bronze sculpture which seems to be from 350-275 BC. These copies show Apollo in a bit different position than on my coin. We found this position on coins too (Look at Doug Smith's wounderful site!). But they miss the arrow Pliny mentioned in his description.

May be it is the pic of Pliny's description of the Sauroktonos of Praxiteles or may be not. But the reverse shows clearly the two sites of Apollo: Here the youthful smiling bringer of light and in the same moment the merciless killer for fun.
For a more detailed discussion see

Best regards

The statue is the copy from the Musei Vaticani.

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on January 12, 2006, 06:32:45 pm
Amphilochos - The seer

The next coin with a mythological theme is not about Apollo but about Amphilochos. It is an AE31 from Mallos in Cilicia.

Valerian I. AD 252-260
AE 31, 19.89g
bust cuirassed, laureate, r..
rev. MALLO COLONIA (lat.)
Amphilochos, nude except Chlamys, standing to l., holding laurel; at his feet
wild boar. Behind him tripod on platform with an egg(?) at top and a snake coiling around to eat the egg.
SC in ex.
SNG Levante 1298 (same obv. die); SNG France 1933 (same obv. die); BMC 13; SGIC 4498
Very rare (only 13 coins known from the time of Valerian), about VF, light roughness, small holes due to the fabrication
added to Wildwinds

Mallos was one of the oldest cities in Cilicia. It is told that the heroe Amphilochos was the founder. He was the son of Amphiaros and Eripyle and a great heroe and seer as was his father. As brother of Alkmaion he took part in the famous war of the Seven against Theben. He seems to be one of the suitors of Helena and has fightened at Troy.
Together with the seer Kalchas he traveled to Klaros near Kolophon where Kalchas was defeated by Mopsos in a competition of the seer and died of broken heart.

Mopsos, the son of Apollo and Manto, daughter of Teiresias, was the most famous seer in his time. Together with him Amphilochs founded Mallos in Cilicia. They make an arrangement for ruling Mallos alternately each for one year. Mopsos was first and Amphilochos went to his homeland Argos. When he came back a year later to take over the reign as contracted Mopsos refused and tried to chase him away. The embarassed inhabitants suggested to decide the conflict by duel. In this duel both killed each another. To avoid further controversy between the spirits of Mopsos and Amphilochos the pyres were erected to different sides.

But it happened that the spirits discontinued their controversy and joined in friendship and decided to establishe a combined oracle. This oracle in Mallos was the most famous after Delphi in ancient times, actually it is said that its oracles were more reliable than those of  Delphi. The priests got their answers in dreams and wrote them on wax plates. The price is said to be two copper coins.

Under the reign of Severus Alexander Mallos became Roman colony. Therefore the latin legends on the coin.

A discussion you can find here

Der kleine Pauly
Robert von Ranke-Graves, Greek Mythology
Kerenyi, Griechische Heroen-Sagen
Hederich, Gründliches Mythologisches Lexikon

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on January 13, 2006, 04:51:06 am
Apollo Lykeios

Here we have another Apollo!

Macrinus & Diadumenian AD 217-218
AE28 (Pentassarion), 11.86g
struck under the legate Furius Pontianus
       confronted busts of Macrinus, draped and laureate, l., and Diadumenian, bare-
       headed, r.
       Apollo, nude, with curled hair, standing facing, head r., holding r. hand above his
       head, bow in l. hand, r. before him a tree stump with a snake coiling around
       E in l. field
Varbanov I, pp. 91-92 No.881; Moushmov 520, pic 726
Apollo in the attitude of the so-called Lykeios, typical for Marcianopolis

In Athens we have advices of a Apollo Lykeios cult already in very early times. If you want to look at coins, where Apollo is depicted really with wolfes you had to go to Cilicia. The Apollo depicted on this coin in this attitude is connected only to Athens, where the famous sculptor Praxiteles (or perhaps Euphranor) had made this statue for a sanctuary in the 4th century BC, obviously not as cult statue but for the Temenos, the park-like temple area of the Lykeion. This famous Lykeion was situated north-east of Athens outside the city and has included not only the sanctuary of Apollon but the Gymnasion too where the Sophists were teaching, Protagoras and then Aristoteles with his scholars. This is the origin of our Lyceum.

This statue immediately became famous and was copied over and over, in this typical, sensual hand-above-head position. Because this statue is standing frontal, it could well be used in temples, or as consecration gift iside and outside the sanctuary especially if a new founded city was in need of it. Lucian writes, that Apollo was leaning at a cippus, with a bow in his l. hand and the r. hand above the head as if resting after a great effort. Pick says, due to the fact that all Marcianopolis types are showing a tree stump, that the original statue was made of bronze and therefore doesn't need any support. The copies were made of marble mostly and have the support in various ways. Today we know the original was of bronze and have had the support of the cippus too, but for compositorical reasons only. For ancient sculptures Lucian is the best source because he had seen them with his own eyes!

As additum a pic of the most beautiful Louvre statue I know which reflects exactly the type of Marcianopolis.

Here a summary of the various Lykeios interpretations:
1. Lykeios = man from Lycia. This could be a good explanation for the fact, that
   Apollo defends Troy against the Greek, what could be an advice to an
   origin in Asia Minor. This is firmed up by interpretations of Hittite inscriptions. This
   was the opinion of Wilamowitz too.
2. Lykeios from Lykos = the wolfe. Apollo Lykeios so the defender of the herdsmen
    and their sheep against robbery by wolfes. This would be an expression of an old
    animal-like looking deity, the 'Wolfe-God' Lykan-Lykurgus.
3. Lykeios = the Bright, the Shining, like Phoibos, essential identical with the
    lionshaped, Anatolean god of light Syros.

Resume: Apollon in our recent knowledge was a great bow-carrying god of healing and death of the scythic-indoeuropean northern people, who in his wolfe symbolic reveals his chthonic aspects. At the time of the indoeuropean invasions in the Aegaeis he was melted with the Letoids of Asia Minor, the son and brother consorts of the mediterranean virgin-mother Leto-Artemis. The famous god of the oracle, that he was always in historical times, keeps always a certain strange character, what would explain the estimation of the Delphic Apollo by Kroisos the famous Lydian king.

Some more contributions here

Der kleine Pauly
Hederich, Gründliches Mythologisches Lexikon

Thanks to Patricia Lawrence

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on January 13, 2006, 06:09:43 am
Apollo Lykeios - or rather not?

If you are busy with Apollo Lykeios the next coin belongs undoubtfully to this theme, an AE37 of Maximinus I from Tarsos, because the depicted Apollo is called regularly Apollo Lykeios.

Maximinus I AD 225-238
AE 37, 19.31g
        P- P in li und re Feld.
        bust, draped and cuirassed, radiate, r.
        Apollo Lykeios, nude, lauresate, standing facing, holdind a dead wolfe in each
       AMK in l. field, G.B in r. field
SNG Levante 1099 (this coin); SNG France 1590 (same die)
(attribution by Barry Murphy)
rare, about VF

AMK is standing for 'PRWTH, MEGICTH, KALLICTH', 'the first, the Biggest, the most Beautiful'. These epitheta Tarsos got - like other cities too - AD 215 on the occasion of Caracalla's campaign against the Parths. G.B are numbers, 3 and 2. Its meaning is 'Metropolis of three provinces, holder of two neocories'. When Tarsos got a third neocory under Valerian the legend was changed to G.G. (Curtis Clay)

If you are looking more closely at the dead wolfes, then you can recognize that they look more like dogs than like wolfes. Patricia Lawrenc was so kind to direct me to another interpretation of the rev.
Bekircan Tahberer in 'Celator' suggests, that Apollo is wearing actually two dogs! Lychopron, a poet of the 3rd century, is speaking of the mythological figures Mopsus and Amphilochos as the 'dogs of Apollon', which were his companions like the deer of Artemis. So these two dogs on the rev. would symbolize Mopsus and Amphilochos. This hypothesis is strengthened by the fact that until now there is no statue found in Tarsos of Apollo Lykeios as opposed f.e. to Mallos, where Mopsos and Amphilochos were highly venerated and where statues of Apollo were standing. Nor are there coins of Tarsos with the usual Apollo Lykeios depiction, we have seen in the contribution before. However there are coins with Perseus and Apollo holding 'the wolfes'. very different in Mallos: Mopsos himself was a son of Apollon and Amphilochos was the son of Amphiaraos from Argolis a priest of Apollon. So both have a strong relation to Apollon. His scrying art he has got from Apollon.

You should know that in this time an intense competition existed between cities for the establishing of neocories and sanctuaries. If a city like Mallos had a famous oracle then this was like the permission to struck money. The people from far away came into the city and with them the money and the city became rich and wealthy. This was like todays competition for the nomination as scene of Olympic Games. Mallos was one of the most famous oracles in Asia Minor due to the tombs of Mopsos and Amphilochos. When now Tarsos depicts these two as 'dogs of Apollon' it could obviously upvalue its position compared to that of Mallos, yes indeed it could have been the attempt to surpass Mallos.

Unfortunately we have the problem, that the early Anatolians have omitted to make notations or if they have they were not kept or were lost. In any case the depicted statue is a typical cult statue for a temple and not a pic for a small shrine standing in the landscape. Probably it was as beautiful and important as that from Kanachos in Milet where Apoll holds a stag on his hand. Sadly we have no possibility to get out wether it is originated really from the 6th century or wether it was only a 'wondrous decovery' in later times. (Patricia Lawrence)

In any case this is not an Apollo Lykeios, because he was depicted always as we could see him on the famous statue from Athens.

Some more information under

Der kleinePauly
Bekircan Tahberer, Apollo Lykeos in Ancient Tarsus Numismatics, Celator #30

Thanks to Curtis Clay and Patricia Lawrence!

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on January 13, 2006, 12:34:13 pm
The Rape of Persephone

I want to talk about the reverse of a coin from Maionia in Lydia struck for Marcus Aurelius.

Marcus Aurelius AD 161-180
AE 35, 24.70g
struck under the 1st Archon Quintus
bust laureate, r..
Hades, in Himation fluttering in the wind, standing r. in Quadriga, going r., holding reins in l. hand, head l., holding with r. resisting Persephone, extending her arms in distress. Under the horses her basket with flowers , above all Eros flying l.
SNG von Aulock 3018; ex coll. Burnstein, ex Auktion Peus #366, 2000
Rare, about VF, two flan cracks, but beautiful blue-green patina of the fields in contrast to the figures

This coin I have purchased not because of the obverse but because of the interesting rev. motive. It shows the Rape of Persephone. This motive was picked up often by the painting and the sculpture. I remind here of the famous sculpture of Bernini in the Villa Borghese in Rome and of the paintings of Rembrandt, Rubens and Dell'Abate to name only some of them.

1. Mythology
Hades fell in love with Persephone, daughter of Demeter, and begged Zeus for permission to marry her. Zeus was afraid of offending his brother but was aware too that Demeter was never forgiving him if Persephone was banned into the underworld forever. So Zeus answered ambiguous that he can't affirm and can't deny his request. That encouraged Hades to rape Persephone when she was picking flowers in a meadow and to abduct her in his by horses drawn cart into the underworld.

9 days Demeter was seeking her daughter and was calling her vainly. Only Hekate gave her an advice but without much help. On the 10th day she came to king Keleus in Eleusis. There Triptolemos was herding his father's cattle. He gave her the desired information: When his brothers Eumolpos and Ebuleus were herding their sheep and their pigs a black cart has suddenly appeared whose driver has entwined a crying maid. With this evidence in hand Demeter called Hekate and both forced Helios who see all to concede that Hades was the kidnapper. Demeter was so disgusted that she interdicted all trees and plants to bare fruits so that all human beings should die.

Thus Zeus was obliged to send Hermes to Hades with the message that all were doomed if  Kore - another name of Persephone - was not given back. So Hades was pressed to give Kore back with the condition however that she never has eaten from the food of the deads. Therefore he agreed that Hermes should bring her back in his cart into the world above. Askalaphos however, a gardener of Hades, has seen that she has eaten seven seeds of a pomegranate, and so Hades command him to sit on the back of Hermes' cart. Demeter was full of delight when she could welcome her daughter in Eleusis. But when she heard of the pomegranate she fell in deeper mourning than before and renewed her curse over the earth.
Finally Zeus could convince his mother Rhea to find a solution. And so it looks: For 3 months each year Kore should be with Hades as queen of the underworld with the title Persephone, and the other 9 months with Demeter in the world above. Hekate should be aware of the compliance of this agreement. Given that Demeter decided to return home and cancel her curse. Before she founded in Eleusis the famous mysteries and teached Triptolemos, Eumolpos and Keleus in her worshipping. The traitor Askalaphos was enclosed in a burrow and then turned into an owl after he was freed by Herakles.

(will be continued)

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on January 13, 2006, 12:37:06 pm

2. Background
In Latin she is always called Proserpina. This goddess was worshipped in Rome since 249 BC together with Dis Pater in Secular Games. But the derivation of her name from Persephone is erroneous. She was responsible only for 'bellum prospere geri posse' in the Secular Games. She has nothing to deal with the greek Persephone. Whenever latin poets are speeking from Proserpina there is always meant the greek Persephone. She will be known in Italy since c.500 BC.

Persephone was the greek goddess of the underworld and the wife of Hades. But as often in greek deities her history goes far into the past. Variants of her name in Attic, Thessalic, Laconic and Locric let assume a pre-hellenic origin. So she is ethymological related to the semitic deat goddess Anat, to Persaeis (another name of Hekate), and to the Etruscan death daimon phersu (from which the word 'person' is originated). That is an argument for the theory of some scholars that the Etruscan came from Maionia, the Homeric name of Lydia.

Mycenic her name was Pe-re-sa, in Linear B there is the name pe-re-ja, from which Aphrodite is derived. She was at first a double goddess Demeter and Kore/Persephone. Not until Hesiod Kore became the daughter of Demeter. These double goddesses are known too in Lydic (Lametrus and Artemis), in Umbric as Torsa Prestota Cerfia and in Oscic as Ammai Kerriiai and Futrei Kerriiai. In Mesapic there were the two goddesses Damatira/Doimata and Grahis/Graiva, which means old wife in the sense of Earth Mother. Following Kerenyi the Rape of Kore so goes back into the 3rd millenium BC!

The motive of picking flowers and the role of the fruit (pomegrantae) are minoic-mediterranean symbolism. It points to a pre-hellenic drama of vegetation. The disappearance and reappearance of Kore flows into mystic affected agrar-chthonic solemnisations, allusions to the existential phenomena of death, marriage and fecundation. In classic times important roles were played by the greek Mysteries in Eleusis, mesenia, in Graeca Magna and in Sicily, which had strong orphic-dionysic influences. Kore lived on in late-hellenestic times in the Mysteries of Isis, her other side, the original erinyen-like connected with Hekate-Artemis-Selene was saved in the Orphic and went over into the liturgy of the syncretistic Papyri Graecae Magicae.

Ovid, Metamorphosen V, 385-425
Karl Kerenyi, Die Mythologie der Griechen
Robert von Ranke-Graves, Greek Mythology
Der kleine Pauly

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on January 13, 2006, 03:44:37 pm
The Stymphalean Birds - an ancient Bird Influenza?

This coin has me attracted because there was a similarity to the Apollo depictions. But then it was Herakles holding a bow! It is the only motive of Herakles with a bow where he is chasing the Stymphalean Birds. Alltogether these coins are not common, especially those showing the birds too!

This is an AE27 of Septimius Severus from Nikopolis ad Istrum.

Septimius Severus AD 193-211
AE 27, 11.73g
       bust, laureate, r.
       Herakles standing r., holding club r. and lionskin and bow l.
Moushmov 1009-A. No.2649. Not in Varbanov. Rare, VF

This type was struck under the legate Pollenius Auspex, who has this office for a short time at the beginning of the reign of Septimius Severus, before he was sent to Britannia, where he was governor AD 200-205 until Clodius Albinus was defeated. Cassius Dio tells about him: Auspex was the most intelligent and most imaginative man at joke and in conversation., but also of contempt of all men, in rewarding his friends and taking revenge on his enemies. Numerous bitter but wise words are passed down many of them aimed at Septimius Severus himself. Here is one of the last kind: When the emperor was accepted by the family of Marcus Aurelius Auspex said: I congratulate you, emperor, that you have found a father at least! This was an allusion to the fact that Septimius due to his dark origin was fatherless so far.

Following the standard count the Battle against the Stymphalic Birds was Herakles' 6th labour. When Herakles came back from the successful mucking out the stable of Augias, Erystheus charged him with a even more difficult task. He should drive away a huge flock of birds, which have gathered in a swamp near the city of Stymphalos laying in a deep forest. Herakles had no idea how to do his job, but Athena came to help him. She gave him two great flappers made of bronze (krotala) by which he was able to make a noise like snapper. But these were not the usual noise tools. They were forged by Hephaistos, the immortal artisan. Herakles climbed a nearby mountain and smashed the krotala so loud that the birds frightened were flying up and he could kill most of them with bow and arrows (others say by a sling). The survivors are said to have escaped to the islands of Ares in the Black Sea where they do much harm to Jason and the Argonauts on their search of the Golden Fleece, until they were expelled by Boreas, the Northwind.  

Some versions of the myth are saying, that these birds actually were terrible man-eaters with beaks from metal and feathers from bronze, which they could shoot like arrows. Their feet were too made from iron and would rust in the swamp and thereby threatened the surrounding localities by poison. They were the favourite birds of Ares. To Arcadia they were come on the flight from wolfes.
Pausanias the famous travel writer of the 2nd century has tried to get out what kind of birds they could have been. He wrote that at his time there was a kind of birds in the Arabic desert which are called Stymphalian Birds. They have been as dangerous as leopards or lions. They were sized like cranes and have had the shape of an Ibis but their beaks were stronger and not so curved as on the Ibis. (Pausanias 8.22.5)

Pausanias had seen the santuary too which the Greek had built in Stymphalos and sanctified to Artemis. He reports that the temple have had yet indentations made by the Stympalian birds right under the roof. Behind the temple have stood marble statues of Maidens with legs like birds. Here they had looked like Harpyies.

The ancient geograph Strabo suggested that the Stympalean Swamp was drained by a subterranean river which miles away came out on the other side of the mountains as a font near of Kefalari.
(Photo: Joel Skidmore)

(will be continued)

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on January 13, 2006, 03:46:13 pm

Recent opinions (What I have found!):
1. There is an astrological explanation: If the sun stands in the sign of Sagittarius, the signs of Lyra, Eagle and Swane are rising. At this time of the year the evenings became darker and therefore this constellation of stars is seen as evil. At the same time in Greece the rainy season begins and makes swamps out of otherwise dry areas. For the Greeks the sign of Sagittarius has different interpretations including a flapper. Also the next sign which is crossed by the sun is the Dolphin whose myths report the rescue of the musician Arion. Herakles flushed out the Stymphalean Birds by noise and then shot his arrows. This shows that Sagittarius (Herakles as archer) with his arrow points to the next sign, the Eagle.
I think this is nonsense!

2. Searching for a realistic nucleus of the myth (if there is one!) I find the following explanation more plausible:
Most of the mythologists today suggest that the Stymphalean Birds are a symbol of a toxic ague. Already in ancient times existed public threats like pollution of the air. In this myth the waterfowls were demonized as reason for illness and epidemics around the Stymphalean Swamp. An expression of human anxiety and ignorance, not a metallophobia but of the threat that these animals could be the explosive reservoir of pathogenic germs. We can think at the Bird Influenza and the dangerous H5-virus. Each time the birds were flying to another region they propagated the plague by contact to other birds. Perhaps it was the West-Nil-Virus which migratory birds have brought into the western world possibly by infection of ornithophile mosquitos. These could then have infected other animals or men.
Moreover it is known that migratory fowls, ducks and geese, have the Influenza virus and could excrete it by the intestine. So they became a source for further epidemics in the homelike poultry. This means an immense threat for the public health.
About the West-Nil-Virus we know much more in the meantime. It is equally dangerous as in ancient times. But in contrast to Herakles we don't use flappers, bow and arrows, but pesticides, vaccines, antivirale drugs and sanctions like isolation and quarantine.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, USA (

a) A pic of the Chase for the Stymphalean Birds on a black-figured Attic vase
b) A pic of  the Stympalean Swamp today

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: ecoli on January 13, 2006, 05:17:40 pm
These posts are excellent!

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on January 13, 2006, 05:27:29 pm
Thanks, Ecoli! There are some more to come!


Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on January 13, 2006, 05:32:05 pm
The Sword Dance of the Kuretes

Here is the next mythological interesting coin. I know its conservation is not exceeding good F or so but in EF this type is hardly affordable. It is said this type is rare, only about a Dozen known!

Thracia, Mesambria, Gordian II. and Tranquillina, AD 241-244
AE 27, 12.71g
       Confronted busts of Gordian III, draped and laureate, r., and Tranquillina, draped
       and diademed, l.
       Two Kuretes, helmeted, in short Chiton and shoes, performing the Pyrrhic dance.
       Standing turned away, but looking at each another, holding each a round shield
       above their head and beating with short swords against it.
SNG Fitzwilliam 1560

This coin leads us to the great Creation Myths of the Olympic gods. Like many others Zeus was the son of Rhea and Kronos. Because Kronos frightened to be displaced by his children he was gorging them. When he must spew them out because Rhea has given him a stone wrapped up in a napkin to gorge she escaped with the little Zeus to Crete where she hides him in a cave of the Ida Mountains. To mask the crying of the infant to Kronos, the Kuretes were performing a clanking weapon dance in front of the cave with shields and swords. So Zeus was saved. Where the Kuretes came and who they are is not absolute clear. Sometimes it is said they are autochthon, sometimes the children of Rhea or of the Idaic Daktyles. Usually they were 2 or 3 Kuretes but sometimes 9, 10 or at least 52!

In historic times the cult of the Kuretes was known in whole Greece in connection with the cult of Rhea. Its ceremonies are mainly the perfomance of the Pyrrhic Dance (greek pyrrhiche) by priests to the companionship of hymns and flute musique. This should simulate the original deeds of the Kuretes.

A problem is arising from the fact that this dance has a strong simularity to the dances of the Korybantes. These are known as attendants of the Great Mother Kybele. In the beginning these two were strictly differentiated; the dance of the Korybantes was much more orgiastic, the dance of the Kuretes more moderate. But with the diffusion of the Kybele cult to Greece both are mixed together. Therefore it is difficult to discriminate between the various names under which these deities appear. A plausible theory from Georg Kaibel, Göttingen 1901, is seeing the Kuretes together with the Korybantes, the Kabires, the Idaic Daktyles and Telchines only as names for the same entities at different times and different places. Kabel suggests that they have a phallic meaning too and that they were in the beginning primitive fertility deities which have sunk to an indeterminate and subordinate position due to the development and formalization of the greek religion. So in historic times they have survived only as half divine, half demonic beings which were worshipped only in connection to the various forms of the great Goddess of Nature.

Kuretes = 'Youth, young warrior', a demonized collective of a primitive 'Männerbund' with hoplitic and artistic-orchestral orientation in the region of Greece and Asia Minor, as armed attendance of the Anatolic Mothergoddess a male equivalent to the Amazones. On Crete companions of the Minoic Birth-Godess Diktynna, Parhedroi of the Mother of Mountains Rhea, obstetrician of Zeus Kretagenes, they protect as Parastatai the holy act of birth by the apotropaic noise of their ritual weapon dances. The dict. Hymnos of Zeus appreciate them expressly in this function. It is allowed to equalize them with the 'daimones', which the Cretic Zeus as 'megistos kouros' leads on his procession through Dikte. This is suitable to the fact that the Kuretes on Crete are regarded as protectors of rural fertility and culture and act in this character as oath gods of Cretic city contracts. In contrast to this the epitheta 'philopaigmones', 'orchesteres' and 'chalkaspides' indicate the martial-ecstatic moment of the Pyrrhiche or Prylis (to Lykic prulija = war) and refer, like the bronze cymbal of Ida, to the cult milieu of a military strong Cretic-Minoic Youth-God which could be found in Kadmos or Herakles too. The ecstasis is a bridge to the demonic flute players and cult dancers of the Anatolic Kybele, the Korybantes, and other essential equal mythic-demonic groups like Anakes, Daktyles, Dioskures or Kabires with initiation and expiation character.

As an addition a pic of the Ideon Andron Cave at the foot of the Psiloritis on Crete which is said to be one of the caves where Zeus was hidden.

Immisch, Kureten (in Roschers Lexikon)
von Ranke -Graves, Greek Mythology
Der kleine Pauly, Kureten
Hederich, Curetes
Kerenyi, Die Mythologie der Griechen

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on January 13, 2006, 06:41:37 pm
Gigantomachia - The battle of the Giants

I want to share this coin.with you. It is an AE26 of Gallienus from Seleukia ad Calycadnum in Cilicia.

Gallienus AD 253-268
AE 26, 10g
bust, draped and cuirassed, seen from behind, laureate, r.
rev. C[E]LEVK - E - WN K / ALVK / ADN / W
Athena stg. r., shield in l. hand, stabs with spear on Giant with snakelike feet,
kneeling before her. He grabs her spear with l. hand and has a rock in his
raised r. hand to throw it on her.
SNG Levante 789; BMC 57
rare, about VF

1. Mythology:
The reverse shows a scene of the Gigantomachia. The Giants, called Ge-geneis (the earth born) too, were human shaped except their legs which were snakelike.They emerged from the blood of Uranos which was flowing from his genital, mutilated by Kronos, on Gaia (earth). Furthermore thus were created the Erinnyes (Furies) and the Meliai (nymphs of ash tree). When Zeus offended Gaia because he locked up the Titanes in the Tartaros Gaia sets her youngest sons, the Giants, on the Olympic gods. This war is called Gigantomachia. The attack should have been long after the offense but the memory of Gaia was good and her patience endless. But Zeus has expected the attack. The Giants couldn't be killed by gods, only by humans. So Zeus knew that without the help of a mortal the gods couldn't win the battle. He started his actions very early by giving a mortal wife a great and heavy challenged heroe as son: Herakles. 

The battle occured at Phlegra in Thrace, the homeland of the Giants.The Giants were leaded by Eurymedon and had Alkyoneus and Porphyrion as their bravest warriors. The Giants walked against the gods throwing rocks and mountains on them. But Herakles shot a poisoned arrow on Alkyoneus and knowing he couldn't die in his homeland dragged him over the frontier where he died. Another Giant, Enkelados, was paralyzed by Athena with the head of Medusa and when he wanted to flee again she throw the island of Sicily on him where he was buried. His fire breathing came out of the Aetna until today. After defeating the Giants with the help of Herakles Zeus sent the Hekatoncheires to the Tartaros to watch over them.

2. Background:
Myths like that of the Aetna very early lead to the opinion, that the Giants are personifications of the vulcanic powers of earth. And it was assumed that the victory of the Olympic gods was the victory of civilisation and order over the chaotic and ferocious primitive times and a symbol of contemporary tussles and victories over the barbarians.

Peter Weiss related the battle between barbarianism and culture to the recent past. Archaeologists decoded the Gigantomachia as reference of the Attalides to their victory over the Gauls and interpreted the uncommon structure of the altar as synthesis of sacral and palace building, where logical consistent the Telephos frieze expressed the foundation myth of the rulers, who traced back themself to Heracles and his son

3. The Frieze of the Pergamon Altar:
If we speek about the Gigantomachia we must mention the Altar of Pergamon. Mosaics, frescos, pictures and sculptures decorated the residence on top of the 335m high mountain. It was all admirable, but the most impressive was the huge altar for which Eumenes III BC gave order. The Roman writer Lucius Ampelius praised it and its Gigantomachia in his 'Liber memorialis' and the Apocalypse of St.John calls it, unwilling fascinated, 'Seat of Satan'.

So it was like a meet again when between 1871 and 1898 the mighty relief plates of the Gigantomachia and the smaller of the Telesphoros frieze were digged out and brought to Berlin, where they found Thousands of admirers in Schinkel's Altem Museum.
These works were saved by its discoverer, the engineer Carl Humann, in the last minute: "I saw all covered by rank growth; aside a lime oven was smoking in which each marble block was going chopped by hammer bashes." Raw material for the plastering of new houses in the nest of Bergama - that was left of the "proud impregnable seat of the ruler".

Some more discussions

Der kleine Pauly

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on January 14, 2006, 10:04:23 am
The two Nemeseis of Smyrna

Smyrna, Ionia, early 3rd century.
AE 27, 6.68g
struck under the eparch Pollianus during the 3rd neocory AD 211-260
        youthful bust of the Senate, draped, r.
       Two Nemeseis, draped, standing confronted, the r. one with wheel at her feet
       holding a measure rod, the l. one reins. Both are picking drapery below the chin.
SNG von Aulock 7951; BMC cf. 227 ff.

Ok, the conservation of this coin is not good, I think F+ perhaps. But what has attracted me were the two Nemeseis! Before I knew only of one Nemesis, the strong goddess of destiny. And so I want to answer the question: Where came these two Nemeseis?

I have found two possible explanations:
The first says, these are the two different sides of only one goddess, a friendly one and the other implacable. Nemesis is a goddess from Asia Minor, where she is known as Adrasteia and this means 'the Implacable'. On the one hand she is the goddess of the just distribution, but on the other hand the revenge goddess of hybris and pride. She takes care that trees not are growing into the sky.
The other explanation is based on a story of Pausanias in his 'Periegesis tes Hellados = Descriptions of Greece, 7.5.3.':
Alexander the Great once was hunting at the mountain Pagos near Smyrna, and after hunting he came to a sanctuary of the two Nemeseis finding there a font and a sycamore tree in front of the shrine growing over the water. Tired he fall asleep. In the meantime - so it is reported - the two Nemeseis came to him and gave him the order, to found a city at this place and to bring all inhabitants of Smyrna from the old city into this new one. And so the inhabitants moved unsolicited to the new city and worshipped from now on two Nemeseis and called her mother Nyx, whereas the Athenians supposed Okeanos to be the father of the Rhamnusian goddess (Rhamnos was famous for its temple of Nemesis). So referring to Pausanias the first Nemesis is the goddess of the old city of Smyrna the other of the new city. Historical fact is that Smyrna after beeing destroyed was built new at the time of Alexander.

The cult of the two Nemeseis of Smyrna is not old. It can be backtrapped only to the time of Julius Caesar. It gt its great importance not earlier as in the Imperial time together with the Imperial Cult. The reason of this cult was probably the integration of Smyrna into the Roman Empire. The depiction of the two Nemeseis on coins of Smyrna is often seen as symbol for an alliance of Smyrna with other cities. The last of these coins were struck under Gallienus.

Some notes to the legends:
HIERA CYNKLHTOC (to add BYLH) is the sacred Senate, here depicted as youthful portrait (in contrast to Rome where it is depicted always older and more dignified).
EP PWLLIANOY means the Eparchos Pollianos. This was the title of the governor of the province. Pollianos was a Strategos (commander) of Gallienus.
G NE is the abbreviation of G NEWKORWN, that is the 3rd neocory. A neocory was the privilege of a city to maintain a temple of the Imperial cult. This privilege was awarded by the Emperor himself and was a great honour for the city which increased its prestige significantly. Therefore there was a acrimonious competition between the cities for neocories. Proudly their numbers were annotated on the coins. Today we can use the numeration of neocories to date a coin correctly. The 3rd neocory of Smyrna lasted from AD 212-260. If an emperor was condemned to Damnatio Memoriae his neocory was deleted too and the number of neocories was decreased by one.

Isn't it amazing what is in such a inconspicuous coin? And this was only the surface I have scratched. That's why I love the provincial coinage so much!

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on January 14, 2006, 11:09:00 am
Haimos - the Mountain God

This is an AE27 of Elagabal from Nikpolis ad Istrum. Ister is the ancient name of the Lower Danube. Derived from it is Austria (Vienna!), not from Eastern Empire. Nikopolis was founded by Trajan and the name should remind of his victories over the Dacians. Actually it was located not at the Danube but at a smaller influent. Today it is Nikup near Veliko Turnovo in Bulgaria.

Elagabal AD 218-222.
AE 27, 15.94, struck under the legate Novius Rufus
        bust, draped and cuirassed, radiate, r.
       The youthful mountain god Haimos sitting on rocks l., with hunting shoes(?),
       reclining back on a tree, hands above the head, behind him a stag jumping r., a
       bear coming out of his cave below.
AMNG 1953 (pl. III, 23, same rev. die); Varbanov 3084
rare rev. type, about EF (the most beautiful spec. I have ever seen!)

Haimos was a king of Thracia, son of king Boreas and his wife Oreithyia, faher of Hebron. He was married to Rhodope which he loved over all. Their love was so great that they called one another Zeus and Hera. Because of this blasphemia they were transformed by the real Zeus in the homonymous mountains.(Ovid, Met. VI, 87) I think the true reason was the enviousness of the gods!

Haimos and Rhodope are the most important mountain rages of the Balkan mountains. The Balkans are known as wild mountains today as well. In ancient times there were only few transit ways. They crossed at Nikopolis. The reverse of the coin with rocks, stag and bear reflects well the rough nature of this region. It was a favourite hunting ground and Haimos here is depicted in the pose of a hunter who is resting. The hand above the head is iconographically a symbol of exhaustion after a strong effort. On other, earlier types the word AIMOC is written in the field. But at this time the meaning of the reverse seemed to be clear for every observer.
That two lovers called each other Zeus and Hera and therefore were punished by the gods is a locus classicus. The same story is told of Keyx, king of Trachin, and his wife Alcyone, daughter of king Aiolos of Thracia. Keyx was transformed into a Loon and Alkyone into a Kingfisher. Because her eggs were washed away by the waves Zeus commanded the winds to rest during the incubation period of the kingfisher. This is between Christmas and New Year. These days were called therefore 'Alcyone Days'. (Ovid Met. XI, 410)
More information here:

Ovid, Metamorphosen
Der kleine Pauly
Hederich, Gründliches Mythologisches Lexikon

Thanks to Pat Lawrence for the coin!

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on January 14, 2006, 12:39:01 pm
Astarte, or Ba'alat Gebul, the Lady of Byblos

This is a coin of Diadumenian from Byblos in Phoenicia. This city was a center of the Astarte cult and had the honouring name 'The sacred Byblos'. Today it is Jbal at the coast of Liban. In ancient times it was the main port for exporting papyros to Greece. Hence our name Bible for the Holy Book.

Diadumenian Caesar May AD 218 - 8. Juni 218
AE 24, 10.81g
bust, cuirassed, bare-headed, r.
rev. BYB - LOY / IERAC
distyle temple, surmounted by arch of shell patern. Within Astarte, draped, with polos, standing right, holding spear, l. foot on prow, crowned by winged Nike standing on column.
BMC 40-43; Rouvier 399
rare, good F

Hesiod descibes Hekate in his 'Theogonia' as daughter of the Titan Perses and Asteria. So she belongs to the clan of Titanes of which she alone kept her power under the reign of Zeus. She was supposed to be the daughter of Nyx too. One of her priests was Medea. She was involved in the search of the raped Persephone and became her assistant and friend. So she became goddess of the Underworld too and was known as mistress of all magic beings and witches. It is passed down that in the night she together with the souls of the dead is straying on earth and often is resting at bifurcations. Hence her surname Trivia. Her arrival was announced by howling dogs. As goddess of midwifes she has some similarity with Artemis. She is not known by Homer.

1) Astarte, Phoenician Ashtoreth, Ugaritic ‘ttrt, Akkadian As-tar-tú,  was a major Northwest-Semitic goddess, cognate in name, origin, and functions with the East-Semitic goddess Ishtar. Astarte was connected with fertility, sexuality, and war. Her symbols were the lion, the horse, the sphinx, the dove, and a star within a circle indicating the planet Venus. Astarte was accepted by the Greeks under the name of Aphrodite. The island of Cyprus, one of Astarte's greatest cult centers, supplied the name Cypris as Aphrodite's most common byname.

2) Other major centers of Astarte's worship were Sidon, Tyre, and Byblos. Coins from Sidon portray a chariot in which a globe appears, presumably a stone representing Astarte. Other cult centers were Cytherea, Malta and Eryx in Sicily from which she became known to the Romans as Venus Erycina. A bilingual inscription on the Pyrgi Tablets dating to about 500 BC found near Caere in etruria equates Astarte with Uni, that is Juno.

3) At Carthage Astarte was worshipped along side the goddess Tanit. In Tutugi near Granada in Spain a statuette of Astarte was found dating to the 6th or 7th century BCE in which Astarte sits on a throne flanked by sphinxes holding a bowl beneath her breasts which are pierced. A hollow in the statue would have been filled with milk through the head and gentle heating would have melted wax plugging the holes, producing an apparent miracle.
4) Plutarch in his 'On Isis and Osiris' indicates that the king and queen of Byblos who unknowingly have the Osiris' body in a pillar in their hall are Melqart and Astarte. In the description of the Phoenician pantheon Astarte appears as a daughter of Sky and Earth and sister of the god El. After El overthrows and banishes his father Sky, Sky sends to El as some kind of trick his "virgin daughter" Astarte along with her sisters Asherah and the goddess who will later be called Ba'alat Gebul 'Lady of Byblos'. It seems that this trick does not work as all three become wives of their brother El. Astarte bears to El children who appear under Greek names as seven daughters called the Titanides or Artemides and two sons named Pothos and Eros. Later we see, with El's consent, Astarte and Hadad reigning over the land together. Astarte, puts the head of a bull on her own head to symbolize her sovereignty. Wandering through the world Astarte takes up a star that has fallen from the sky and consecrates it at Tyre.

5)  The cult of Astarte was one of the main competitors to the early Hebrew monotheism. There is a serious basis for the opinion that the Greek goddess Aphrodite (especially Aphrodite Urania) is just another name for Astarte. Herodotos wrote that the cult of Aphrodite originated in Phoenicia and came to Greeks from there. He also wrote about the world's largest temple of Aphrodite, in one of the Phoenician cities. Connection to planet Venus is another similarity to the Aphrodite cult, apparently from the Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar. Doves sacrificed is another.
Der kleine Pauly
Online Lexikon
Donald Harden, The Phoenicians 1980

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on January 14, 2006, 02:25:30 pm
Baetyl, the sacred stone

This is a contribution to the strange stones which especially in the Middle East, but not only there, were worshipped as gods. The most famous of them I think is the stone which was venerated as god Elagabal in Emesa and which his Highpriest Bassianus (the later emperor Elagabal) wanted to introduce in Rome. This here is the sacred stone of Sidon.

Phoenicia, Sidon, Elagabal AD 218-222
AE 30, 20.23g
       Büste, drapiert und cürassiert, belorbeert, n.r.
      two-wheeled cult cart of Astarte, r., with roof on four columns, from which two palms
      emanate; on the cart the sacred stone (Baetyl) of Sidon
SNG Copenhagen 255
about VF, nice sandpatina

Baitylia, 'animated stones', are said to be invented by Uranos. This is a mythological circumscription of its celestial nature as meteorites which is confirmed by other references too: Baitylia come from the sky and move jumping through the air; they occur lonely or in swarms. Of various, sometimes changing, colour they hold in its spherical cover an extraterrestrial core. Some have magic power and the gift of prophecy, and are so the place of supranatural power; its annunciations based on the authority of mighty gods (Zeus, Kronos, Helios). In this way they are related to the many aniconic stone idols.

While the relicts of a stone cult in the whole mediterranean area are not rare, the evidence of a special worshipping of Baetyls is originated in the sphere of the Semitic ethnic: still the late time knows beside the pre-islamic cube idol of the Kaaba in Mekka  the black cube of Dusares in the Nabatean Petra and the omphalos-shaped stone of Elagabal-Ammudates in Emesa.

The rites of wrapping and clothing these cult objects constitutes the beginning of an antropomorphization, i.e. the attempt to humanize them. Mythologically this is performed in the figure of Xaabou, the virgin-mother of Dusares, but in Baitulos, the son of Kronos, too. In addition to it inscriptions from Dura-Europos and Kafr-Neb for Syria testify the worshipping of a Zeus Betulos. The relation between Baitulos, the Baitylia and the jewish-aramaic god Bethel who is named in the Old Testament is problematic. They all to trace back to the aramaic bet'el 'the house of god' goes probably too far. But it seems to be a word of mediterranean origin.

With it our view goes to Asia Minor and Crete: there is the black meteorite of Ma-Kybele from Pessinus and the stone of the cretic Rhea, who was gorged by Kronos, then spewed out, in Delphi - where it came to earth - being salved and wrapped with bandages. It is named explicitly 'baitylos'. This reminds strong of the clothed syrean Baitylos. Behind this myth stands the cult of the aniconic Zeus Kretagenes. This is approved by Lykophron when he mentioned a Zeus Diskos.

Source: Der kleine Pauly

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on January 14, 2006, 03:50:26 pm
Erichthonios - King of Athens

Now a new coin from Bulgaria. It is from Nikopolis ad Istrum (Nikopolis pros Istron) and was struck for Elagabal.

Moesia inferior, Nikopolis ad Istrum, Elagabal AD 218-222
AE 27, struck under the legate Novius Rufus
       bust, draped and cuirassed, laureate, r.
       Athena, with Korinthian helmet, standing l., holding branch in l. hand,
       behind her a shield on the ground, before her a olive tree with a snake coiled
AMNG 1921
very rare, good VF, nice green patina

The reverse of this coin alludes on the foundation myth of Athens. Today there is an agreement that Erichthonios and Erechtheus are identical. Wether these two heroes or half-gods, already mentioned by Plato and Apollodoros, are actually Erichthonios or Erechtheus, or perhaps Erichthonios and the son of Erechtheus, who has the same name, is not sure, but very probably. Homer (Ilias I, 547; Odyssee VII, 81) knows only  an Erechtheus as original and king of Athens. The first author, differentiating between two persons, was Platon. The genealogists make him the grandfather of Erechtheus and so to the 4th king of Athens.

When Hephaistos want to sleep with Athena the goddess repulsed him and his sperm fall down on earth and by Gaia or Atthis, daughter of Cranaos, he became father of Erichthonios, who was at whole or to the half snake-shaped. Athena brought this being up without the cognition of the other gods, commanded a dragon to watch over it, hid it in a chest and consigned it to Agraulos, Pandrosos and Herse under the interdiction to open the chest. But the three disregarded the interdiction and opened the chest. Beholding the child in the shape of a snake (or coiled by a snake) they  were got by madness and jumped from the Akropolis, referring to others into the sea. The snake fled into the shield of Athena and was saved by her (Apollod. III. 14. §16; Ovid Met. II, 554) When Erichthonios grow up he expelled Amphiktyon from Athens and took the reign over Athens himself and his wife Pasithea give birth to his son Pandion.

It is said that Erichthonios has introduced the worshipping of Athena and has established the celebration of the Panathenaia. He should have built the temple of Athena on the Akropolis. When Athena and Poseidon disputed about the ruling over Attica Erichthonios took side of Athena. He was the first using a cart with four horses (problaby due to his snake feet) and was set to the sky as Auriga (charioteer). And finally it is suggested that he has teached the Athenians the treatment of silver which was discovered by the scythic king Indus. He was buried in the temple of Athena and his veneration on the Akrpolis was connected with Athena and Poseidon. His famous temple, the Ereichtheion, stands on the Akropolis and within there there were three altars, the first for Poseidon, on which was sacrified for Erechtheus too, the second for Butes and the last one for Hephaistos (Pausanias I.26.§6)

Translated after:
William Smith, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, 1870
online under

Added a pic of the Ereichtheion on the Akropolis. It shows the famous part with the Karyatides

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on January 14, 2006, 06:46:54 pm
Marsyas - the skinned

Now I have a republican denar from L. Censorinus of the gens Marcia. Steve Minnoch has pointed out that Marsyas could probably be an allusion to the moneyer's gens Marcia.

gens Marcia, L. Censorinus
AR - Denar, 3.68g, 24.17mm
Rome 82 BC.
obv. (without legende)
laureate head of Apollo, r.
rev. L. CENSOR
Marsyas advancing l., staring upwards, raising r. hand, carrying wine sack above shoulder; behind him column with draped figure (Minerva?)
Crawf. 363/1d; Syd. 737; Kestner 3155; BMCR Rome 2657; Marcia 24

This coin is interesting because it alludes to the myth of Marsyas. Marsyas was a Silen or Satyr, an attendant of Pan, who found the flute, which some time before was invented by Athena. But seeing her face in a mirror and how awful it looks when she played the flute and how all other goddesses were laughing about her, she throw it away with the curse that he who would raise the flute should suffer the worst fate. This Marsyas didn't know. He learned to play the flute better and better and when he felt at top of his art he coltish challenged Apollon for a competition. The winner should be allowed to do with the loser what he wants. Arbiters should be the Muses. But Apollo outsmarted Marsyas. When playing his Kithara he started to sing. This was not possible for Marsyas with his flute. So he lost the competition. And Apollon hung him on a tree and commanded a Skyth to skin Marsyas alive. It is said that by his blood - or the tears of the Muses and the other Satyrs - the river Marsyas has arised. (Ovid Met. VI, 382-400)

Cultural-historical the meaning of Marsyas exhausted not in being a clumsy Satyr. He originally was a Phrygian river god or a spring daimon of the river Marsyas which flow in the valley Aulokrene near Kelainai. He was the protecting heroe of Kelainai and played an important part in the defense against the Galati (the Anatolic celts). Already early he came to to circle of Kybele. It were the Greek who made him a Satyr.

Then I have a pic of the famous Marsyas sculpture of the Capitoline Museum in Rome which I visited on our class trip on 1962. It shows the Roman copy of a lost hellenistic original from the 2nd century BC. This motive is outstanding because it is the only time in ancient art where a hanging figure was depicted, a motive which later in the Christian art became the leading theme in the figure of Christ hanging at the cross.

For all interested in a more detailed discussion here the link:

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on January 15, 2006, 08:44:37 am
Triptolemos - the bringer of culture

1.The coin:
It's a coin of Severus Alexander AD 232-235 from Perinthus in Thracia.

AE 35, 19.8g
bust, draped and cuirassed, seen from behind, radiate, r.
Triptolemos, with waving Chlamys behind, standing r. in Biga with two winged snakes, joined together, holding reins in l. hand and sowing grain with raised r. hand.
Schönert pl. 45, 737 (same dies); Varbanov 4072 (same dies)
rare, VF, nice green-brown patina

PERINTHOS was renamed in the time after Aurelianus as HERACLEA (THRACIA).

2. Mythology:
We have heard about TRIPTOLEMOS already in the myth of the Rape of Persephone. He was one of the five sons of king Keleus of Eleusis and his wife Metaneira. Both have admitted Demeter friendly as guest when she was in search of her daughter Persephone, even though she was disguised and they haven't recognized the goddess. When the elder brother of Triptolemos began to critizise her because she, caused by thirst, was emptying a whole jar of beer, she angrily transformed him into a lizard. To reparate her deed she decided to make the youngest son immortal by holding him above a fire. But Metaneira - anaware of this - interrupted the enchantment and her son died. Keleus was breaking out in tears and complained the fate of his sons. Because of that he is called Dysaules too. Demeter consoled him: "Dry your tears, Dysaules, you have still tree sons from whom I will give Triptolemos such abilities that you will forget the loss of your other two sons."

Triptolemos had realized Demeter and gave her the crucial advice by which she could finally get her daughter back. Thankfully  she teached Triptolemos, his brother Eumolpos and Keleus in worshipping her divinity and in her mysteries. Triptolemos got seed, a wooden plow and a cart dragged by two winged snakes. On the Raric plain in Attica - therefore sometimes called the son of king Raros too - she teached him in the art of agriculture and then sent him over the whole earth to teach all other people. (Ovid Met. V, 450-563)

There are additional myths where several times assaults on him were tried. So at last he came with his snake biga to Thracia where he was killed by king Lynkos who was punished by transformation into a lynx. (Ovid Met. V, 62-661)

It is said that he has teached the art to built cities. He had an altar on the Raric plane and his own temple in Eleusis. It is said too that he was one of the three judges in the underworld.

3. Background:
His name TRIPTOLEMOS probably means 'three-times-shaker = thorough winnower'. (Note: After threshing the grain it was necessary to separate the chaff from the corn. For this purpose the threshed grain was thrown in the air by forks and then the wind blew the chaff sidewards. This is called 'winning'.) At the end of the 6th century Triptolemos changed from the prototype of a tiller to the propagator of rural ethos. With his dragon cart - the same Demeter has too (Ovid fast. 4, 497) - he travel on Italy, Illyria, the land of the Getes and Africa. That corresponds to Attic cultural propaganda. 

The Orphics made him as son of Okeanos and Gaia a cosmic power and a symbol of the transition from the herdsmen to the peasant culture, the great revolution at the end of the Neolithicum. From these orphic beliefs probably originates his role as judge of the deads (Platon apol. 41a). As propagator of greek culture he remained alive in the hellenistic and Roman culture and often is seen on coins and other depictions. So there is a silver bowl in Aquileia where the campaign of Germanicus in the East is equated to the transmission of Triptolemos.

Additionally here the famous Triptolemos frieze from Eleusis: Demeter, standing l., handing over to Triptolemos the sacred grain, r. behind Demeter. This frieze originally was found in the Telesterion, the mystic great hall of Eleusis. 
Ovid, Metamorphosen
Der kleine Pauly
von Ranke-Graves, Greek Mythology

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Bill S on January 15, 2006, 09:57:49 am
To say the Greeks have recognized the mice already as transmitters of plagues, as I have read too, I would refuse because it is the rat flea, which is transferring plague, and so the bad guy is the rat and not the mouse.
I'd even go a bit further with this.  Although the disease can be found in a wide variety of rodents, and transmitted to humans from fleas that infest any of them, I doubt this was recognized by the ancient Greeks or Romans.  The recognition of microbes or germs was far in the future.  Also, there is a modern tendency to place far too much blame on rodents and fleas for the spread of bubonic plague.  The plague manifests in two forms - blood borne and pneumonic.  The first spreads by flea bite, the latter spreads by cough and sneeze.  The devastating epidemics were largely pneumonic - all the less reason for the ancients to blame mice for the spread of the disease.  Nowadays when the plague is encountered, it's mostly in the blood-borne form and stopped before it becomes pneumonic, hence we modern folk associate it almost completely with fleas.  However, I know of one case a few years ago in which a cat acquired the blood-borne form, presumably from a rodent flea.  The cat's owner didn't recognize the disease - only knew his cat was sick.  While caring for it, the cat sneezed in his face, spreading the disease in its pneumonic form.  The cat owner died from the plague.

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on January 15, 2006, 12:11:02 pm
Thanks, Bill, for your addition! That confirms the thesis that there is no connection between mice and plague in ancient times.

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on January 15, 2006, 12:12:41 pm
Men - the Anatolean Moon God

This is a coin of Julia Domna from Antiochia in Pisidia.

Julia Domna AD 193-211, wife of  Septimius Severus
AE 34, 22.61g
bust, draped, r., hair in eight horizontal waves, coiled in a long bunch at the back of the head
Men, draped, with Phrygean hat, stg. facing, head r., horns of the crescent above shoulders, ties hanging down from shoulders and elbows, holding spear (or sceptre?) r., resting l. arm on cippus and holding with l. globe with Victory, holding trophy and advancing l. His l. foot stepping on Bucranium, beside his r. foot a cock with raised head advancing l.
SNG BD 1161; SNG France 31123; BMC 32

COL CAES ANTIOCH is the Colonia Caesaria Antiochia in Pisidia which was founded in the time of Augustus. It existed to the time of Claudius II Gothicus.
SR stands for SENATVS ROMANVS. This was used for great bronze coins of Antiochia since Septimius Severus.

Men (MHN) was the male Anatolean Moon God. His name is corresponding to the masculine form of MHNH = Selene. In Hellenistic times his cult spread out from Phrygia over Lydia, Pisidia and the whole Asia Minor to Attica and Athens. Here he was under the name TYRANNOC the god of the slaves, and like in Asia Minor ruler of the city and owner of the land, often together with the local MHTHR. Numerous inscriptions with law character show Men with various, not always explicable, epitheta. Men is depicted occasionally riding on a horse, but mostly standing in Phrygian clothing with spear or sceptre, crescent with horns and cock, stepping on the head of a bull, as on this coin. As syncretistic deity he soon was melted with Attis, Sabazios, Zeus Dolichenos   and Mithras. Finally he was the god of heaven (MEGAS MHN OYRANIOC) and ruler of the underworld (MHN KATACHTHONIOC), yes, even the one and only god (EIC THEOC). In Antiochia was a great sanctuary of Men.

Source: Der kleine Pauly

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Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on January 15, 2006, 01:51:02 pm

I know that this coin is in not so good condition. But I want to tell something about Priapos and for that reason this coin is qualified especially well. It is an AE21 of Trajan Decius from Lampsakos.

Trajan Decius AD 249-251
AE 21, 4.15g
        bust draped, laureate, r.
       Priapos, stg. l., draped to hips, with Ithyphallos, holding Thyrsos l. and Kantharos r.
ref. cf. SNG Paris 1294
very rare, good F to about VF

This coin shows beside its mythology some numismatic anomalies:
1) LAN in error for LAM
2) KOI in error for
    a. KVI, as abbreviation for QVINTVS. or
    b. KAI, as abbreviation for KAICAR = Caesar (Curtis Cay)
3) For the magistrate Apollonius it is not possible to find a reference

Priapos was the son of Aphrodite and born in Lampsakos in Mysia. Therefore Lampsakos was the most important city of  the Priapos cult. The special feature of this coin is the fact that Priapos here is not depicted as a dumb and horny garden dwarf as usually but with Thyrsos and Kantharos, the attributes of Dionysos!

Priapos was the son of Aphrodite and Dionysos, referring to other sources of Adonis or even of Zeus himself. When Aphrodite saw how ugly her child was looking, with big tongue, thick belly and exorbitant member, she threw it away and denied it. It is said that the reason for his deformity was the envy or jealousy of Hera. It is said that she have touched the pregnant belly of Aphrodite with her evil magic hand. A herdsman has found the child and brought it up because immediatly he has assumed that this being could be important for the fertility of plants and animals. Not until Roman times he changed into a bizarre garden god and a kind of  scarecrow. So it was assigned to him that he tried to rape the sleeping Hesta but was betrayed by the cry of an ass. In Bithynia it is said that he has educated the young War God Ares whom he first has teached dancing and thereafter the war handcraft. So he rather was a warlike god, and one of the Titanes. For this reason he belongs probably to the series of pre-hellenic, semi-animal teachers of gods, like Kedalion, Chiron, Silen or Pallas.

Priapos is the ithyphallic god of animalic and vegetabilic fertility and generally a bringer of mercy and protector against evil, originated at the coast of the Helespont, especially in Lampsakos. The city of Priapos is named after him. His name is related to Priene, Priamos and the name of the Bithynean war god Prietos. Probably together with Alexander's Crusade his cult spread into the Greek world and absorbed various local deities like Phallos in Attica or Mutunus in Rome, which he replaced. Primarly coarse formed, red coloured wooden statues were sacrified to him, so-called Hermes columns (a bust on a column). Typically was his position in Lordosis (leaning back) with erected phallos.

In his function as fertlitity god he acted positively aiding as well as saving against harm. In Roman times his role was limited as garden god. But he was the protector of wanderers and in Greece patron of sailors and fishermen too. His sanctuaries were artless and imbedded in the landscape. As heir of the sepulcric Phalloi he was grave guardian too. This directs to a deeper meaning. Occasionally he became even an All God. In Lampsakos donkeys are sacrified to him which leads to mythological explanations, f.e. the proverbial horniness of donkeys. From the graffiti on the walls of his sanctuaries a separate poetic genre developed, the Priapea and the Priapean measure.

Naturally the depiction of Priapos stimulated to sarcasm but Priapos would not have been accepted  if not a serious belief would have been behind him. So even in Christian times there were Priests, Priestresses and whole societies which were addicted to him. He had mysteries too and had a strong support by Dionysos who has attracted and influenced him. Furthermore he is related to Aphrodite, Pan, the Nymphs, Silvanus and Herakles. Myths generating he became not until hellenistic times and this only marginal.

Karl Kerenyi, Die Mythologie der Griechen
Der kleine Pauly

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Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on January 16, 2006, 02:17:58 pm
Ma-Enyo - the archaic War Goddess

I never had heard of Ma-Enyo before. That's the reason for this coin. I wanted to go into that matter. You see the Greek mythology is 'a bottomless pit'. It doesn't run out by the well-known twelve Olympic gods which I could show in this thread as I hope.

Septimius Severus AD 193-211
AE 29, struck in the year 172 of Komana Pontica = AD 205/6
       bust , draped and cuirassed, laureate, r.
       tetrastyle temple, with trigonal pediment, in the temple statue of Ma-Enyo on pedestal,  standing facing, head r., holding wreath in raised l. hand
       ET BOP in ex.
BMC 3; Sear GIC 2156

This is a coin of Komana Pontica, as distinct from the Cappadocian Komana, by which it was founded. It was laying at the river Iris and was named Hierocaesarea by the Romans.

1. Mythology:
Enyo was one of the three Graiai, the Gray Sisters, daughters of Phorkys and his wife Keto. They were born already with white-grey hair. They were called Phorcyades like their sisters, the Moires, which were grey, old goddesses too. Hesiod knew only two of them: Pemphredo with the beautiful garment, and Enyo with the saffron garment. He pointed out their lovely faces. Enyo is a warlike name, she was the destroyer of cities. Pemphredo is meaning the wasp. Later Deino, the dreadful, was added. It is said they have had tgether only one eye and only one tooth. Where they lived no sun and no moon was shining. It would be the cave at the entrance to the land of the Gorgones and it closely was guarded by them. But Perseus could outsmart them: He stole them their sole eye and so forced them to give away the way to the Gorgo Medusa which he wants to kill.
2. Background:
Ma, originally, was an appelative babble word for the pre-hellenic Earth and Mother Goddess, used already in the Mycenic religion. In Asia Minor Ma namely is known from Phrygia, Lydia and Caria. In the Cappadokian and the Pontic Komana she had an independent cult with criteria of a city goddess and mistress of the hetaires. She has had a temple state with six thousand(!) hierodules (= temple slaves). In spite of superimposing her old-anatolic habitus in many cases, exchanging with figures like Kybele, Hipta and Artemis Anaitis and evolving of exstatic rites Ma saved her genuine martialic features. In the form of Enyo she represented an opposite pole to the double Ares-Enyalios. Since Sulla and Catilina she was warshipped by the Romans due to her victory bringing power and equated with Bellona. Therefore the Amazones from Asia minor were regarded as battlesome death daemons of the Pontic-Anatolic Ma-Artemis-Anaitis.

Ares himself always was the ferocious war god, who was known for killing only for the sake of killing. The Greek in fact despised him which is seen clearly by Homer. But this is another story...

Der kleine Pauly 
Kerenyi, Griechische Göttersagen

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Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on January 16, 2006, 04:33:48 pm
Ares - the bloodthirsty killer

In my contribution to Ma-Enyo there already was an advice on Ares. Therefore this new contribution is attached meaningful to the first. I think it is important to remind that Ares nothing have to deal with Mars. Generally the popular identification of Greek gods with Roman gods (f.e. Aphrodite = Venus, and so on) is mythological and cultural-historical not correct at all!

As example I have chosen an AE26 of Macrinus from Nikopolis ad Istrum. Sure there are more beautiful pics of Ares on the reverses of Greek coins. But my collction subject are Roman coins. So I hope for understanding.

Moesia inferior, Nikopolis ad Istrum, Macrinus AD 217-218
AE 26, struck under the legate Statius Longinus
        bust, cuirassed, laureate, r.
       Ares, with Korinthian helmet, standing l., resting l. hand on shield set on ground,
       holding inverted spear in r.
Pick 446; SNG München 440; Moushmov 1219

Ares was the Greek war god, the embodiment of bloody slaughter killing and furious battle turmoil. His name has got various different interpretations due to wild-elementary character of his acting: The 'shouter', the 'impetuous'. More convincing Kretschmer puts him to Greek 'are, aros', the 'damager', the 'punisher, the 'avenger'. With that resulted an appelative description of a personally at first indefinite daemonic damaging power. As evidence count the formulas of oath gods in the synoikism treaty between Erchomens and Euaimon, where Ares respectively Areia is used as regular appelative of Zeus, Athena and Enyalios. The etymology of Kretschmer Nilsson takes for his thesis, Ares actually would be only the personification of the murderous fight. Approved is his thesis because Ares by Homer should be synonymic to 'slaughter, killing' and  occurs together with personificated ideas like Eris, Deimos and Phobos.

But it should mentioned that the Homeric Ares absolutely bears characteristics like a living person: Wounded by Diomedes he cries like 10000 men; fallen he covers an area of 7 plethres and while he was rolling in the dust his weapons clanked around him. He is stormy, the fastest of the gods and insatiable in fight. To this sharp picture as a person apply the Knossos plates which know of a god Ares (A-re).

On the other side the antipathy of the Homeric poet against Ares is unmistakable: He calls him frantic, pernicious and double-minded, lawless and perfidious, the man slaughter, who like no other god debased himself to kill the mortals by his own hands. In the burlesque episode with Aphrodite in the net of Hephaistos and as captive of the Aloades in the iron cauldron he doesn't make a good figure, and in the battle scenes of the Iliade he was assigned always to abhorrent and inglorious roles. In these constant defeats of the raging berserk against the always with superior intellect acting Athena the aversion is mirrored which the Greek had against the senseless war fury of barbaric-crude foreign people.

The odium of the daemonic-weird foreign god is adherent on Ares as son of Zeus and Hera and member of the Olympic family too. His origin from the barbaric Thracia is proofed; that even was named after him Areia, and so Detschew has supposed a derivation of his name from the Thracian language. Furthermore the Karic slaughter daemon Enyeus-Enyalios, the companion of the warlike Potnia Ma-Enyo and traceable already for Mycenic times, is melted with him in the Iliade and can be used synonymously. The Ares-Enyalios represents thus well the fusion of a Bronze Age mediterranean lance god with a war daemon of the Thracian influenced Mycenic chariot culture in the 17th/16th century BD. The original connection with a superposed battlesome female deity (Enyo) was transferred in Ares partially into the son relation to the battlesome Hera, partially into the weapon, love and cultural community of the Minor Asian Aphrodite.

referring to 'Der kleine Pauly'

Best regards 

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on January 16, 2006, 05:51:32 pm
Aphrodite Pudica

Here I want to share a coin which I bought because its reverse. It is an AE23 of Gordian III from Deultum in Thracia.

Gordian III AD 238-244
AE 23, 6.42g
       bust, draped and cuirassed, laureate, r.
       Cult statue of Aphrodite with vase standing in Porticus of tetrastyle temple, seen
       in perspektive, with two-stepped Pedement, trigonal Pediment decorated with
       globe, and Akroteria decorated with crosses.
Jurukova 261 (4 Spec.: Sofia, Plovdiv, Burgas, Berlin); Moushmov 3735
rare, VF, nice blue-green patina

Deultum as founded by veterans of Vespasian's VIII. Legion Augusta before AD 77 under the name COLONIA FLAVIA PACIS DEULTUM.

Cultural history:
Aphrodite is the Greek goddess of  beauty and love. She is much older and more original than the Roman Venus. Venus was a more local goddess and came to Rome not before the 4th century BC. Aphrodite in contrast is a goddess of indoeuropean-hellenic, aegean-anatolic and semitic-orientalic elements. The origin of her name is unknown, perhaps related to the semitic *asthart. Her relation to Cypre would well apply to this origin. Some scholars assume, that the name of the month April is coming from the Etruscan *aprodita. That would aprove an Etruscan mediator role. She seems to be a conglomerate of old fertility goddesses. Her attributes dolphin and shell point to a marine, dove, sparrow and swane to a celestial, and apple, rose and pomegranate to a vegetable sexual sphere. Not until Homer Aphrodite was removed from this dark, sinister deity and changed to the bright goddess of charm and grace. She was called 'philommeides', the smiling, and she was the mistress of the Grace.

Art history:
On the reverse we see in the midth of the temple the statue of Aphrodite Pudica in the attitude of the Capitolinean Venus, with a vase right on ground. Her attitude today is hold for shame (therefore 'Pudica'), but in ancient times it was rather meant indicative.
Her support (here the vase) varies from depiction to depiction, is changing from r. to l., but the attitude of Aphrodite is always the same. This is the Venus which Giovanni Pisano cites on the pulpit in the Cathedral of Pisa (however for Prudentia) and then naturally the paradigm that was used by Botticelli for his most famous painting 'The birth of Venus' (and not the Venus Medici!). It was the favourite type of the Roman Empire! Sadly we don't know who has created it, and not even when it was created (anytime between the 4th and the 1st century BC). This statue was so wide spread over the Empire that it is impossible to say which copy Pisano or Botticelli have seen.

The same reverse type is known for Julia Domna and Plautilla from Nikopolis too. The Knidean and the Medicean Venus are much rarer on coins. But it should be mentioned that the Aphrodite type called Genetrix and seen on coins of Sabina and charakterized by uncovering herself (perhaps for Ares or Adonis) and offering an apple, existed in many copies too and was an as popular type as that we call Capitolinean.

As an addition a pic of the Capitolinean Venus

Thanks to Pat Lawrence!   

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on January 19, 2006, 04:12:54 pm
The infant Dionysos

Dionysos is a very complexe mythological figure. Therefore I will split him into more than one contribution. Here the first: Dionysos as infant.

Thracia, Pautalia, Marcus Aurelius AD 161180
AE 18
        bust, draped (and Cuirassed?), bare-headed, r.
rev. PAYT - ALIW - TWN
       Dionysos as infant sitting in a winnowing fan, r., seen half from behind, stretching
       hands, Thyrsos behind
Ruzicka 60a

Until now I never had heard of a winnowing fan. Here the information I have found: A winnowing fan is a wooden or (in ancient times) plaited bowl used to separate the wheat from the chaff. By using the winnowing fan to toss the grain in the air the chaff was blown away by the wind. In Latin it is called 'vannus', as 'vannus mystica' in the Eleusinic Mysteries, in Greek it is 'liknon', that's why this depiction is called 'Dionysos Liknites' too. In the Demeter cult it was a basket with the first fruits, which played a big role in the Eleusinic Mysteries (Apuleius Met. 11). See the added pic from Pompeji too!

The Thyrsos on the rev. looks more like a Narthex birch from the Ferula communis used to cane scholars by schoolmasters. The inside is pithy and used like tinder to make fire. It is said that Prometheus has used Narthex to bring the fire to men. The Thyrsos is made from a Narthex birch.


The first Dionysos:
Following the Orphic stories Dionysos was the son of Zeus and Persephone. Hera has instigated Titans from the Underworld to kill the young boy. Two of them with white coloured faces hijacked him, cut him into seven pieces and cooked him in a cauldron. When they began to roast the pieces on spits Zeus smelled the flavour of the roast appeared and drove the Titans back into the Underworld where they belong. The cooked members were burnt to ashes, from which the grape-vine arose, except one which Zeus took for himself. It is said that this was the heart. But this is a word-play as I will show. It is said that Zeus has given the 'Dionysos Kradaios' to the goddess Hipte for maintenance. Hipte was a goddess of Asia Minor like Rhea. "Kradaios is ambiguous, it can be derived from kradia 'heart' but from krade 'figtree' too and then meaning an artifact made of figwood.. The basket which the priestresses of Demeter are carrying on their heads was a 'liknonon', a winnowing  fan, in which - being carried in the ceremonial procession - usually a phallos was lying under the fruits; an artifact which Dionysos has made from figwood." (Kerenyi, p.201) The liknites ('who is lying in the winnowing fan') was consistlenty 'revived' by the female attendants of Dionysos. (ibid.)

The second Dionysos:
Beside the son of Persephone there was a second Dionysos, the son of Semele and Kadmos. Actually he was the son f Zeus too, who was fallen in love with Semele. When Semele prayed Zeus to come to her in the same shape as to Hera he came as lightning and Semele was killed instantly. Zeus saved the unborn child from the belly of Semele and included him in his own thigh. At the mountain Nysa Dionysos was born a second time by Zeus and he gave the infant to divine nurses (or Hermes) to care for him.

If you are engaged with Dionysos you can recognize many parallels to Christianity. We find the central motive of death and subsequent resurrection. We see an infant with the mission to save the world as the Orphics belief, and we have the cradle of the child Jesus!

To round it up here a pic from a frieze from the Villa of mysteries in Pompeji AD 50: Scenes from the sanctification during the Dionysian Ceremonies. A wife is lifting the veiling drapery from a plaited basket, a winnowing fan. In the basket as symbol of fertility an erected veiled phallos.A female daemon beside with open wings is striking out with a long whip.

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on January 19, 2006, 05:03:28 pm
Dionysos and the panther

The panther plays an important role in the mythology of Dionysos. Dionysos always also was a god of the wilderness. It is an integrative part of his cult to disrupt bloodily animal or human victims in bits. He too was disrupted (or cut) as Dionseus Zagreus in bits by the Titans too. This wild orgiastic nature was expressed by the wild animals which were his attendants. It is said that Dionysos most af all has loved the panther because the panther was as excitable as he was and would make the same leaps like the Maenads.

All wild animals are connected to Dionysos, but none more so than the lion or panther. The supple, feline elegance of its body, the ferocious and easily provoked temper, the boundless appetite, and uncanny intelligence of the creature make it uniquely and inevitably linked to the Dionysiac sphere - and indeed, the wild cat is frequently depicted in the company of the wild God. Like the Magna Mater, Dionysos' cart was drawn by lions and panthers. The cats freely accompanied him at other times, sitting tamely at his feet like puppies, or dancing enraptured with the rest of creation during the Bacchic revel.

When Dionysos sought to punish someone - for instance Lycurgos - the wild cat was often the agent of the God's awful chastisement.


AE 28 of Gordian III from Hadrianopolis in Thracia
        bust, draped, laureate, r.
rev.  ADP - IA - NO / POLEITWN
       Dionysos, nude, with Thyrsos, lying backwards on panther, riding r.
Mionnet 778; Lindgren III, A65A; Jurokova 482; Moushmov 2707. No.3071
SS, some spots to recognize on the panther's skin

As addition a pic of the famous mosaic from Pella in Macedonia showing the same scene.

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: ecoli on January 19, 2006, 06:28:17 pm
This thread needs to be in the Classical N board...

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on January 20, 2006, 02:51:22 pm
Dionysos with Kantharos

Here is one of the most common Dionysos depictions: Dionysos standing, holding Thyrsos and Kantharos.

Moesia inferior, Nikopolis ad Istrum, Elagabal, AE 28
struck under the legate Novius Rufus
bust, draped and cuirassed, laureate, r..
Dionysos, stg. l., holding Thyrsos and poring wine from Kantharos
Moushmov 1397. No.2861.
about VF.

About the Thyrsos we have heard that it was made from Narthex. Often it was wrapped with binds or vine-leafs. On top was a knob made of ivy or vine-leafs, sometimes like a pinecone. The Thyrsos was the sign of the participants of the dionysos cult, used as well by the Mainads f.e. to kill Pentheus.

The Kantharos is a jug with high foot and two long handles shaped like loops. This form of jug was developed from preforms of the 2nd Millenium BC and belonged to Dionysos and his cult until the 5th century AD. So it is essential a cult device. Later on it was used with ring-shaped handles as a profane device too. There are other jugs too, f.e. the Oinochoe, a one-handled jug often with a trilobate nozzle as so-called trifoil-jug. But these don't refer to Dionysos!

Ref.: Der kleine Pauly

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on January 20, 2006, 02:54:35 pm
Mount Argaios - the Sacred Mountain  of Cappadocia

I think you have sometimes seen coins of Caesarea with the reverse called 'Mt. Argaios' or 'Mt.Argaeus'. Here are two of them.

1) A Didrachm of Marcus Aurelius from Caesarea Cappadocia.
Marcus Aurelius AD 161-180 
        His bare curly head right
rev. YPA - TOC Gamma
        Mount Argaeus with star above
Sear GIC 1661

2) An AE28 of Elagabal of Caesarea Cappadocia.
Elagabal AD 218-222
         bust, draped and cuirassed, laureate, r.
         ET B in ex.
        Agalma of Mt. Argaios on altar
Sydenham 518 var. (year on altar)
nice naturalistic portrait of the young emperor

The Mount Argaios (or Latin 'Argaeus') is the highest mountain in Asia minor. 3916m high, volcanic and mostly covered with snow on top. Today it's called Erciyes Dagi, and at its foot lays the city of Caesareia, in early days called Mazaka, today Kayseri. The Argaios was a sacred mountain already in the times of the Hattits which have called him 'harara'. It is an very impressive mountain, due to its heighth and its volcanic activities. In 253 BC their should have been a big eruption mentioned on Roman Republican coins, but I couldn't find any example. Mazaka was the capital of the Cappadocian Kings, later the capital of the Roman province Cappadocia.

The pics of the Argaios on coins are rather similar. It is always trigonal and put together by parts which look like rocks. In the midth there is often a circle decorated with dots. The suggestion that this could be a flower seems to be discarded. Most probably it should be a cave perhaps for a cult statue(?). The figure of the Argaios is always rounded by needle-shaped lines or cones. These should be flames as symbols of his volcanic activities as could seen on others types too. The similarity of its pics is an evidence that it probably is the depiction of a real cult picture of the mountain, a so-called Agalma, which could be put in a temple. This theory is approved by the second coin where the cult statue of the Mount Argaios stands on an altar.

On the left frontal rock you can see a jumping deer and on the right rock a tree(?). But wether the Agalma was decorated with small statuettes which were put on the statue is not known.

On some types on the summit of the Argaios is seen a star, a crescent, the radiate Sol, or an eagle. Then there are types where the Argaios is carried by a man in a quadriga (probably Septimius Severus) or a rare type where the Argaios is seen on a chart dragged by two elephants. Then there is known a Tyche turreted with the Argaios and the personification of Cappadocia holding the Argaios.

Interesting is the following fact: Coins with the Argaios were known in the Hellenistic time only in the short periode from 101 BC to AD 17 where an alliance with Rome existed. There are no coins of Greek times even though the cult was known so long before! Not until the 1st century AD coins with references to the Argaios appeared. The explanation could be that the cult was re-introduced by the Romans to lead the Cappadocians to the the Roman Trias Jupiter-Helios-Serapis and to convince them of the Summus-Deus-belief. (P. Weiß). It is known that an Agon took place.
Cappadocia was important already at the times of the Hattits (14th century BC) as central part of their empire. The capital was Hattusa near todays Boghazköi. With Kyros II Cappadocia came under Persian influence, but because of its distance to the centre it remained relative independent. This was true also in the time of Alexander and under the reign of the Antigonids since 303  BC. Under the Romans Archelaos was made king by Marcus Antonius. AD 18/19 under Tiberius it became the Roman province Cappadocia

Other mountain gods:
The sacred mountain Argaios is only one in a series of mountain gods. Another important cult was the cult of Zeus Kasios which could be backtracked to the Hattits  too. It was their sacred mountain Hazzi where the gods descended from heaven. Referring to Ugaritic tradition it was the seat of the storm and thunderbolts god Baal. In Greek-Seleucidian time these two deities were melted together and parallel to Baal the early mountain god was made to the god Zeus Kasios of Seleukeia Pierias.

I have added a pic of today's Erciyes Dagi

(Here you can find more references!)
(From this site is the pic of the Erciyes Dagi!)

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on January 21, 2006, 05:10:53 am
Some notes on the Roman god Liber

Because we have spoken about Dionysos in this thread some time before it is necessary to add informations about the Roman Liber too. He is often mixed up with Dionysos/Bacchus but this is not correct!

Liber is an old Roman deity and together with Libera a genuine Italic pair of gods. His name and his meaning are not sure until now.
1. The ancient interpretations tend in its majority to an origin of 'liberare', to free. Either because he admitted the wine pleasure in vast quantities and thus frees from worries, or because he admitted men to release their sperm (or in the case of Libera to deliver a child).
2. Today it is accepted that the origin of his name is probably *leudh, to sprout, to germinate. So these two deities are old fertility gods. Therefore they were worshipped together with Ceres. Already the dictator A. Postumus has dedicated to this trias a combined temple at the Circus Flaminius in 496 BC which was renewed by Augustus.

When Dionysos became familiar in Latium in the 5th century BC Liber was quickly equated with him which unfortunately darkens his origins. One of the oldest ceremonies recorded in the calendars belonged to Liber and Libera: the Liberalia on March 17. At this day old women presented cakes for sacrificing which then they sacrificed on a portable cooker for the buyer (this probably also pseudo-etymologically to 'libum', = cake for sacrificing). This day often was used for applying the toga virilis too, after which the young Roman was accepted as adult. More original as this seem to be phallic processions. Wether Liber was really related to wine in the earliest day is unsure but it would have make it easier to fulfill the equalization with Dionysos. In historic times the equilization was already done. Liber wears all attributes of Dionysos as you can see on the attached coin for Septimius Severus: Thyrsos, panther and ivy wreath.

Cicero however (in De Nat. Deor. II, 24) has differentiated sharply between the Latin Liber and the Greek Dionysos. The Senate f.e. had forbidden in 186 BC the Dionysos cult and the Bacchanalies but not the ceremonies of the Liberalia! It was Caesar who then allowed the cult again.

The coin is from a friend: RIC 99; C.304. Rev. LIBERO PATRI

Best regards 

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on January 21, 2006, 09:48:41 am
The Aegis - the wondershield of  Zeus

The definition of the Aegis is a bit disturbing at least I was a bit confused. Now I'm better informed and I hope I can enlighten you too!

The first coin of Crispus from Trier RIC 347 shows on the obv. Crispus holding a phantastic shield! It shows the head of Medusa whose look will turn into stone everybody who is looking at it. Medusa, first as Gorgo a sole horror-being with snake hairs, in the later mythology was one of the three Gorgons, three terrible sisters. They were immortal except Medusa. Instead her look turned into stone. Perseus succeeded in killing her with the assistance of Athena by looking at her only through a mirror. From the cut head of Medusa sprung the winged horse Pegasos. The head of Medusa Perseus donated to Athena who wears it on her shield, the so-called Aegis. The head of Medusa is called 'Gorgoneion'!

Referring to others Athena herself killed the Gorgo. Anyway the Aegis was a wondershield of Zeus which was created by Hephaistos and decorated with golden tassels and pictures. Sometimes he borrowed it to Apollo and particularly to Athena. He used the shield everytime when he want to do perform same actions on earth which the other Olympic gods especially his wife Hera shouldn't not realize. The he tossed the Aegis high in the air and the Olymp mountain was wrapped in clouds and storm. So the Aegis was a kind of weather-shield.

The confusion began after Homer. Posthomeric the derivation of the word Aegis (greek Aigos) from Aix = goat, goat-skin became common. This was referring to the goat Amalthea which is said having nursed the young Zeus in his cave on Crete. This goat-skin shaped Aegis we see from the time of  Nero on often on coins worn on the left shoulder as the sign of power. I have chosen an antoninian of Probus to show the typical goat-skin Aegis. It is RIC 157 with an interesting bust depiction: the breastplate is decorated with an Aegis which bears in its midth a winged Gorgoneion. We see clearly the two wings r. and l. of the head. Additionally the emperor bears a second Aegis across his left shoulder according to the motto 'The more the better!'.

The third coin is an exceptional AE27 of Gordian III from Nikopolis ad Istrum Varbanov3328. The emperor has a Gorgoneion on the breastplate and then an Aegis with mounted Gorgoneion on his left shoulder. You see the erected snakes!

Mythological background:
The depiction of the killing of Gorgo by Athena is much older than the myth of Perseus. Formerly the scholars tend to the opinion, that Gorgo and Athena were the two sides of the same divinity in which then when Athena was changed to an Olympic goddess (which were regarded as bright and clear - rationalistic and human-like - in contrast to the old divinities), the horrible-daemonic part was removed from her and confronted as an adversary power.

This opinion today has changed. Now it is assumed that Athena has had an Aegean predecessor of chthonic character which she overcome and from which she has won some of the destructive power of the evil eyes.

Source: Der kleine Pauly

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on January 21, 2006, 09:53:28 am
The Gorgoneion - the head of Medusa

Surprisingly the Gorgoneion is much older than the myth of Gorgo. Nearly all primitive (in the sense of very early!) people know of horror masks which require the belief in evil eyes and in the banning power of the increased expression of rage and sneer. Since when the Greek pass over from the impersonal grimace to the mythological personal is not known. Homer already know the myth of Perseus.
At first the Gorgoneion was predominant with broad face, dreadful eyes, bared tongue and snakes in the hair often with four wings. It was magic-apotropaically (= averting)
attached to shields, cuirasses, to doors and gates, to ships and horses and also to tombs.

When time goes by her ugliness was mitigated and around 400 BC in the Medusa Rondanini (in Munich) a exceptional beautiful type was achieved however from a cold, soulless beauty. The Hellenism then granted the Gorgoneion the painful traits of melancholia and does not show longer the tantalizing but the tantalized being.

Attached are the following three pics:
The Gorgona Rondanini from Munich
An tetradrachm of Philipp I from Antiochia Prieux 357 with a Gorgoneion on his breastplate.
The denar of Domitian RIC 65 var.-. Especially Domitian shows very often the Aegis accross his left shoulder. Here it is the Aegis with attached Gorgoneion. You see clearly the profile of  the head of Medusa (nose!) and the snake-hairs!

So actually we should differentiate between three different depictions:
1) The Aegis, the mere goat-skin
2) The Gorgoneion, i.e. the head of Medusa
3) The Aegis with attached Gorgoneion, identifiable by its snakes.

Source: Der kleine Pauly

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on January 23, 2006, 03:42:50 pm
Asklepios - the Healing God

Today I want to tell you something about the Greek Healing God Asklepios, lat. Aesculapius. For this purpose I present two coins both struck for Caracalla (AD 198-217).

1) Thracia, Serdika, Caracalla Ruzicka 245
    AE 30, 16.6g
            bust, draped, laureate, r.
           Asklepios, half-nude, standing facing, feeding with r. hand snake, which  
          coiled around his rod, set on ground l. beside him.
    Ruzicka 245 (attribution by Curtis Clay)
    Very rare, EF
    Serdica is todays Sofia, capital of Bulgaria. Ulpia was the surname of the city in
    honour of  Ulpius Trajan who raised the city to a municipium..

2) Caracalla RIC IV, 253 var.
    AR - denar, 3.30g, 20.3mm
    Rome AD 215
            bust, laureate, r.
           Aesculapius, standing frontal, nude to hips, head facing, holding snake-
           entwined rod in r. hand, l. hand across body with fold of drapery, r. at his feet
           globe; at the l.side a small figure with hooded cloak (Telesphoros)
    RIC IV, 253 var.; C.307; BMC 105
    RIC listed this type only with head l., but market observation has shown that this
    variant is not so rare.

1. Mythology:
Asklepios is the famous Greek Healing God. At Homer however he was not yet a god, but a man, the father of Machaos and Podaleirios, two famous surgeons in front of Troy. He is said to be the father of Hygieia too. Referring to Homer the entire medicine originates from Paieon, which was another name for Apollon. Later on there are several myths of his divine ancestry. He was the son of Apollon and the princess Koronis, daughter of Phlegyas, king of the Lapiths. When she was pregnant, Apollon left a raven to guard her. But she betrayed him with Ischys, son of Elatos. When the raven reported the infidelity to Apollon he cursed the raven. From this time on all ravens are black. Artemis avenged her brother Apollo by killing Koronis with her arrows. But Apollon wanted to save his unborn son and Hermis cut him out of the body of the dead. He was called Asklepios and given over to the Centaur Cheiron who educated him and teached him the art of medicine.
Another myth tells that after his birth he was abandonned on the Tithion mountain where the herdsman Aresthanas found him and then nursed him alternately by his dog and his goats. Therefore Asklepios sometimes is depicted with these animals.
Asklepis not only was able to cure invalids but to reawake deads too. For that purpose Athena has given him two glasses with blood of the Gorgo Medusa. With the blood of her left side he could reawake to life, with the blood of the right bring to death. Back into life he brought f.e. Lykurgos, Kapaneos and Tyndareos. Asklepios came to his end when Hades complained at Zeus about Asklepios that he would steel him too much dead souls. Because of the reawakening of Orion he was accused of corruptibility and then killed by Zeus with a thunderbolt together with his patient. A short time later Zeus regretted what he has done and gave them back their lifes. Together with his snake-entwined rod Asklepios was set as a constellation on the sky.

(will be continued)

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on January 23, 2006, 03:47:59 pm

2. Background:
Asklepios is a pre-hellenic deity from Northern Greece, probably Thessalia, where his name is connected with 'Asgelatas' meaning the snake-footed god. Asklepios was worshipped at many Greek locations especially those with healing fonts. His temples therefore were found often outside of the cities and often on hills. In these temples numerous patients were staying so that they looked like todays hospitals. The main sanctuary stood in Epidauros. From there his cult came to Rome 359 BC during a great pest epidemic.
In Epidauros stood a great statue of Asklepios simulating Zeus. It is described by Pausanias: The demigod is seated on a throne, holding in one hand a rod, the other on a snake, a dog is laying at his feet.
Snakes were a symbol of renewing due to their regular moult. It is said too that they would be able to find healing herbs. Therefore Asklepios not only was depicted together with the Apollinic snakes but as snake himself. In his temples often snakes were kept.
The suggestions for healing the priests received by dreams (so-called thaumaturgy) or during a sleep (so-called temple sleep). To thank them a cock or a goat was hanged in the temple by the cured together with a plate described with the illness and the way and method of healing. These plates are found by archeologists.
The priests of Asklepios were called Asklepiadae. They were a sworn, sect like community of healers. Their profession passed over always from the father to his son. The acception was confirmed by a sacred oath.
This cult spread over the whole Empire. He was hold as Saviour and later on there were heavy theological conflicts with the apologets of Christianity.


On the denar of Caracalla on the left side of Asklepios (or better Aesculapius for it is a Roman coin!) you see the small figure of Telesphoros. This is a talking name, meaning 'finalizer'. He is always depicted with a hooded cloak where only his feet stick out. The 'der kleine Pauly' calls him 'one of the most problematic figures in the history of religions'. Very late he was added to Asklepios as his 'son'. He was introduced by an oracle in Pergamon at the end of the 1st century AD from where his cult spread very fast. Because of his small shape  and the hooded cloak Telesphoros is identical with the 'genii cucullati', a group of fertility, healing but death gods too (cucullus = hood). Probably they are old celtic deities.

A last coin of Diadumenians from Deultum (Yurukova 88) shows Telesphoros on the reverse.

Der kleine Pauly
Robert von Ranke-Graves, Greek Mythlogy
William Smith, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (online!)
Karl Kerenyi, Die Mythologie der Griechen

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on January 23, 2006, 04:37:19 pm
The gods of the Underworld

I think here is the appropriate place for this contribution therefore I moved it from 'Coins of Historical Interest'! The coin is an Antoninianus of Caracalla AD 198-217, one of the first ones:

AR - Antoninianus, 5.3g, 22.2mm,
       Rome AD 215
        Bust cuirassed radiate head r.
       Pluto with modius on head, seated on throne l., sceptre in l. hand,
       stretching r. hand to three-headed Cerberus at his feet.
RIC IV/1, 261(d); not in in Cohen
Rare; nice EF

I was going to find more information of the figure of Pluto and now I think it is more likely Serapis! Here is what I have found:

Together with Zeus and Poseidon the third son of Kronos was Hades. After the struggle against the Titans he got the rule of the Underworld by drawing lots. His name is derived from Greek 'a-ides' = unvisible, like the word 'hell', the nordish goddess Hel, or the hebraic word 'sheol' for hell. As ruler of the Underworld he was weird to the people. His name not often was called, but only circumscribed. There were not much cults for him. But as a ruler of the wealth of the earth too he was related to Plutos.

Plutos, not really a god in the strict sense, was the figure of wealth and abundance. In the beginning he was the master of the subterranean grain supplies, later ruler of the deads too (at first probably in Eleusis). In this function he was called Pluton mostly.

Pluton, in the beginning the god of wealth, the donator of gifts, therefore depicted with the modius on head, the Roman grain measure.
In his shape very similar to Zeus: A venerable man with full hair and beard, holding sceptre. At his feet the three-headed Cerberus, the guard of the underworld. In opposition to Hades he stands for the moderate side of the chthonic powers and was helpful to human beings.
Therefore he was warshipped on many places, often together with Demeter/Proserpina. When times go by he was melted with Hades and then he replaced him as the ruler of the underworld.

Serapis (sometimes Sarapis) was introduced about 300 BC to Alexandria as god of the state by Ptolemaeus I Soter (305-284 BC), known as the founder of the famous Alexandrian library too. He built the big Serapeion in Alexandria and the famous sculptor Bryaxis created the statue of Serapis: Also a venerable man with modius (Greek. kalathos, not polos!) on his head, holding sceptre, the three-headed Zerberos at his feet. Full beard and mighty hair let him look like Zeus, and reminds on Pluton. He was a syncretistic (= mixed up) deity und should unify the Greek and the Egyptian religions, so connecting the people of the East with the people of the West, an important objective of the Hellenism. His name was derived from Apis-Osiris, a god of grain, fertility and wealth too. He was melted with Asklepios, the god of healing, with Dionysos, of whom he got the secret consecrations, with Pluto, as god of the underworld, then with Zeus, and yes, with Christus, as sole god and creator of the world. The last time his cult was promoted by Julian II, who sometimes called himself Deus Serapidis.
AD 389 Theophilus, bishop of Alexandria, destroyed the Serapeion, probably by order of Theodosius, and with this event the time of paganism was gone for ever.

(will be continued)

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on January 23, 2006, 05:06:55 pm

Caracalla (AD 198-217)
Already Severus, father of Caracalla, had identified himself with Serapis! His depiction with the 5 curls on the forehead was called serapian (but now it seems to be more antoninian style). Caracalla continued his father's cult. He built a Serapeion in Rome on the Quirinal hill, which gave his name to the III. Roman region. To this temple he consecrated the sword with which he has killed his brother Geta, referring to Dio Cassius. Caracalla was very interested in religions. His visit of the Alexandrian Serapion was notorious. There he has done all rites and received the consecrations. His dead is characteristic: He was on a trip to the moongod of Carrhae when he was killed.

Depiction on the coin
The depiction on the reverse of the coin is in all details similar to the statue of Bryaxis in the Serapeion of Alexandria! The similarity with Zeus, the three-headed Cerberus, you find all. Therefore I think much stands for Serapis as depicted deity! Whereas RIC speaks of Pluto(n), CNG calls the figurs on the Aureus RIC 242, C.253, and on the Denar RIC 261(a) Serapis too!
Ok, the pictures of Serapis and Pluton are mixed together. So it could well be that the same picture was called Serapis by a Greek and Pluton by a Roman (Patricia Lawrence!). This point of view was characteristic for the syncretism!
Coming to the end: One can say that this coin is typically for the syncretism which now is coming to Rome from all sides - especially from the East. The time of the old gods now is fading away. Only short time and by Elagabal the first real monotheistic god will be introduced to Rome.

Added is the pic of a famous copy of the head of Bryaxis' Serapis from the 2nd century AD. The Ptolemaic eagle, which the gems show to have adorned the pediment of Serapis' temple, is here placed on the top of the kalathos.

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Robert_Brenchley on January 24, 2006, 01:39:21 pm
Sheol isn't hell, though Christian tradition tends to conflate the two. Hell has a moral dimension; only the wicked go there. Sheol has none; everyone ends up there. It's a shadowy afterlife which would be closer to Hades, except that it's a lot vaguer. God is assumed to be absend from Sheol, except in one text in Jonah, where he's present; that evidently represents a late development of the concept. Ideas of post-mortem rewards for the righteous, and punishment for the wicked, emerge in the Hellenistic period. They're essentially the reaction of a downtrodden people to the question of why they, the righteous suffer, while the wicked, who oppress them, do so well out of it. The old idea that the righeous will prosper in this life doesn't work any more, and something very like heaven and hell emerges as a response, in books like 1 Enoch. The idea simply crosses over into early Christianity, and develops from there.

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on January 24, 2006, 02:22:05 pm
Thanks, Robert, for making this clear! I hope that my records of the etymological connection of 'sheol' with 'hidden, invisible' is correct?

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Robert_Brenchley on January 24, 2006, 03:51:36 pm
I don't have a decent Hebrew lexicon, but there's a good article in the ABD. The derivation is unclear, but the author feels that the most plausible possibility is a derivation from the Hebrew S'L, to ask or enquire. S'L is used of the practice of consulting the spirits of the dead, so there is an obvious link. alternatively, it could be intended in a forensic sense, as 'the place of interrrogation'. I can't think of any passage in the OT where Sheol is linked with anything of the sort, but I'd need to read the articles cited, if I could get hold of them, and see what the authors said. Alternatively, it could be derived from S'H, meaning 'no land' or 'unland', a place of emptiness and remoteness from God, which does seem to sum up what we know of the place.

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on January 24, 2006, 04:24:57 pm
Thanks Robert!

I was only a half year in a Hebrew course at school and left it due to laziness. So my Hebrew knowledge stopped with BERESCHITH BARA ELOHIM.

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on January 31, 2006, 04:08:57 pm
Dea Caelestis - the ancient City Goddess of Carthage

We have seen interesting mythological depiction on Imperial coins too (but not in such wide range of variation as in Provincial coins!). Here I want to present an Imperial coin which holds mysteries until now. It is a denar of Septimius Severus though there is the same motive for Caracalla too.

Septimius Severus AD 193-211
AR - Denar, 2.97g, 18.13mm
       Rome AD 204
      bust, laureate, r., beard plaited, braid across cheek (so-called Serapis type)
      Dea Celestis, turreted, head r., riding on lion r., holding sceptre and thunderbolt. Below
      water flowing r., arising from rock on l. side.
     IN CARTH in ex.
RIC IV/1, 266; C.222; BMC 335
about EF

It should be said that this coin has four different types:
a) Goddess holding sceptre and thunderbolt, head facing
b) Goddess holding sceptre and thunderbolt, head r.
c) Goddess holding sceptre and drum
d) Goddess holding drum only
Type a and b are common, type c is rare and type d is very rare.

Already the cause for issueing this coin is not certainly known. Apparently Septimius, who as is generally known was coming from Leptis Magna in Northern Africa, has undertaken a journey to Carthage and Leptis. INDVLGENTIA is translated as 'clemency, mildness, grace'. In connection with the water flowing from the rock it could be an allusion to an aquaeduct which the emperor has built, enhanced or repaired. That would be expressed by 'grace'. Or he has lowered or cancelled any water rates. That would be expressed by 'clemency'. At any case after a first edition without IN CARTH in ex. this was added to the rev. Perhaps the depiction without IN CARTH has made no sense to the Romans. Another possibility worth to be discussed could be that the flowing water was an attribute of Dea Caelestis herself. And so we come to the pictured deity. And there we have much confusion as well. Naturally the religion of the Romans in these times was already syncretistic and many different deities were mixed up to form new deities. But this is not true for Dea Caelestis. Here we are still able to differentiate. 

At first she must be distinguished from the goddess Dea Syria. Dea Syria belongs to the ambit of Kybele-Rhea and has nothing to deal with our goddess. Dea Caelestis is nothing else than the ancient city-goddess of Carthage. Her old name was Tanit or more correctly Tinit. The Carthagean like the Phoenician font does not know vowels. The name of the goddesss was written TNT. The connecting vowels now are known from newly found Greek inscriptions.

Dea Caelestis or Virgo Caelestis as the city goddess of Carthage was called by the Romans,  came to Rome referring to the official version after the fall of Carthage by evocatio. But before Septimius she is not known outside of Africa. So this version can't be true. Her temple stood inside the Pomerium, the sacred district of Rome, on the Northern part of the Palatine. Her cult was on top of all other foreign cults. Here we find orgiastic activities as they were usual for Tinit. Naturally it came to a mixture with similar deities, f.e. with Kybele who was depicted with lions and drums too. (A contribution about Kybele-Rhea is comming soon.) BTW Caelestis should not be confused with the epitheton 'caelestis' which often is added to deities.

Tinit beside Baal Hammon was the main goddess of Carthage. Probably she came from Libya because her name has Berberic reminiscences and in Phoenicia were found no confirmations. By political-religious reforms during the 4th century BC she came on the top of the Carthagean pantheon. Partly uranic, partly chthonic, she was Heavens Goddess, Moon and Fertility Goddess with the symbols crescent, palm, dove, pomegranate etc. She was associated with Hera and Demeter, was called 'Mother', but was Death Goddess too with Hermes Psychopompos. It is said that children were sacrificed to her. With the Punic expansion her cult spread to Sicily, Sardinia, Malta and Spain. To the Roman Imperial cult she was introduced not before Elagabal.

Evocatio: After having defeated an enemy the Romans usually asked the deities of the conquered city to move to the victorious Rome where in a ceremonial procession they were assigned a sacred location. Thereby the power of the adversary deities was believed to be added to the Roman power.

Der kleine Pauly
Gerhard Fink, Who's who in der antiken Mythologie

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on February 02, 2006, 05:29:35 pm
Kybele - the great Earth Mother

For a long time I have hesitated to write about Kybele because it  is a so extensive area. But now it is time to start! The cause is a new coin, a denar of Julia Domna, where the Empress probably should be identified with the goddess.

Julia Domna, died AD 217(?), wife of Septimius Severus
AR - Denar, 3.6g, 17.79mm
        struck in Rome, AD 198, under Septimius Severus
       bust, draped, bare head, r., hair in five horizontal waves, with broad bun behind
rev. MA - TER - DEVM
      Kybele, richly draped, turreted, sitting l., holding branch in extended r. and sceptre in l.
      hand; left ellbow resting on drum, standing on throne. On each side of the throne a lion,
      sitting l., the rear only half seen.
RIC IV, 564; C.123; BMC 54
scarce, good VF

Kybele, here called Mater Deorum (mother of gods), we see in one of her standard depictions. Her attributes are mural-crown, drum and the indispensable lions. There are other depictions too where we see Kybele riding on a lion or standing in a lin biga.

The mythology of Kybele is very extensive. Therefore I have chosen different attempts to describe Kybele, or as my Greek teacher once has said, "that only argues for her complexity which includes the contrariness as well!"

It is said that Kybele is grown from a stone which Deukalion and Pyrrha have thrown after the Flood. Or her father was Meon, king of Phrygia and Lydia, her mother Dindyma. Meon don't want a daughter and ordered to expose her on the Kybele mountain. There she was nursed by wild beasts. Panthers and other predators gave milk to her until shepherdesses found her and took her with them.
Kybele grow up to a beautiful young woman, stayed decent and rather invented pipes, drums and timbals which became important in the cult of the goddess. Moreover she was engaged in medicine especially for animals and children which she could heal by her words alone. A close friend was Marsyas, and her great love Attis.
When Kybele somewhat later returned to the court of her parents again she was accepted friendly. But soon it was decovered that she was pregnant. Meon in his rage commanded to kill Attis and the shepherdesses and to let the bodies unburied.
Kybele in her mourning began to rave nonsensically through the country, howling and beating her drums in company with the piping Marsyas. They met Apollo who defeated Marsyas in the famous musical competition and killed him. After that he joined Kybele and both went to the Hyperboreans. Meanwhile Phrygia suffered by plague and dearth. Asking an oracle they were said to bury immediatedly the unburied bodies and to worship Kybele. Because they couldn't find the bodies anymore they buried a statue of Attis and at Pessinus a magnificent temple was erected for Kybele. It was Midas who was engaged in that temple too.  
Another myth tells that Attis has betrayed Kybele and desired the nymph Sagaris. Because of that Kybele has punished him terribly, she has castrated him.
Famous too is her anger at Atalante and Hippomeneus. These two have loved in the sanctuary of Kybele for which the goddess transformed them into lions which had to pull her cart forever. (Ovid, Met. 10, 686-704)
Kybele was worshipped in many countries and so she is known under many names. Some of them are Antaia, Asporina, Daucia, Dindymene, Idaea, Maia, Magna mater, Mater Deum, Pessinuntia, Phasiane, Phrygia or Turrita.

The bisexual entity Agdistis, another name of Kybele, went through the countries and killed all what she met. The gods deliberated and Dionysos was sent to appease Agdistis. He succeeded by making a source giving wine. Agdistis drank the wine and drunk he/she castrated him/her during the sleep. From the cut member a almond tree arose of which Nana, daughter of the river Sangar, put a fruit into her lap and became pregnant. Her child was Attis with whom Agdistis fall in love. But Attis wanted to marry the daughter of the king of Pessinus. Jealously Agdistis drove him into madness and he castrated himself like his father/mother.
Attis is equal to the eunuchs in the temple ministration of Kybele. These castrated priests were called Galli of which the Archigallus was the highest priest. The autocastration was forbidden for Romans priests. Because of that the cult of the Megale Meter (greek) resp.Magna Mater (lat. great Mother) was managed by non-romans, until the interdiction was cancelled by Claudius. After their emasculation the priests of Kybele were wearing coloured female clothes and decorations.

(will be continued)

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on February 02, 2006, 05:30:56 pm

On 15.-28. March a spring festival was celebrated in honour of Kybele and Attis. The latter became Sun God. In the late Empire Kybele was seen as cosmic power of the heaven.
Part of the Kybele cult in later times was the Taurobolium. In this purgation ritus the devotee sat down in a dump, a bull or a ram was sacrificed above him and the blood gushed over him. Attributes of the goddess were corn-ears too, key, pomegranate, sceptre or cornucopiae.On her head she wears a crown with houses or towers. The cult symbol of Kybele in Pessinius was a unworked black stone meteorite. This stone later was brought to the Kybele temple on the Palatine in Rome. This black stone by modifications of her name is connected to the stone of the Kaaba in Mecca.

Already in early times Kybele was identified with the Greek goddess Rhea.. Rhea, daughter of Uranos and Gaia, was the wife of Kronos and became mother of Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades, Poseidon and Zeus. A real mother of gods! Kronos gorged all his children after birth because he was afraid of being disempowered by them. Due to the advices of her parents Uranos and Gaia Rhea gave birth to Zeus on Crete, in a cave of the Ida mountains, protected by the Kuretes and the noise made by the Korybants with their drums and flutes, nursed by the nymph or goat Amaltheia and so safe from his father Kronos. Rhea has given him a stone wrapped up in nappies instead of the infant. This stone was laying so heavy in his stomach that he spewed the stone together with the gorged children. This stone was erected by Zeus in Delphi after defeating his father Kronos and the Titans.

Kybele, mountain goddess from Asia Minor, that means pre-phrygean, with baetylic stone cult in the Phrygean Pessinus and several cave sanctuarities; from the 7th century BC patroness of the Lydian Mermnades in Sardeis with mountain cult on the Timolos mountain. Kybele is the most famous figure of the old anatolic, already prehistorical found chthonic Mother Goddess, which was called by the autochthonous people with the babble name Ma, Amma or Nana. In the area of Crete-Asia Minor-Northern Syria she developed several local figures becoming manifest in nearly unmanageable local hypostases. As 'Mountain Mother' or 'Mother of Gods' incorporated into the greek pantheon Kybele remained equal in character or akin to the Mysian Adrasteia, the Hurritic-Anatolean Hipta, the Dea Syria Atargatis, the Persian-Anatolic Artemis Anaitis, the Kilikian Artemis Parasia of Kastabala, finally the Phrygian MHTER IDAIA of the Troyan Aphrodite, mother of Aineias, and the Cretic-Minoic Rhea (where Ida are mountains of Asia minor, not the mountain on Crete!)

As another variant is added Attis, the priest lover of the goddess, who defeated by her power emasculates himself and so reminds of the phenomenon of Kybele's own androgynia which already was saved in Agdistis, while cultural-historical he is the archetype of the eunuch attendants of Kybele (Galloi) ecstatic agitated by music, dancing and bloody practices. Flutes, drums, rattels and timbals as stimulants of uncontrolled furor denominates symbolic the milieu in which the Kybele-Attis-cult in hellenestic times developed to a mystery religion and with the re-birthing and re-newing rites of the taurobolia spread over the whole world.

In Rome where Kybele was domiciled since the transfer of her cult stone from Pessinus in 204 BC was celebrated the annual festival of the Megalesia. The Romans regarded her as patroness of their Troyan ancestors; the Roman poets Lucretius, Catull and Ovid considered her as important like the greek epic Apollonios Rhodios before. Roman Empresses identified themselfes with Magna Mater - like here on this coin.

Her timeless figure outlasted the impact of Christianity and gave impulses to the early ecclesian worshipping of Maria in the scope of the montanistic heresia.

Hederich, Gründliches Mythologisches Lexikon
Gerhard Fink, Who's who in der antiken Mythologie
Der kleine Pauly

Added is a pic of the copy of a Kybele statue from a museum in Berlin.

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on February 04, 2006, 09:40:18 am
The Dioscurs - the divine pair of brothers

Moesia inferior, Markianopolis, Gordian III AD 238-244
AE 27, 10.98g
struck under the legate Menophilus
       bust, cuirassed, laureate, r., Aegis on l. shoulder
In front of a horse, standing l., with raised r. foot, one of the Dioscurs is standing facing, head l., wearing Phrygian hat, holding briddle in l. and sceptre in r. hand.
Pick 1091
good VF
ex coll. Gordian III from George His
ex Lanz Auction 102 from 28. May 2002, lot 582
ex CNG Auction 132 from 1. Feb. 2006, lot 100

The Dioscurs (dios kuroi = sons of the god) Kastor and Polydeukes were sons of Zeus and Leda. Zeus fell in love with Leda and came to her in the shape of a swane. By his singing he beguile her. After this encounter Leda laid an egg, another egg was from her husband Tyndareus. This encounter is said to be on the Taygetos mountain (Kerenyi, p.86). From the eggs emerged Kastor, Polydeukes, Helena and Klytaimnestra, namely Polydeukes and Helena from the egg of Zeus, Kastor and Klytaimnestra from the egg of Tyndareus. That was the reason that Polydeukes was immortal, but Kastor mortal. There is another myth too which says that the egg was laid by Nemesis and given to Leda only to hatch it. Their birth took place on the island of Pephyos and Hermes has brought them to Pellanes to bring them up.  
The Dioscurs took part in the Hunt for the Calydonean Boar under Meleager. They were outstanding warriors and won prices at the Olympic Games too, Kastor as horseman, Polydeukes as fist fighter. Then they took part in the Journey of the Argonauts to Kolchis under Jason. During a heavy storm on sea above their heads a star appeared and the journey could be continued happily. Therefore they were suggested as patrons of the sailors (f.e. the voyage of Paulus to Syracuse, Acts of the Apostels, 28, 11: "After three months we left Alexandria by a ship, which had overwintered  near the island and keeps the signs of the twins."). When they were on the Journey of the Argonauts Theseus and Perithos abducted their sister Helena to Aphidna in Attica. But the Dioscurs were superior to them, conquered Aphidna, rescued Helena and captured Aethra, mother of Theseus

The end of the Dioscurs:
The end of the inseparable pair of brothers came by the fight against Idas and Lynkeus. The cause of the conflict were the daughters of Leukippos, Phoibe and Iliria (or it was a conflict about a cattle herd!). In any case Kastor was killed by Lynkeus who then was killed by Polyneikes. Zeus by throwing his thunderbolt avoided further killing of Polyneikes by Idas.
Polyneikes was mourning Kastor deeply and he begged Zeus to give his brother the same honour which he as immortal would get. And so Kastor and Polyneikes alternately (or together) were dead for one day and alive the other day (Homer, Odyssee 11, 298-304) or alternately for half a year. Finely they were put by Zeus on the sky as constellation of the Twins.

The Dioscurs were worshipped especially in Lakedaimon (Sparta) where the Dioskuria were celebrated in honour. They were venerated in many greek cities, but especially in Rome. It is said that Castor and Pollux have helped the Romans in a battle against the Latins and then have brought the news to Rome. Here their festival was on June 28. It is said too that the twins were seen at the battle of Aquae Sextiae against the Cimbers under Marius.

(will be continued)

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on February 04, 2006, 09:43:48 am

There are different interpretations of the Diskuroi Castor and Pollux (Greek Kastor and Polyneikes) found in literature. The most famous is they are divine twins, sons of Zeus, worshipped in Greece long time before the invasion of the Dorian tribes to Greece. They are an inseparable pair in emergency cases, in battle or storm for help and rescue. They are not the only twin pair. There are similar twin pairs in Greece, the Apharetides Idas and Lynkeus in Messenia, the Aktoriones Kteatos and Eurytos in Elis, or Amphion and Zhetos in Biootia. Their origin is still unknown. The mythology thinks that the divine origin of the twin pairs is the inexplicable fact of the twin birth, which for the people in that time was a mystery, and therefore as father was declared Zeus or another divine subject. So they are found in India, at the Celts, the Germans and on Swedish rock paintings.

The earliest symbols of the Dioskuroi in Lakonia (Sparta) were two beams bound together or amphoras decorated with two coiling serpents. So some scholars are thinking the Dioskuroi in the beginning could be house spirits accompanying the kings of Sparta into the battle and so finally became chivalrous youths.

A very different opinion has Bethe, who thinks that the relation to Zeus is only secondary. Much older is their name Tyndaridoi, the sons of king Tyndareos. Bethe assumes that the twins in the origin were two different heroes, who later are melted together to a twin pair. Even Homer made distinctions between them: Kastor was horse tamer, whereas Polyneikes was fist fighter. There were differences in worshipping too. In Italy Castor was dominant. At the time of Cicero the temple of the Dioskuroi was called 'aedes Castoris'. The oath of the women 'mecastor' was much older than that of men 'edepol'. The cult of the Dioskuroi came to Rome by the legend that they have helped the Romans in the battle of Lake Regillus 499 BC and have brought the victorious news personally to Rome, where they gave water to their horses  at Lacus Iuturae. At this place on the Forum Romanum the temple of Castor and Pollux was erected. The stars above their hats (piloi) are from the end of the 4th century BC and are symbolizing the saving stars in shipwreck.

Der kleine Pauly
Karl Kerenyi, Griechische Göttersagen
Robert von Ranke-Graves, Griechische Mythologie

Added pictures:
1. Maxentius RIC VI, Ostia  16; C.10. Here you see the characteristic stars above the
2. The sculptures of the Dioscurs on the Esquilin in Rome, which is called therefore
    Monte Cavallo (Horse Mountain). There were brought here by Pope Sixtus V in the
    midth of the 16th century and named as sculptures of Phidias and Praxiteteles. But
    that is incorrect. They are late-roman copies.
3. Peter Paul Rubens: The Rape of the Daughters of Leukippos, c.1616

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on February 06, 2006, 04:06:38 pm
Hermes - the frontier runner

Actually I have seen Hermes always as a boring god because his depiction on coins is mostly monotonous. He stands regularly with Caduceus in one hand and purse in the other. So I was curious because on this coin Hermes could be seen in a different attitude and remarkable with one foot on rocks. Again we meet the strange stone cult we have seen so often.

Moesia inferior, Nikopolis ad Istrum, Gordian III AD 238-244
AE 27, 13.43g
struck under the legate Sabinius Modestus
       bust, laureate, cuirassed, with Gorgoneion on breastplate and Aegis on l. shoulder
      with erected snake heads.
       Hermes, nude, with Kerykeion in r. and purse in l. hand, standing l., r. foot on
Varbanov 3328 (rev. same die); AMNG 2056 (rev. same die)
about EF, very rare bust variant, nice bright-green patina

1. Birth and first doings of Hermes
Referring to Hesiod Hermes was the son of Zeus and Maia, daughter of Atlas. Already short time after his birth he crept out of his cradle and stole the herd of noble cows from Apollo.To deceive Apollo he has bound shoes from gras on the hoofs of the cows so that there was no trace to find. Meanwhile he has invented the lyre too. For that he has bend strings over the shell of a tortoise. When he played the lyre a nymph betrayed him to Apollo. Only in front of Zeus he confessed his deed. But Apollo was so enthusiastic because of the lyre that he changed it against the herd of cows. Afterwards Hermes invented the flute from reed. That Apollo changed too from him against his golden crook. This was the origin of the Kerykeion (lat. Caduceus), which later became the herald's staff. The snakes on it primarily were ties. Additionally Apollo taught him prophesy. Hermes is said to have invented the alphabet, astronomy, the scala of notes and the art of boxing and gymnastics. As once is said he was a real jack-of -all-trades!

Zeus appointed him messenger of the gods, gave him winged shoes and the Petasos, the winged hat (originally the winged messenger of gods was Iris!). He had to mediate between fighting parties (therefore he is the patron of the translators!), he was patron of the travelling people and of the traders (and the thieves too!). As Psychopompos he escorted the souls of the deads to the Hades, and as such he played an important role in the myth of Orpheus and Eurydike.  

One of his most infamous deeds was the murder of the giant Argos with hundred eyes. Zeus was fallen in love to Io. Hera detected this but Zeus denied his infidelity. To save Io from Hera he transformed her to a white cow. But Hera gave her to the giant Argos with the hundred eyes to watch over her. When Zeus sent Hermes to free her it was impossible because even sleeping some eyes of Argos were always open. But Hermes playing on a flute conjured all eyes to sleep, decapitated him and freed Io. Hera put the eyes of Argo into the tail feathers of the peacock. Hermes was accused for murder at the Olympics. But the gods voted for not guilty by threwing small stones to his feet so that a heap of stones was growing around him.

The British scholar R.F.Willets calls Hermes "for many reasons the most friendly, the most baffling, the most confusing, the most complex and therefore the most Greek of all gods."

(will be continued)

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on February 06, 2006, 04:11:52 pm

2. Hermes Trismegistos
While Hermes is seen as one of the earliest and most original greek gods he enjoyed so great popularity even belatedly that he must be seen as archetypus which was responsible to mediate between contradictions and to unify them. This anticipates his future part as master magician and alchemist as which he was obtained in Egypt and in Europe of the Renaissance. The origin of these important features was the development of a new Hermes worshipping in Egypt. Emerging from the three egyptian main archetypes of divinity we find three great forms of initiation religions which spread over the mediterranean coasts: The cults of the Mother Goddess Isis, the Victim God Osiris and the Wisdom God Hermes which all appears in different shapes. To the supreme and most esoteric of all Hermes developed as Trismegistos which was called also the one and only god. He played an important part at the Gnostics but also at Raimundus Lullus, Paracelsus and the mystics f.e. Meister Eckhard or Jacob Böhme. Because this kind of religion was open only for the adept our word 'hermetic' means 'closed'.

3. Background
The name Hermes today is derived from greek herma, hermaion, meaning heap of stones. These are found on Crete and other regions of Greece. In this sense Hermes would be the personification of a hill mark made of many stones resp. of the monolithic pole which originally was sticking out of the heap as type of the 'pole idol' or the animated phallos in the domain of aniconic stone cult. From this ancient kind of stone depictions originated the so-called 'herms', stone columns with a bust above. The origin and the primal meaning of these objects is controversial. So I don't know wether there is any connection to the menhires in the Bretagne or on Malta. Anyway if you see in Hermes the numen of the frontier, grave or doorway stone the important functions of the guardian of the doors and gates, of the ways and the wanderer, the frontier runner and nightly companion (into the world of the deads too) are addressed. Whereas the obvious secondary aetiology as voice stone in connection with the interpretation of the stoneheap as curse or expiation mark points back to the connection  between the underworld relation of Hermes and his ability to eliminate way and life menacing monsters (f.e. as Argeiphontes the killer of Argos). As god of the shepherds he was the guardian of the heards aginst wild beasts. His care for the herd's animals who as Kriophoros carried back a lost sheep was the paradigm for the Good Shepherd a picture which later was taken for Christ.

Der kleine Pauly
Pseudo-Homeric Hymn to Hermes
Robert von Ranke-Graves, Greek Mythology

As additional pics I have chosen
1) the famous relief which shows Orpheus and Eurydike together with Hermes as Psychopompos. It is a Roman copy of a Greek original from about 420 BC probably from the Agora of Athens, now in the Villa Albani, Rome.
2) and the famous herm with the bust of Sokrates.

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on February 07, 2006, 08:27:08 am
Melikertes and the Isthmian Games

Corinth, Marcus Aurelius AD 161-180
AE 25, 11.25g
      bust, laureate, r.
rev. CLI - COR
      The young Melikertes laying on a dolphin, swimming r., behind a pine-tree(?)
SNG Copenhagen 329; Lindgren 1619; BCD 700; Edwards 150, pl.IV
rare, good F-about VF, green-brown patina

Corinth at this time was a Roman colony, therefore the Latin inscriptions. The revers legend CLI - COR is solved to COLONIA LAUS IULIA CORINTHUS.

1. Mythology
With this coin we come to the myths around the Thebean king Kadmos and his daughters. Melikertes was the son of Athamas and Ino, one of Kadms' daughters. Kadmos, king of Theben in Boiotia, had four daughters with his wife Harmonia: Agaue, Autonoe, Ino and Semele, mother of Dionysos. Ino was married to Athamas, king of Orchomenos, at first married to Nephele, who vanished one day, but left him two children, Phrixos and Helle. These stepchildren Ino pursued with hate. She convinced the women to roast their seed and to make Phrixos responsible for the following bad harvest. But Nephele appeared and abducted her children by a ram with golden fleece. On the flight with the winged ram Helle fell down into the sea which is named by her Hellespont (the todays Dardanelles). Phrixos came to Kolchis and hung the Golden Fleece on a tree for Ares.

Ino had two childen from Athamas, Learchos and Melikertes. After the death of her sister Semele, Hermes brought to her the child Dionysos to nurse him. She dressed him as a girl to deceive Hera, who from all illegitime sons of her husband most hated Dionysos and Herakles. Hera drove Ino mad, Ino vanished in the wilderness and Hermes gave Dionysos to the nymphs of Nyssa disguised as baby goat. Athamas married a third time, Themisto, who gave birth to many sons. One day Ino returned cured from her madness and unrecognized became nurse at Themisto. Themisto, jealous of Ino's children (like Ino of Nepheles' children), decided to kill them. But Ino deceived Themisto by changing the diapers and she killed her own children and finally herself.

But Hera pursued Ino furthermore with her fury. She commanded Tisiphone, one of the Erinys, to beat Athamas and Ino with madness. After that Athamas killed his son Learchos seeing him as a wild beast, and Ino jumped with Melikertes in her arms from a cliff into the sea. Sisyphos, brother of Athamas, found the body of Melikertes and founded in honour of him the Isthmian Games in Corinth (referring to others Melikertes was landing with a dolphin at the coast of Corinth). Aphrodite, grandma of Ino, begged Poseidon to help her and he transformed Ino into the Sea-goddess Leukothea and Melikertes into the Sea-god Palaimon. Leukothea later played an important role when she helped Odysseus when he was lost in the sea (Ovid Met. IV, 416ff.)
Palaimon became patron of the sailors and was equated in this function with the Roman god Portunus.

2. Background
Melikertes-Palaimon had his cult in Corinth. The missing of archaelogic evidence from Greek times has misled some scholars to assume that this cult was a Roman invention. But there is an ode from Pindar to the Isthmian Games where Melikertes is mentioned. Pausanias could see only the Roman buildings but he reports that the body of Melikertes was concealed in the Palainionion. He was the heroe of the Isthmian Games besides Poseidon. These games were one of the four panhellenic games:
1) the Isthmian Games at Corinth
2) the Pythean Games at Delphi, each year before and after the Olympic Games
3) the Nemean Games at Nemea (northwest of Argos)
4) and the Olympic Games at Olympia.
The Isthmian Games are well-known to Germans by Schiller's ballade 'Die Kraniche des Ibykus'.
Sometimes it is said that because of the etymological similarity of the words there are relations to Melquart, Lord of the Cities. Referring to that the cult of Melikertes was brought to Greece by Phoenicean sailors (look at the allusion of the Melikertes' landing on a dolphin at the coast of Corinth). But this interpretation is denied by 'der kleine Pauly'.

- Ovid Met. IV, 426 ff.
- Der kleine Pauly
- Robert Ranke-Graves, Greek Mythology
- for the Isthmian Games:
- for the archaeologic excavations of the University of Chicago near Corinth:
  Here you could find nice computer generated 3D-pics of the temple area of Melikertes-
  Palaimon near Corinth

I have added a pic of the phase V of this temple from about AD 161/169. It is a nice small round temple left of the great Poseidon temple which you can see right above.

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on February 10, 2006, 07:09:19 pm
Omphale - owner and lover of Herakles

Here I want to present a Provincial coin of Maionia in Lydia. It shows a motive belonging to the myths around Herakles, but more rare than those depicting the 12 famous well-known deeds of Herakles. Sadly the pic is not very nice (and the preservation of the coin too is not the best), therefore I will change it, when I got a better one. Today I got a better one and have changed the pic.

AE19, 4.67g
struck in the time of Faustina jun. when Appa was strategos for the third time
obv. MAIO - NWN
       bearded head of Herakles, l.
rev. CTR TO G - APPA (starting on upper right)
      Omphale, advancing r., holding club over l. shoulder and lion skin.
BMC 20
rare, about VF, brown patina with some earthen highlights

1. Mythology:
This myth leads us into the time after the 12 famous deeds of Herakles. Eurytos, King of Oichalia, had promised his daughter Iole to whom who was able to beat him in a archery conquest. Herakles tried and beat him. But Eurytos refused the delivery of his daughter. Herakles in his rage destroyed Oichalia, raped Iole and killed Iphitos, the son of Eurytos. Then he went to Delphi to ask the oracle and to purify from murder. But Pythia didn't answer, which made Herakles so furious that he seized Apollo's tripod. Apollo had to struggle with Herakles for the sacrified tripod. Because of this crime Herakles was sentenced to do service as a slave. Hermes brought him on a slave market and there he was bought by Omphale, queen of Lydia. For her he performed several heroic deeds, but had to spin wool and to wear female clothes too. Furthermore he became lover of Omphale. He resisted Sileus, who usually forced people passing by to work in his vineyard, killed him and devastated his vineyard. He took the caudate Kerkopes, two funny but predacious dwarfs, which want to steal his weapons. And finally he shot the huge snake Ophiuchos. After three years he was released by Omphale. He left her and continued in fighting giants and other phantastic beings.

2. Background:
Omphale, daughter of Iordanos, as successor of her husband Tmolos was the mythical queen of the Lydians (Maionians). Because of the murder of Iphitos and the fight against Apollo for the Delphic tripod Herakles had to be selled as slave to Omphale and to serve for 3 years and to pay monetary fine to Eurytos. In this time were laid the capture of the Kerkopes, the overcoming of Sileus and Herakles' participation in the journey of the Argonauts up to Kios. It is said that Herakles had 2 sons by Omphale, Lamos and Agelas. These two were considered as ancestors of the Lydian Mermnades (Gyges to Kroisos). These genealogic attempts were arguably the main reason that the myth of Herakles and Omphale was transferred from Malis and Trachis to Lydia. In this myth the idea of a 'employment marriage' in the social order of the matriarchy is expressed. The changing of clothes (Omphale with club and lion-skin, Herakles with female clothes and activities) based upon cult rites. Both motives gave reason to comedy and satyr-drame to show this myth in the sense of erotic dependence. (Ov. fast. 2, 305ff.)
To interpret Omphale as primal Earth- and Death-Goddess is very questionable.
From 'Der kleine Pauly'

Omphale is the female form of Omphalos = umbilicus, navel. Ranke-Graves therefore assumes that Omphale is identical with Pythia, the guardian of the Delphic Omphalos, and that Herakles had to serve her as Hierodule, as temple servant. The transfer of the myth from Delphi to Lydia was much later done by the mythographs. The story is related to an early phase of  the development of the Holy Kingship from matriarchy to patriarchy when the king as husband of the queen was allowed to replace her in ceremonies and sacrificing but only wearing her dresses. Reveillout has shown that this was practice in early Sumeric times in Lagasch. And in numerous Cretic artworks men are seen which wear female clothes for sacrificial rites - not only the spotted trouser skirt as on the sarkophagus of Hagia Triada, but the broad skirt as on the palace fresco of Knossos.   
From 'Ranke-Graves, Greek Mythology'

Other sources:
Aghion/Barbillon/Lissarrague, Reclams Lexikon der antiken Götter und Heroen in der Kunst

I have added the famous painting 'Hercules and Omphale' of Lucas Cranach the Elder from AD 1537. It unfortunately was destroyed 1945 by the impact of war.
Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Noah on February 11, 2006, 10:09:36 pm
You have invested lots of time in these posts.  I appreciate the information because it has taught me quite alot!
Best, Noah

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on February 13, 2006, 05:04:25 pm
The snake cult of Alexander of Abounoteichos (called the FALSE PROPHET)

To avoid withdrawal symptoms here a new contribution. It is a coin of Geta from Augusta Trajana.

Geta AD 209-211
AE 30, 16.5g
        Bust, cuirassed, seen from behind, radiate, r.
      Snake in four elaborate coils erecting, with nimbus and radiated
not in Varbanov

On ancient coins we find many depictions of snakes. I remind of the snake as attribute of Salus, or the famous Cistophori where a snake is climbing out of a Cista mystica, the snake basket, belonging to the cult of Dionysos and playing an important role in the  Eleusinic Mysteries too. But this is not the matter with the snake on this coin.

There is some evidence that the snake erecting here in four elaborated coils and has a radiate head with nimbus is Glykon, the Snake God. This god was invented in the midth of the 2nd century AD by the Greek prophet Alexander of Abounoteichos. This we know from the books of the Greek author Lukian of Samosate (c. 120- c. 190 AD). In one of his scripts he mocks in a cracking mode the charlatan which he calls Alexander the oracle trader. Apart from his affronts we can accept that this cult, at least the snake which was worshipped by Alexander, has its origin in Macedonia, where snake cults are known since the 4th century BC. It is told f.e. that the mother of Alexander the Great became pregnant after sleeping with a snake. The prophet Alexander brought the god, a very great snake, to his home city Abounoteichos in Paphlagonia and built up a temple which became then a famous oracle.

An interesting inscription was found in Caesarea Trocetta in Asia Minor which mentions an Apollo priest which calls himself 'Miletus, son of Glykon and Paphlagonia'. Perhaps the parents of this man couldn't create children and visited the temple of Glykon after which the wife was pregnant. Children being born in this manner by divine intervention often got the name of the god to commemorate his help. So this inscription confirms to a certain extent the claim of Lukian that the charlatan Alexander has helped the women to become pregnant in a much more profane sense.

Numerous votive donations, statues and coins found in the whole area between Danube and Euphrat prove that the cult of the Snake God was still alive at least one century after the death of the prophet. Alexander which finally was seen as son of Podalirus and great-son of Asklepios(!) received after his death religious honours and was considered as prophet of  the god himself. 

His big success in inventing a new religious cult seems to be symptomatic for the change in religious conception off from the traditional belief which escalated in the late 2nd and 3rd century and culminated in the rise of Christianity.

I have added a pic of a sculpture from the museum of Constanzia/Romania (the ancient Tomis) which closely matches the Snake God Glykon. It is from Pat Lawrence. You see that this snake has a more human- or lion-like head. About this snake Lukian writes:
"Then long before they had prepared a snake head from linen and completed which had  a kind of human appearence, which was full painted and which looked very alive. It could open and close the mouth by using horse-hairs, and a cloven tongue also controlled by horse-hairs could be outstretched."

Lukian of Samosata, Alexandros or the False Prophet

Online information:
3) How to invent a new cult? (German)

Thanks to Pat Lawrence for her invaluable help.

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on February 14, 2006, 04:52:53 am
A curious depiction of Asklepios

The next coin has some relations to the last contribution about the Snake God. Therefore I will put it here. The explanation of the reverse is still unclear. It is a coin of Caracalla from Pautalia struck ca. 202-205 due to his youthfull portrait.
AE 28
        Youthful, beardless bust, laureate, drapery over l. shoulder
rev. OVLPIAC P / AVTALIAC / C in three lines
       Asklepios, bearded, laureate, head r., nude to hips, holding snake-rod in his l. arm,
       sitting l. between the wings of a dragon (or winged snake) with beard and fish-tail,
       which in several coils is flying r. With his raised r. hand he holds the wings
Ruzicka 616 var. (only rev., different obv. legend); Mionnet cf. 1084
very rare, good VF

Mythological background:
This depiction could not be related to the usual snake cults. This depiction has no match in the whole ancient numismatics. Even if the coin 'Melquart galopping on a winged hippocampus r.' due to the similarity of the idea could be consulted for comparing and also the 'Nereid on a winged dragon' on the famous Aktaeon-sarcophagus in the Louvre, it is not thinkable that Pautalia could have taken the paradigm for this coin from that. More likely I (that is Ruzicka!) want to see this winged snake joined with Asklepios in connection with the False Prophet Alexander of Abounoteichos as he is called by Lukian, as incarnation of the Snake God Glykon, for which Alexander by his juggleries and the propaganda throughout the whole Empire could attract so many believers that even in his city Abounoteichos coins were issued with the snake and the legend Glykon.

This Glykon issue occured under Antoninus Pius whereas the coins of Pautalia appeared not before Marcus Aurelius. The oracle of the Asklepios-Glykon was in great veneration yet in the time of Marcus and Verus, so that their strategos Severianus didn't  despised to ask it before he started fighting against the Parthians. It is not impossible that in the Asklepeion of Pautalia an original votive panel or a copy of a votive image of another cult sanctuary has existed which has shown the dragon depiction we can see repeatedly on coins.

From 'Leo Ruzicka, Die Münzen von Pautalia, Sofia 1933'

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on February 18, 2006, 07:58:43 am
The heritage of Greek mythology in modern literature

The Greek mythology as a vast theatre of human passions, emotions and fates since ancient times has inspired artists of all genres to create their famus works. So in our modern time too a great number of authors has choosen themes and motives for their works. Some important works of world literature are amongst them. I have compiled a list which by no means is complete.

- Jean Anouilh, Eurydice (1942), Antigone (1944), Orest (1945), Medea (1946)
- Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Firebrand (1987)
- Albert Camus, Le Mythe de Sisyphe (1942)
- Jean Cocteau, Orphee (1926), La machine infernale (1936), Bacchus (1951)
- Joseph d'Arbaud, Pan im Vacares (1926)
- Vitorio do Canto, Orpheu negro (1956)
- Theodor Dreiser, The Titan (1914)
- Andre Gide, Oedipe (1932), Persephone (1934), Thesee (1946)
- Jean Giraudoux, Amphitryon 38 (1929), La guerre de Troie n'aura pas lieu (1935), 
   Pour Lucrece (1953)
- Gerhart Hauptmann, Iphigenie in Aulis (1943), gamemnons Tod (1947), Elektra
   (1947), Iphigenie in Delphi (1941), Der Bogen des Odysseus (1914)
- Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Ödipus und die Sphinx (1906)
- Hans Henny Jahn, Medea (1926)
- Robinson Jeffers, Medea (1947)
- James Joyce, Ulysses (1922)
- Nikos Kazantzakis, Odissia (1938)
- Oskar Kokoschka, Orpheus und Eurydike (1915/16)
- Pär Lagerkvist, Sibylle (1956)
- Joan Margall i Gorinna, Nausica (1912)
- Eugene O'Neill, Mourning becomes Elektra (1931)
- Ezra Pound, The Cantos (1948)
- Rainer Maria Rilke, Sonette an Orpheus (1923)
- Jean-Paul Sartre, Les Mouche (1943)
- George Bernard Shaw, Pygmalion (1913/14)
- Giorgios Theotakas, Argo (1936)
- Kostas Varnalis, Diary of Penelope (1947)
- Frank Wedekind, Die Büchse der Pandora (1902)
- Thornton Wilder, Alkestiade (1955)
- Tennesseee Williams, Orpheus descending (1957)
- Christa Wolf, Kassandra (1983)

May be one or the other who reads this list go for one!

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on February 22, 2006, 02:52:57 pm
The madness of Aias the Great

Here I have one of the few coins which have as subject the Trojan War. I am proud to be able to present it here!

Bithynia, Prusa ad Olympum, Caracalla AD 198-217
AE 25
        bust, laureate, r.
rev. PRO - VCAEW - N
       Aias, nude, helmeted, kneels on r. knee l., l. leg stretched behind,
       holding with r. hand sword against his belly to throw itself in his sword;
       heap of rocks before and round shield below him.
BMC Bithynia, p.197, 22
very rare, nice patina

The revers shows a famous scene of the Trojan War, the suicide of Aias the Great. Aias (Latin Aiax) was the son of king Telamon of Salamis, therefore called 'the Telamonian' too. He was called Aias the Great in contrary to Aias the Lesser, the son of king Oileus of Lokris, therefore called 'the Locrian'. Aias the Great was the bravest heroe behind Achilleus in front of Troy. He wounded Hektor in duel, he could repel the attack of the Trojans against the Greek ships and he helped to save the body of Patroklos. After Achilleus was killed by a poisoned arrow of Paris who hit his only vulnerable point, his heel, Aias wore his body from the slaughter field and then required Achilleus' weapons for himself. But a greek jury awarded them to Odysseus. In his rage Aias wanted to kill all Greeks. But Athena beat him with madness and he killed a whole herd of sheep. When he came to consciousness again and saw what he had done because of shame he throw itself in his sword. From his blood arose a flower, the delphinium, from whose petals one could read AI, the first letters of his name and a greek cry of soreness too.

The madness which caused Aias to massacre a herd of sheep doesn't occure on Homer. But this subject is broad worked out by Aischylos, in Sophokles' 'Aias' and in Ovid's Metamorphoses. The myth of the origin of the flower from
Aias' blood was introduced by Ovid because the story should match his Metamorphoses by this transformation motiv.
A tomb of Aias stood on the Rhoiteic Cape. At Salamis he was worshipped as divine; here and in Athens the Aianteia, the fest of Aias, was celebrated; the attic phyle Aiantis has a preferred position.
The fact that there were two Aias has baffled me when I read the greek myths for the first time. Now the scholars Robert and v.d.Mühll assumed, that the two Aias originated by doubling or splitting a single being. The separation of these figures would be promoted by the fact that most of the divine saviours appear as pairs.

I have added a pic of the famous 'Torso of Belvedere', a work of the great greek artist Apollonius of Athens in the 1st century BC, now standing in the Musei vaticani in Rome. It could be identified by supplementation as sculpture of Aias who is throwing itself in his sword.

- Ovid, Metamorphoses Lib.XII 624 - Lib.XIII 398
- Der kleine Pauly
- Aghion/Barbillon/Lissarrague, Reclams Lexikon der antiken Götter und
   Heroen in der Kunst
- Gerhard Fink, Who's who in der antiken Mythologie

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: slokind on February 22, 2006, 04:13:54 pm
Generally regarded as the most profound and unforgettable depiction of the compulsive madness of the suicidal Ajax (but not so frequently seen, being in a small museum), here is the Boulogne amphora.  It is nearly a century earlier than Sophokles' tradgedy, and it triumphs stupendously over what frivolous writers regard as a limited technique: black figure, incised silhouette, vase-painting.  Sir John Beazley, in his famous Sather Classical Lectures, said, "Exekias is alone in showing not the dead hero, or the moment of his death, but the slow preparation for the final act...The face--and this is rare in black-figure--is furrowed with grief." The Development of Attic Black-Figure, Ch. VI (page number differs in the two editions).  Pat L.

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on February 22, 2006, 04:47:38 pm
Thanks, Pat, for sharing this beautiful painting of Exekias! There is another famous painting of Exekias too where he shows Achilleus and Aias in a more peaceful situation playing a board game. It is now in the Musei Vaticani.

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on February 27, 2006, 07:30:48 am
Kronos - father of gods

CILICIA, Flaviopolis, Domitian. AD 81-96
AE 18, dated ZI =17 (AD 89/90)
        laureate head right
       veiled head of Kronos right, harpa at his shoulder
SNG Levante 1531; RPC II 1760; BMC Lycaonia -; SNG Copenhagen 136; SNG von Aulock 5558. rare, about EF

Harpa is the old poetic name for a denticulated sickle. This and the veiled head are his attributes.

There is much confusion about Kronos. The Romans has identified him with Saturn, and already in ancient times he was melted with Chronos, the god of time.

Kronos, son of Gaia and Uranos, was the youngest but most violent Titan. He overthrew his father Uranos by mutilating him by a sickle given him by his mother Gaia because Uranos had hidden als their children deep in the earth. Then he married his sister Rhea and became father of Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades, Poseidon and Zeus, the third generation of gods. Because he was said to be overthrown by one of his children he devoured them immediately after the birth. Instead of the last born Zeus Rhea gave him a swaddled stone and hid Zeus in a cave on Crete. Kronos regorged the stone and his swallowed children too. This stone thereafter was set up in Delphi as omphalos of the world. Zeus gave his father Kronos the same fate Kronos had given to Uranos, he mutilated him and send him to Tartaros. Later he was made the master of the Elysean Fields.

He was an old deity of agriculture and ruled over the Capitolium once called mons Saturnius. He too was dethroned by Jupiter and had to leave the Capitol. His reign was
a happy time and obtained as the Golden Age. To honour Saturn the Saturnalia were celebrated, a carefree festival beginning on December 17, where the masters had to serve their slaves. Saturn too has a sickle as attribute and adopted the veil from Kronos.

Chronos is the personification of time. He is found at Solon and Pindar, Sophokles and others. All these places are philosophical and religious speculations later spread under the influence of the Orphic and the Mysteries.These movements held Chronos for more than a symbol of becoming and changing namely one of the primordial gods of the kosmos. The melting with Kronos was due to the etymological similarity of their names and the fact that like Kronos devouring his children Chronos is devouring the time.

Some background
Kronos is an old, pre-hellenic god. His name probably can be connected with the semitic Baal Qarnaim, master of the two mountain peaks. So the mountain cult of the Elean priest-kings of the Kronos-hill in Olympia and the worshipping of Kronos by the Lycians and Solymers in Asia Minor matches this thesis. The archaic character of Kronos and his  myths, the linking with the mediterranean Earth- and Mother Goddess, confirms the suggestion that an old anatolic Height God was repelled by the indogermanic Zeus. His instrument, the denticulated sickle, a conglomerate of lunate mowing knife and short crooked fighting sword, touches in its complexity the Roman Sickle God Saturn which is enrooted in the etruscean-phrygean culture (see 'Satrapes-Sadrapa'). The Saturnalia whith its fairy character reminds on the paradisiac situations of the Golden Age. So perhaps by these associations Kronos was made the Master of the Elysinean Fields.

Der kleine Pauly
Hederich, Gründliches Mythologisches Lexikon
Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology

Attached is
1) The relief from the western pediment of the Artemis temple in Korfu showing Zeus and
2) the famous painting of Francisco de Goya 'Saturn Devouring One of His Sons' from 1819/23
    now in the Prado Museum in Madrid.

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on February 28, 2006, 03:27:44 pm
Asteria - the Star Goddess

Here I want to present a coin of Philadelphia. Now there are several different cities called Philadelphia. This at first has made me trouble in attributing the coin. Actually it is a coin of the arabic Philadelphia. Today it is Amman the metropole of Jordan. In the time the coin was struck it belonged to the Dekapolis. Arabia was made Roman provincia in AD 106.

Syria, Dekapolis, Philadelphia, Commodus AD 177-192
AE 22, 7.52g
       Bust, draped and cuirassed, bare-head, r.
      Bust of Asteria, draped and veiled, r.; star above
Spijkerman 32
rare, about VF


Asteria as daughter of the Titan Koios and Phoibe was a Titan herself. Her sister was Leto (Apollod. 1, 8 and 21). She was married to Perses and by him she became mother of Hekate (Hesiod. Theog. 409). Jupiter fell in love to her, but Asteria refused him. The revengeful Jupiter transformed her into a quail and threw her in the sea where the island Ortygia emerged from her. Ortygia has its name from 'ortyx', that is greek for quail (Hygin Fab. 53).
Another version tells that Asteria herself has wished to be transformed into a quail, and as bird to escape from Jupiter over the sea, but Jupiter transformed her into a stone and she fell down into the water and was hidden for a long time. But Leto could rescue her by begging the gods for her sister.
For the first time Asteria or Ortygia was a swimming island until Leto gave birth to Apollo and Artemis. Then the island was fixed and called Delos.(Pind. pae. 65, 4; Kallim. Hymn. 4, 36)
Ovid tells (Metam. VI, 108) that Asteria was raped by Jupiter in the shape of an eagle, and (Metam. XV, 337) that Ortygia was a swimming island. I don't understand why Ovid had not added the motiv of the transformation which would match his subject much better.
Asteria is depicted on the Altar of Pegamon as participant of the Battle of Titans together with Phoibe, Leto and Hekate. She is named by an inscription.

A little background:
The main god of Philadelphia was Herakles-Melqart. In the time of Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus additional coins with Asteria reverses occured. Asteria is said to have given birth to the Phoinicean Herakles by Zeus and so became mother of Herakles- Melqart (according to Cicero and Eudoxos of Knidos). Generally Asteria is seen as hellenized form of Astarte and so by the greek name her astral character is emphasized. This is expressed too on the coin by the star above her head.
In contrary Astarte is paredros of the Phoinicean Herakles. It is suggested that Astarte was already the paredros of the Ammonitic State God Milkom who is obtained as ancestor of Melqart in the Iron Time. Unknown is wether the inhabitants of Philadelphia considered Asteria/Astarte to be their City Goddess. If that was true then the depicted Tyche was only another depiction of our goddess.
The higher denominations always show Herakles motives but Asteria is to be found on the third highest denomination even at Elagabal. This could be another advice for her role as City God.

Paredros = A daimon who accompanies the gods and assists the human. He acts as a substitute for his god. So the bulls Apis and Mnevis stood for Osiris in the Underworld. Selene was accompanied by twelve paredroi which were the twelve hours of night. Humans too have these protection spirits. The famous Daimonion of Sokrates was such a spirit. This idea is the base of the Christian belief in angels.

I have added a pic of the Pergamon Altar showing the concerning detail. This pic comes from the site of the Institut für Klassische Archaeologie der Universität Erlangen known as AERIA. This site was recently in a poll at the Forum. It is highly recommended. It contains one of the biggest collection of photos of ancient artworks.

Hederich, gründliches Mythologisches Lexikon
Der kleine Pauly
Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on March 03, 2006, 02:27:17 pm
Perseus and Andromeda

I couldn't resist to add this coin to my collection because of its important mythological theme.

Cilicia, Coropissos, Maximinus I AD 235-238
AE 32, 15.62g
      bust, draped and cuirassed, seen from behind, r.
      Perseus, nude except chlamys, stg. l., holding harpe and head of Medusa in his l. hand,
      clasping hands with Andromeda, stg. r. in long chiton, holding with her l. hand fold of her
      garment under her chin; below Perseus the sea-monster Ketos.
SNG Levant 590; SNG Levante Supp. 157 (this ex.); SNG France 770; this obv. die was used in Philadelphia too, see SNG Levante 580
rare, about VF, brown-green patina

The myth of Perseus is one of the most beautiful myths of ancient times. From all of his several adventures here only the detail of the freeing of Andromeda should be of interest. This subject was very popular already in ancient times as could be seen on ancient wall paintings and mosaics. Naturally many artists have adopted this theme too since Renaissance until present days. I think it is very attractive to depict a nude defenceless young girl saved by a strong heroe.

Perseus, the heroe of Argolis, was the son of Zeus and Danae. After defeating the Gorgo Medusa helped by Athena and cutting her head he was on the way back to Argos. Besides the head of Medusa which turned everyone into stone who looked at it, he had several other magic things: The harpe, a adamantine sickle from Hermes, golden sandals from the nymphs by which he was able to flight, a helmet of invisibility from Hades and the
kisibis, a bag for Medusa's head.

When he was just above Phoenicia he beheld from his height a nude young girl chained to a rock at the seaside. That was Andromeda, daughter of the Aethopean king Kepheus of Joppe and his wife Kassiopeia. Because Kassiopeia regarded herself for more beautiful than the ocean nymphs, the nereids, and was bragging with that, Poseidon was revenging his daughters by inducing big floods in Phoenicia and sending the terrible sea-monster Ketos. The oracle of Ammon promised rescue from these menaces only if the innocent Andromeda would be sacrificed to Ketos. Kepheus even though reluctant let chain Andromeda at a rock on the beach of the ocean. When Perseus saw her he fell in in love with her and promised to save Andromeda if she was given to him as his wife. When Ketos appeared Perseus went up in the sky so deceiving Ketos by the shadow on the water-surface, then jumped at him and cut his head with his sickle-knife.

When after Andromeda's rescue a great wedding ceremony took place Phineus, brother of Kepheus, her uncle, appeared and declared older rights on Andromeda. Probably he was called by Kassiopeia who didn't wish to see Perseus as her son-in-law. An awfull massacre of the party guests started until finally Perseus transformed all enemies to stones using the head of Medusa.

After that Perseus and Andromeda lived in Argos. By one of their sons, Elektryon, they became ancestors of Herakles. Another of their sons, Perses, became ancestor of the Persian kings, a fact which was used for propaganda when the Persians attacked Greece under Dareios.

Ketos is Greek for whale. So this sea-monster reminds on the whale which swallowed Hiob in the Old Testament. It is reported that the bones of Ketos were found near Joppe (todays Jaffa) by the Romans and Marcus Aemilius Scaurus had brought them to Rome.

The story of Perseus is put together by several different strings of fairy tales. Many motives resemble the stories of Thousand-And-One-Nights. They are full of orientalic narrating pleasure. Already Homer mentioned Perseus in his Ilias (XVI 319f.) and Hesiod reports the death of Medusa in his Theogonia (270-286). There is an amphora from the 7th century BC with the motiv of Perseus and Andromeda too (Eleusis, museum).
Andromeda, like Perseus, Kassiopeia and Ketos were set to the sky already by hellenistic poets, Kassiopeia in a basket which in some seasons is shown upside-down as  punishment for her betrayal.

Ovid Met. IV, 663-752
Apollod. 2, 4, 3

I have added two pics:

1) The most beautiful picture in my opinion with this motiv, a wall painting from the 1st century BC found in the Casa dei Dioscuri in Pompeji (Naples, Museo Nazionale). It is a copy of an original from the 4th century BC.

2) Then the pic of a mosaic from Zeugma in Anatolia. Zeugma somtimes is called a second Pompeji because of its wonderful mosaics. Perhaps it is new for some Forum's members: Zeugma now is disappearing - despite the massive protest of scientists and the public of the whole world - under the water of a huge storage lake which was built by Turkey at the upper Euphrat. 

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: slokind on March 04, 2006, 12:29:11 pm
In case someone had a perfect one, I waited a day.  The Deultum coin, though, is remarkable.
09 08 02 AE24  Thrace, Deultum.  Macrinus, laureate (ribbons), bust in armor and cloak, to r.  The obv. legend should be IMP C M OPEL SEV MACRINUS AVG.  Rev., Perseus, with harpe, holding the head of Medusa in his l., reaches up to Andromeda, still manacled to the rock, to free her left arm; the sea serpent cowers at their feet.  Certainly inspired by the famous composition attributed to Nikias, but Perseus does not raise his r. foot on the rock.  He does seem to wear winged boots.  COL FL PAC  |   DEULT.  Jurukova 1973, no. 61; Varbanov II (Bulg.) no. 1844 = Lanz 92, June 1999, no. 891.

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: gordian_guy on March 04, 2006, 03:21:11 pm

I know that mine is another Deultum like Pat's but I would like to show it off anyway!

Mine is a Gordian III  depicting the same scene.


Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Akropolis on March 06, 2006, 07:29:15 am
Wonderful coin, Gordian_guy!!!

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Cleisthenes on March 07, 2006, 07:58:24 am
Rhodos, Caria, West Asia Minor, c. 394 - c. 333 B.C.

12264. Silver didrachm, ANS DB 1944.100.48605, SNG Cop -, BMC -, SNG Von Aulock, SNG Helsinki -, VF, 6.649g, 19.2mm, 0o, Rhodos mint, head of Helios three-quarter facing to right; reverse RODION, rose with bud on stem to right, bee on left, magistrate name above, NI lower left; rare.

This variety is missing from the major references and collections, except the American Numismatic Society collection.

This is a coin that I am sure is familiar.  The obverse device is, of course, Helios.  "He was represented as a youth with a halo, standing in a chariot, occasionally with a billowing robe. A metope from the temple of Athena in the Hellenistic Ilium represents him thus. He is also shown on more recent reliefs, concerning the worship of Mithra, such as in the Mithraeum under the St. Prisca at Rome. In early Christian art, Christ is sometimes represented as Helios, such as in a mosaic in Mausoleum M or in the necropolis beneath the St. Peter in Rome " ( "Helios was known by the name Sol in Roman mythology" (  "There are indications that he [Constantine the Great] was already in a state of grave religious uncertainty, and was increasingly tending towards monotheism: after 310 his coins depict one god only--Sol Invictus, the Unconquered Sun--of whom Constantine also claimed to have had a vision some years before" (Norwich, John Julius. A Short History of Byzantium. London: Viking, 1997. 7).

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on March 07, 2006, 12:42:15 pm
Thanks, Cleisthenes, for your contribution! Naturally Sol/Helios is one of the most depicted deities especially since the times of Aurelian and then as forerunner of the Christianism. Very interesting is the question wether SOL INVICTVS is identical to Mithras. I think yes! We have had a nice thread about that subject here

The pic shows an altar for Mithras found in England where no differences could be found to Sol. The dedication is: For DEO INVICTO MITRAE.

From the description:
On the front of the shaft is the relief of the torso of Mithras rising from the Living Rock. He wears a cloak and a radiate crown, the rays of which are cut through to a hollow niche at the back of the altar in which an oil lamp would have been placed; when lit the light of the lamp would have shone through the openings into the gloom of the Mithraeum. Mithras's link with the sun is further emphasized by the Sun God's Whip which he holds in his right hand.

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on March 08, 2006, 04:37:48 am
The Ephesian Boar

This is a rather inconsiderable coin, an AE17 of Septimius Severus from Ephesos in Ionia.
AE 17, 2.6g
        bust, draped, laureate, r.
rev. EFEC - I / WN
      boar running r., transfixed by spear
rare, good F
A similar type is known for Caracalla, BMC 280, and for Macrinus, SNG Copenhagen 438
But looking closer at the rev. we find an interesting mythology::
This coin shows a motiv of the foundation myth of Ephesos. The Ephesian local myth of the city founder Androklos, son of king Kodros from Athens, seems to originate rather late in the 5th century  under Athenian influence. Our oldest source is Kreophilos. Referring to him the Delphic oracle gave Androklos the order to settle with his colonists where a fish and a boar would give them a sign. After a longer quest the Greek landed their ships in the bay of the river Kaystros and fried fishes. One of them together with some coal fell from the pan and from the thus ignited bush a boar sprung up. Androklos chased the boar over the mountain side and finally killed him with his spear at the Hypelaios well. From Strabon and Pausanias we know that thereafter Androklos expelled the native Karic-Lelegic inhabitants except those who settled at the Artemision and then lost his life while fighting against the autochthons when he helped the city of Priene against them..

Androklos is characterized by his high parentage (son of a king) and his great courage (killing of the boar), but he served too for the general greek matter against the barbars when he helped to defend Priene. By the way Priene did not so when Ephesos was attacked by the Persians at the beginning of the Persian Wars.

The boar appears in the myth of Androklos in the same way as in the Herakles myth in a territory belonging to Artemis. The killing of the boar allows the colonists on the one hand to reclaim the land, his very existence then again suggests that the future city could be built in a widely uncultivated land without a threat of an older local community to the small group of greek colonists. The fishes symbolize the nearness of the sea and another food base like the mentioned Hypelaios (olive tree well) which indicates the existence of freshwater and olives.

The oracle's clue to the boar gives the colonists one of several basic conditions which allows the foundation of a city but it doesn't mean that the wild game was a source of food. Wild game like today doesn't play a big role in ancient cities as several archaeo-zoological studies has proofed. Another idea could be that beyond the general meaning of the boar as inhabitant of a uncultivated land it is a pointed advice to the 'land of Artemis Ephesia'.

If this is right then the myth could be a very early - that means before the colonisation -
happened identification of the Ephesian goddess (Astarte?) with Artemis, and then again an advice to the knowledge of the Delphic priests of an ancient Mycenic trading post on the mountain today called Ayasoluk. It was planned since the 8th/7th century BC to built the Artemision at the base of this mountain as a monumental temple destrict. This place was at least looked at in Mycenic times as recently summarized findings proof.
Forum Archaeologiae - Zeitschrift für klassische Archäologie 14 / III / 2000
online under

Added pic:
Androklos killing the boar, relief-frieze from the so-called Hadrian's temple  at the Embolos in Ephesos (Österreichisches Archäologisches Institut, Archiv, Photo Th. Römer)

Once again this coin shows to us what plenty of information and knowledge you can get from it if you take time to explore it deeply even if it is such an unimpressive coin! Good luck!

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Cleisthenes on March 08, 2006, 09:20:38 am

Perhaps this thread has been discussed; perhaps I have a penchant for the obvious, but Pegasus captured my imagination long ago. 

"Winged horse of Greek myth, symbol of the sacred king's or hero's journey to heaven; an image of death and apotheosis, like the mythic death-hordes of northern Europe. Pegasus had archaic, matriarchal origins. He sprang from the "wise blood" of the Moon-goddess Medusa, who embodied the principle of medha, the Indo-European root word for female wisdom . . . Pegasus represented divine inspiration as well as god-like apotheosis. A man who rode him could become a great poet" (

It has always seemed ironic that a creature so beautiful could be the offspring of Medusa.  Although Bellerophon was unsuccesful in trying to ride Pegasus to Mt. Olympus, Pegasus made it (in some myths).

I am sure that many are also acquainted with the Pegasus Constellation.

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on March 09, 2006, 02:59:23 pm
The Calydonean Boar

The boar in ancient times was a huge dangerous animal. So it is not amazing that the boar plays a big role in the Greek mythology - but not only there. Especially there are two boars standing in the centre of myths:

1) The Erymanthic Boar, the boar of Herakles, and
2) The Calydonean Boar, the boar of Meleagros.

Here I want to present the latter. The coin is a silver denar of C. Hosidius C.f. Geta.

AR - Denar (Serratus), 3.79g
        Rome 68 BC
obv. bust of Diana, diademed, bow and quiver over shoulder, GETA behind, III VIR in
rev. The Calydonean boar stg. r., transfixed by arrow and attacked by dog
      C.HOSIDI.C.F. in ex.
Crawford 407/1; Sydenham 904; Hosidia 2
a bit rarer than the type with smooth edge, VF

Oineus, king of Kalydon in Aitolia, once had feasted the gods at an harvest festival but forgotten to butcher an animal for Artemis. The goddess was enraged and sent a big boar who wasted the fertile fields of the king. Oineus called for help and from all parts of Greece the heroes came to help him. There were the Curetes from Pleuron, the brothers of Althaia, the wife of Oineus. There were the Dioscurs Kastor and Polydeikes and their Messenian cousins Idas and Lynkeus. Theseus came from Athens, Iphikles, half-brother of Herakles, came from Thebens, Iason, Admetos, Peirithos, Peleus and Eurytion came from Thessalia, Telamon from Salamis, Amphiaraos from Argos, Ankaios and Atalante from Arcadia and much more. Herakles was prevented by his labours. On top of the heroes stood Meleagros, the son of Oineus and Althaia.
The hunt for the Calydonean boar ended very disastrous. Many heroes lost their lifes. Ankaios was the first killed by the boar. Peleus accidentally hit his father-in-law Eurytion with his spear. A second hunter too was killed by the boar.
The big catastrophe happened at the 6th day of the hunt. On this day Atalanta hit the boar with her arrow and Meleagros gave him the deathblow. Then he awarded head and skin of the boar to Atalante. But his uncles, brother of his mother Althaia, didn't tolerate that. They insisted on the rights of their clan. A dispute occured, they snatched the trophies from Atalante and then a fight began in which Meleagros slew his uncles. Now we have several different sequels of the myth. 
When Meleagros was born the fates predicted that he will live only as long as the log in the oven. Althaia pulled it out of the fire and hid it in a secret place. When she heard of the death of her brothers she enraged, got the log and threw it in the fire. When it was burnt Meleagros break down dead when he was dissecting the boar.
Another version tells about a revenge campaign of the Curetes against Kalydon. Meleager is told not having fighted until the Curetes nearly had conquered Kalydon and then was killed in the battle. In the Underworld he was the only dead Herakles was afraid of his shadow. And when Meleagros told him the story of the Calydonean hunt it was the first and only time Herakles was moved to tears.

Important for generalizing examinations is the relation between the boar and Artemis which is continuated after the hunt by the revenge campaign of the Curetes. Curetes were called in Ephesos the mythic warriors whose weapon noise drowned the birth cry of the goddess, later as Prytaneion a collegium of priests. The killing of Meleagros is the essential and indispensable expiation for the mortification done to Artemis by killing her boar and at the same time the legitimation of the goddess' sentinels which could do their duty only by campaigning against Kalydon. 
So it is explicable that the Curetes despite of Meleagros' death don't take Kalydon but removed from the city. Only later versions of the chase myth - no more understanding the sakrilegium - need the murder of the uncles and the curse of the mother respectively the old wive's tale of the log which connects the fates to the end of Meleagros. There are many other parallels for the unforgiving position of Artemis and her uncompromising brother Apollon too. We bear in mind the innocent Niobides, the unhappy Hippolytos or poor Aktaion. In this sense we can see Meleagros as the mythic prototype of the loser who run for the 'Holy King'  but failed the examination.

Ovid lib.VIII, 385-414; 437-444; 515
Karl Kerenyi, Die Mythologie der Griechen - Die Heroen-Geschichten; dtv
Robert von Ranke-Graves, Griechische Mythologie, Rowohlt

The pic shows the frieze of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Cleisthenes on March 09, 2006, 08:59:55 pm
The Calydonean Boar

The boar in ancient times was a huge dangerous animal. So it is not amazing that the boar plays a big role in the Greek mythology - but not only there. Especially there are two boars standing in the centre of myths:

1) The Erymanthic Boar, the boar of Herakles, and
2) The Calydonean Boar, the boar of Meleagros.


I hate to admit that I knew nothing about the significance of this intiguing creature.  Wow!  The hunting party for the Calydonean Boar is a veritable who's who of ancient heroes.  Your posts whetted my appetite for more boar!  I made a series of internet forrays, and I will only add a very brief digest to what you have generously provided.  It seems there may be a bit of a "feminist" twist to the tale.

Cheers, Jim (Cleisthenes)

p.s. Now, I'd really like a coin with a device of a boar!

"This Calydonian Boar, which some say is the offspring of the Crommyonian Sow, was killed by Atalanta, who shot it first, by Amphiaraus, who next shot it in the eye, and by Meleager, who killed it by a stab in the flank. When Meleager received the skin, he gave it to Atalanta, but the sons of Thestius 1, who took part in the hunt representing the Curetes, did not approve Meleager's gesture, for in their simple minds they were of the opinion that a woman should not get a prize in the face of men. So if Meleager did not choose to take it, they reasoned best as they could, then it belong to them by right of birth. Meleager, disliking the way in which his will was not respected, slew the sons of Thestius 1 and gave the skin to Atalanta. But having heard of her brothers' death, Althaea, mother of Meleager, caused his [sic] own son to die. Some have said, however, that the boar's skin caused a civil war between the Curetes, represented by the sons of Thestius 1, and the Calydonians, represented by Meleager, and that Meleager killed his mother's brothers in battle, and perished himself in the same war.

The Calydonian Hunt took place shortly after the voyage of the ARGONAUTS, and not few among those who hunted the boar also participated in that expedition."

The italicized text above is my doing.--Cleisthenes

The names of the CALYDONIAN HUNTERS according to four authors; Pausanias, Ovid, Hyginus, Apollodorus; are as follows:

 Acastus (Ovid); Admetus (Ovid, Hyginus); Amphiaraus (Pausanias, Ovid, Apollodorus) Alcon3 & Alcon 4 (Hyginus); Ancaeus (all four authors); Asclepius (Hyginus); Atalanta (all four authors, of course!);  Caeneus (Ovid, Hyginus); Castor (all four authors); Cepheus (Apollodorus); Cometes (Pausanias); Cteatus (Ovid);
Deucalion (Hyginus); Dryas (Ovid, Hyginus, Apollodorus); Echion(Ovid, Hyginus); Enaesimus (Hyginus); Epochus (Pausanias); Euphemus (Hyginus); Eurypylus (Apollodorus); Eurytion (Apollodorus); Eurytus 1 (Ovid); Eurytus 2 (Hyginus); Evippus (Apollodorus); Hippasus (Ovid, Hyginus); Hippalmus (Ovid);  Hippothous 2 (Ovid, Hyginus); Hippothous 6 (Pausanias); Hyleus (Ovid); Idas (Ovid, Hyginus, Apollodorus); Iolaus (Pausanias, Ovid, Hyginus);
Iphicles (Apollodorus); Iphiclus (Apollodorus); Ischepolis (Pausanias); Jason (Ovid, Hyginus, Apollodorus); Laertes (Ovid, Hyginus); Lelex (Ovid); Leucippus (Ovid, Hyginus); Lynceus (Ovid, Hyginus, Apollodorus); Meleager (all four authors, of course!); Mopsus (Ovid, Hyginus); Nestor (Ovid);  Panopeus (Ovid); Pelagon (Ovid); Peleus (all four authors); Phoenix (Ovid, Hyginus); Phyleus (Ovid);
Pirithous (Pausanias, Ovid, Apollodorus);  Plexippus (Ovid, Hyginus, Apollodorus); Polydeuces (all four authors); Prothous (Pausanias); Telamon (all four authors) Theseus (all four authors); Toxeus (Ovid).



Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on March 10, 2006, 03:42:34 am
Thanks, Jim, for the interesting additions and the nice pics!

The matter with Atalante is a special one. She is very similar to Artemis as hunter and perhaps an ancient pre-indogermanic goddess from the time of the great goddesses. If that is true then Meleagros could have been the 'Holy King' who was married to the Great Goddess for only one day and then was killed in a ritual sacrificing.
(Robert von Ranke-Graves, Greek Mythology)

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Cleisthenes on March 10, 2006, 08:52:24 pm
Bull Mythology

I would, if anyone is interested, like to begin to discuss the mythological significance of the bull.

In ancient Mediterranean cultures, the bull was a symbol of strength and heroism.
Lion and bull coin types were depicted on the world's first silver coins struck for Kroisos. The coin features a lion similar to that on the earlier Lydian electrum coins but without the sunburst or "nose wart," as well as a bull, with the reverse being an incuse square used in the minting process of very early coins.

The lion attacking the bull motif on this coin type has been variously theorized as symbolizing the sun and moon, spring and winter (the fall of the constellation Taurus corresponded to the date of the spring sowing), strength and fertility, Asia Minor and Europe, and Lydia and its neighbor Phyrgia. One possibility,perhaps, is that the lion represents the Lydians' supreme god, or Baal, and the bull represents Zeus, the supreme god of the Greeks, though Henri Frankfort in his 1956 book, The Art and Architecture of the Ancient Orient, suggested a "conflict between divine forces." A lion comprised the heraldic emblem of the kings of Lydia. Zeus took the guise of a bull in his seduction of Io (see Titian's beautiful Rape of Europa below). The lion and bull motif was featured on other ancient coins as well, and the bull was used, as well, on figural art.  The bull, obviously, symbolizes many things to many different cultures.(

Among the most important animal cults were the bull cults, which appeared in Egyptian writings as far back as the First Dynasty. The ancients believed that the powerful bull represented the personality of the king; slate palettes dating back as far as 3100 BC even show kings as bulls. This animal was chosen because it symbolized the king’s courageous heart, great strength, virility, and fighting spirit. Bulls’ horns even embellish some of the tombs of courtiers who served the first Saqqara kings.

The Apis Bull was originally considered to be the incarnation of the god Ptah, the creator of the universe and master of destiny, but this was a lesser-known association. Later the Apis became widely known as the incarnation of Osiris, god of embalming and cemeteries, when Ptah himself took on funerary characteristics and became associated with Osiris. Plutarch wrote that the "Apis was a fair and beautiful image of the soul of Osiris".

When Egypt fell under the rule of the Ptolemies, a new god was created by Ptolemy I in an effort to unify Greeks and Egyptians by establishing a deity that would be familiar to both cultures.  The new god was named Serapis, which combined components of the Greek gods Zeus, Asklepios, and Dionysys as well as the Egyptian deity Osiris and the sacred Apis bull cult. Although the god had a Greek appearance, it also had some of the features of an Apis bull as well as an Egyptian name. Serapis was declared a god of fertility and the underworld, but even though Egyptians tolerated this new deity, they never truly accepted it. On the other hand, because Greek leadership supported the new Serapis cult, many Greeks did accept and follow it, but the artificially created cult never achieved its goal of religious unity between Greeks and Egyptians (

I know that I have only scratched the surface of this very ubiquitous and intriguing symbol.  Bulls are found struck on coins from the era of archaic kings to Byzntium's, Julian the Philosopher (Apostate).  Taurus graces the night sky.

See for an interesting 2003 art exhibition featuring this mythological creature.

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on March 12, 2006, 01:57:11 pm
Some notes on the river-gods

Moesia inferior, Nikopolos ad Istrum, Septimius Severus AD 193-211
AE 17, 12.21g
struck under the legate Aurelius Gallus
bust, laureate, r.
rivergod (Istros?), bearded, laureate, nude to hips, leaning l., head r., resting l. arm on
rocks (or urn) from which water flows, holding with r. hand tree with four
foliate twigs (or whinetree).
AMNG 1310; not in Moushmov
rare, VF, dark-green patina

Moesia inferior, Nikopolis ad Istrum, Macrinus AD 217-218
AE 25, 11.24g
bust, bearded, laureate, r.
Youthfull rivergod (Istros?), nude to hips, leaning l., holding in l. arm reeds, in
raised r. hand branch; water flows from vase behind him.
Pick 1763 var.; cf. Lindgren 272 (same rev. for Diadumenian!); Moushmov 1272
rare, F/VF

In Greece and Italy there was a famous cult of river gods. This cult in ancient times was not unknown.Especially at the idogermanic peoples the worshipping of the flowing water was wide spread. It is known from the Indians, the Persians, the Thrakes and the Celts. From the Germans it is not sure. The designation as 'river gods' is not from ancient times. Homer and Hesiod were talking of 'potamoi' (Greek = rivers). Wether they have differentiated between the rivers itself and river gods (who lived at the bottom of vthe rivers or in caves) is not clear!

Referring to Homer all rivers originated from Okeanos. Hesiod calls the rivers children of Okeanos and Thetis. But Skamandros is known as son of Zeus. They are immortal and participate on meetings of the gods. They are seen with many children and as ancestors of aristocratic families.

Characteristic for their cult was the consecration of hair, perhaps the substitute of human sacrifice. Peleus vows the river Spercheios a ringlet of Achill if his son will come home safe. Elsewise they got the usual offerings, bulls and sheep. There were regular sacrificing f.e. in Messenia, one was sacrificing before crossing a river, so Xerxes before before crossing the Strymon or Lucullus at the Euphrat. The river-gods had priests too, temples and altars.

Already Homer knows the river-gods as human-shaped. When in his Ilias (lib. 22, 237) Skamandos yells like a bull then this is a reminiscence of older beliefs. The most early depiction of a rive-god, Acheloos, is the mix of a bull and a human being. The later typus had only small horns. In Graeca Magna and in Sicily they appear as youthful men on coins of the 5th century BC. The well known type as leaning river-god as on these two coins could be from the same century if one suggest Pausanias is right with his description of the figures at the Easter pedement of the Zeus temple of Olympia as Alpheios and Kladeios. But this today is seen as not correct. So this typus seems to be more probably hellenistic. The suggestion that the Centaurs are originally river-gods is shortend to Nessos only.

There are known about one hundred names of river-gods, mostly from Greece, from Asia Minor, Sicily and Italy. But this list is not complete. In the Greek area the most famous are Acheloos and Alpheios. Italian river-gods with supra-regional cult in the Roman-Italian area were Clitumnus and Tiber (as Tiberinus pater too). He also was seen as master and father of all other rivers and called by prayer. He had a sanctuary too. In the old almanac of ceremonies he was substituted by Volturnus.

At last a fundamental addition which should clear the way for a deeper understanding of the ancient conception of river and other gods:
The river-gods depicted on coins are not personifications in our sense. Rivers had not been gods! They had been the expression of something divine behind the things. And that is something very different! In rivers, wells, trees or mountains turned up the divine. In this sense the depicted river-god was the visible expression of this divine behind the things. In different shapes, depending on the kind of the depicted river. It is understandable that they were depicted anthropomorphic, bedded like a tired wanderer (the feet pointing to to the mouth!). Nevertheless it was the matter of a transcendental experience, valid for wells, trees, mountains and other deities too. This has been heavily misunderstood by the Christian monks who fell the sacred trees and claimed the gods to resist it. The reminiscence on Christ at the cross should have disabuse them: He too was called to climb down if he really was God.   

We all have remains of this understanding of nature when we say about a river: He is hopping and jumping, is streaming majestically or is restricted and violated by channels. May be the actual situation of our nature could be more hopeful if we would bethink ourself of this buried view! 

Der kleine Pauly
Reinhart Falter, Fluß- und Berggötter in der Spätantike, Cadmus 1999

The attached pics show the two figures from the East pediment of the Zeus temple in Olympia which were described already by Pausanias.

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Cleisthenes on March 18, 2006, 05:51:16 am
Some notes on the river-gods

In Greece and Italy there was a famous cult of river gods. This cult in ancient times was not unknown.


This is very interesting.  What I have to offer is not a river god, but the illustration of a coin of Syracuse whose obverse device portrays Arethusa, the naiad desired and pursued by the river-god AlpheiosOvid tells the story of how Arethusa, attempting to avoid Alpheios' amorous intentions, appealed to Artemis for help.  Artemis transformed her into an underground stream emerging as a freshwater spring on the Sicilian island of Ortygia, the future site of Syracuse.  Not to be so easily put-off, Alpheios directed his river's flow underground to follow Arethusa, and both of their waters now mingle eternally in the Fountain of Arethusa in Ortygia.  In 1820; the famous British, Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote his well known poem--the topic of which is also the title: "Arethusa."

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Robert_Brenchley on March 18, 2006, 12:44:14 pm
I wonder whether that's also the origin of Coleridge's 'Alph, the sacred river' in 'Kubla Khan'.

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: slokind on March 18, 2006, 05:54:14 pm
It suddenly occurred to me, reading about Coleridge's Alph in your posting, to ask the names of the four rivers that flowed from Paradise.  Sure they allude to the Four Quarters and the like, but I bet they have names that Coleridge might have known.  Pat L.

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Robert_Brenchley on March 19, 2006, 09:17:52 am
Pishon, Gihon, Tigris and Euphrates, all branching from one un-named source.

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on March 19, 2006, 06:03:02 pm
Mt. Gerizim - the holy mountain of Samaria

Here we have another important holy mountain, the Mons Garizim in Samaria.

Trebonianus Gallus AD 251-253
AE 24, 12.09g
        Bust, draped and cuirassed(?), laureate, r.
      Eagle, standing frontal, wings spread, supporting cult image of Mons Garizim with
      temple, shrine and gardens.
Rosenberger 113; SNG 6, 1035
F+/abut VF, typical sand-patina found on coins of Palestine

This coins shows on the wings of the eagle an image of the Gerizim: At the base of the mountain we see colonnades which surrounded the holy area, a long steep stair leads to the peak of the mountain to the temple of Zeus Hypsistos, shown in perspective, and on the right side a second smaller mountain with an altar on top.
Excavations have reveiled the fundaments of this temple and parts of the staircase with total 300 (or referring to others even 1500!) steps. Some coins show clearly more sacral buildings at the mountainside. On this coin probably only a model of the Gerizim is depicted which was shown on processions, a so-called agalma, with only the most important things.

Flavia Neapolis was founded by Titus 2km south of Shichem in Samaria. This is a most famous place of religious history of the Old Testament. Here Abraham is said to have sacrificed his son Isaak to obey the order of God, here is said to be the tomb of Joseph, and here is said to be the well where Jesus encountered the merciful Samaritan wife.

The Mt.Gerizim, 870m, is kown already in the Old Testament Dtn. 11, 29, as mountain of blessing in contrary to the adjacent Mt. Ebal, the mountain of curse. Later they were seen as two-peaked World Mountain with cosmic meaning. This all is the resonance of archaic holiness, the so-called mountain cult, which we have seen so often. The Samaritans, whose center Shichem was situated in the plain to which the pass between these two mountains opened, belief that the Garden of Eden once was on the Mt. Gerizim and bult here there own temple after they have separated from the Judaism of Jerusalem. Antiochos IV then consecrated this temple to Zeus Xenios or Hellenios and Johannes Hyrkanos to whom this temple now as Seleucid sanctuary was double odious destroyed it 128 BC. After the Bar Kochba war Hadrian built a new temple for Zeus Hypsistos ("Zeus on the mountain"). Today the mountain again belongs to the Samaritans and here they annually celebrate their Passah.
Neapolis today is Nablus, the biggest city on the Palestine West Bank with more than 100.000 inhabitants kown from the news about the Israelic-Palestinian conflict.

Der kleine Pauly

The attached photo shows todays Nablus with the Southern peak of the mountain, the actual Gerizim. At the right edge you can see the mountainside of the Ebal.

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Robert_Brenchley on March 20, 2006, 12:23:02 pm
It probably wasn't Antiochos himself who was responsible for the reconsecration of the sancturaies to Zeus, though contemporary sources give him the credit. In Jerusalem, they set up an altar to Zeus on the Altar of Burnt Offering in the Temple and sacrificed pigs on it, which is such a calculated insult that only a Jew would have been likely to think of it. There was a massive division at the time between the traditionalists, who wanted to limit contact with the Hellenistic world around them, and the 'Hellenizers' who wanted to integrate; they seem to have been dominated by wealthy merchants and others who saw that removing restrictions on the expression of Hellenism within the city (no pigs within the walls, no pagan altars, ec.) would result in profits for them. Antiochos was a usurper who probably wasn't too secure ont he throne; there had already been one rebellion over increased taxation and Antiochos' choice of High Priest. Judah was on the edge of his empire, and he probably made an alliance with the Hellenisers with the aim of integrating it more firmly within his domain.

I've a strong suspicion (no evidence unfortunately) that the Hellenizers probably saw their altar to Zeus not so much as a rejection of their god as a recognition that , as far as they were concerned, he was actually the same as Zeus Olympios, under another name. That would be consistent with the syncretising tendencies of Hellenism as I understand them. As far as the population of Jerusalem was concerned, they might have got away with it, since they were pretty well Hellenised already. But there was a traditional tension between the city and the countryside, and it was when they tried to extend their reform to the countryside by forcing people to sacrifice on pagan altars that it blew up in their faces. There's not so much known about the situation in Samaria, but it was doubtless part of the same attempted reform.

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on March 20, 2006, 02:31:50 pm
Robert, thank you for the detailed description of the religious and social developments at the times of Antiochos in Jerusalem.

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Cleisthenes on March 24, 2006, 10:05:44 am

It may be that Hermes has appeared in another thread, but I have always had some lingering affinity for this shrewd god.  Perhaps it is because, among the many occupations and "things" for which he is a patron, he is both a "minor" patron of poetry and thieves, and I am always reminded of what T.S. Eliot once said, "Good poets borrow; great poets steal."

Lydia, Sala, Faustina II, d. 175 A.D.
AE 18, 4.05g. Draped bust r. Rv. Hermes standing l. holding caduceus and purse. SNG von Aulock 3117(dies).

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on March 24, 2006, 03:16:45 pm
Hi Cleisthenes!

We have had a longer contribution to Hermes under the title Hermes - the frontier runner
on page two of this thread!

best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on March 24, 2006, 03:19:25 pm
The mysterious Cabiri

Besides the well-known greek gods and the great Mother Goddesses of the Orient there is a number of smaller deities which regularly appear in plural. Here is a list of them which certainly is not complete:
Anactes and
Until now their meaning is not completely kown especially because their names often are confused. Some of them we already met in this thread (Curetes, Dioscurs). Here I want to present the Cabiri. The cause was this coin:

Macedonia, Thessalonica, 3rd century, time of Septimius Severus
AE 20, 6g
        Tyche, draped and turreted, veiled, r.
rev. KAB - EIROC
       Cabir in working dress and with Phrygian cap, standing frontal, head l., holding in
       raised l. hand hammer, in r. hand rhyton
SNG Copenhagen 387; Touratsoglou Emission VI, Group K (Septimius Severus), 10 (obv. same die), 8 (rev. same die), 2 ex. known
rare, good VF, nice green patina
This type was struck from Domitian to Valerian/Gallienus. The legend and the breaks show, that this coin belongs to the time of Septimius Severus.
Rhyton is a drinking vessel in the shape of a horn.

The Cabiri are seen often on coins of Thessalia. In Thessalia they were hold for guardian gods. Banduri suggests that the reason of the remarkable accumulation of their depiction in Thessalia maybe the fact that a Gothic siege of Thessalonica was repelled by the help of the Cabiri.

The ancient reports of the cult of Samothrace sadly are inconsistent and only difficult to interpret. One reason is the purposeful privacy and restriction of religious subjects and rites to the adepted and initiated to the mysteries, otherwise the mixture of pre-hellenic religious beliefs with those of the greek which during the centuries were interpreted in most various ways. The best-known is the equalization of the Cabiri with the gods of Samothrace. But Cabiri surely was not the cult name of the Samothracian deitis which were called Megaloi Theoi, the Great Gods.

The following description mainly came from the site 'Das schwarze Netz':
The Cabiri (greek Kabeiroi, hebr. kabbirim = the Great) are a group of gods of both gender or godlike people of primitive times. They were hold for guardians of the sailors and navigation which saved the shipwrecked and in this function were called Megaloi Theoi (= the Great Gods). Their cult is assumed to be originated in Asia Minor and then via Samothrace reaching Greece. As place of birth the mountain Kabeiros in Berekynthia is suggested (Kerenyi, 70).
The Kabeiroi should be offsprings of Hephaistos and Kabira, a daughter of Proteus, but sometimes they were seen as much older: They could be confronted to the Olympics like the Titans and so be the ancestors of men (Pausanias 9.25.6, cited by Kerenyi, 65f.). They stood in the centre of the mystery cult of Samothrace where the worshipped Demeter was called Kabiria (as in Boiotia too).
Some names of the Cabiri are Axieros, Axiokersos and Axiokersa. The first part of these names is a cultic invocation, greek axios means 'dignified'. In the secret language of the Cabiri these three names are assumed to be the names of three deities. So Axierios means Demeter, Axiokersa means Persephone and Axiokerses is Hades (Hederich, 496f.). Axiothera (dignified goddess) is the name of a figure which sometimes appears as wife of Prometheus. This puts the Titan Prometheus in the proximity of the Cabiri.
Another element which the Cabiri share with the Titans is a primordial sacrilege. Orphic poetry (Onomakritos, 6th century BC) told of the murder of the young Dionysos by the Titans (s. Zagreus) and a similar myth is told of a fratricide of the Cabiri. The elder Cabiri should have killed the youngest and pulled off his head. So a main subject of the mystery cults was the purgation of a primordial sacrilege.
The Kabirion sanctuary near Thebes is said to be founded by an autochthon named Prometheus and his son Aitnaios to whom Demeter has brought her mysteries (Pausanias 9.25.6). This Aitnaios is said to be no other than Hephaistos (from the volcano Etna in Sicily), from which the Cabiri referring to others should be originated. Therefore they often are depicted like Haphaistos himself with hammer and tongs. Their ancestor then the Titan Prometheus as is suggested by their cult in Athens where they have had a joint altar, or in Lemnos where in a similar constellation Kadmilos stood by Prometheus the elder. In Samothrace the Dioscuri Kastor and Polyneikes were worshipped as Cabiri. Kabiros was a guardian god of the Macedonians too, the Kabirides were nymphs which were assumed to be sisters or daughters of the Cabiri. The Cabiri were mixed with many others besides the Titans with the Curetes, the Dactyles or the Penates Dii. The idols of Laban should be the Cabiri too.

The Cabiri appear in Goethe's Faust II too. From Goethe Rudolf Steiner has taken them in his Antroposophy and has inflated them to a symbol of mankind. So today the Cabiri are drifted away into esoteric fields as a quick Google search could proof.
Der kleine Pauly
Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology
Hederich, Gründliche Griechische Mythologie
Kerenyi, Griechische Mythologie

The attached pic shows the sanctuary of the Cabiri in Samothrace. The famous 'Nike of Samothrace' was found nearby.

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: whitetd49 on March 24, 2006, 04:13:48 pm
Very nice.  The prominence of the Kabeiroi at Thessalonika may be their association with the Pythian games held there.   Thus, Kabir is often depicted with Apollo and Nike/Victory.

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: whitetd49 on March 24, 2006, 04:25:42 pm
Samothrace is noted above but the Kabireirion near Thebes and later Thessalonika were major cult centers of Hapheastos and the Kabeiroi.  Here is a potshard from the Kabireion showing Kabeiros and a companion and a cult statue within a temple from Thessalonika.

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on March 24, 2006, 04:33:12 pm
Thanks, whitetd, for your pics and the interesting information! The last coin indeed is a beauty. But I have a question: Often the cult statue standing in the temple is called Hephaistos. I think it is very difficult to decide wether it is Hephaistos or a Cabir?

best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: whitetd49 on March 24, 2006, 04:58:50 pm
Really, I think they are one and the same.  The hammer as an attribute of the kabeiroi recognizes their skill in metal working, a skill they inherited from Hephaistos.  On the other hand, I have never seen Hephaistos depicted with the rhyton.  I believe the rhyton refers to the initiation into the mysteries of the cult in which a fair amount of wine was consumed.

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on March 26, 2006, 01:55:05 pm
Herakliskos Drakonopnigon - The infant Herakles strangling the snakes

Thracia, Serdica, Caracalla AD 198-217
AE 19, 3.52g
struck AD 207-217
        bust, laureate, r.
       Infant Herakles, chubby, kneeling r., r. hand raised, with l. hand resting on
       ground, strangling two snakes entwining his arms
Varbanov 153 var. (diff. obv. legend)
Rare, about VF, oliv-green patina

This coin shows a scene from the mythology of the young Herakles. Zeus once fell in love with the beautiful Alkmene, the wife of Amphitryon, king of Thebes. When he was on a campaign, Zeus took his shape, went to Alkmene and united with her. When Amphitryon was back the betrayal was revealed. But Amphitryon forgave his unknowing wife and created with her Iphikles, the twin brother of Herakles. Alkmene gave birth to two sons, Herakles and Iphikles (the latter as son of two mortals without exceptional powers). Hera however, the wife of Zeus, became the jealous lifelong pursuer of Herakles.
Shortly before the birth of Herakles and Iphikles Zeus declared that the first born child of the house of Perseus would become ruler of Mycene. This was the request of Hera to deceive him. She prolongated the labour pains of Alkmene so that Erystheus, son of Sthenelos, uncle of Amphitron, was born first and only after him Herakles. That was the reason that Herakles was tributary to Erystheus. 

Fearing Hera's revenge Alkmene marooned him on the so-called Herakles fields near Thebes. His half-sister Athena, later playing an important role as his guardian goddess, found him and brought him to Hera. She didn't recognize him and pitiful suckled him. But Herakles sucked so strong that he hurt her and Hera pushed him away. But by her divine milk Herakles became immortal. Athena brought him back to his mother who gladly took him and he grow up with his parents. But there too he was pursued by the hate of Hera. When he was eight month old Hera sent two huge snakes to the sleeping-room of the children. Iphikles cried in fear but his brother Herakles took the two snakes and strangled them. The seer Teiresias, called by the astonished Amphitryon, predicted the child an uncommon future. Numerous monsters he would defeat. 

Already very early the antinomy between Herakles' name, that is 'the glory of Hera', and Hera's hate by which he pursued him in mythology was recognized. This antinomy could be solved if we see the old misunderstanding: Herakles like all heroes stood unter the protection of Hera and were sent out to adventures to gain glory for himself and Hera. We know similar from the Tableround of the Artus myth. These hard challenges then were misunderstood as pursuit of Herakles by Hera. The original good relation between Herakles and Hera is proofed by their joint battle against a fire spitting Giant in the Gigantomachia and against four Satyrs. Going with that are some different explanation of the snakes. It is reported too that it was actually Amphitryon who has sent the snakes to get out his own child (mater certa, pater incerta!).
Another explanation comes from von Ranke-Graves: An old picture from which the post-homeric story of the strangled snake originated probably has depicted how Herakles has caressed the animals while they have cleaned his ears with their tongues. This is reported for the seers Melampos, Teiresias, Kassandra and the sons of Laokoon. Without cleaning their ears it would have been impossible for them to understand the language of vultures.

This coin obviously resembles a motiv of a series of rare tetradrachms which were struck 405/4 BC to celebrate an alliance (synmachikon) of some cities of Western Asia Minor. They were struck for Byzantion, Ephesos, Iasos, Knidos, Lampsakos, Rhodos and Samos. It was thought that this alliance came about in 394 after the defeat of the Spartan fleet, but Karwiese, NC 1980, has made a good case for it having taken place 10 years earlier, when the cities threw off Athenian domination with the help of the Spartan Lysander. Lysander then was celebrated as Herakliskos Drakonopnigon, 'Herakles the snake-strangler'. In many ways this seems a better choice, but hoard evidence is inconclusive.

Why this motiv was chosen for Caracalla I couldn't find out. Perhaps he saw himself fighting against a world of evil?
Der kleine Pauly
von Ranke-Graves, Griechische Myhologie

I have attached
a) the pic of a tetradrachm from Samos, 405/4 BC, and
b) a pic of  a column base, found AD 1999 near the Marcellus Theatre in Rome,
    showing Hercules motivs on all sides.

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on April 22, 2006, 02:30:25 pm
Atargatis or Dea Syria, the Great Syrian Goddess

We have already talked in this thread about the Great Goddesses like Kybele or Rhea and mentioned Dea Syria. Here I have a coin with Atargatis.

Syria Cyrrhestica, Hierapolis, Severus Alexander AD 222-235
AE 28, 18.3g
        radiate, draped and cuirassed bust r.
       Atargatis riding right on lion, holding sceptre, sitting left
BMC 55 var.
rare, about Vf
ex Penina Manfra and Brookes 1968

Background (mainly from 'Der kleine Pauly'):
Hierapolis in Syria Cyrrhestica was the famous cult centre of Atargatis called Dea Syria in the hellenism too (not to be confused with Dea Coelestis from Carthage). She was worshipped mostly together with the West-Semitic weather-god Baal-Hadad in Baalbek, Damascus, Palmyra, Dura-Europos but especially in Hierapolis and in Askalon. Her greek name was Derketo. There were etymological connections to the Phoinicean goddess Aphrodite-Astarte and similarity in the character to Kybele-Rhea from Asia Minor.They all have the syzygie (companionship) with a young male god of the type Adonis-Attis. The parhedros (assisting companion) of Atargatis was Hadad. Lukian of Samosate called them Zeus and Hera and describes detailed the temple of Bambyke with its beautiful fragrance. Lukian talked of a trias of deities, the third formerly seen as misinterpretation of a deifyed vexillum, now seen more as a deus inferior like Kombabos. The novel of Stratonike-Kombabos shows in its castration motiv the influence of the Kybele ministration, and the orientalic hetaera character of Atargatis-Astarte, which is known from Derketo-Semiramis of Askalon too. This must be seen as evidence of her great fertility to which the young parhedros was addicted until his death
Her cult affirmation were veil, flowers, omphalos, sea procession, hydrophoria (a libation festival), lavatio (washing), tree burning (pyra), ecstatic dancing, eviration and phallolatria (worshipping of the phallos). Like the Phoinicean Astarte Atargatis was first a local numen, mistress of the city (Baalat), with the corona muralis of the Magna Mater. She is depicted with her lions and the bulls of Hadad. As Potnia Therion (Mistress of the animals) the paradise of Bambyke belonged to her and the lake of the
sacred fishes from Askalon. In this nature she expands to an universal range: The aetiologic legends of Derketo's leap into the lake and her transformation into a fish, her birth from an egg of the Euphrate assisted by fishes and doves and the dove metamorphosis of Semiramis not only serve as explanation of religious facts like the ichthyomorphismus (looking like a fish) or her fish and dove attributes. But the Syrian animal cult emphasizes with fish and dove two first-class exponents of animal fertility and so stresses the blessing power of Dea Syria over air and water. Her challenge to rule over sky and sea comes from her participation in characer elements of the Mesopotamian fish-goddess Nina-Ishtar and the West-Semitic dove mistress Semiramis-Astarte. Parallel to the spreading of her worshipping and syncretistic accommodation she was elevated to an all-creating World and Mother Goddess. She was the heir of the Ugaritic 'Asherat of the sea', on Delos the heir of the mediterranean Earth and Sky goddess Aphrodite-Ariadne. Via Sicily and the Italian harbours she came to Rome. Sueton writes in his 'De Vita Caesarum' about Nero:

He utterly despised all cults, with the sole exception of that of the Syrian Goddess and even acquired such a contempt for her that he made water on her image, after he was enamored of another, superstition, which was the only one to which he constantly clung. For he had received as a gift from some unknown man of the commons, as a protection against plots, a little image of a girl; and since a conspiracy at once came to light, he continued to venerate it as a powerful divinity and to offer three sacrifices to it every day, encouraging the belief that through its communication he had knowledge of the future. A few months before his death he did attend an inspection of victims, but could not get a favorable omen.

She is often mentioned by Apuleius in his Metamorphoses too. With the Roman soldiers her cult reached the frontiers of the Empire. In Edessa, Haran and Nisibis her cult resisted the Christianity for a long time. In Haran the self-castration was known until the 9th century AD.

Today Atargatis has a revival in the esoteric scene. She is used by Heavy Metal groups and in the Gothic scene. I have attached the famous painting 'Astarte Syriaca' of the Pre-Raphaelite Dante Gabriel Rosetti.

Der kleine Pauly
Lukian, De Dea Syria. online under
Apuleius, Metamorphoses (The golden ass)
Sueton, De Vita Caesarum

 Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on April 29, 2006, 03:13:02 pm
Orpheus taming the wild animals

Here  I want to present a new coin which I am very glad to add to my collection. Ok, its preservation is not the best, but nearly all details could be seen, especially the animals on the rev. Most coins on CoinArchives are not better.

Thracia, Philippopolis, Geta AD 209-212
AE 29
        bust, draped and cuirassed,, laureate, r.
rev. Orpheus, in Thracian dress and with Phrygian cap, sitting on rocks r.,
        playing lyre. Around him a number of wild animals, clockwise from upper
        right: bull, lion, ibex, goose and wolf, jackal and stork, boar .
        in ex.: FILIPPOPO / LEITWN
Varbanov 1422; Moushmov 5383
rare, F+/about FV, nice dark-green patina, some roughness in left field of rev.

The Thracian singer Orpheus is said to be the son of the muse Kalliope and the Thracian king Oiagros or the god Apollo whose fame as kitharoedus he soon outflanked. His Thracian origin was questioned until recently. But already the Greeks saw him as Thracian, in the same way like the muses wich came from the region around the mount Olympos too. Orpheus is entwined in so much myths that the mythographs assumed several different Orpheus'. He is know from the 6th and 5th century from fragments of Simonides and from a text in the 'Alkestis' by Euripides which was  first played 438 BC.

His art as singer was praised especially in the Orphic scripts. In the 'Argonautika' of Apollonios Rhodios he was stylized to one of the greatest heroes and thereby exceeding even Jason. During the journey of the Argos he was the keleustes, giving the tact to the oarsmen, and calming the waves of the sea. His song to the lyre was so moving, that stones, rocks, even mountains came to him to listen, that the wild animals gathered tamed around hím, that the trees walked to him (Ovid Lib. X), that the rivers stopped flowing and that the snow on the mountains was melting. In the underworld the furies were moved to tears for the first and last time.

When he failed in his attempt to free his beloved Eurydike from the Hades
he abdicated the love to women, decided to never get married and introduced the pederasty to Thracia. Half a year he was sitting in a cave of the river Strymon, mourning. But the Mainades, the companions of Dionysos, were put into rage about him, and jumped on him. Because they feared the power of his art they first killed his 'living theater', the birds, the snakes, the droves of game, the bulls and then they teared him apart, the Holy, in a bacchanal of violence. His head nailed on his lyre they throw into the Strymon where he is said to have sung furthermore. The waves carried it to the beach of Lesbos which then became the island of poetry. His lyre was put as constellation to the sky. After his death the birds were mourning, the game, the rocks, the wood. The trees discarded their leafs, the rivers swelled from self dropped tears.

But the soul of Orpheus searched the underworld for Eurydike, found her and
finally they promenaded in combined steps like only one shadow. Only in death there is eternal love!

The scene in which Orpheus tamed the wild animals by his music was well known in the Roman imperial time. The idea of civilizing barbaric traits through arts and poetry was a persistent cultural value throughout Roman times. It is a symbol of the victory of the civilization over barbarianism. In this sense it could play an important role in our times as well!

Later on the motiv of Orpheus and Eurydike became more important. May be one of the members of the FORUM has a coin showing this motiv. Then it would be nice to see it here to round up this theme!

I have attached the pic of a famous mosaic from Antiochia (today Antakya/Turkey). It shows the same scene like the rev of the coin. It is a wonderful example of the painting qualities of a mosaic. This motiv later was used by Christianism too. In the Priscilla catacombes in Rome there is a wall painting showing the Good Shepherd in the shape of Orpheus.

Der kleine Pauly

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on April 30, 2006, 07:05:21 pm
Telephos, the son of Herakles

First, please don't confuse Telephos with  Telesphoros, the companion of Asklepios. Telephos is a son of Herakles. One of the scenes of this myth is depicted on the presented coin. It is an AE24 of Damascus in Syria struck for Volusian, son of Trebonianus Gallus.

Volusian AD 251-253
AE 24
        bust, draped and cuirassed, laaureate, r.
rev. [COL] DAM - [AS] MET[R]
       Hind with antlers standing r., suckling telephos sitting below
rouvier 99
rare, F+/about VF

Following Der kleine Pauly:
Telephos, Arcadic-Mysean heroe, son of Herakles and Auge, priestress of Athena Alea in Tegea, was exposed in the Parthenion mountains, where he was found by a hind, which suckled him, and  he was educated by herdsmen. Korythos became his foster father. Auge was closed in a  chest and thrown into the sea. She landed at the coast of Mysia, where king Teuthras took her as wife (or as foster daughter). When growing up Telephos killed his uncles and therefore was punished by muteness. As expiation he was sent to search for his mother. He came to Teuthras too who as pay for his help in a war gave him Auge as wife and the succesion of the throne. The fizzling of a snake during the sexual intercourse leads under dramatical circumstances to the recognition of mother and son and so prevents the espousal. In a different version Telephos married Teuthras' daughter Argiope. In the Mysian prelude of the Troian war (the Greeks initially have landed on a wrong coast!) Telephos defeated the Achaioi at the lower Kaikos. He killed Thersandros but received by Achilleus an incurable wound (by intervention of Dionysos). To this combat belongs the cup of Sosias: Achilleus bandages Patroclos. The slogan O TRWAS IACETAI ( Troas will heal) forced Telephos after 8 years of torture to accept the Achaioi where he obtained healing by Achilleus in exchange for pointing them to the correct way to Troy. So far the Kypriai. The Troic circle of epics told a more brutal story in which he threatened the young Orestes at an altar by his sword. Euripides says Telephos has disguised as enemy of Telephos and in this role has maintained his point of view. As remedy served rust or chipping of the spear.

This myth seems to be a reverberation of old battles of the colonists against Barbarians and the own people. Already the Kypriai initiate a connection to Troy. In a younger version Telephos originates from Troy and has married a woman from Troy, Astyoche or Laodike. His son Eurypylos was fighting for Priamos. The Attalids of Pergamon considered Telephos as their ancestor and let built the frieze of Telephos at their great altar. A Telephos roman was written in which the Amazone-like Hiera played a role. She and Telephos should be the ancestors of Tarchon and Tyrsenos who are said to have colonized Etruria. The hellenistic poetry too dealed with Telephos. Ennus and Accius rewrite the drame of Euripides. In Herculaneum was found the famous wall-painting 'Herakles finding Telephos'.

I have attached a pic of this painting. It was found AD 1793 in Herculaneum and armed with a thick layer of cement to protect it. Not earlier as 2005 it was restored. Until now not all of its figures could be identified. But in the lower left corner we see the hind which is suckling Telephos.

Kypriai: Epic cycles in eleven books which told the prehistory of the Iliad from the marriage of Peleus and Thetis to the unfortunate disembarkation in Teuthracia and the military actions in the Troas.
Der kleine Pauly
Karl Kerenyi, Griechische Heldenmythen
Hederich, Gründliches Mythologisches Lexikon

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Cleisthenes on May 02, 2006, 05:00:54 am

Your post is, as usual, very interesting.  I don't have anything "new" to offer; I am really only reiterating what you've provided, with simply a little supporting information and a photo of a portion of the Telephos Frieze from Pergamon.  Thank you for your posts,"il miglio fabbro!"; I always learn something.

Cleisthenes (Jim)

Telephos represents for Pergamon, what Romulus/Remus represent for Rome. Various ancient authors write about Telephos and there are different and inconsistent versions of the same story (Homer in The Iliad, Euripides, Aristophanes, Hyginus...).
Telephos’ parents are Heracles and princess Auge, the daughter of King Aleus of Tegea. King Aleus, who knows an oracle predicting that a son of Auge will cause the death of one of his sons, installs her as priestess in Athena’s temple, a post requiring perpetual virginity. However, during Heracles’ stay at Tegea, he falls in love with princess Auge, and he seduces her.

On discovering that Auge is pregnant, Aleus is angry and sends his daughter to the sea to be drowned; on the way there, according to some texts, she gives birth to Telephos. In Nauplia, King Nauphilus places both mother and son in a chest, and sets it adrift in the sea; they land, according to this version, in Mysia, where Auge raises Telephos. In a different version of the story, Auge gives birth to a son in Athena’s temple and hides him there.  This angers Athena, and the goddess causes all of the surrounding land to be barren.

Auge’s father, King Aleus, seeks the reason for this pestilence, and he discovers that it is his daughter and her newborn son who are responsible.   He, therefore, abandons and exposes the child on Mount Parthenium, and sends Auge overseas to Nauphilus where she will be sold into slavery. Auge is sold to Teuthras, king of Teuthrania on the River Caicus in Mysia. 
According to the traditional version, Telephos is discovered by some shepherds in the care of a doe, (‘elaphos,’ Greek) which was suckling him (‘a teat,’ ‘thele,’ Greek); the shepherds  name the foundling Telephos (‘thele’ + ‘elaphos’).  According to another, more recent heroic version, Herakles discovers Telephos being suckled by a lioness.

In the shepherd version, the shepherds raise Telephos in the company of Parthenopaeus, who also has been abandoned nearby. They become great friends. According to some authors, Auge herself abandons Telephos on Mt. Parthenium to hide her shame, or that she gives birth to him there on the way to Naupila.
When Telephos grows up, he wants to know the identity of his parents, in part because he suffers taunting at Aleus’ court because he does not know his lineage. On one momentous occasion, when he is being insulted, Telephos kills the person who so angers him. The oracle proves to be true: the dead man is Aleus’ son. In every version, it is agreed that Telephus subsequently consults the Delphi Oracle; the Oracle sends him to Mysia to find out his origins.

Accompanied by Parthenopaeus, he sails to Teuthrania, where, at the head of an army of Greek invaders, he helps to drive out Teuthras' enemies. Teuthras, who has no son, makes Telephos his heir. In one version, Teuthras has married Auge. In another, (analogous with Oedipus), Teuthras has adopted Auge as his daughter, and now insists on marrying her to Telephos as a part of Telephos’ reward. Auge, though unaware she is Telephos’ mother, is opposed to the match; according to some accounts she feels this way because she wishes to remain faithful to Heracles’ memory.  Therefore, she takes a sword to bed with her, intending to stab Telephos.  Miraculously, an enormous snake appears in the bed between them, and then Auge, terrorized, confesses her intention. Telephos, understandably outraged, prepares to kill her; whereupon Auge calls on Heracles for his help.  This prompts Telephos to ask her why she has appealed to the Hero. Auge, then, tells Telephos her long story that begins with her seduction by Heracles.  In this way, Auge and Telephos come to recognize each other.

In the Hyginus version of the story, Telephos then marries Ardiope, Teuthras’ daughter. Telephos’ wife is alternatively identified as Astyoche (Laodice), a daughter of Priam.

While Telephos is on the throne of Teuthrania, the Trojan War breaks-out; as Priam’s son-in-law, he supports the Trojan side. The Greeks mistakenly land in Mysia, believing it to be Trojan territory. Telephos fights against them, killing Polyncies’ son Thersander, but is wounded by Achilles when his foot is caught in a grapevine. After the Greeks return home, Telephos’ wound still has not healed. He consults an oracle and is told that the wound will eventually heal--but that he must seek out help from the Greeks (Iliad).  Dressed in beggar’s rags, Telephos travels to Mycenae, where the Greek captains are preparing another expedition against Troy.
He confides his plight to Clytemnestra, who advises him that the only way to gain his point with the kings is to seize the child Orestes and make supplication to Agamemnon. He does so, urging that Achilles should cure him. The Greek commanders, by this time have received an oracle that informs them that they will reach Troy, only if Telephos guides them there.   They consent to Telephos’ request.  Achilles, however, declares that he has no experience as a doctor.  Odysseus sees a deeper meaning in the oracle, and suggests that it refers to Achilles’ spear rather than to Achilles himself. Each day a little rust from Achilles’ spear is applied to Telephos’ wound; in a few days Telephos’ wound heals.

Telephos guides the Greek fleet to Troy, but refuses to join them in war. After Telephos dies, his son Eurypylus, in the last year of the Trojan war, leads Mysia reinforcements to aid Priam.
The myth of Telephos is, in later times, reinforced by the Attalid kings of Pergamon in Mysia.

Telephos is the founder of the cults of Dionysos, Athene and Zeus at Pergamon.

Bauchenss-Thueirdel, Christa, Der Mythos von Telephos in “der antiken Bildkunst”. Beitraege zur Archaelogie, Wuerzburg: Konrad Trilitsch Verlag;
Schrader, Hans. “Die Anordnungund Deutung des pergamenischen Telephosfrieses”, Jahrbuch des Deutschen Archaeologischen Instituts 15 (1900);
Michael Grant and John Hazel, Who’s Who in Classical Mythology.

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on May 02, 2006, 05:50:47 am
Thanks for your detailed information! I love it!

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Cleisthenes on May 02, 2006, 06:59:20 am

I am very keen on Pergamon, and I have always enjoyed this mythological connection with Telephos!

Cleisthenes (Jim)

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: slokind on May 02, 2006, 07:21:32 pm
I do have an interesting little coin with Herakles holding the infant Telephos, so here it is:
11 01 02 AE 18  Thrace, Philippopolis.  Septimius Severus, head to r. (whether laureate not preserved).  ----]  |  SEVERO.  Rev., Herakles, unbearded, stg. frontal, head turned to l., r. arm akimbo and also evidently holding his club; on his l. forearm, the infant Telephos who reaches up to his shoulder. [PhI]LIPP  |  OPOL[ITON].  Almost certainly quotes a Pergamene type, why at Philippopolis quite unknowable.
Pat L.

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Cleisthenes on May 02, 2006, 10:23:48 pm
I do have an interesting little coin with Herakles holding the infant Telephos . . .
Pat L.
Pat L.,

You have a very interesting coin; the baby "clinging" to Herakles' shoulder is charming.

Jim (Cleisthenes)

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on May 05, 2006, 02:10:43 pm
Dionysos and Nikaia - the founder myth of Nicaea

We have spoken about Dionysos several times in this thread. The motiv of this coin is alluding to the founder myth of Nicaea. This myth belongs to the group of myths around Dionysos too. I'm referring here to that lexikon, which already Goethe has used for his tragedy 'Faust II', the 'Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon' from Benjamin Hederich, Leipzig 1770. But first the coin:

Bithynia, Nicaea, Severus Alexander 222-235
AE 25, 9.18g
Bust, draped and cuirassed, laureate, r.
rev. NI - [K] - AIEW - N
Dionysos, draped, with ivy wreath, holding thyrsos, sitting r., head turned l. to a female figure (probably Nikaia), stg. frontal, head with chignon r., holding wreath in r. hand.
no reference found
about VF

The nymph Nikaia (lat. Nicaea) was the daughter of the Phrygian river-god Sangarios and the goddess Kybele (Memnon ap phot. p.383). She was of exquisite beauty, but at the same time a passionate huntress who like to stay in the woods and between the mountains (Nonni Dionys. XV. 170 sqq.). Here Hymnos, a herdsman of this region, fall in love to her, followed her and watched her closely (Ib. 204). But his prayers were not answered and because he won't stop being after her she finally became angry and shot him with one of her arrows (Ib. 362). This murder Eros swore to avenge and he kept his word truely. When she was heated once by the hunt and was washing herself in a stream, Eros led Dionysos to her so that he could see her nude. At the same time he wounded his heart (Id. XVI. 1 sqq.). But Dionysos found as much approval by her as Hymnos and she threatened him with whose fate (Ib. 156.). But he has turned a river some time before into wine (Id. XIV fin.). She came thursty by her hunt to that river, got drunk and fall asleep. Dionysos, who has followed her all the time, now enjoyed what he couldn't get before (Id. XVI. 282). As soon as she regarded her accident she tried to kill her raper. But because that was impossible she suicided by hanging (Ib. 391). But first she gave birth to a daughter of him who was called Telete and Dionysos built up a city called Nikaia after her (Ib. in fin.). Telete became a devotee of him.

It is told too that he has also a son Satyrios by Nikaia. If that would be true then he stands for the male principle and Telete for the female principle of the Dionysos cult - a so-called 'Koure' in his train. As personification of the initiations rites (telete = initiation) she is closely connected to Orpheus. On Helikon, the 'Mount of Willow', Pausanias saw a statue of Orpheus with Telete at his side. And in Polygnotos' great fresco of the Underworld at Delphoi Orpheus was painted leaning against a willow and touching its branches with his hands, just as Telete in the relief of Loukou seated beside the tree close up against its foliage. Both he and she derived fertility from contact with the sacred tree. the relief from Loukou was probably set up over the grave of an Orphic votary.

From the 2nd century AD coins of Nicaea show Nikaia as city-goddess.

Memnos of Herakleia
Der kleine Pauly
Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon

BTW Nicaea is the city of the famous council AD 325 where the Eastern date was defined and the notorious discussion about 'homoousios' and 'homoiousios' took place.
Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Cleisthenes on May 06, 2006, 01:41:41 am
Dionysos and Nikaia - the founder myth of Nicaea

We have spoken about Dionysos several times in this thread . . .I'm referring here to that lexikon, which already Goethe has used for his tragedy 'Faust II'. . .


This is very intriguing.  Because of obvious restrictions, it is not possible to discuss in detail the enormous influence Dionysus has played in the art of Western Civilization.  From the paintings of Diego Velasquez ("The Feast of Bacchus"), to the poetry of John Keats ("Ode to a Nightingale" is just one example), to Modernist prose; Dionysus plays a starring role.  In his novella Death in Venice, Thomas Mann's famous protagonist, Aschenbach, can be seen as making the journey of initiation into the realm of Bacchanalia.  The link between Goethe and Mann is, of course, Nietzsche (who after his breakdown signed letters using the name Dionysus).

There are literally dozens, if not hundreds, of coins that depict Dionysus/Bacchus.  I have chosen one that I find especially interesting: LESBOS: Mytilene. Ca. 356 BC. El hecte (2.57 gm). Head of young Dionysus right, wreathed in ivy / Satyr's head facing within linear square. Bodenstedt 90 (unlisted dies).   It is the remarkable style of the reverse that catches my imagination.  The Satyr (a creature very Dionysian in nature) reminds me of the image of the Spaniard in the middle of the composition of Velasquez's "The Feast of Bacchus".  In the painting by Velasquez, the youthful Bacchus is crowning one of his 'acolytes' while the Spaniard to his left, holding the bowl of wine, seems, at least in my imagination, to be wearing the same leering almost inviting features as the satyr in the ancient coin from Lesbos.  I have included Velasquez's "The Feast of Bacchus" for the sake of comparison.

Thank you, once again, for a very interesting topic!
--Cleisthenes (Jim)

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on May 06, 2006, 06:13:54 pm
Dido - founder of Carthage

The coin:

Phoenicia, Tyrus, Julia Maesa, grandmother of Elagabal, AD 218-222
AE 30, 9.05g
bust, draped, diademed, r.
Galley with ten oars going r. Shield on stern post. Ram of prow shaped as dolphin. Aboard Dido, draped, stg. l., holding cornucopiae in l. arm and sceptre(?) in outstretched r. hand. Left beside her a second figure, ducked, holding vessel(?). Right beside her sailor stg. with unidentified object. Below ship to the left Murex shell, to the right prawn l.
Ref. Rouvier 2408

The legend is Latin because Tyrus was a Roman colony. For the second figure, stg. left of Dido, I have no explanation. I would be happy for any information! The Murex snail left below the ship is one of the two snail species from which in ancient times was made the purple. At the first time Phoenicia has the monopoly to do that hence its immense wealth. For 1g purple were needed 10000 snails! Until now you can find at the beach of Sidon's southern harbour shells in the height of some meters. The name Phoenicia is derived from the Greek word 'phoinix' meaning purple. In its own language the country was called Kanaan (in the Bible too!).

The myth of Dido and Aeneas is one of the most famous and most tragic love stories of ancient times. Sadly to say that it is only a Roman fiction! Here we have what is known actually:

First we meet Dido at Timaios: She was called Greek Theiosso (never known from other sources), but Phoenician Elissa; Deido she was called in Libya because of her odyssey (Serv. auct. Aen. 1, 340; but 'Dido id est virago Punica lingua'). Dido was the daughter of Mutto, king of Tyrus (or Methres, ref. to Serv. Aen. 1, 343; or Belus, ref. to Verg. Aen. 1, 621), and the sister of Pygmalion. When she was married to her uncle (Acherbas ref. to Iust., or Sychaeus ref. to Verg.), Pygmalion killed him of greed. Dido fearing her brother took the treasuries of her husband and fled together with several nobelmen to Libya. When she was forced by her own people to marry the Libyan king Hiarbas (Iust.) or Iarbas (Verg.) to avoid a threatening war she entered a pyre and stabbed a digger in her heart. The excerpt of Timaios is considerable shortened, more detailed is Iust. 18, 4-6, and the well known story Verg. Aen. 1, 335-368 and 4, 1 ff.; also Serv. and Ap. Lib. 1 report it: all referring to Jacoby without direct dependency from Timaios, but a source couldn't found yet. Iustinus reports names, which are missed in the fragment of Timaios, and tells details: Dido escaped her brother by fraud, who by appeals of their mother and threat of the gods decided not to pursue her. She landed on Kypros, where 60 virgins - following old rules - were addicted to her companions and then were raped as ancestor mothers of Carthage (the number referring to the number of Carthagian noble families?). In Libya she bought so much land "as could be encircled by the skin of a cow, wheron she cut the skin to small stripes, from where the castle of Carthage was called Byrsa = skin". But more correct that seems to be 'Bosra', meaning Phoenician 'castle'. Carthago means Phoenician 'New Town'. It developed as we all know to the most powerful city in the Western part of the Mediterranean and outlasted even the decline of its mother-town Tyrus. This all occured at the end of the 9th century BC. Josephus put it in the year 860 BC.

Disputed is who has invented the encounter with Aeneas and the lovestory. Formerly it was suggested that it were the first two books of Naevius; recent authors agreed with new arguments. But others voted for an invention of Vergil due to the doubts of Heinze. Sadly we could not obtaine safety; the love and following hostility between Dido and Aeneas belongs rather to the reasons of the Punic-Roman antagonism, despite Vergil's excellent description. Statements like those of Macr. or Anth. Plan. 16, 151, Vergil has talked Dido down, should not be taken in account. Dido was the paradigm of faithfulness and was seen so long after Vergil too! And the art and impact of Vergil was much bigger than that of Naevius.

Pure speculation is the suggestion that Dido represents the Carthagian city-goddess Tanit (Dea caelestis).

Der kleine Pauly
Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon
Iustinus, Epitome
Timaios von Tauromenion
Vergil, Aeneis
Ovid, Metamorphosen

Attached I have a pic of the famous painting of Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, The Death of Dido, from the midth of the 18th century. Today it is found in the Pushkin Museum of Arts in Moscow (copyright The Yorck Project).

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on May 07, 2006, 04:32:14 pm
Now I got additional informations to the coin of Tyrus I want to share with you.

On the right side of Dido was a sailor, damaged by cleaning. The figure on the left of Dido is throwing a sack int the sea. And here is the background (Justinus, lib. XIII):

When Dido's brother Pygmalion has heard that Dido wanted to leave Tyros with all the treasures of her killed husband he sent some of his people to her which should accompany her on the voyage to New-Tyrus. When Dido together with these people entered the ship she forced them to throw sacks filled with sand over the railing into the sea. After done that she told them that these sacks were the sacks with the treasures. Fearing the punishment of their new king Pygmalion these people decided to leave Tyrus too and went with Dido to New-Tyrus.

Referring to this story I think the figure at the helm of the galley is throwing a sack filled with sand into the sea!

Additionally I have attached the pic of a murex shell (correct named Hexaplex trunculus), in the same position as depicted on the reverse. The pic is from the collection of Eric Feldhuis/The Netherlands.

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Cleisthenes on May 14, 2006, 08:42:57 am
The Minotaur

Jochen and Learned Colleagues,

I am intrigued by what seems to be a connection between numismatic portrayals of the Minotaur and Pablo Picasso and his art, in a word: ekphrasis.

As Laura Crimaldi notes in her article "Minotaur Central to Picasso’s Work," Boston Herald, 28 April 2006, "For Pablo Picasso, the Minotaur wasn’t just a mythical figure, it was how he often depicted himself in his work: as half man, half monster."

I am including two coins and a Picasso composition for comparison.  The first coin is SICILY: Gela. Ca. 450–440 BC. AR tetradrachm (17.21 gm). Slow quadriga right, Nike flying right above to crown horses, palmette and tendrils in exergue / CELAS, forepart of man-faced bull running right. Jenkins 351 (O67/R137).  The second coin is KNOSSOS (425-330 BC). Obverse device is a Minotaur; Reverse head of Ariadne, surrounded by a meander pattern representing the labyrinth (CNG; SG-3211).  The Picasso is one of a series the artist composed throughout his lifetime.  I saw it as part of a travelling exhibit in Mumbai in the Spring of 2002.  It fascinated me then, and comparing these stunning works of art enhances, for me, their individual power.

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on May 14, 2006, 05:22:27 pm
Battos - the untrue herdsman

We have already talked about the birth of Hermes in this thread. Here we have a local myth playing at the first day after Hermes' birth, I came across when I browsed through my new AMNG. But first the coin:

Moesia inferior, Nikopolis ad Istrum, Gordian III AD 238-244
AE 27, 12.74g
obv. AVT KM ANT G - ORDIANOC AVG (AV ligate)
      Bust, draped and cuirassed, laureate, r.
      Hermes, nude, standing left leaned forwards, r. arm with lowered kerykeion rested on
      knee placed on rock, l. arm enwinded with chlamys and l. hand with purse stemmed in
      his side
AMNG 2057
about VF

In a note Pick writes about this type:
The object on which the god has put his l. foot looks like the head of a bearded man r. on all specimens; I think I can recognize eye and nose and from my point of view it can't be by accident. We can't think of Argos here but the depiction could refer to the not so wide known myth of Battos who was transformed by Hermes to stone due to his betrayal. (Ovid Metam. 2, 680-707)
The type is derived probably from a greater work of art, a statue or a painting, as I have stated already in my introduction.

The myth (ref. to Hederich):
Battos, an Arcadian, has his residence on a high rock, called Battos' look-out. So he soon became aware of Hermes when he has stolen part of Apollon's cattle and has droven them through Arcadia. To avoid that he tells this to someone who perhaps was following him and would ask for the cattle Hermes forced him to swear not to betray him. But he didn't trust him, hid the cattle in the Prionic cave at the Koryphasius mountain, changed his shape und went back to Battos. Then he promised him a chlaena, a dress, if he would tell him wether he has seen some cattle droven by. Because Battos liked to get the dress and told him what he knew of the cattle Hermes hit him with his staff and turned him to stone. Nicander ap. Anson. Liberal. Metam. c.22.
Some are telling that he was a herdsman of Neleus and that he first got a cow as gift; when thereafter the disguised Hermes promised him a beautiful cow and a bull, so he has broken his vow and told him where the cattle was gone. Because of that the stone into which he was transformed was called 'indicis', that means 'stone of proof'. Ovid Metam. 2, 687.
Meanwhile others thought that Hermes has made him only mute so that he had to go to Delphi to ask Apollon for advice and help. Ap. Nat. Com. lib. V. c.5.

Battos was a Messenian herdsman serving for the Pylian Neleus. He saw Hermes droving by the stolen cattle of Apollon and for the gift of a cow vowed silence toward anyone:"sooner that stone will tell it". To try out his fidelity Hermes came back in another shape and promised him a bull if he show him the cattle. Batts broke his vow and as punishment was turned into a stone. Ant. Lib. 23, Ovid Metam. 2, 676-707.
This seems to be a folk tale which refers by playful etymology (battolegein = to babble) to the Battou skopiai (the look-out of Battos) in Arcadia. This perhaps was a locality distinguished by an echo.
Referring to Hom. h. 3, 87f 185ff. the betrayer was a not named old man from Onchetos.

der kleine Pauly
Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon
Ovid, Metamorphoses

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Cleisthenes on May 24, 2006, 06:14:26 am
As I said in an earlier thread, I cautiously 'like' Hermes, in part because he is a"minor" patron of both poetry and thieves.

Cleisthenes (Jim)

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on May 25, 2006, 02:41:03 pm
Kadmos - Founder of Thebes

The coin:
Phoenicia, Sidon, Trajan, AD 98-117
AE 24, 8.72g
struck year 227 of Sidonian era = AD 116/7
bust, laureate, r.
Kadmos, nude to hips, stg. l. on prow, head r., pointing l. with outstretched r. hand; according to his mythology I think he is pointing to Greece while looking back to Sidon.
in l. field LZKS (retrograde for 227)
BMC 218; SNG Copenhagen 252; Lindgren-Kovacs 2329
rare, F+, green-red patina
(missed legend parts completed according to Seasr GIC 1087)

Kadmos was the son of the Phoenician king Agenor, son of Poseidon and Libye, and his wife Telephassa. His sister was Europa and his brothers Phoinix and Kilix. After Zeus has raped Europa in the shape of a bull, he was send out together with his brothers to search for Europa and to bring her home or never come back again. So he and his mother and some people of Sidon entered a ship and started the search. He strayed around the eastern Mediterranean and visited many islands. Drifted to Rhodos by a heavy storm he erected a temple for Poseidon. He came to Thera too, to Crete and Samothrace and everywhere he built temples. Finely he came to Thracia, where Telephassa died. Because he nowhere heard of  Europa he went to Delphi to ask the oracle. Apollo answered he should stop asking for Europa but should follow the cow which would lead him and build a town where the cow would lie down.

Kadmos followed the cow to Boiotia where she laid down and so pointed the place to build the town. But when he wanted to sacrify the cow to Athena and sent his men to get water from the spring of Ares they were killed and devoured by a huge dragon. That happened to others too. Hereupon Kadmos killed the dragon in a fight. Athena advised him to sow the teeth of the dragon on a field. After doing that a mass of armoured warriors rose from the earth and started to struggle against each other. All were killed except five. These - the so-called 'Spartoi' - became the ancestors of the subsequent Thebanians. He for himself had to serve one year as slave for Ares to expiate the murder of the dragon which was a son of Ares. This fight is said to happened at the Castalic spring. Furthermore Boiotia should have its name from this cow because cow in Greek is BOVS. Kadmos built at this place the castle Kadmeia which later became the city of Thebes (Homer called it the 'seven-gated Thebes' in contrary to the 'hundred-gated Thebes' in Egypt). The Ilias therefore called the Thebanians Kadmeioi.

Kadmos is said too to have brought the Phoenician alphabet to Greece. It is the alphabet which the Greek still used today and from which the Latin alphabet is derived too. He should have introduced the cult of Dionysos to Greece and he is said to be the inventor of the art of forging which was first done at the Pangaios mointain in Thracia.

The begin of his reign was very happy. Athena has provided him the castle and the town, and Zeus gave him Harmonia as wife, his daughter with Elektra (regarding to others the daughter of Ares with Aphrodite). This was a splendid marriage. All gods were aboard and make a present. Apoll and the Muses made the music. But then his fate turned into misfortune!

He has one son and four daughters. His son Polydoros was his successor to the throne. His first daughter was Semele who by Zeus gave birth to Dionysos but then was killed by his thunderbolt (see article in this thread). His second daughter was Ino who was forced by her mad husband to jump with her son Melikertes over the cliffs into the sea (see article in this thread). The third daughter was Autonoe who has with Aristaios the son Aktaion who was disrupted by his own dogs. The last one was Agaue, wife of Echion, who in furiousness ruptured her own son Pentheus.

After all that bad luck Kadmos and Harmonia left Thebes and went to Illyria where he helped the Encheleerians(?) in their war against the Illyrians and became king of Illyria thereafter. Shortly after that Kadmos and Harmonia were turned by Zeus into snakes and put to the Elysian Fields.

The reason for all the terrible desaster of his family was Hera who wanted to avange the infidelity of her husband Zeus who had betrayed her with Europa, sister of Kadmos, and then with his daughter Semele.

Some background:
The name Kadmos can be derived from Phoenician 'Cadam', meaning 'the morning'. Then Kadmos would be the man from the morning, man from the East. In Thebes recently are found 36 Babylonian cylinder seals - besides important cretic-mycenian art work -, so that a strong orientalic impact in Kadmeia is proofed.
Essential is the connection with Illyria at the end of his life where a local cult site is incorporated into the myth of Kadmos. At the end of Euripides' Bacchoi Dionysos predicts that Kadmos and Harmonia would go by a bull chariot in the shape of snakes to a strange people; as leader of this people he would campaign against Hellas until Delphi was sacked; then this people would come to an evil end, but Kadmos and Harmonia leaded by Zeus would enter the land of the blessed. The transformation into snakes means heroisation and is identical to translation to Elysium. Therefore Ovid (Met. 4, 562ff.) put it to the end of his life but as punishment for killing the dragon. Why Kadmos left Thebes is told differently. That he has helped the Enchelleerians(?) is told by Apollodor. Referring to him he has a late son, Illyrios. The graves of Kadmos and Harmonia were shown near Epidamnos.
The Greek 'Kadmeia nike' was used in the same way as our Pyrrhic Victory. It is known from Herodot and Plato.
Alltogether Kadmos was seen as important bringer of culture to the Greek. They were well aware that their scripture was from the East and that the workmanship of iron came from the East too. A funny interpretation of the struggle of the teeth-borne warriors is from Alkias: He suggested that the warriors actually were scholars who have originated from the brought letters (the teeth of the dragon!) and since that time were bashing their heads!

The history of Thebes in mythology is a chain of desasters. I remind on the myth of Eteokles and Polydeikes and the myth of the Seven against Thebes and the following myth of the Epigones.

This is true for the real history of Thebes too. By the unfortunate politicy of its rulers here also one misfortune follows the other until the city was totally destroyed by Alexander the Great and the inhabitants were sold as slaves. To see these parallels between mythology and history is very weird!
Art history:
In ancient times the fight between Kadmos and the dragon was a favourite subject which was depicted several times on vases. Here we have the red-figured picture of a crater found near  Paestum from the time of 360-340 BC attributed to Python. It is now in the Louvre. We see Kadmos holding a Hydria in front of the dragon of the Ismenic spring near Thebes. He is accompanied by Harmonia on the left side. On the right side Ismene is standing, the Najad of this spring.
Hederich, Gründliches Mythologisches Lexikon
Der kleine Pauly, Kadmos and Thebai
Ovid, Metamorphoses

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Cleisthenes on May 26, 2006, 08:14:42 am
In an interesting variation on the fate of Kadmos (Ovid's Metamorphoses) the story goes:  Kadmos (Cadmus) was so upset by the 'bad luck' that hounded him since his slaying of the serpent, that he declared that if the gods loved serpents so much, why not transform him into one.  Well, we know what happened; he began to grow scales and change in form. Harmonia, his devoted wife, seeing this metamorphosis, pleaded with the gods to transform her as well.

In yet another variation of this story, Cadmus and his wife were changed after their deaths (perhaps they found some respite in Illyria after all).  The serpents watched their tomb until their spirits made their trip to the Elysian fields.

I have two coins, the reverse of which, depict Kadmos.  I've also included a work of art on display in New York.

The coins:  Gallienus, Æ28 of Tyre in Phoenicia. IMP C P LIC GALLIENVS AVG, Radiate draped bust right / COL TYRO MET, Kadmos, right arm raised, battling serpent.

Elagabalus Æ 30mm of Phoenicia, Tyre. Laureate, draped bust right / Kadmos running right; murex below. Lindgren III 1471.

The art: a montage of several photos of a vase.  K28.2 KADMOS & THE DRAKON

Museum Collection: Metropolitan Museum, New York City, USA
Catalogue Number: New York 07.286.66
Beazley Archive Number: 207136
Ware: Attic Red Figure
Shape: Krater, calyx
Painter: Attributed to the Spreckels Painter
Date: ca 450 BC
Period: Classical


Kadmos arrives at the sacred Ismenian spring with a jug (hydria) to collect water for libations. He casts a stone at the guardian serpent (drakon). Beside the spring sits Ismene, the local Naias Nymphe, or Harmonia, daughter of Ares, the future wife of the hero. Two gods, Athene and Ares, stand on each side, one in support of the hero, the other of the serpent.


Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on May 28, 2006, 11:09:11 am
Darzalas - The Great God of Odessos

Today I want to present one of the most mysterious gods of the Greek mythology, the Great God of Odessos Darzalas. Actually he is more a Thracian god. But very few is known about him. Here is what I could find out. But first three related coins:

1st coin
Thracia, Odessos, Septimius Severus, AD 193-211
AE 27, 9.9g
  • C P
        bust, draped and cuirassed, laureate, r.
rev. O - DHCCE - ITWN
       The Great God of Odessos, in himation, stg. l., holding cornucopiae and sacrifying
       from phiale over altar l.
AMNG cf. 2260 (here gorgoneion on breastplate); SNG Copenhagen 672 var.
note: The great God still without kalathos!

2nd coin:
Thracia, Odessos, Gordian III & the Great God, AD 238-244
AE 27, 11.31g
       Confronted busts of Gordian III, draped and cuirassed, laureate, r., and the Great
       God, in himation and with kalathos, l., with cornucopiae over l. shoulder
rev. OD - HCC - EITWN
       Demeter, veiled, with peplos over long chiton, stg. l., holding corn-ear and puppy
       in r. hand and torch (or sceptre?) in l. hand
       E in r. field (for pentassarion)
AMNG 2337 (only 1 ex. in London)
note: Demeter too is a chthonic deity!

3rd coin:
Thracia, Odessos, Gordian III and the Great God, AD 238-244
AE 27, 11.40g
struck probaly AD 238
       Confronted busts of Gordian III, draped and cuirassed, laureate, r., and the Great
       God, in himation and with kalathos, l., with cornucopiae over l. shoulder
rev. ODHC - C - EITWN     
      Prize-crown, decorated with zigzag-lines, inscribed with 'DARZALEIA'; two
      palm-branches coming out the opening
      E in the field below (for pentassarion)
AMNG 2371 (2 ex.)
note: The DARZALEIA were the games in honour of the Great God (Pick, AMNG,
        p.526 ff.)

The Thracians in ancient times inhabitant the regions from north of Greece to the Lower Danube. They were consisted of numerous particular nations. The most famous  were the Odryses. The most important of the mountain people were the Besses, the last conquered by the Romans. The Moesi were the remainders of the Mysi which emigrated to Asia Minor. On both sides of the Lower Danube settled the Geti. They populated too parts of the Aegaeis and parts of Asia Minor. So f.e. Samothrace was Thracian shown already by its name. Herodot writes (Herodot, Hist. 5,3) that the Thracians after the Indians were the greatest people on earth. But they never succeeded in founding an empire for its own because they were at odds with each other and were at war with one another very often. However they had the same language and their conventions were all the same. They all were ruled by priest kings.

The connections between the Greek and the Thracians were very close in both directions. Orpheus and Museios were Thracians. Dionysos (Thracian dios = Zeus, nysos = son) has his origin probably at the phrygian Thracians, came to the european Thracians and then slowly spread to Greece  in the 8th century BC. Asklepios too was a Thracian (Thracian as = snake, klepi = to entwine a staff). But it was true in the other direction too. The Thracian gods were named referring to Greek gods. The Thracian kings derived their origin from Hermes. The Thracian Mother Goddess Bendis, mentioned by Herodot and Platon was called the Thracian Artemis. In the Thracian pantheon she was regarded as Great Goddess and probably the Thracian kings were hold as her sons. This is supported by the names Teres and Kotys  of several kings and which were actually derived from the epitheta Tereia and Kotyto of Artemis.

Most of the Thracian deities were of chthonic nature. They were earth and fertility deities with strong relations to the underworld. The most important difference between Greek and Thracian religion was their belief in a life after death. This was absolut weird to the Greek. But their belief was so strong that it was told the Thracians had joyfully celebrated the death but had wept at the birth of a child. This faith was the reason too for the dreaded courage of the Thracian horsemen who didn't take care for their lifes in fight. This could be a reason too that the Christian belief was not strange to them and fell on fertile ground, so that their own religion died off in the 4th century AD.

On top of the Thracian pantheon stood the 'Thracian Rider', who is depicted on many coins. He was rather a symbol of god as creator of all earthly than the personification of a particular deity. The horse was regarded as holy to the Thracians and gods like Apollon, Dionysos, Asklepios and Ares were depicted as horsemen too. So Greek deities were melted with Thracians beliefs. This happened especially in Hellenistic and Roman times in the Greek cities of the Pontos (Black Sea), the Aegaeis and the Propontis (Sea of Marmara). The cults of Isis and Serapis exclusively spread at the coast whereas the inland mainly stayed Thracian.

This was true especially for the 'Great of God of Odessos Darzalas'. Darzalas was one of the more important deities of the Thracians and under this name became the main god of Odessos, todays Varna in Bulgaria. So he kept his old Thracian name. He was a underworld and fertility god, was called just 'Great God (= Megas Theos)' as well or only 'God'. Today it is discussed wether there was an impact of the Jewish diaspora too. He was similar to the Greek Serapis in his appearance. So it could be that the same god was warshipped by the Thracians as Darzalas and by the Greek as Serapis or Zeus. The analogy between them was great. Both were depicted as older men full-bearded, with flowing hair and wearing himation. In the Roman Imperial time at least from Septimius Severus on the Great God got the kalathos (lat. modus) too. This similarity of look is the reason that both often are not differentiated in coin descriptions today. But the typical attribute of the Great God is the cornucopiae never found in Serapis! Sometimes it is difficult to recognize it on the coin obverse because it extends to the legend.

The history of development of both gods is very different. Serapis is an artificial deity created by Ptolemy I because of political and religious-political reasons. He mixed together elements of the Egypt death god Osiris-Apis with the Zeus-shaped ruler of the world. The Great God in contrast, the syncretisation of a Thracian god with Greek beliefs, developed in a natural wise over a long time. At first Megas Theos occured on coins of the 3rd century BC in the shape of a rider. Here we find another melting process with the Thracian rider hero. The name Megas Theos we see on a tetradrachm of the 2rd century BC.

Sadly very few is known of its cult. It was a combination of Greek and Thracian ideas. At the height of its importance it was surely connected to the belief in a life after death and healing. It was widely spread over the people of Thracia and Moesia inferior and people of all social levels and all ethnics belong to its devotees. At this time a temple was built in Istrion too and coins were struck with his image at Tomis, Markianopolis and Dionysopolis too. As we know there was never a mystery cult with secret communities and hierarchies.

The priests of the Great God have played an important role in Odessos. His Highpriest was the president of the assemblage of the citizens. In honour of Darzalas games were organized at the time of Gordian III, the so-called DARZALEIA, a name found on a coin of Odessos. These games took place in AD 238 probably in the presence of the emperor (Pick, AMNG, p.528).

(will be continued)

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on May 28, 2006, 11:13:05 am

I have attached the pic of a grave of Asklepios, a priest of Darzalas, now in the Regional Museum of History in Varna. It was found in Odessos and shows him together with his wife Ani and two of their slaves. The inscription says, that he was one of the distinguished citizens: he was a "senior town's doctor" and a priest of the Great God Darzalas, a gymnasiarchos and a bearer of a number of honourable titles. The elements of a full armament are shown below the relief: a round shield with a horse's head and a spear showing behind it, a helmet, a sword with a leather strap, greaves. This too proofs the close connection between Darzalas and the Thracian Rider. So, referring to Pudill,  the Great Gott of Odessos Darzalas is the outstanding example for continuity of cults and syncretism in Thracia.

Der kleine Pauly, Thrakien
Pick, AMNG I/1
Rainer Pudill, The Great God of Odessos Darzalas, Celator 10/15, Okt. 2001 (for the grave)

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Cleisthenes on May 30, 2006, 06:19:45 am

Once again I have to say that your post in very interesting.  I bet I have said that five or six times recently, but it is the truth.  I had never heard of Darzalas before your post.  The only thing I have to offer derives from research at WILDWINDS.

Odessus was an ancient Thracian town, at the present location of Varna, dating back to 560 B.C., and was an important trade, agricultural, craft and cultural center. The Greeks adopted the deity Darzalas, the ''great god'' of the northern Thracian tribe called the Getai, as their own great god (Theos Megas), and minted coins bearing Darzalas's likeness, similar in design to the Greek god Kronos riding a horse. Coinage of Odessus was issued for some seven centuries.

Here is a description of an interesting coin whose reverse depicts Darzalas (Herous, Kronos):  Thrace, Odessos Æ20. ca 200 BC. Laureate head of Zeus right / Herous, the Rider God of Odessos, riding right on high stepping horse, cloak flying behind him, EL below, ODHSITWN in ex.

Cheers, Jim (Cleisthenes)

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on June 03, 2006, 03:12:25 pm

Here is the new coin:

Phoenicia, Tyre, Trajan AD 98-117
AR - Tetradrachm, 13.96g, 24mm
struck year 17 (IZ) = AD 112/13
bust, laureate, r.; club behind, eagle beneath
bust of Melqart, laureate, r., lion's skin tied around neck
Prieur 1517

And here the information:

Melqart as *mlk-qrt 'King of the City' originally was the City God of Tyre. So he appears already as 'Mi-il-qa-tu' in the list of vow gods in the treaty of Asarhaddon with Baal of Tyre. But the oldest reference we have is an Aramaic inscription of Barhadad found in Bredsch in Northern Syria. Probably there was a trinity between Melqart, Baal and Astarte, the female synhedros of the two.

The cult of Melqart then spread out to Arados, Kition, Thasos, Sicily and Sardinia, Spain (Gades, today Cadiz, was a centre of his worshipping), probably Etruria and especially Northern Africa. In Carthage Melqart was one of the main gods even though his name was seldom found on inscriptions. But he is named as Herakles in a treaty between Hannibal and Philipp V of Makedonia. So it must be assumed that everywhere where in later times a Herakles-likeness was worshipped originally a Melqart cult was established! Alexander Severus introduced the cult of Melqart from Leptis Magna to Rome.

Yet unexplained is the sphere of action of Melqart. His temples were without idols or statues of deities. Worshipped were stone columns, often in duplicate. I remind of the two ambrosial rocks which played an import role in the founder myth of Tyre. On his altars eternal fires were burning. But because he is depicted on coins as riding on a hippocampus he is hold as a Sea God too, in contrast to Baal who as is generally known was a Mountain God. So Melqart was a Sailor God too and was worshipped on promontories; f.e. as rs-mlqrt 'Cape of Melqart' = Herakleia Minoa on Sicily.

The Phoenicians were masters of architecture. The Melqart temple in Tyre was highly praised by Herodot, at his time already called temple of Herakles. This temple was in its time the most important architectural monument of the Eastern Mediterranean. King Hiram of Tyre sent a trade mission to David; he provided him with cedar logs and with stonemasons and carpenters to build a palace. (1. Chronicles 1:1). King Salomon sent for masters builders of Tyre for building the temple in Jerusalem for him. So the famous temple of Salomon (the so-called 1st temple) probably was a copy of the Melqart temple in Tyre. This temple showed 2 big columns, one made of gold the other made of precious stones, which were called 'Columns of Melqart'. That name later was assigned to the Rock of Gibraltar too and then altered to 'Columns of Herakles'. By the way the name Gibraltar is derived from Tarek ibn Ziyad, conquerer of Spain AD 711, as 'Dschebel al Tarik' = Rock of Tarik.

Today it is assumed tat Melqart originally was a manifestation of the Phoenician god of vegetation. That is affirmed by reports that at first Hiram of Tyre has made a 'raising (greek egersis) of Herakles' (Menander at Ios. ant. Iud. 8, 5, 3) in the month of Peritios (= Febr./March). Variationally Eudoxos of Knodos reports that Herakles was killed by Typhon (= Baal Hammon?) during a journey through Libya, but then resuscitated by Iolaos using the smell of quails.

Like many other Syrian gods Melqart - as Herakles too - later gets features of the Sun God. On coins therefore his symbols are eagle and lion. At the coin shown here the melting with Herakles is finished: He too bears the lion's skin and the club.

Wether Melqart is identical with Moloch the infamous god of the Old Testament to whom children were sacrified is discussed controversial. But it is known that in these times human sacrifices were widely spread, see Abraham who was ready to sacrifice his son Isaak to Jahwe. In contrast Melikertes who was highly venerated in Corinth (look at the contribution in this thread) was probably identical with Melqart. It is known that there were colonies of Phoenicians in Greece, who naturally have taken along their religious cults.

Der kleine Pauly  (Highly recommended to all interested in the Phoenicians!) (Pic of the temple of Tyre)

I have attached a pic of the temple of Melqart as it is seen today.
Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on June 09, 2006, 04:10:34 pm
Tyre and the Ambrosial rocks

The coin:
Phoenicia, Tyre, Elagabal AD 218-222
AE 27, 11.71g
       bust, draped and cuirassed, laureate, r.
rev. TV - RI - O - RVM
      Two baetylic stones (the so-called 'Ambrosial rocks'), standing each on a base, between
      them Holy Oil-tree
      in ex: dog of Herakles, walking r., finding Myrex-shell
SNG Rughetti 2344; BMC Penivcia, pl. XLIV, 7 and p.cxli, para 2, citing a spec. from Berlin
rare, F (sadly!)
From Forum Ancient Coins, thank you!

The rev. of this coin refers to the founding myth of Tyre. It is reported in the 'Dionysiaka' by Nonnos of Panopolis. Here the Tyrian Herakles Astrochiton appears, a Light God and fire master in a star cloak on whose altar the thousand year old Phoenix is burning himself and
then regenerated resurges. This god reports of the 'Ambrosial rocks', which are floating on the sea. Between them entwined by a snake a mighty oil-tree was growing with an eagle which lives on its branches in an eyrie. A gorgeous bowl was there too - a precursor of the Holy Grail. All was enbedded in fire which didn't burn the branches or leafs. It is told of an oracle which commanded the first man on earth to built a ship, go to the floating rocks, and capture the eagle and sacrifice him. So he did. After that the two rocks grew together, stranded at the beach of Poenicia, and Tyre was founded on them.

Tyre was founded by Sidonian colonists 2000-3000 BC on two rocky islands in front of the coast of Phoenicia.The first historical documents are from around 1250 BC. Jesaja called Tyre correctly 'daughter of Sidon'. Soon it outflanked its mother by power and glory. It was called 'Queen of sea'. Actually king Hiram connected the two islands by heaping up with soil. Because of its wealth it soon attracted conquerors like Nebukadnezar who 13 years besieged it but without success. It was assumed to be impregnable because it was a fortress situated in the sea like St.Malo in Brittany. It was Alexander the Great who succeeded in conquering it. He built a causeway from the land to the island and so he took Tyre. This causeway was maintained so that Tyre (todays Sur in Libane) became a peninsula until now. The word 'Tyros' is derivated from the Pheonician 'tor', meaning rock (cp. Hebrew 'tzur'). The two Tyrian rocks could be two baetylic rocks too which stood in front of the temple of Melqart built by king Hiram and were worshipped in Tyre. Their name later was transferred to the rock of Gibraltar (look at the contribution to Melqart in this thread)

I have an additional question to the dog of Herakles which always appears in the description of this coin. I know Kerberos and then there was a dog of the herdsman in the adventure with Geryon which were killed by Herakles. But a dog as his companion I don't know. Anyone who can enlighten me? He would make me happy!

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on June 10, 2006, 01:13:23 pm
Artemis Tauropolos and Iphigenia

I want to present here a coin whose mythological relations goes to the myths of the Atreids.

Macedonia, Amphipolis, Tiberius, AD 14-37
AE 22, 8.05g
obv. TI KAISAR SE - BASTOS (beginning lower right, to read upwards)
rev. AMFIPOLITWN (lower l. and r.)
      Artemis Tauropolos in long clothes sitting frontal and looking r., abdomen slightly
      turned r., on a bull, leaping r. with head turned frontal, raising with both hands a
      corner of her garment above the head so that it is inflated arched. (Description by
      Gaebler, AMNG III!)
AMNG III, 73 (1 ex. in Berlin); BMC 80; SNG ANS 169; RPC 1632; SGI 259
Very rare, about VF, nice green patina, bold portrait

The epitheton 'Tauropolos' comes from Euripides. Its meaning is not definitely clarified but it is general consensus that Artemis Tauropolos is identical to the Taurian Artemis, called Scythian Diana too. Tauria, land of the Tauri, is the todays Crimean peninsula, the ancient Taurian Chersonessos. How the Taurian Artemis came from the Crimean peninsula to Greece? This is told by Euripides in his famous tragedies 'Iphigenia in Aulis' and 'Iphigenia in Tauris'.


Iphigenia was the daughter of the Mycenian king Agamemnon and his wife Klytaimnestra. When the Greek armada was laying in the harbour of Aulis and was hindered by Artemis to sail, because Agamemnon has killed a hind of Artemis, the Greek ask Kalchas, the great seer, what to do. He gave order to the Greek to sacrify Iphigenia on an altar to mitigate the rage of Artemis. When Agamemnon enforcedly agreed Odysseus and Diomedes took Iphigenia to Aulis by the false pretences to betrouth her to Achilleus. In the very last moment Artemis exchanged her with a hind and abducted her to Tauria making Iphigenia to her priestress. One of her duties was to sacrify all strangers which were stranding at the coasts of the Taurian Chersonessos. Once she recognized between them her brother Orestes accompanied by Pylades who were ordered by the oracle of Delphi to bring the cult-statue of Artemis from Tauria to Greece. Iphigenia enabled them to get the statue and fled with them back to Greece.

The legends of the Taurian Artemis are mystical, and her worship was orgiastic and connected, at least in early times, with human sacrifices. According to the Greek legend there was in Tauris a goddess, whom the Greeks for some reason identified with their own Artemis. and to whom all strangers that were thrown on the coast of Tauris, were sacrificed (Eurip. Iph. Taur. 36). Iphigeneia and Orestes brought her image from thence, and landed at Brauron in Attica, whence the goddess derived the name of Brauronia (Paus. i. 23.9, 33.1, iii. 16, in fin.). The Brauronian Artemis was worshipped at Athens and Sparta, and in the latter place the boys were scourged at her altar in such a manner that it became sprinkled with their blood. This cruel ceremony was believed to have been introduced by Lycurgus, instead of the human sacrifices which had until then been offered to her (Dict. of Ant. s. v. Brauronia and Diamastigosis). Her name at Sparta was Orthia, with reference to the phallus, or because her statue stood erect. According to another tradition, Orestes and Iphigeneia concealed the image of the Taurian goddess in a bundle of brushwood, and carried it to Aricia in Latium.Iphigeneia, who was at first to have been sacrificed to Artemis, and then became her priestess, was afterwards identified with the goddess (Herod. iv. 103; Paus. i. 43.1), who was worshipped in some parts of Greece, as at Hermione, under the name of Iphigeneia (Paus. ii. 35.1). Some traditions stated, that Artemis made Iphigeneia immortal, in the character of Hecate, the goddess of the moon. A kindred divinity, if not the same as the Taurian Artemis, is Artemis tauropolos, whose worship was connected with bloody sacrifices, and who produced madness in the minds of men, at least the chorus in the Ajax of Sophocles, describes the madness of Ajax as the work of this divinity. In the legends about the Taurian Artemis, it seems that separate local traditions of Greece are mixed up with the legends of some Asiatic divinity, whose symbol in the heaven was the moon, and on the earth the cow.

Temples of the Artemis Tauropolos are found besides Brauron in the Cappadocian Kommana, on the Islands of Ikarion and Samos and in Amphipolis.

I have added a pic of the fresco from Pompeji from the 1st century AD. The most famous picture was a painting of Timanthes. Sadly it was lost. We know its description by Pliny the Elder. It is assumed that this fresco from Pompeji shows a reflex of the lost painting. We see the half-clothed Iphigenia dragged by Odysseus and Diomedes to the altar, at the right side the seer Kalchas is standing, at the left side Agamemnon veiled his head. Standing on the column left we see Artemis with two stags, coming to save Iphigenia.

Der kleine Pauly
William Smith, A dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology, 1873
Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon
Irene Aghion/Claire Barbillon/Francois Lissarrague, Reclams Lexikon der antiken
           Götter und Heroen in der Kunst

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on June 27, 2006, 05:15:43 pm
To avoid abstinence phenomen symptoms here another contribution:

The Lokrian Aias

We have talked in this thread about the Telamonian Aias some time before. Now here we have the other one, the Lokrian Aias, also called the Lesser Aias. But he is not less interesting than the Greater Aias. He is a famous example of human hybris.

The coin:
Lokris, Lokris Oputia, c.380-338 BC
AR - hemidrachm, 15mm, 2.4g
obv. Head of Demeter/Persephone (or Artemis/Arethusa?), wearing earring, necklace and
       wreath from corn-ears, l., so-called Euainetos type.
rev. [OPON - TIWN]
      Ajas, nude, except crested Corinthian helmet and shield, advancing r. with pulled out
      short sword, below spear laying.
Jenkins (1972) 266-7; Brett 959-961
Note: Euainetos was a famous die cutter from Syracuse c.400 BC. The obv. portrait imitates his style.

Aias was the son of king Oileus of Lokris at the Thessalian coast and his wife Eriopis. Therefore he was called the Lokrian Aias or Aias Oileus too. He was one of the suitors of Helena which then Paris took to Troy. That was the reason that he led the Lokrians in forty ships against Troy, where he distinguished himself as a fast runner and good spear shooter. Often he was fighting together with the great Telamonian. At the funeral games of Patroklos he proved as termagent; in the race with Odysseus Athena caused him to make a false step.
After the fall of Troy he tried to rape Kassandra, daughter of the Troyan king Priamos and priestress of Athena. During this attempt the palladium, the cult statue of Athena, to which Kassandra has fled, was overturned. Referring to others Aias has really dishonoured Kassandra. When the Greek by an advice of Odysseus wanted to stone him he fled to the altar and saved himself by a false oath accusing the witness Agamemnon as liar. But Agamemnon won in this conflict and Aias fled with his ship over the sea. To punish him Athena went to king Nauplios of Euboia and caused him to take revenge on the Greeks because they have stoned to death his son Palamedes on a perfidious machination of Odysseus. Nauplios lightened a beacon on reefs so that the ships of Aias were misdirected and shattered. Homer in contrast describes the ruin of Aias as work of Athena and Poseidon alone. As punishment Athena threw a thunderbolt of Zeus in his ship. When Poseidon saved him by a big wave to a cliff he - still being on the rock - started to vapor that he has escaped the sea against the will of the gods. There Poseidon with his trident split the cliff and Aias was pulled down in the deep. This is said to be happened at the Cephareian cliffs.   

Already in ancient times the double name was mentioned. Robert and v.d.Mühll assume, that the two Aias' have developed by doubling or forking of an original sole being; the case that divine saviors often appear paired (f.e. the Dioskurs) has stimulated the separation. By the Lokrians Aias was highly worshipped. In a battle they left a place free for him. When once a hostile military leader (Autoleon of Kroton) tried to use this free place to make a break-in into the lines of the Lokrians he got a heavy wound at his hip which would not heal until after an oracle he reconciled with the ghost of Aias. By the way there were hundreds of years special cultic relations between the Lokrians and the city of Ilion.

Art history:
We have about hundred Attic vase paintings which show the intrusiveness of Aias against Kassandra who has fled to the cult statue. On the oldest paintings the statue seems to be alive, she points with the spear  to Aias whereas the undersized Kassandra sought for help at her feet. On the red-figured vase paintings since c.500 BC Kassandra mostly is shown nude so accentuating the erotic aspect of the scene. The same scene is found in the Pompejian paintings, on an Etruscan mirror and several cameos. In the post-ancient painting the 'Lesser Aias' is seldom seen. On a painting of Rubens (c.1616, Vaduz, SL) he is grabbing for Kassandra; a fresco of Rosso Fiorentino (1536) in the gallery Francois I in Fontainebleau shows the wreckage of Aias, undoubtless an allusion to the unfortunate luck of this French king.

I have attached the pic of a red-figured painting of the Lykurgos painter c.370-360 (Wikipedia) which shows Aias when he tried to pull Kassandra from the statue to which she cling.

Appolodor, Epitome 5, 22-23, 6, 6
Euripides, Trojan women 48-97; Andromache 293-300
Homer, Ilias 2, 527-535; Odyssee 4, 449-511
Aghion/Barbillon/Lissarrague, Lexikon der antiken Götter und Heroen in der Kunst, Reclam
Der kleine Pauly
Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on June 30, 2006, 04:42:40 pm
The Herakles Farnese

Only some notes to this famous depiction.

The coin:
Caracalla AD 197-217
AE 31, 17.16g
       Bust, draped and cuirassed, laureate, l., holding shield with gorgoneion, top of
       spear behind
       Herakles, nude, standing r., crooked forward, r. foot set backward, l. hand behind
       back, holding lion skin over l. arm and resting with l. hand on his club, which
       stands on a heap of 9 stone bowls (Farnese type)
Ruzicka 592; Moushmov 4300
rare, about VF

The statue:
The statue of the Herakles Farnese is a marble copy of a lost Hellenistic bronze statue of Lysipp of Sikyon c.330 BC, who has worked for Alexander the Great. The copy was made by the Roman artist Glykon of Athens c.211-217 AD. It was found 1540 in the Thermes of Caracalla in Rome and then erected in the Farnesian gardens (hence the name). Goethe has seen this statue 1787 AD and regarded it as the most important Roman sculpture. The coin shows a copy which probably was positioned in the gardens or parks of Pautalia which was known as famous bath (Ruzicka).

The depiction of the Herakles Farnese is interesting and curious too because it shows the great heroe not in the usual heroic position but in the state of fatigue. Hence the discrepancy which always has made this statue so appealing. It shows the heroe after he has received the apples of the Hesperides which he - as commonly suggested - holds hidden behind his back. To get these apples he had to take the globe - which otherwise the giant Atlas bore on his shoulders - for himself because only Atlas was able to get these apples. When Atlas came back with the apples he refused to take back the globe but Herakles outwitched him. He offered to him to bear the globe if only he could lay a pillow under the globe because the globe was pressing so much. Atlas was dumb enough to take the globe - only for short as he assumed  - and Herakles removed himself with the apples. The garden of Hesperides is said to be found in Lybia/Northern Africa on a promontory at the gulf of Syrte.
BTW the famous Hercules in Kassel/Germany too is the Farnese type!

Attached is the Herakles Farnese now in the Museo Nazionale in Naples.

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on July 09, 2006, 04:28:16 pm
Europa and the bull

Here we have the story of one of Zeus' many lovestories. But if we look at Europa she seems to estimate the abduction!

The coin:
Elagabal AD 218-222
AE 27, 11.8g
Bust, draped and cuirassed, seen from behind, laureate, r.
rev. Europa, nude to hips, head r., sitting on bull, leaping r., holding with one hand
horn of bull and with the other hand veil, blowing in the wind over her head.
BMC 235
rare, F/about VF

Europa was the daughter of the Phoenician king Agenor and his wife Telephassa. Her brothers were Kadmos, Phoinix, Kilix, Thasos and Phineus.
Zeus fell in love with Europa and gave order to Hermes to drove Agenor's cattle to the coast of Tyros where Europa together with her companions used to promenade. Zeus for himself joined the herd in the shape of a snow-white bull with a big neck fold and small gemlike horns. Europa was overwhelmed by his beauty. When she found him gentle like a lamb she overcame her fear and began to play with him. She put flowers in his mouth and hung girlands over his horns. Finely she climbed on his shoulders and trotted down with him to the sea-coast. Suddenly he swam away and she looked full of amazement back to the remaining coast. With one hand she hold his right horn, with the other a basket with flowers. Near of Gortynas on Crete he went on land, transformed himself to an eagle and raped Europa in a willow bush at a well. Other say this happened under a evergreen sycamore tree. There are coins too which show this scene. She gave birth to three sons: Minos, Rhadamanthys and Sarpedon. After that Europa married another husband, Asterion, who raised her children.

As always the facts behind the myth are more complicated as the myth itself. Beside the heroine Europa who is the protagonist of our story there were a nymph, the Okeanid Europa, according to her the Greek named the continent. The connection between the Okenanid Europa and the continent was already mysterious to Herodot.

In Boiotia Europa was an Earth Goddess, hidden and saved by Zeus in a cave near Teumessos. Here Demeter had the surname Europa. This proved his high age. The Boiotian Europa very early was connected with the other Europa abducted by Zeus and then mother of Minos. Doubtless the myth goes back to Minoic circumstances: sacrifying bulls, bull games with the participation of women, the cult of the heaven's bull, the experience of the sea. The holy sycamore tree with the hieros gamos (the holy marriage) is mentioned by Pliny.

The etymology is unclear until now. Mostly the semitic word for 'evening' (greek erebos) is seen as origin of the name Europa. Nevertheless a Greek origin is not excluded (greek euruopa = 'widely sounding or looking'). The Greek at first recognized Europa as the Greek mainland in contrast to the Peleponnesos and the islands. After the Persian wars the term was expanded to whole Greece. Already from the 7th century BC on this name adhered at the Middle Hellas and then was kept as regional and local name in Macedonia and Thessalia until the end of ancient times. There were some cities in Thessalia and Macedonia and a river in Thessalia with this name. So the word Europa was linked from the beginning of time to the peninsula of the Balkans and Pindos. Behind these facts all other explanations have to retreat, even mythological ones! Herodot has differentiated between 3 continents: Europa, Asia and Libyen. Middle and Norther Europe however were unknown to him. Of the course of the river Istros he had only vague ideas. As border between Europa and Asia from Herodot on the river Tanais (the todays river Don) was seen. Whereas Europa once was seen as the biggest continent at the end of ancient times it was realistic seen as the smallest.
Art of history:
Several ancient depictions of a woman on the back of a bull could be connected to the myth of Europa (Metope of temple Y in Selinunt, about 560 BC; Palermo, MA - metope of the house of treasures of the Sikyons, 1st half of the 6th century BC; Delphi, Mus. - Hydria of the Berlin painter, about 500 BC; Oxford, AM). The same type of picture indeed was used for the abduction of a mainad by the bull of Dionysos, but ivy and grape-vine could be used for determination. In the Middle Ages the abduction of Europa was seen in conjunction with the constellation of Taurus but was seen too as allegory of the triumph of love over chastity. Referring to the 'Ovide moralise' from the beginning of the 14th century AD the transformation of Zeus into the bull resembles the incarnation of Christ, and the abduction of Europa the elevation of the human soul to God.

As in ancient times so in the Baroque too, which has often handled this subject, Europa and her companions with the crowned bull were shown at the beach, so by Poussin (drawing, about 1649/50; Stockholm, NM) and before by Veronese (1573; Venice, Palace of the Doges), but most often the bull is shown already in the waves of the sea with Europa who - appaled or calm - hold tight the horns of that bull (Tizian, 1559-62; Boston/Mass., GM). Depictions of Europa are found within the work of Rubens (about 1630, Prado), Rembrandt (1632; Malibu, GM), Claude Lorrain (1647; Amsterdam, RM) and Boucher (1734; London, WC - 1747; Louvre) to name only some of them. Ingres has taken as paradigm fo his picture in the  Fogg Art Museum in Cambridge a greek vase.

- Der kleine Pauly
- Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon
- von Ranke-Graves, Griechische Mythologie
- Ovid, Metamorphosen II, 27
- Aghion/Barbillon/Lissarrague, Lexikon der antiken Götter und Heroen in der Kunst, Reclam

I have attached the following:
1. A pic of the famous wall painting 'The abduction of Europa' from the casa de nave in
    Pompeji, about 1st century BC, now in the National Museum.
2. The pic from a cut-out of the famous floor mosaic of Sparta, now in the Archaeological
    Museum in Sparta
3. The pic of the Greek 2 Euro piece which shows a cut-out of the above mosaic in Sparta.

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on July 12, 2006, 05:12:11 pm
I have moved the index to the end of the thread!

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Akropolis on July 12, 2006, 06:06:39 pm

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: slokind on July 12, 2006, 08:33:54 pm
Let me add my appreciation, for saving us hours in finding the one we're looking for and for doing so much for everybody.  Pat L.

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Cleisthenes on July 13, 2006, 12:14:04 am

I, too, want to thank you for your interesting and important posts.

Cheers, Jim (Cleisthenes)

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Tiathena on July 13, 2006, 01:00:36 am
       &nd I too, Jochen!
   Most wonderful and most generous of your time, efforts and the enviable scope of your knowledge and collection.
  This is a feast in the fullest & the finest sense …
   Most gratefully -

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Bacchus on July 13, 2006, 02:03:04 am
I too also  :) - would like to add my thanks to Jochen for all the time and effort he has put into these informative posts. 

I wonder if it would be possible to cut and paste them together into a Numiswiki article?, so they really would be a resource for all.

Thanks again

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on July 13, 2006, 12:44:18 pm
Thanks for your encouraging comments! I think it would be nice to have the index always at the end of the thread!

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on July 13, 2006, 12:45:31 pm
The auloi

After getting this coin I searched for information about the importance and history of the 'auloi'. I hope others too are interested.

Phrygia, Apameia, c.3rd century AD
AE 19, 3.29g
obv. DH - MOC
       Bust of Demos, bearded, draped, r.
rev. APA - MEW - N (beginning upper r.)
      Marsyas, nude, nebris waving behind him, advancing r., playing the auloi
BMC 50; SNG Copenhagen 200

Aulos means 'playing the aulos' (with and without singing), the so-called auletik, but the corpus, the instrument, too. It is more correct to say auloi in plural because it were double pipes. They could be half looped, total looped, with holes at the side or holes at the underside. They could be tuned: at drinking binges they were used in unison, at marriage ceremonies in octave distance. Sometimes it could be seen that the two pipes have different lengths. It is discussed that one pipe plays the melody the other the accompanist.

And: the aulos is no flute but a reed- (tongue-) instrument, so rather a simple double oboe.

The aulos has a tongue piece, an upper beginning part, the actual pipe and the grip holes. The aulos was called by Pindar and Euripides 'kalamos' or 'Libyan lotos'. The aulos pair had separated tongues (so-called double reeds), there were called yoke. Because of its pettishness they were kept in a small sheath (glottokomeion); the entire instrument was hold in a bag made from untanned skin (synbene). When playing the lips were pressed against the reed; the strong pressure of the inflated cheeks was absorbed by a kind of bridle, the phorbeia: leather bands which were tied from the mouth over the cheeks to the back of the head.

The reeds were made from reed (from the lake Kopais) which was scraped thin. If the tongues eventually broke the auloi could be played with open hole. The pipe (kalamos bombykias) , slightly conical carved, probably could be played by a little over blowing and so allowing some harmonics too. Probably the (oval) holes were played half occluded and so on the auloi all keys are obtainable. A 5th grip hole (for the thumb) possibly could be in use if the phorbeia was tight. Diodoros of Thebes introduced a special mechanism to open and close the holes (turnable rings?) which had hooks to allow turning. As material for the corpus besides reed, boxwood, lotos wood, laurel were used too bones of stag, ass, eagle and vulture; ivory was mediated by the Phoinicians. Boiotia, with its abundance of reed, became the home of the aulos players, mostly Thebians.

The age of the auletik is seen deversely. Athen in its heroic age saw the auloi only at the barbarians. Plutarch regards the auloi for older than the kithara but this remains questionable because many terms used for the auloi were originating from playing the kithara. The peleponnesian myth calls Ardalos from Troizen, son of Hephaistos, the inventor of the auloi. The first historical aulet was Klonos of Tegea. The sole instrumental auletik spread quickly from Phrygia and was favoured as war music especially at the Lakedaimonians. At the Phrygians it served as keen. The elegy always was accompanied by auloi (armen. elega = pipe!). Plutarch assumed that the sound of the auloi contained to theon, the divine, and because of that evokes religious feelings. Aulodik means that the aulet, the aulos player, was accompanied by the aulode, a singer.

Since Pythagoras the high-spirited panegyric sound of the auloi was antagonized. Because of its orgiastic effect the auloi were choosed as accompanist for the dithyrambos. Criticized was the instrument used at the wild satyr chorus because it crushed the melody. Among the aristocratic Athenians Alkibiades regarded the auloi as unseemly because it distorts the face of the player. That matches the myth were Athena threw away the auloi because of the same reason. It seems to be Euripides who invented the myth of the competition between Apollo and Marsyas and the following terrible punishment. Another matter of critizism was the then upcoming luxury clothing of the aulets. Aristoteles too disapproved and then in Socrates and his followers new strong opponents emerged. Aristoteles wanted to prohibit the education of auloi playing because of its uselessness for the cultivation of the mind. So until the late ancient time the playing of the kithara was obtained as more noble. Cicero assumed that the auloi player doesn't need so much dexterity as the kithara player. This devaluating estimation was practically adopted in modern times by Nietzsche who called the kithara playing 'Apollonian', the auloi playing 'Dionysian'.

BTW On the coin the elevated grip holes are clearly seen.

I have attached the pic of an auloi player with phorbeia and dancer with krotala, detail from a kylix found at Vulci, Italy, signed by Epictetus, c. 520–510 BC; in the British Museum, London

- Der kleine Pauly
- Anemone Zschätsch, Verwendung und Bedeutung griechischer Musikinstrumente in Mythos   
  und Kult, Marie Leidorf 2002

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on July 13, 2006, 04:19:00 pm
Harpokrates and Isis

Macrinus AD 217-218
AE 17, 3.14g
Bust, laureate, r.
Harpokrates, nude, stg. l., holding clothes and cornucopiae in r. arm and
raising r. hand to his mouth.
very rare, F+/about VF, green patina

Julia Domna AD 193-217, wife of Septimius Severus
AR - Denar, 3.5g, 18mm
Rome AD 196-211
Bust, draped, r., hair waved in five waves and coiled at back
Isis, draped, with polos on head, stg. r, foot on prow, holding the infant Horus
at her breast, and sistrum (or rattle) in r. hand, altar at left behind her with rudder
leaning against it.
RIC IV/1, 577; C.174; BMC 76
about EF
The half-circled lock of hair at her cheek should be typically for Rome after AD 196 (?). The sistrum is not mentioned in RIC!
The first ISIS temple in Rome was built by Caracalla some years later in AD 217. The prow may be an allusion to the NAVIGIUM ISIDIS, a big ceremony on March 5. to celebrate the opening of the safe sailing season after the winter.

Harpakhrad, also Heru-Pa-Khret (Greek: Harpokrates) meant "Horus the child" and he was also seen as a baby at the breast or as a naked infant sitting in the lap of his mother Isis. In Mendes, the capital of nome 16 of Lower Egypt, he was the son of the town protector Banebdjedet and the local fish goddess Hat-Mehit. Another depiction shows him as an infant boy with big, innocent eyes, engaged in sucking his finger. He had many names and shapes in the more than forty provinces (nomes) where he was appearing in local forms. He had a shaved head with a big lock of hair hanging from the right side. The Greeks considered him the god of secrecy and discretion, misinterpreting the gesture of his finger as meaning: keep quiet which was an Egyptian gesture, symbolising childhood.

Horus (Greek) was a sky and solar god from Upper Egypt from before the unification and one of the oldest gods in the Egyptian mythology and by some concidered to have come from abroad by en early invasion of the Nile Valley. He was the personal symbol of the pharaohs symbolising protection and courage.
Soon he became the Horus (the Elder: Heru, the Younger: Hor) and originated lots of combined deities like Har-pakhrad, Har-Wer etc, which had wide spread cults all over the Nile Valley. He defeated all evilness in the world (symbolically) by defeating Set who had killed his father Osiris. His twin sister was Bast and he was sometimes seen as a child being breast fed sitting in the lap of his mother Isis. In his aspect Horakhty he was the combined god Re-Horakhte.

Osiris (in Greek) was king of the Underworld and originally a god of agriculture and nature. His origin is disputed and he first appeared during dynasty five. In Heliopolis he was said to be son of Re and he represented the dead king. Minor gods were taken into his vast cult and many legends were told about him. The common Myth of Osiris
is about his death (murdered by his brother Set) and resurrection. He was the chief judge in the court at the threshold to the next life, where all the dead citizens were trying to come through to Paradise. He always wore a mummy-dress and was brother to Isis, Hor (Horus the elder), Set and Nephthys. His parents were Geb and Nut.

The Myth of Osiris
In the very beginning of time Osiris was king over Egypt and his queen (and sister) was the goddess Isis. He was beloved by the people whom he told how to worship the gods and grow their crops for their daily bread. His brother Set became jealous and tried to overthrow him and become king himself. When participating in a feast with Osiris as host, Set began to describe a beautiful coffin he had, in a way that made the other guests curious.
He was asked to fetch it and so he did and this was just in line with his plan.
Everyone agreed that it was a magnificent piece of craftsmanship and Set told them that he would give it away for free to whomever fitted exactly into it. Since he had made the coffin himself it was measured to fit one person only - his brother Osiris. When he placed himself in it everybody could see that he was the one who would get i as a present, but the evil Set had other plans. With his brother Osiris still in it, he and his fellows quickly nailed the lid and threw it into the Nile. Queen Isis was overcome by sorrow and began to search all over the land for it, but in vain. ("Isis first invented sails, for while seeking her son Harpocrates, she sailed on a ship." - Hyginus, Fabulae 277.)
One day she heard that a wonderful tree had sprung on the shores of Byblos in the north on the Eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, where the local king had cut it down and built a palace from it.
Isis understood that this was the place where the coffin had come to shore and she went there in disguise. She got a job at the court as a hairdresser for the queen and now when she could walk freely inside the castle she began to look for the coffin, and finally she found it in a remote chamber.
During the night she managed to snach it and embarked a boat heading for Egypt. When she came there she hid in the marshlands in the delta. There she opened the coffin and took a last farewell of her beloved husband Osiris and began searching for a suitable place to bury him. But Set was aware of all this and was hiding nearby. When Isis went to rest for the night he snatched the coffin and cut his brother's body into fourteen pieces and spread them all over Egypt. Isis became furious and asked her sister Nephthys and her son Anubis, to help her to find all the pieces of her husband's body.
They now started a nation wide search that lasted for many years and finally all the part of Osiris' body were found except for the thingy which had been thrown into the Nile where it was devoured by a fish.
Isis made a wooden replacement for it and then put the whole body together. She now asked the sun god Re to make her husband alive just for one day, which he did, and they could have a last night of love together. The next day Osiris died and his body was embalmed by Anubis who thus made him the first mummy. Isis later gave birth to a son who was named Horus and she did all she could to keep it a secret from Set, but he found them and almost killed them in an ambush.
They were saved by the god of wisdom - Thoth, and he told them to hide in the reeds in the marshes once more. But as before Set found their hiding place and had more wicked things on his mind. He transformed himself into a snake and gave the little Horus child a fatal bite.
When Isis came back she found her baby almost lifeless, and took him to the nearest village to get help. A wise old woman examined him and found out that it must have been Set as a snake who had bitten him. Thoth came to their rescue once more and drove out the poison from Horus' body and he recovered. He and his mother stayed hiding in the delta until he was a mature man and sometimes he took the form of a hawk and scouted out Set for the final showdown - the revenge on his murdered father. When that moment came they fought for three days until Thoth stopped the fight. They were both taken to the Court of Law in the Underworld and there they presented their versions of the story leading to the combat. The Court did not believe Set, who was sentenced to pull the boat with the sun across the sky forever. Horus now became the new king of Egypt like his father Osiris before him, and the good had finally conquered evil.
Isis put the body of her dead husband in a coffin and had nineteen identical coffins made in which she put duplicates. Priest from Egypt's twenty biggest towns then were given one each and could all thereafter claim that they had Osiris' tomb in their town. Thus many places in Egypt were (and still are) called Abusir - the place of Osiris.

"Upon her [Isis’] brow stood the crescent moon-horns, garlanded with glittering heads of golden grain, and grace of royal dignity; and at her side the baying dog Anubis, dappled Apis, sacred Bubastis and the god [Harpokrates] who holds his finger to his lips for silence sake." - Ovid, Metamorphoses 9.692

"Io, crowned with a pair of cow horns, is carried to Isis and her son Harpokrates (by the River-God Neilos?)", a detail from the Roman Fresco "Isis receives Io at Canopus", Pompeii 1st century BC, Naples, Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli 9558

Der kleine Pauly

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on July 15, 2006, 09:14:56 am
Leda and the swan

Today I want to present a coin with the depiction of one of the most famous myths of ancient times: Leda and the swan. Besides all other erotic adventures of Zeus like Alkmene, Danae, Europa, Io or Ganymed this seems to be the most popular. Thanks to Pete Burbules for the coin!

The coin:
Bithynia, Nicomedia, Severus Alexander AD 222-235
AE 19
       Bust, draped, radiate, r.
rev. NIKOMHD - EWN DIC NEO / KORWN (MH and WN ligate)
      Leda, with wreath on her head, nude to hips, with raised r. hand, standing frontal,
      head turned r. to a swan, which is standing l. with opened wings and is drawing her
      garment which she hold with her l. hand.
Receuil General I 3, 557, 316, pl.96, 22
extremely rare (only 3 ex. known), VZ (this seems to be the nicest!), nice deep green patina

There are several different versions of Leda and the swan. The most popular has its origin by Euripides: Leda, the daughter of the Aitolian king Thestios and his wife Eurythemis, was the wife of the Lakedaimonian king Tyndareus. Once when she was near the bank of the river Eurotas Zeus approached her in the shape of a swan and united with her. The fruit of this unification was an egg from which Helena, Kastor and Polydeukes arose. Leda after that was received by the gods as Nemesis (Laktanz I, 221; Hyginus, Fabel 77). The marriage with the swan now became complicated because Leda in the same night shared her bed with her husband Tyndareus too. Because of that some saw Tyndareus as father of the twins Kastor and Poldeukes whereas others saw them as sons of Zeus adding - besides Helena - Klytaimnestra too (Homer, Odyss. XI, 299; Ilias III, 426; Euripides, Helena 254, 1497 and 1680). Finely there was another distribution: Kastor and Klytaimnestra as children of Tyndareus, Helena and Polydeukes as children of Zeus (Pindar, Nem.Od. X, 80; Apollodor III, 6-7)

Referring to an older myth Zeus fell in love with Nemesis, daughter of the Night and Okeanos, the goddess of just enragement. To escape the pursuit by Zeus she turned into a fish, then in several four-footed animals and at last into a goose. Zeus chased her and was transforming himself too all the time. Finely he took the shape of a swan and raped Leda. This was said to be happened at Rhamnos in Attica. Because of that a big temple was built for Nemesis in Rhamnos. Thereupon Nemesis retired back to Sparta and gave birth to a hycinth-colored egg which was found by Leda. Leda put it into a chest until Helena came out of it who later was so disastrous for mankind by creating the Troyan War. Referring to another story a herdsman found the egg and brought it to the queen, or Hermes threw it into the bosom of Leda who then put it into a drawer until Helena was born from it.

It is told also that under the peak of the Taygetos mountain Zeus created with Leda the dioscuri Kastor and Polydeukes. Dios kuroi, 'the sons of Zeus', was the name of these Lakedaimonian twins and they became the saviors of many human beings especially in battles and on the sea. In a story depicted on some vase pictures they were already youth when their mother bore the egg. When it should be sacrificed to the gods Helena sprung from it.
It is told too from two twin eggs. From one the dioscuri were born, from the other Helena, and perhaps Klytaimnestra too the killer of her husband Agamemnon who then was killed by her own son Orestes. The House of Atreids to which Tyndareus and Klytaimnestra belonged was cursed because of the deeds of Tantalos and Atreus.
Is is told too about the twins that Polydeukes was immortal but Kastor in contrast mortal. When he had to die the brothers didn't want to part. So both stayed one day together in the underworld the other day with their father Zeus. Klytaimnestra too was mortal in contrast to the Zeus daughter Helena. So it was assumed that she and Kastor were created by Tyndareus who after Zeus joined Leda and by whom she received the second egg. But this story sounds very rationalistic and therefore seems to be younger.

Some background:
The flight of Nemesis from Zeus with its constant transformations is a typical fairy motive, called the 'magic flight', which is known from the Tales of Thousand and One Nights or from the 'Puss in Boots'. The egg is an old religious motive and corresponds to the 'World Egg' which here is sunk to the fairy motive of the wunderkind out of the egg. It is the attempt to find a compromise between the tradition of a divine mother with the earthly mother of Helena. The egg of Leda was a particular object of interest in the sanctuary of the Leukippids in Sparta (Pausan. 3, 16, 1). Whereas in the attic Rhamnos the tradition that Nemesis was the mother of Helena was held on (cult statue of Agrakritos) that tradition was decreasing during the development of the myth in literature and fine arts.

If it is true that Leda is originating from the lykian word 'lada' for 'Wife' - for Kerenyi the 'primal wife' - then the myth could have some pre-hellenic elements. Perhaps Zeus celebrated the Swan Marriage with a goddess who - besides Mother Earth - was the first female being of the world and who therefore was called simply Leda, the 'wife'.     

An inartificial explanation of the story of Leda I found in the 'Hederich' which I don't want to keep back: "As the meeting of Leda and Zeus was said to be happened at the banks of the river Eurotas where plenty of swans seemed to have existed so some wanted that she has a love affair with a local man and then to hide her dishonour has pretended Zeus has turned into a swan and approached her too close". Nice, isn't it? 
History of art:
The sculptors preferred at first the meeting of Zeus and Leda in that way, that Leda tries to cover a swan who requests for help from an eagle (Zeus too!) with her left hand by her cloak pressing him against her bosom. Such a statue in the Museo Capitolino in Rome seems to go back to Timotheus 4th century BC. In later times the sculpture has more stressed the erotic aspect. In imperial times the Leda motive is found numerously on intaglios, lamps, sarcophaguses, mosaics and wall paintings. On coins however only this type from Nikomedia is known!

Baroque and Renaissance have treated this theme in many versions. On a drawing of Leonardo da Vinci (passed down in a copy only) the nude standing Leda playfully grasps the swan's neck, like already in ancient depictions (silver bucket of Concesti, c.400 BC, Erimitage in St.Petersburg). More catchy is the situation in Michelangelo's painting also known as copy only, see the after-creations of Rosso Fiorentino (1530, London, NG) and Rubens (1603/4, Dresden, AM); here the swan intrudes directly the outstretched resting Leda. The long flexible neck allows some variants of the depiction (Corregio, 1531, Berlin, GG), which by pointing to the private parts of the woman could get a particular insinuating meaning. In the 20th century Bourdelle (Relief, 1904; Paris) and Brancusi (1920; Chicago, Art Institute) have handled this subject.

- Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon
- Robert von Ranke-Graves, Griechische Mythologie, Rowohlt
- Karl Kerenyi, Die Mythologie der Griechen, dtv 
- Der kleine Pauly (backgrounds)
- Aghion/Barbillon/Lissarrague, Lexikon der antiken Götter und Heroen in der Kunst, Reclam

I have attached
- a pic of the famous mosaic from Paphos on Crete which shows Leda in the same position
  as on the coin, and
- the sculpture from the Museo Capitolino in Rome.

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Cleisthenes on July 21, 2006, 08:48:47 am
Leda and the swan

Today I want to present a coin with the depiction of one of the most famous myths of ancient times: Leda and the swan.

The theme of one of the most famous sonnets in the English language  (the break--for rhetorical effect-- in the third line of the concluding sestet still represents a single line of this poem!) revolves around this infamous rape.  The author is Nobel laureate William Butler Yeats.

Leda and the Swan

A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

How can those terrified vague fingers push
The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
And how can body, laid in that white rush,
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?

A shudder in the loins engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.
                                        Being so caught up,
So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
Did she put on his knowledge with his power
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?

As Barbara Edwards-Aldrich notes, 'Yeats asks three rhetorical questions about this mythical rape, the most important of which is about the significance of the act: "Did she put on his knowledge with his power?". . . The poet's rhetoric persuades readers to consider the consequences of unbridled sexual passion, the coexistence of power and wisdom in human life, and the potential for combining youthful vitality and passion with mature knowledge and wisdom'. (

I've included two images inspired by this myth, the first:

Leda and the Swan
Bacchiacca (Francesco d'Ubertino) (Italian, Florentine, 1495–1557)
The Jack and Belle Linsky Collection, 1982 (1982.60.11)

and the second:

Leda and the Swan
Cy Twombly from the Permanent Collection at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City.

Jim (Cleisthenes)

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on July 28, 2006, 04:38:36 pm
Tomos - the Ktistes

Sometimes the inquiry in the mythological background of coin depictions ends up in disappointment. Here we have an example:

1st coin:
Thracia, Tomis, pseudo-autonomous, c. 166-183 AD
AE 18
       bust of ktistes, draped and with hair-band, r.
rev. TWME - ITWN (beginning upper r.)
      Hermes, stg. l., in lowered r. hand purse, in l. arm kerykeion; chlamys over l. shoulder
AMNG 2554
rare, about VF
The 2nd series of autonomous coinage has 4 groups: the 1st group (n. 2554-2559) matches in the style of the obverse totally the 'Dreier' of the youthful Commodus, so we have a safe clue for the time of this coinage (Pick p.614)

2nd coin:
Thracia, Tomis, pseudo-autonomous, 1st-2nd.century AD
AE 16, 2.66g
       bust of Tomos, draped and with hair-band, r.
rev. TOM - ITWN
      Demeter, stg. l., in double chiton and with veil-like cape over back of the head, grain-ears
      in lowered r. hand, l.hand at sceptre
AMNG 2548 var. (HRWOC and T - OMI - TWN)
rare, about VF, green patina

Tomis, todays Constantza in Romania, was founded by Greeks from Milet at the coast of the Pontos (Black Sea). It is known too as place of Ovid's exile AD 8.

Both coins show Tomos, the alleged Ktistes (founder) and heroe of Tomis. He is however - besides on these coins - mentioned only once by an incription and so he belongs to these city-founders who were invented by ancient mythologists working on the name of the city as we can find on coins of several other cities of Northern Greece too like Anchialos, Byzas and others.

His invention furthermore is contrary to another tradition - worthless as well - where the name of Tomis is derived from temnein (greek 'schneiden'); at this place Medeia fleeing from her father should have slaughtered her brother Apsyrtos (lat. Absyrtus) or her father has buried his pieces (Ovid tr. 3, 9; similar by Apollodoros).

Apsyrtos was the son of king Aietes from Kolchis and his wife Ipsia and so the step-brother of Medeia. When Medeia together with Jason and the Argonauts has fled from Kolchis, where they have stolen the Golden Fleece, Aietes sent Apsyrtos with warriors after her with the order to bring her back or never come back.

About the then following events we have different reports. Hygin. (fab. 23) tells, that Apsyrtos finely recovered them at the court of king Alkinoos of Phaiakia, todays Corfu. But supplicating for shelter Alkinoos gave cover to them and didn't turned them over to him. Apsyrtos offered a compromise: If Medeia was untouched by Jason she should come back to Kolchis, if not then Jason could keep her as his wife. But this plan was brought to Jason by the wife of Alkinoos and in the same night Jason and Medeia shared their bed. So Apsyrtos was outsmarted. But fearing the revenge of his father coming back without Medeia Apsyrtos continued to pursuite them. When Jason was just sacrificing on an island sacred to Artemis he tried to take Medeia by violence. During the following struggle he was killed by Jason. His warriors hadn't the heart to return to Aietes and settled at Apsaros at the coast of the Pontos or on the Apsyrtean islands in the Adria near Pola. 

Apollodoros (rh. 4) tells, that Medeia has trapped Apsyrtos artfully in a temple of Artemis where he was ambushed and killed by Jason. Then Medeia has cut the body in pieces and has scattered the pieces over the land or the sea. Head and hands she has put on a higher rock so that Aietes who followed the Argonauts could see it immediately. Aietes was deeply shocked but at first he had to gather the pieces to bury them. So the Argonauts could escape successful. The place where Apsyrtos' sepulchre was erected later became the city of Tomis.
The myth of the death of Apsyrtos is explained by crossing the geographical names with motives of fairy tales. Actually the name Tomos is probably Getic or Thracean and the meaning is unknown!

Pick, AMNG I, 2
Der kleine Pauly
Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on July 28, 2006, 04:41:19 pm
Hippolytos and Phaidra

I know this coin is very worn, but it is the only one that is referring to the myth of Hippolytos and Phaidra. The legends are nearly illegible. I have completed them according to others from BCD.

Commodus AD 177-192
AE 21mm, 9.61 g
Laureate head right
rev. [TROI - ZHNIWN]
Hippolytus standing facing, head left, holding spear and ?; dog at feet(?)
BCD Peloponnesos 1341.2 (this coin); NCP 1887, p.162, 7 (this coin)
extremely rare, VF, black green patina with traces of lighter olive overtones, light roughness
ex BCD coll.
ex A. Rhousopoulos coll.
ex LHS 96, 8./9. May 2006, lot 1198

Troizen is known as home of Theseus, the most famous Greek heroe and future king of Athens. Besides many deeds and adventures he abducted Antiope (or Hippolyte or Glauke), queen of the Amazones, who gave birth to his son Hippolytos. After her death he married Phaidra (lat. Phaedra), daughter of the Cretian king Minos and his wife Pasiphae. This marriage made her step-mother of Hippolytos. But Hippolytos was brought to Troizen to be educated by Theseus' sister Aethra.

Hippolytos, like the Amazones, was a devotee of Artemis, goddess of hunting and chastity. Aphrodite, angry about that and because Hippolytos was not interested in love, took revenge on him by bewitching Phaidra. As goddess of love she made Phaidra falling in love with Hippolytos, when she once saw him at a festival in Athens. She followed him to Troizen and built a temple for Aphrodite where she could look at the stadion, where Hippolytos was exercising nude. This temple she called Hippolytion, later it was called temple of the 'Aphrodite looking around'. There the myrtle was standing where Phaidra in excitement perforated the leafs with her needle.

By Phaidras' nurse Hippolytos heard about the unnatural affection of his step-mother and was heavily shocked. He refused her wherupon Phaidra committed suicide by hanging. But she leaves a suicide note by which she accused Hippolytes of having besieged her. When Theseus coming home read this letter his mourning changed into blind rage. He banned Hippolytos from Troizen and cursed him by Poseidon. Because Hippolytos has sworn to maintain silence Theseus didn't find out the truth. Poseidon immediately fulfilled the curse of Theseus and let a monster (or a bull) climbing up from the sea so that Hippolytos' horses were frightened and had almost draggled him to death (or he was suspended in a tree). In the meantime Artemis has enlightened Theseus and he was sorry about his overhasty curse. When he and Hippolytos met for the last time Hippolytos forgave his father and then he died.
Fortunately - referring to an Roman adaptation of the myth - he was resuscitated by Asklepios. The goddess Diana Aricina (Artemis) having a sanctuary nearby transformed him into an old man who was worshipped under the name Virbius.

The story of Hippolytos and Phaidra covers the famous motive of Potiphar which we know too from Bellerophontes. In history it could have played a role at Crispus and Fausta.

Hippolytos was worshipped in Troizen as god. Referring to older opinions he was obtained as god of salvation. In his temple just married persons dedicated some of their tresses to him so that Hippolytos - made potent by this - could unify with Artemis. Their fertility then should come back to the young pair. The stadion and the gymnasion in Troizen was called after him. The temple of Artemis Lykeia was hold as his foundation. He was worshipped too in Athens and Sparta. His name should mean 'teared by horses'. The motiv of the resuscitation by Asklepios seems to be very old. Beeing a god Hippolytos was not allowed to die and so he was set to the stars as 'waggoner'.

The identification with Virbius remains mysterious. Virbius in the lat. poetry was held as the new name of the by Asklepios resuscitated Hippolytos. But this seems to be a wrong etymology of Virbius as 'Vir bis = double man'. Virbius was worshipped in Aricia at the lake Nemi as Dianae minister. Horses were not allowed there due to his death. There was a Virbii clivus in Aricia and in Naples a flamen Virbialis is known. He was one of the lower country gods.

Euripides has taken the myth of Hippolytos twice. His older work, 'The veiled Hippolytos', is lost. Probably Euripides didn't succeed with this work because it was too scandalous. With his younger work 'The wreathed Hippolytos' Euripides won the 1. prize at the Festival of Dionysos BC 428. This work is online under

Ovid too used the staff of Euripides in his Metamorphoses and his Heroides (letters of mythological men and women). Other adaptations are from Seneca ('Phaedra', c.50 AD) and then from Racine ('Phedre', 1677), one of the most important works of French literature.

History of art:
The myth of Phaidra and Hippolytos is told in particular episodes especially on Roman sarcophagusses. I have attached an exemplar. The so-called 'Aldobrandini Marriage', a Roman painting of the 1st century BC (now in the Vaticane), assembles the protagonists of the myth. In later times the death of Hippolytos - like on Pompejian wall paintings - was the favoured motive because of its dramatic. Rubens shows the overturned carriage and the heavily dreaded harnessed horse team. (1611/12; Cambridge,FM).

Apollodor, Epitome 1, 18,-19
Euripides, Hippolytos stephanephoros (The wreathed Hippolytos)
Ovid, Metamorphoses 15, 497-546; Heroides 4; Fasten 6, 737ff
Vergil, Aeneis 7, 761-782
Pausanias, Periegesis hellados (Description of Greece)

I have attached
1) a pic of the sarcophagus, c.290 AD, from the Campana coll., now in the Louvre/Paris.
    There we see - sitting between her handmaids  and some Erotes - the lovesick Phaidra, in
    the midth Hippolytos as hunter in his hand the letter of Phaidra, finally Theseus receiving
    the news of his son's death.
2) A pic of the mosaic with Phaidra ans Hippolytos from the house of Dionysos in Nea
    Paphos in Cypre, late 2nd century AD.


Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on July 31, 2006, 08:38:40 am
An interesting depiction of Zeus-Ammon

This coin was the cause to read about Zeus-Ammon. Until now I have thought that Zeus-Ammon had become popular in Greece not before Alexander the Great has visited the oracle of Ammon in the oasis of Siwa. But that's not right!

The coin:
Macedonia, Kassandreia, Macrinus AD 217-218
AE 19
obv. [...] C M OPEL SEV[.] MACRINVS
       bust, cuirassed, laureate, r.
 rev. CO[...]L A - VG CASS[...]
       Zeus-Ammon, full-bearded and with curly hair, wearing himation, stg. r., holding in
       raised r. hand bunch of wine-grapes over his r. shoulder; [eagle stg. r. at his feet].
AMNG II.2, 16
rare, F+

The full name of Kassandreia was COLONIA IVLIA AVGVSTA CASSANDRENSIS. Today Kassandra ist the most west 'finger' of the Greek Chalkidike. There at the coast near Kallithea, at the ancient Aphytis, a big temple of Zeus-Ammon was standing in ancient times. Today it is the last Zeus-Ammon temple found in Europe. Sadly only the fundaments are seen today. An interesting fact is that Dionysos too was worshipped in this place!

Ammon was a famous oracle god in the oasis of Siwa in Libya. His worshipping in Greece began already in the 5th century BC, probably brought to Greece by colonists from Kyrenaika. The temple in Kallithea was first built in the 2nd half of the 4th century BC and after being destroyed again in the 3rd century BC.

The most famous event was probably the historic visit of Alexander the Great. He came to the Ammoneion of the oasis of Siwa shortly before his campaign against the Persians. The questions to the god had to be told to the priests previously, the answers of the god were movements, moving forward was confirmation, moving backward disapproving. The information which Alexander has got by Ammon has seemed to be satisfying, so was reported. The priests have welcommed Alexander as 'son of Ammon'. This was the usual salutation for great kings. But Alexander from that time on supposed to be the genuine son of the god. That matches the claim of his mother that she has conceived him by a snake, an incarnation of Zeus. Now the horns of Ammon were added to his depiction which could be seen on the coins of Lysimachos. Other famous persons having visited the oracle of Ammon were Hannibal, Alkibiades and Lysander, king of Sparta, to name only few.

Originally Ammon was an Ethiopian god of the herdsmen the guardian of their herds. From there he came to Egypt and became the main god of Thebes in Upper-Egypt. Ammon is the Greek form of the name Amana. This means 'the hidden' because he was thought of as an invisible breeze. He appeared during the 11th dynasty (20th century BC) and because of the important political role of Thebes as residence of the New Empire Ammon became God of the Empire and King of the Gods. His wife was the vulture-shaped godess Mut, his son the moon-god Chonsu. Theological he was composed by three figures: the primary creator Kneth, depicted as snake and buried in Medinet Habu, the king of gods in Karnak and the 'bull of the mother' in Luxor. The annual procession to Luxor was the most important ceremony of the country. In later ancient times Ammon was passed by Osiris. The Ammon of Siwa was of Libyan origin, probably a fount-god. The Greek identified him with Zeus as Zeus-Ammon, the Romans with Jupiter as Jupiter-Ammon. 

Greek mythology:
Because Ammon was known in Greece so long it is not astonishing that there are links to the Greek mythology. Clear that there are crossovers with the myths of Zeus.

According to this Ammon should have been a king of Libya, married with Rhea, sister of Kronos, Titans both. Once he met Amalthea who gave birth to his son Dionysos. Fearing his wife he brought Dionysos underhand to the city of Nysa. Soon Dionysos became famous and Rhea wanted to capture him, but Ammon haven't allowed that. Hence Rhea left Ammon and married again her brother Kronos. Then he forced him to campaign against Ammon and to chase him away from his kingdom. Ammon lost the war and escaped to Crete where he was persecuted by the Titans.

After being beaten by Hera with madness - she wanted to take revenge on Zeus - Dionysos moved through the world accompanied by satyrs, mainads and his teacher Silen. With a loading of wine he sailed to Egypt. Heartily he was welcommed by King Proteus. At that time at the delta of the Nile Amazones were living. Dionysos prompted them to go with him against the Titans and to restore his father Ammon to the throne. He succeeded and his victory over the Ttans and the restoring of Ammon was the first of his numerous military successes.

In fact wine was forbidden in the cult of Ammon. Before visiting the oracle one had to abstain from alcohol one week. Wether this was applied to Alexander too I don't know! The bunch of wine-grapes depicted on the coin is an allusion to Dionysos. The reverse shows a typical pantheistic depiction: Ammon, Zeus (known by the eagle) and Dionysos with the wine-grapes all in one figure!

I have attached:
a) The pic of one of the famous tetradrachms of Lysimachos showing the head of Alexander
    with the horns of Ammon. You can see too that the 'eyes to heaven' are not the invention   
    of Constantine!
b) A pic of todays Kallithea. The remains of the temple of Zeus-Ammon are located at the
    left before the big hotel in the background named significantly 'the Zeus-Ammon-Hotel!.

Der kleine Pauly
Ranke-Graves, Griechische Mythologie
Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Cleisthenes on August 06, 2006, 12:20:58 am
Jochen & Colleagues,

I have made a quick perusal of the index of this thread (thank you once again Jochen!), and while I've noticed Pegasus (and I vaguely remember our discussion), I did not see a specific reference to Bellerophon.  If I've missed it, I apologize. 

I have included a nice summary of the man who rode the amazing horse.  It was written by Erez Lieberman (

"In Corinth, a child was born to the King, Glaucus. Bellerophon, the son of the most skilled equestrian of the day, was taught by his father from a young age. Bellerophon was a precocious student.

When he turned sixteen, Bellerophon longed for adventure, and set out to find it. Along his journey he met Proteus, who feigned friendship to Bellerophon. In truth, Proteus was insanely jealous of Bellerophon, and sought to cause his death. Proteus was the son-in-law of Iobates, the King of Lycia. Feigning goodwill, Proteus gave Bellerophon a sealed message to carry to the King.
Upon his arrival in Lycia, Bellerophon found that a pall had been cast over the once-joyful land. Each night, the Chimera, a monster with the head of a lion and the tail of a dragon, swept down upon the valley and carried off women, children, and livestock. The bones of his many victims lay strewn along the mountainside. The population lived in constant fear.
When Iobates read the letter Bellerophon had delivered, he found that Proteus requested Bellerophon be put to death. Though he wanted to please his son-in-law, he knew that an outright execution would risk war against the Corinthians. He slyly sent Bellerophon to slay the Chimera, sure that he would never return alive.
Bellerophon, longing for excitement, was not frightened by the concept of facing the Chimera. Rather, he was overcome with happiness at the opportunity to rid the poor people from this gruesome threat.
Before he set out on his quest, Bellerophon sought the advice of Polyidus, the wisest man in Lycia. Impressed by the youth's courage, Polyidus told him of the legendary Pegasus. He advised him to spend a night in Athena's temple, and offer her many gifts. In return, the goddess may help him obtain the horse.
Bellerophon took his advice, and Athena appeared to him that night in a dream. She gave him a golden bridle and instructions as to where to find the well from which the Pegasus drank. In the morning, Bellerophon awoke to find the golden bridle beside him. He knew that his dream had been real.
Bellerophon journeyed into the forest, locating the well of which Athena had spoken. He hid in the bushes by the well. When the Pegasus finally arrived, Bellerophon waited till it kneeled over to drink and then pounced upon it from his hiding place, slipping the bridle onto its head. Pegasus flew into the air, trying desperately to shake Bellerophon off. But Bellerophon was up to the challenge, skilled in the handling of fierce horses. Pegasus understood that he had a new master.
After a brief rest, Bellerophon set out to the ledge where the Chimera dwelt. Armed with a long spear, he charged the Chimera. The Chimera exhaled a puff of its horrible fire. Pegasus darted backward to evade the burning breath. Before the Chimera could breathe again, Pegasus renewed its advance and Bellerophon drove the spear through the Chimera's heart.
When the Prince returned to the palace upon a winged horse, carrying the head of the frightful Chimera, the Kingdom rejoiced. The people admired his bravery, and the wonderful winged horse which he rode. King Iobates gave his willing daughter to Bellerophon as a bride.
For years the couple was happy, and when Iobates died, Bellerophon took his place. But again Bellerophon sought greater and greater adventures. Finally, he decided to ride up to Mount Olympus to visit the gods.
Mounting his steed, he urged Pegasus skyward, higher and higher. Zeus, displeased with Bellerophon's arrogant attempt to scale Mount Olympus' heights, sent a gadfly to punish the mortal for daring to ascend to the home of gods. The fly stung Pegasus, and so startled the horse that he suddenly reared, and Bellerophon was hurled off of his back. He plummeted to the ground.
Athena spared his life by causing him to land on soft ground. But for the rest of his life, Bellerophon traveled, lonely and crippled, in search of his wonderful steed.
But alas, Pegasus never returned."

I have included the only coin I could find with Bellerophon:

L. Cossutius, 74 B.C. 
AR Denarius, 3.82g. 18mm. SABVLA. Head of Medussa l. Rv. L COSSVTI C F. Bellerophon riding Pegasus r. and brandishing spear. CR 395/1.

I have also included an image: Source: Dr. Vollmer's Wörterbuch der Mythologie aller Völker.
Stuttgart: Hoffmann'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1874.

Jim (Cleisthenes)

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: gordian_guy on August 06, 2006, 09:26:34 am

I have a rough bronze from Corinth, circa 44 BC, time of Julius Caesar.

AE 24,

Obverse: CORINTHVM Bellerophon, wearing petasos and chlamys, striding r., and seizing Pegasos r., by the bridle, before a porch*.

Reverse: P. TADI . CHILO     Poseidon naked, seated r. on rock, and resting on long trident.
                C . IVLI . NICEP
                   II . VIR .

BMC 483.

* Paus ii, 2, 4 - "... A cypress grove called KRANEON grows in front of the city. Here is Bellerophon's enclosure..."

Penquin Classics, "Pausania, Guide to Greece, Volume 1: Central Greece." Pete Levi translation


Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on August 06, 2006, 12:34:08 pm
Thanks for the article about Bellerophon and the nice pics! I want to add here something about the facts behind the myth.

Bellerophon (or Bellerophontes) is one of the examples of human hybris and its punishment by the gods. So Pindar anyway understood this myth. Euripides has written a 'Bellerophontes' where the heroe was described as attacking the heaven for intellectual curiosity. When he died he was reconciled with the gods.

The heroe was worshipped especially in Corinth and in Lycia. Originally he was a divine figure. A Lycian fairy tale telling about a flood which he had caused and depictions with a trident allocate him to the reign of Poseidon, the Pegasos more to celestial gods. His Name should mean 'appearing in the clouds', but usually it is translated as 'killer of Belleros'. Belleros was a pre-hellenic snake monster. Chimaira and Pegasos are transferred to Bellerophontes first in Lycia. Interpreting the myth the scholar Schachermeyr points out the historical circumstances. He regards him as kind of a knight errant of the late Mycenean time because there are links between the Argolis and courts of Asia minor. The scholar Wiesner looks at him as an example of the change from the chariot fighter to the equestrian warrior from the late Mycenean time to the 8th century BC. The Potiphar and Urias motive are later novellistic decorations.

The most favoured theme in art was his struggle with the Chimaira depicted already on proto-corinthian vases. Other depictions occur first in the vase paintings in Lower Italy (Graeca magna) probably under the influence of the Greek tragedies.

I have added the pic of an archaic Laconian black-figured vase painting, 570-565 BC, attributed to the Boread Painter, now in the Paul Getty Museum in Malibu/California, showing the struggle between Bellerophontes, Pegasus and Chimaira.

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: slokind on August 06, 2006, 03:27:36 pm
Because it is Corinthian and nearly a century earlier than the Laconian one, and indeed one of the earliest representations of Bellerophon actually fighting with the chimaera, and, IMO, a masterpiece of fine drawing besides and of the Greek humanizing of myths, I was going to post this last night and hesitated only because it is vase-painting.  Middle Protocorinthian (verging on Late Protocorinthian), ca. 650 BCE, the Aegina Bellerophon (found there about 80 years ago).  Pat L.

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Cleisthenes on August 08, 2006, 05:45:35 am
Because it is Corinthian and nearly a century earlier than the Laconian one, and indeed one of the earliest representations of Bellerophon actually fighting with the chimaera, and, IMO, a masterpiece of fine drawing besides and of the Greek humanizing of myths, I was going to post this last night and hesitated only because it is vase-painting.  Middle Protocorinthian (verging on Late Protocorinthian), ca. 650 BCE, the Aegina Bellerophon (found there about 80 years ago).  Pat L.

Pat L.,
This vase painting really is a masterpiece!  Thanks!

The Boread Painter piece is beautiful.  Thank you, too!

Your coin is very interesting.  Thanks, as well!

Jim (Cleisthenes)

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on August 13, 2006, 09:52:46 am
Alpheios and the nymph Arethusa

The coin:
Sicily, Syracuse, c.475-450 BC
Silver litra, 12.4mm, 0.653g
obv. SVRA
      Head of Arethusa, with pearl-diadem, r.
rev. Oktopus
SNG ANS 183; SNG München 1003; SNG Copenhagen 641; cf. Boehringer S.196, 450ff.
good F-about VF, slightly toned

Arethusa, daughter of Nereus, the sea-god, and Doris, was a well-nymph on the Peloponnesos, but a passionated huntress and compaignon of Artemis too. Once she came heated from a hunt in the Stymphalic woods to the river Alpheios, took off her clothes and entered the water. At this moment the river-god approached her and shouted she should not flee from him. But she did without her clothes and Alpheios followed her until they came to Elis. Here exhausted she called Artemis for help. Artemis wrapped her in clouds to hide her from Alpheios. But nevertheless he hold her embraced. So she was transformed by Artemis into water and melted between his fingers. But Alpheios changed into water too to unite with her. Then Artemis opened the ground so Arethusa could flow into it and came out not earlier than on the island of Ortygia in front of Syracuse in Sicily as a beautiful fountain. During her flight she discovered btw the raped Persephone and reported that to Demeter. Alpheios followed her to Sicily and here finally he succeded in uniting with her.

Arethusa was worshipped in Aigios in Achaia. The people took offering cakes from the altar of Salus threw them into the sea and shouted she should send them to Arethusa to Sicily.

The famous fountain on Ortygia was very beautiful and full of tasty sweet water. It was large and full of fishes. But it had to be armed with barrages to protect it against the sea. There was a curious case with this fountain: Everytime the Olympic Games occur in Elis the fountain smelled of horse dung. This was true too if horses were drifted into the Alpheios. It was told too that once a silvery bowl thrown into the Alpheios appeared in the fountain. This all was seen as proof for a subterranean connection between Elis and Ortygia deep under the Mediterranean.

The name Arethusa seems to be Phoinician and should be explained so: When the Phoinicians came to Sicily and found the fountain they called it 'Alphaga', meaning willow spring. Others called it just 'Arith', meaning stream. The Greek coming later to Sicily no longer understood these meanings and put it to the name of the river Alpheios.

The river Alpheios is the biggest river of the Peloponnesos which together with its confluents drains the major part of Arcadia. Until today it is a whitewater with torrential streaming especially at flood. In ancient times there was only one bridge testified at Heraia. The Alpheios already soon played a big role in mythology. So he should have chased Artemis Arethusa in love who had a sanctuary at his estuary mouth. But the most famous is the myth of the nymph Arethusa where several different variants are known. Beside the physical impossible subterranean connection to Sicily there were other such impossible suggestions f.e. that Alpheios and Eurotas have the same well from which they originate.

The island of Ortygia, the 'land of quails', situated directly in front of Syracuse, was the mythic birthplace of Artemis who therefore had the cognomen Ortygia too. The most ancient mentions can not be localised but in the course of time the cult places of Artemis and Leto were identified with Ortygia. Indeed other places too claimed to be the birthplace, so Delos, called formerly Ortygia, Nasos near Syracuse or Ephesos with its sacred grove.

BTW Sometimes Arethusa is listed as one of the Hesperids too.

Already soon Arethusa was depicted on coins of Syracus, often accompanied by dolphins, and later melted together with Artemis of whom she was a passionate devotee.

It's curious, I wasn't able to find an ancient depiction to this myth. So I have attached the pic of a painting of Jean Restout (1720), now in the Museum des Beaux Arts in Rouen/France. It shows the moment where Artemis helped the persecuted Arethusa.
The second pic shows the fountain of Arethus on Ortygia how it could be seen today.

Ovid, Metamorphoses 5, 571-641
Pausanias, Periegesis 5, 7, 2-4
Benjami Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon
Der kleine Pauly

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Cleisthenes on August 18, 2006, 02:45:23 am
The Dioskouori  (alternatively spelled--dioskuri, dioscuri)

Castor and Pollux (Kastor and Polydeukes)

(according to

Castor and Pollux were the offspring of Leda and the Swan, under which disguise Jupiter had concealed himself. Leda gave birth to an egg [two eggs], from which sprang the twins [Castor and Pollux in one egg]. Helen, so famous afterwards as the cause of the Trojan war, was their sister [in the second egg, Helen was joined by her sister Clytemnestra (also spelled 'Clytaemnestra')].

When Theseus and his friend Pirithous had carried off Helen from Sparta, the youthful heroes Castor and Pollux, with their followers, hasted to her rescue. Theseus was absent from Attica, and the brothers were successful in recovering their sister.

Castor was famous for taming and managing horses, and Pollux for skill in boxing. They were united by the warmest affection, and inseparable in all their enterprises. They accompanied the Argonautic expedition. During the voyage a storm arose, and Orpheus prayed to the Samothracian gods, and played on his harp, whereupon the storm ceased and stars appeared on the heads of the brothers. From this incident, Castor and Pollux came afterwards to be considered the patron deities of seamen and voyagers (One of the ships in which St. Paul sailed was named the Castor and Pollux. See: Acts xxviii, II.), and the lambent flames, which in certain sates of the atmosphere play round the sails and masts of vessels, were called by their names.

After the Argonautic expedition, we find Castor and Pollux engaged in a war with Idas and Lynceus. Castor was slain, and Pollux, inconsolable for the loss of his brother, besought Jupiter to be permitted to give his own life as a ransom for him. Jupiter so far consented as to allow the two brothers to enjoy the boon of life alternately, passing one day under the earth and the next in the heavenly abodes. According to another form of the story, Jupiter rewarded the attachment of the brothers by placing them among the stars as Gemini, the Twins.

They received divine honors under the name of Dioscuri (sons of Jove). They were believed to have appeared occasionally in later times, taking part with one side or the other, in hard-fought fields, and were said on such occasions to be mounted on magnificent white steeds. Thus, in the early history of Rome, they are said to have assisted the Romans at the battle of Lake Regillus, and after the victory a temple was erected in their honor on the spot where they appeared.

The accompanying coin:

CALABRIA, Taras. Time of Pyrrhus, 281-272 BC. AR Nomos.  Obverse: The Dioskouori riding; Reverse: Taras riding dolphin over waves, holding Nike. Vlasto.777.

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on August 18, 2006, 04:56:42 am
Hi Cleisthenes!

A beautiful coin and interesting informations! All interested in this subject may look too at and search for 'The Dioscurs - the divine pair of brothers'.

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on August 18, 2006, 05:24:38 pm
The myths of Arne

Thessalia, Kierion, 400-344 BC
AE - Trihemiobol(?)
obv. Head of Poseidon, wearing taenia, r.
rev. KIERI - EIWN (?)
      Nymph Arne, wearing chiton, kneeling r., head l., playing with astragaloi
S. 2069; SNG Copenhagen 35
very rare, good S

The myth of Arne belongs to the group of sagas around Hellen, son of Deukalion, who gave name to the Greek who call themselfs Hellens. Her father was Aiolos, the first son of Hellen. Aiolos seduced Thetis, daughter of Cheiron, who became pregnant. To protect her of her father, Poseidon - friend of Aiolos - changed her in a mare and she gave birth to the foal Melanippe which at once was changed back by Poseidon into a girl. Aiolos adopted her, gave her the name Arne and then gave her to a Desmontes to care for her.

Poseidon observed the growing of Arne and seduced her when she became adult. When Desmontes discovered the pregnancy of the girl she let her blind and threw her into a burial chamber. There in her prison she gave birth to the twins Aiolos and Boiotos. Desmontes took the children and commanded her servants to maroon the twins at the Pelion mountain to be gorged by wild beasts. But a cow gave them milk until they were found by Ikarian herdsmen.

Because Theano, wife of the Ikarian king Metapontos, was not able to bear children, and
Metapontos because of that was willing to part from her she took the twins telling him that they were his children. But when however she later got children for her own - and the twins were more intelligent and more beautiful than her own children - she convinced them to kill the twins when they were hunting together. When it came to the fight Poseidon appeared to help his sons and the sons of Theano were killed. When Theano got the message she suicided by hanging. Aiolos and Boiotos escaped. When they heard by Poseidon of the pitiful fate of her mother they killed Desmonted and rescued their mother. Metapontos hearing of the disloyalty of his wife married Arne and adopted her twins (Hygin.Fab. 186).

Unfortunately the domestic bliss didn't lasted long. Metapontos became bored with Arne and married again. Aiolos and Boiotos took their mother's part and killed Autolyte, the new wife. After that they had to flee. They found reception at the court of their grandfather Aiolos. Aiolos gave Boiotos the southern part of his kingdom. From that time on the inhabitants were called Boiotians. Two Thessalian cities took the name Arne, oneof which later became Chaironeia (Pausan. Boiot. c.40).

His brother Aiolos has sailed to the west and has occupied the Aiolic Islands in the Thyrrenean Sea. He became famous as favourite of the gods and guardian of the winds. His home was Lipara a swimming rocky island. But this is another story.

The myth of Arne is a local myth from Thessalia. Arne in Boiotia is named only in Homer's Ilias 2, 507 and therefore is explained as old name of Akraiphion or Chaironeia or being devoured by the lake Kopais. A second Arne shuld have been the old name of the Thessalonitis or of its capital Kierion (RE II 1209, 29 ff.). BTW Our Arne should not be confused with that Arne who was change into a daw because of her stinginess.
The case with Aiolos is a bit complicated and had make me trouble in the beginning. There are 3 different persons called Aiolos: Aiolos I, here the father of Arne, and Aiolos III, the son of Arne. Beside them there is a Aiolos II, the grandson of Aiolos I, sometimes called the father of Arne too. So it is not clear too, who is the guardian of the winds, Aiolos I or Aiolos III.

The Astragaloi:
Sadly the astragaloi are no more seen on my coin. Astragaloi are dices made from the ankle joint bones (talus) of sheep and goats (greek astragalos = ankle joint). In one of the games the astragaloi must be thrown upwards and then were been valued referring to the sides which were seen upside. The sides had different values: The most instable side was 6 points, the concave side 3 points, the convex side 2 point and the most simple only 1 point. If all 4 astragaloi showed different sides the throw was called Venus and the player won the game. Showing only 1 point on all sides was called Canis (dog) and that was the worst throw. These terms we know from a letter of Augustus to Sueton. Augustus was said to be a passionate dice player.

Arne, the well-nymph:
Why Arne on this coin is depicted playing with astragaloi I think could have this reason: There is another myth about a well-nymph named Arne passed down by Pausanias f.e (10, 1 ff.). Rhea after giving birth to Poseidon has hidden the child between a herd of sheep near a well caled Arne, the 'sheep-well'. To Kronos  - who was going to gorge all his new-born babes - she gave a foal like the stone she gave later to him instead of the young Zeus. By others the story is told so, that the well-nymph to whom Rhea gave her child has a different name at that time. She got the name Arne not before Kronos demanded his son from the nymph and she denied him, as it would come from the word for 'denying'

And playing with astragaloi matches a well-nymph much better. Probably the figures of Arne, daughter of Aiolos, from whom Kierion has gotten its old name, and Arne, the well-nymph, interfered with each other!

I have added the pic of a Roman statue, 130-50 AD, showing a girl plying with astragaloi. Today it is in the Antiken Museum in Berlin. The depiction reminds strongly of our coin reverse.

Pausanias, Voyages in Greece
Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon
Robert von Ranke-Graves, Mythologie der Griechen
Karl Kerenyi,
Der kleine Pauly

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on August 18, 2006, 05:26:10 pm
Artemis and Kallisto

Rather by chance I recently came across this Greek coin - and couldn't resist as you could suggest.

Boiotia, Orchomenos, 4th century BC
AE 20, dichalkon, 5.91g
obv. Artemis in short chiton, quiver at back, kneeling r., shooting arrow from her bow, [behind
       her a dog]
       Kallisto seated on rocks, transfixed by an arrow in her breast, falling backwards, at her
       side Arkos, laying backwards
SNG Copenhagen 266; BMC 1-2 var.; Svoronos 1914, pl. XI, 5, 7; Traite III, 940
rare, about VF, dark green patina

Kallisto, daughter of king Lykaon - or referring to others a nymph, was a devotee of Artemis. She was loving the hunt and has sworn eternal virginity. But Zeus fall in love with the beautiful girl and seduced her. After that he transformed her into a she-bear to hide her from Hera. Hera saw through his trick and caused Artemis to shoot her. But Zeus saved his and her son Arkas by giving him to Maia who should educate him. Kallisto was put as constellation to the sky (Apollod. I, c.). Another version tells that she succeeded in hiding her gravidity from Artemis until they together wanted to take a bath. Artemis saw her pregnant belly and Artemis transformed her into a she-bear as which she delivered Arkas. When soon after that she and Arkas were catched by herdsmen and brought to her father Lykaon she fleed into the temple of Zeus. Because of that sacrilege she should be put to death, but Zeus moved her to the stars (Eratosthenes and Hygin. Lex. Myth.). Others report, that Zeus himself has taken the shape of Artemis when he approached her (Callimach. ad Hymn. in Jovem, v. 41). When Artemis asked her for her state and she answered that Artemis herself was the cause for that she became so angry that she transformed her.

About the fate of Arkas there are some different versions too. Referring to one of them Zeus gave him to Maia because she should educate him. Referring to another his grandfather Lykaon is said to have received him. When once Zeus visited him Lykaon has slaughtered Arkas and has dished up him to Zeus with the intent to try out wether he as a god was able to know what he was eating. Zeus recognized this abhorrent deed, destroyed his house by lightning and transformed Lykaon into a wolfe. Arkas was put together again, he gave him back his life, and gave him to herdsmen for education. When they were sometimes hunting they met a she-bear, his transformed mother. They took their bows but the she-bear fleed in the temple of Zeus Lykaion. This temple was not allowed to enter. Therefore she and Arkas who was following her should be executed. But Zeus saved tem both by putting them to te stars. Nevertheless it is reported that he followed his mother's brother as king. He then teached his people to cultivate grain - what he has learned by Triptolemos, likewise the art of weaving and making clothes, whch he has learned by Adristos. The country which was called Pelasgia got the name Arkadia referring to him. His wife was said to be Erato from who he got three sons, Aza, Aphidas and Elatus, between he later distributed his realm. The city of Trapezus in Arkadia is said to be founded by Arkas.

Some background:
Mostly named as daughter of the Arcadian king Lykaon she was a hunting compagnion of Artemis. Zeus approached her in the shape of Artemis (or Apollo). Artemis discovers her pregnancy, outcasts her and transforms her into a she-bear. She delivees Arkas (referring to others Arkas and Pan) and so becomes the the sovereign of Arcadia. The transformation sometimes occurs by Zeus or Hera. It is reported too that Artemis shot her. Kallimachos connected both versions: Hera transforms her into a she-bear and commands Artemis to shoot her. Zeus saves her by puttnig her to the stars. The adolescent Arkas follows a she-bear not knowing that she is her mother; to avoid a desaster Zeus puts both to the stars: she-bear and Arkturos (Arktophylax, the bear-keeper). Angry again Hera caused the sea-gods Okeanos and Tethys to not allow the she-bear at the sky to take a bath in the ocean. The Great Bear so belongs to the circumpolar stars which never go under (Ovid met. II, 409-531).
At Trikolonoi near Megapolis her grave was shown in the temple of Artemis Kallisto of which she is a hypostasis*, Paus. VIII, 35, 8; Statues of Kallisto are proofed literalily; of the statue from Delphi (Paus. X, 9, 5f.) is found the devoting inscription of the Arcadians. A wall painting of Pompeji is now in Naples.

Arkas, Eponymos* of the Arcadians, listed at the 4th place in the list of the kings, was the son of Zeus and Kallisto, an Artemis figure. He brings forward his country's culture and distributes it to his 3 sons of Erato. His tomb is found in Mantineia, Paus. III, 8, 9. His myths in the version we know (Ovid met. II, 490ff.; fast II, 155ff.) are of hellenistic origin.

*Eponymos: Someone who gave name to a city or country
*Hypostasis, here: Personification of a divine attribute or a religious idea to an
                             independent divine being (meaning: Kallisto is in a sense Artemis

History of art:
The transformation into a she-bear is shown in a Apulian Vase painting (Oinochoe, c.370 BC; Malibu,GM). The seduction by Zeus in the shape of Artemis at the side of Kallisto was painted by Rubens (1613; Kassel, SM), F. Boucher (1769; London, WC) and J.-H. Fragonard (c. 1753; Angers, MBA); only an eagle or a thunderbolt as attribute let us recognize that it is Zeus. His transformation into a female goddess gave the painters especially of the 18th century the sujet or the pretense to depict a tender tete-a-tete between two women not without a Sapphic undertone. Artemis detecting Kallisto's pregnancy when bathing and pointing at her with her finger under the condemning looks of the other nymphs, that was depicted by Tizian (c.1568; Vienna, KM) and Annibale Caracci (c.1603; Rome, Palazzo Farnese). Palma Vecchio ( c.1526; Vienna, KM) used the scene to present female act figures in various positions.

I have attached a pic of Tizian's painting.

Der kleine Pauly
Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon
Karl Kerenyi, Mythologie der Griechen
Ovid, Metamorphoses
Pausanias, Journeys through Greece
Aghion/Barbillon/Lissarrague, Reclams Lexikon der antiken Götter und Heroen

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Cleisthenes on August 26, 2006, 01:20:37 am
Artemis and Kallisto

As usual, I only have something very brief to add to Jochen's always interesting information:

Kallisto (ka-lis'tõ) or Callisto was the daughter of Lycaon, a king of Acadia who has been transformed into a wolf because of his wickedness. Zeus fell in love with Kallisto and she bore him a son, Arcas.

According to some accounts, Artemis was angry with Kallisto, who has been one of her chaste companions, and transformed her into a bear. Others say it was Zeus who transformed her to save her from the wrath of Hera. Whatever the reason, Kallisto was turned into a bear.

When Arcas reached young manhood, he was hunting wild animals in the forest, and seeing a bear, would have killed it, unaware that it was his mother. Zeus rescued Kallisto by carrying her off in a whirlwind and translating her to the heavens, where she became the constellation Ursa Major (the Great Bear). Hera was jealous of the honor that had come to Kallisto of being placed in the skies, and persuaded Poseidon to forbid her ever to bathe in the sea. For this reason the Great Bear never sinks below the horizon [northern hemisphere, of course] - just as the GPS constellation is always visible to Kallisto!

I have included the following coin:

AR Hemidrachm, 2.86g, 470s B.C., with a reverse die by the ‘Copenhagen Master’. Obverse: Zeus Lykaios seated left on low throne, holding long scepter with his left hand and with eagle flying off his right; Reverse:  Head of Kallisto to left, wearing taenia and necklace and with her hair in a queue; all within incuse square. BMFA 1239 (this coin). Williams I, 1, 6a (this coin). Very rare.
From the collections of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and of Catherine Page Perkins, Numismatic Fine Arts VIII, 6 June 1980, 182.

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on August 26, 2006, 03:47:46 pm
The Lares

Most of my contributions deal with Greek mythology. Now here I have a typical Roman theme: the Lares! Everytime if you talk about the Lares this coin must be shown at any case:

Lucius Caesius, gens Caesia
AR - denar, 3.87g, 21mm
        Rome, 112/111 BC
obv. Heroic bust of the youthful Apollo Vesovius l., diademed and with drapery on l.
       shoulder, seen from behind, hurling thunderbolt
 rev. The Lares Praestites seated 3/4 r., nude to hips, then covered with dog's skin, wearing
       hats and boots, between them a dog, stg. r.; both holding staff in l. hand, the right one
       has r. hand on the dog's head.
       in upper field head of Vulcanus l. and his tongs
       in left field LA ligate, in r. field RE ligate (LA-RE!)
       in ex. L.CAESI
Crawford 298/1; Sydenham 564; RSC Caesia 1
nice VF, broad flan

The Lares together with the Penates and Manes belong to the Roman guardian spirits. As goddess eventually Ceres is counting to this group too.The name Lares is said to originate from the Etruscean 'larth', meaning ruler or king. But that is not sure. Referring to the myth their parents were the nymph Acca Larentina and the god Mercurius. There are various Lares depending on the place they were protecting:
Lares compitales were protecting crossroads,
Lares permarini are the guardians of ships and sailors,
Lares praestites were protecting a city and
Lares Hostili, Volusani and so on were protecting the named owner of a place.

The Lares familiares (before the Augustean reform only in Singularis!) originally were all deities which were worshipped at the hearth, so beside the Lares the Penates too and Ceres. The hearth was regarded by the Romans as centre of the family and it was the place of veneration. Their cult included the slaves and the unfree people too; the vilicus* was allowed to sacrifice independently at the compitum* or the hearth. At the Kalendes, Ides, Nones or other festivals the vilica* garlanded the hearth and prayed to the Lares. The Lar familiaris was saluted everytime if one get home or leave it, he was given presents daily.

The major festival were the Compitalia on December 22 after the end of the field work and the Laralia on May 1st. They were introduced by Servius Tullius, renewed by Tarquinius Superbus and Iunius Brutus. At the crossroads stood chapels which as much openings as estates came together. The Lares Praestites had a temple on the Campus Martius and a sanctuary at top of the Via Sacra. The statues therein look like the depiction on the coin (Ovid fast. V, 129ff.). Another was said to be on the Palatine.

At the end of the Republic the celebration of the Compitalia became discredited. When Augustus was rearranging the city each vicus* got a compitum Larum as sacral centre. But now they changed into the centre of the Imperial Cult: Between two Lares now always stood the Genius of the Emperor. The Lar familiaris was substituted by two Lares familiares with the Genius of the Pater familias between them.

A yet unsolved problem is the origin of the Lares. There are two suggestions: 1) The originate from the Roman Ancestry Cult or 2) they were Guardian Spirits of localities (Wissowa). In ancient times it was assumed that the Lares were identical with the Manes. That demonstrates that even in ancient times there were no reliable knowledge. The suggestion that the Lar familiaris like the Greek 'heros archegetes' is the deified ancestor of the family and therefore has his place at the hearth has the problem that the way of the Lares from the hearth to the compitum is difficult to explain whereas the other direction from the compitum to the hearth is thinkable if they were interpreted as guardians who confined the
whole fundus*. The idea that the Lares are connected to the Underworld - so Mania should have been the mater larum, who has been a grimace figure and cognate with the Manes (the accompanying dogs are related to the Underworld too, see Hekate!) - can not be followed because the Lares never had any weird, they were worshipped at daylight and stayed at the fundus even if the family moved to the city. So today Wissowa's point of view is valid. The dogs then should be seen as concept of vigilance friendly to friends but hostile against strangers.

The Penates
The Penates (lat. dii penates) were worshipped in the house too especially at the hearth. Their name is not derived directly from 'penus' = inventory for the usage of the pater familias, but can't be separated in respect of content. So they were responsible for supply, food and drinks. The Penates were old Roman deities, they belong to the cives Romani and to the pater familias. When Aeneas was escaping from Troy he took the Penates (not the Lares!) from Troy to Lavinium from where they couldn't be moved to Alba Longa or Rome. Already Timaios knows Penates in Lavinium (as herold's staffs made from iron and ore as well Trojan pottery). The Roman magistrates with imperium were sacrifying from ancient times on in Lavinium at the assumption of their office. Later the Penates got their own sanctuary consecrated on December 14 in the regio of Velia (look at Monumentum Ancyranum) with the pictures of two youthful men, wearing military clothes and holding spears as they were found in regia (participation of the Saliers) or in front of the harbour of Samothrace. Beside Jupiter they were oath gods by which f.e. contracts were sworn.

The Manes
The Manes were the spirits of the deceased ancestors. Their name is still unexplained. It is popular today to derive it from 'manare', to vanish, or from 'manus', good. But this surely is wrong. Originally it was used adjectivical f.e. like 'ab dis manibus'. Referring to conceptions
of the late ancient times the deceased at first became 'lemures', then as good spirits 'lares' or
as bad spirits 'larvae'. The uncertain spirits became Manes. But often they are equated with Lemures or Larvae. The term Manes as 'the small, the thin' matches well the Larvae which etymological are related to Greek chloros and mean 'the pale'. So they name the indeterminated spirits different from the di parentes. From Numa Pompilius on the pontifex took care for their worship at the festivals of Lemuriae and Feralia where they got feralia*; being diregarded they sent bad dreams. They were invoked at the sacrifacing death of Curtius, together with Tellus at the devotion* of the Decii and Carthage. The funeral place was dedicated to Dis Manibus later abbreviated as DM. Later on the term Manes was used for the death spirit of a single dead person, for the corpse and finally for the afterlife and its punishment as it is seen in Carminum Liber I, IV of Horaz:

Pallida mors aequo pulsat pede pauperum tabernas
       regumque turris. O beate Sesti,
vitae summa brevis spem nos vetat incohare longam.
        Iam te premet nox fabulaeque Manes.

[The pale death with equal pace is knocking at the huts of the poor
       and the castles of the rich. O blessful Sestius,
the short sum of live forbids us to entertain long hope.
        Yet night will press you and the Manes of the tale.

Some explanations:
*compitum:   crossroad
*devotion:      sacrificing themself to obligate the gods
*feralia:         festival for the dead on February 21; donations for the dead too
*fundus:        estate
*vicus:          quarter
*vilica:           caretaker, fem.
*vilicus:         caretaker, male (often slaves or freed slaves)

Depicted is the Lararium of the Casa dei Vettii in Pompeji. We see the genius of the family in the shape of a youth in the midth who - between two Lares - is offering a libation. Beneath,
the same genius in the shape of a snake. The depicted Lares are Lares familiares. They regularly are very youthful - sometimes still with bulla - and are depicted often dancing.

The second pic shows one of the Penates as I have known it before I came to school!

Der kleine Pauly
Benjamin Hederich, Gründliche griechische Mythologie
Karl Kerenyi, Die Mythologie der Griechen

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Cleisthenes on August 29, 2006, 08:34:24 am

I have always been intrigued by Janus.  I apologize if this topic has been covered in our thread; I looked (fairly carefully) in your index, Jochen, but I didn't see a reference.

Janus is the Roman god of gates and doors (ianua), beginnings and endings, and hence represented with a double-faced head, each looking in opposite directions. He was worshipped at the beginning of the harvest time, planting, marriage, birth, and other types of beginnings, especially the beginnings of important events in a person's life. Janus also represents the transition between primitive life and civilization, between the countryside and the city, peace and war, and the growing-up of young people.
One tradition states that he came from Thessaly and that he was welcomed by Camese in Latium, where they shared a kingdom. They married and had several children, among which the river god Tiberinus (after whom the river Tiber is named). When his wife died, Janus became the sole ruler of Latium. He sheltered Saturn when he was fleeing from Jupiter. Janus, as the first king of Latium, brought the people a time of peace and welfare; the Golden Age. He introduced money, cultivation of the fields, and the laws. After his death he was deified and became the protector of Rome. When Romulus and his associates stole the Sabine Virgins, the Sabines attacked the city. The daughter of one of the guards on the Capitolian Hill betrayed her fellow countrymen and guided the enemy into the city. They attempted to climb the hill but Janus made a hot spring erupt from the ground, and the would-be attackers fled from the city. Ever since, the gates of his temple were kept open in times of war so the god would be ready to intervene when necessary. In times of peace the gates were closed.
His most famous sanctuary was a portal on the Forum Romanum through which the Roman legionaries went to war. He also had a temple on the Forum Olitorium, and in the first century another temple was built on the Forum of Nerva. This one had four portals, called Janus Quadrifons. When Rome became a republic, only one of the royal functions survived, namely that of rex sacrorum or rex sacrificulus. His priests regularly sacrificed to him. The month of January (the eleventh Roman month) is named after him.
Janus was represented with two faces, originally one face was bearded while the other was not (probably a symbol of the sun and the moon). Later both faces were bearded. In his right hand he holds a key. The double-faced head appears on many Roman coins, and around the 2nd century BCE even with four faces.
(By Micha F. Lindemans; see:

Coin: ROMAN REPUBLIC, Anon., 225-214 BC. AR Quadrigatus (6.54 gm). Laureate head of Janus / Jupiter in Quadriga, ROMA incuse on solid tablet. RSC.23. Cr.30/1.

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on August 29, 2006, 02:48:28 pm
Very interesting, especially the history of the open and closed door of the Janus temple!

May I add something to your nice article about IANUS?

1. There is a blant inadequacy between the importance of this god and our knowledge about
    him (and the knowledge of the Roman mythologists too!). So only one inscription with his
    name is found in whole Italy (in Assisi).
2. So it is actually not known why the name of the 11th month was Ianuarius and wether
    there are relations to IANUS at all (Pauly).
3. He was the god of public doorways, not of the pivate. That was the god Portunus.
4. He is one of the rare gods where we couldn't find any counterpart in the world of Greek
5. The conventions to shut the door of the Janus temple in peace was virtually introduced by
    Augustus who did it three times. Before Augustus the door was closed only once (after the
   1st Punian War, regarding to Varro) or twice (by Numa too, regarding to Augustus'
   Monumentum Ancyranum). Even if this practice was very old it was not used before
   Augustus who has rediscovered it for political purposes.
6. Because the knowledge about IANUS was so low, already in ancient times, we heard from
    speculations which are totally unsustainable. So he should have been come as a Syrian-
    Hettite god from the east or he should have been a god of Heaven.

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on August 30, 2006, 10:55:47 am
The white sow of Lavinium

Here I have a new republican coin I want to present together with its mythological background. It is one of my most beautiful Republican coins and I'm a bit proud to have it in my collection.

It is a denar of the mintmaster C. Sulpicius C. f. Galba from the gens Sulpicia.
AR - denarius serratus, 20mm, 3.67g
        Rome, 106 BC
obv. Conjugate heads of the Di Penates, laureate, l.
        D.P.P. before (abbreviation of Di Penates Publici)
rev. Two male figures standing vis-a-vis, both holding spears, the right one points with
       r. hand to a sow, laying between them l.
       above N (control mark)
       in ex. C.SVLPICI.C.F
Crawford 312/1; Sydenham 572; Sulpicia 1
rare, EF, struck slightly excentric

The scene of the rev. is often called an oath scene. But the depiction of a Fetial sacrifice at an oath scene is not much likely because the victim animal was always killed with a silex sacrum (a sacrificing key made of stone), and this is not seen here.

With the rev. scene we are in the group of myths around Aeneas. These are not Greek but Roman myths. The Di Penates Publici already belongs to Aeneas. He has taken them together with the Palladium from Troy to Italy. The rev. is referring to this.

When Aeneas fled from Troy Helenus, a son of Priamos, has predicted Aeneas, that he would built a new city where a white sow would cast 30 piglets. Another forecast was, that they would find a new home where they eat their tables.

When Aeneas and his Troyans came to the coast of Latium after a long odyssee from Carthage, they hungry set down at the beach and began to eat. In this moment Ascanius, the joung son of Aeneas, mentioned that they eat their tables, for they have put their food on leafs of wild parsley or hard bread. So the first prophecy was fulfilled: here was the place to settle down. Aeneas prepared to sacrifice a pregnant white sow he has brought in his ship for this purpose, but the sow escaped and fled 24 stadiums in the inland, layed down under an oak-tree (or ilex-tree) and casted 30 white piglets. Because of that Aeneas knew that this prophecy too became true and he should built a city here. He sacrificed the 30 piglets and erected a shrine at this place. The new city he called Lavinium referring to Lavinia, daughter of king Latinus. The 30 piglets represented 30 years only after which his successors became the real owners of the new land.

But sadly the story was not so straightforward: King Latinus gave his daughter Lavinia to Aeneas not before he was defeated by the Troyans in a war. But Lavinia already was affianced to Thurnius the king of the Rutuli. He began a war against the Latini and the Troyans but was defeated. In this war he and Latinus were killed. So Aeneas became king in Latium. The wars between the Rutuli and the Latini went on and Aeneas was killed, his body taken away by a river and so he disappeared. Ascanius became king thereafter. And he succeeded in defeating the inimical nations and the Latini now became stronger and more powerful so that they built a new city, called Alba Longa.

Alba Longa was founded just 30 years after Lavinium and so the prophecy was fulfilled here too. The name Alba Longa is said to be derived from the white sow (meaning the long white). So Lavinium was the mothertown of Alba Longa and finely of Rome itself.

On the Forum of Lavinium stood a bronze statue of the sow, its body was conserved by the priests in pickle. The Penate of the destroyed Troy Aeneas gave a new home in Lavinum, which was the home of the Sulpicii too, the family of the mintmaster. During republican times is was usual that the dictators and the Roman magistrates having an imperium came to Lavinium at the assumption of their office to take the oath of office in the temple of the Di Penates.

I have attached a pic of the relief from the westside of the Ara Pacis on the Campus Martius in Rome. It shows Aeneas preparing for sacrificing the sow of Lavinium as it was prophesized in book III and VIII of Vergil's Aneide. The attendants are laureate, hold the sow and a bowl with fruits. Aeneas with veiled head is pouring a libation. He holds a spear as symbol of his power. The young Ascanius is wearing Troyan clothes and holds a herdsmen staff (Paul Zanker).

But I don't want to conceal that there is a different interpretation of the relief too. It could be Numa and a unknown king who are sacrificing above an early peace altar to confirm the made peace. The two other figures then could be Jupiter and Dis as witnesses of the agreement.

Der kleine Pauly
Vergil, Aeneis
Cassius Dio, Rom, Vol.VI, Frg.3
Origo Gentis Romanae

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on August 30, 2006, 04:12:37 pm
The Catanian Brothers

Here I have again a typical Roman myth: The saga of the pious brothers from Catania.

AR - denarius, 3.91g
         Rome, c.108-107 BC
obv. Head of Pietas, diademed and with necklace, r.
        under chin .X (control mark)
        behind PIETAS (AT ligate)
rev.: One of the Catanian brothers (Anapias or Amphinomus), nude, running r.,
        carrying his father on his shoulders; he, wearing himation, has raised his r. hand
        and is looking back.
        in ex. M.HEENNI (HE ligate)
Crawford 308/1a; Sydenham 567; herennia 1; RCTV 185
About EF

This coin shows the iconography of the famous saga of the Sicilian brothers (in later sources referred to as Anphinomus and Anapias). In the most ancient version of this legend written by the Greek orator Lycurgus (In Leocr. 95 s.) there is actually no mention of names, and moreover there is but one pius hero, a fact which does not correlate with the classification eusebon choron (alms-place), as the spot where this event took place came to be known. The same event was also the inspiration for the final excursus of the pseudo-Virgilian poem "Aetna". Lycurgus retells the story thus: "It is said that in Sicily a river of fire erupted forth from Etna flowing throughout the area and towards one nearby city in particular; everyone tried to flee in an attempt to save themselves, but one young man, on seeing that his elderly father was unable to run from the torrent of lava, which had almost reached him, lifted the old man up onto his shoulders and carried him away. Weighed down by his burden, I think, the lava flow caught up with him too. Here, one can observe the benevolence of the gods towards virtuous men: the story says that the fire encircled the area and that they alone were saved. As a result, the place was dubbed 'seat of the pious', a name it still retains. The others who, in their haste to flee, abandoned their parents, all met a painful death".

Pausan. X, 28, 4:
The ancients charished their parents highly as you can see in Katane by the so-called "pious", who when the fire from the Mt. Aitna was flowing onto Katane gold and silver regarded for nothing but escaped one carrying his mother, the other his father. Because they advanced only badly the fire reached them with its flames, and because even then they didn't set down their parents, the fire-stream is said to have split in two parts and the fire flowed around the youth and their parents without causing harm to them. Therefore they were worshipped until now by the Katanaians.
This story of the two brothers is reported in the ancient literature several times, wher their names changed. The place near Katane where the statues stood was called 'Place of the Pious' and a later inscription still named Katana 'the famous city of the pious'. Their statues apeared on intaglios and Roman coins as a symbol of pietas. The first report gave the Attic orator Lycurgus in 4th century BC.
Pietas is the behaviour against god and men in order to its duty. As iustitia adversos deos it could be replaced by the nearly synonymous religio, and so pietas indicates especially the human field: the mindset of doing ones duty against relatives, dead or living, especially the parents, but the fatherland too. In its familial-social sense which is nearly inseparable from the religious sense, pietas was personified, and like Fides, Virtus and other divine values which are needed to maintain the order of the society cultic increased. So in the temple in foro holitorio which was consecrated 180 BC there where once a daughter has saved his incarcerated father by the milk of her breasts. The close relation between family and the state made pietas to one of the most important Roman virtues and thus political significant: Pius as cognomen and pietas-coins - with the stork as symbol which feed its aged parents - still in the time of the Republic, but especially the use of all sides of the old-roman pietas (represented in the 'pius Aeneas' of Vergil) as evoking programm by Augustus and derived from that the 'Pietas Augusta' as imperial virtue.

Attached I have the pic of the fresko of Rosso Fiorentino (um 1495-1540), The Catanean Twins, Anapias and Amphinomos, at the Sacrificial Altar, 1535, now in Fontainebleau.

Pausanias, Voyages in Greece, book X
Der kleine Pauly

I hope these contributions are still interesting!

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Cleisthenes on September 06, 2006, 03:17:18 am

. . .There is a blant inadequacy between the importance of this god and our knowledge about him (and the knowledge of the Roman mythologists too!). So only one inscription with his name is found in whole Italy (in Assisi). . .

Best regards,


Sorry for this tardy response.  I find this point you are making fascinating.  Especially because of the ubiquitous (maybe a little hyperbole here) nature of the many references to Janus in literature and the visual arts.  Here is a brief, but important example:

          "By Janus, I think no."  Othello: I, ii, 37

Shakespeare associates one of his most famous villains with the god Janus; Iago swears by Janus.

Here are some Janus images.  The first is an Eshu dance staff from Africa; the second is an alchemical image--The Rebis, and the last is "Janus"--one of the moons of Saturn.

Jim (Cleisthenes)

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on September 17, 2006, 06:26:35 am

Egypt, Alexandria, Claudius II Gothicus, AD 268-270
Potin tetradrachm, 20.5mm, 10.97g
struck year 2 (AD 269/70)
       Bust, draped, laureate, r.
rev. Youthful bust of Hermanubis r., drapery over l. shoulder, wearing kalathos, lotos
       blossom above forehead;
       before combination of kerykeion and palmbranch
       behind LB (year 2)
Milne 4239; Curtis 1701; Köln 3037
VF+, matt darkbrown patina

About 5000 BC several tribes settled down in the valley of the river Nile: Libyans, Semites from Asia and Nubians. This mixture of people settled in two different seperated areas, the valley south of Assiat, later known as Upper-Egypt, and in the area of Fayum in Lower-Egypt. Different to the Sumerians the Egypts built no big cities in the first time. Around 3400 BC Menes unified both reigns and then began to built cities. This was Egypt's heyday, but ended at the end of the 12th century BC.
The origin of the god Anubis is an unsolved riddle until yet. He is connected to the ritual of embalming and depicted as jackal or greyhound.

Anubis was the patron of mummification. Referring to later ideas he was the brother of Osiris, or created secretly by Osiris and Nephthys, then marooned by his parents and raised by Isis. Anubis showed the deads their way to the afterlife. Therefore he was equated by the Greeks with Hermes and named Hermanubis.

Anubis and especially Hermanubis were seen in the late times as gods of mysteries, that means only a small circle of adepts (the so-called mysts) were informed. Even today you find Hermanubis on large quantities of esoteric websites. Our knowledge is based mainly on Plutarch and Apuleius.

Anubis (Greek), Anpu (Egyptian), the Egyptian jackal-headed deity, was the lord of the Silent Land of the West (the underworld). To him together with Thoth was entrusted the psychopompic leading of the dead. In the judgement after death, Anubis tests the balance in the scene of weighing the hearts. His offices were likewise those of the embalmer, mystically speaking.
Originally the god of the underworld, he was later replaced by Osiris. In Heliopolis during the later dynasties he was identified with Horus, for he was often regarded as the son of Osiris and Isis - more often of Osiris and Nephthys (Neth). Plutarch writes: "By Anubis they understand the horizontal circle, which divides the invisuble part of the world, which they call Nephthys, from the visible, to which they give the name of Isis; and as this circle equally touches upon the confines of both light and darkness, it may be looked upon as common to them both . . . Others again are of opinion that by Anubus is meant Time . . . " (On Isis and Osiris, sec. 44).
The mysteries of Osiris and Isis were revived in Rome, and Apuleius (2nd century) in 'The Golden Ass' tells of the Procession of Isis, in which the dual aspect of Anubis was portrayed: "that messenger between heaven and helll displaying alternately a face black as night, and golden as the day; in his left the caduceus, in his right waving aloft the green palm branch" (Gods of the Egyptians, Budge 2:264-5). In most of his attributes, Anubis is a lunar power, Plutarch is connecting him with the Grecian Hecate, one of the names for the moon; and this is further emphasized by his being a guide of the dead. So he was identified by the Greeks with Hermes as psychopompos.

Look at the article 'Hermes - the frontier runner' in this thread.

I have added the pic of a statue of Anubis and the pic of Hermanubis from Vollmer.

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on September 17, 2006, 06:45:50 am
The rape of the Sabine women

L. Titurius L.f. Sabinus, gens Tituria
AR - denar, 20 mm, 3.95 g
Rome 89 BC
obv. bearded head of king Tatius r.
behind SABIN, before T / A as monogram
rev. Two Roman soldiers each carrying away a Sabinian woman
in ex. L.TITVRI
Crawford 344/1a: Sydenham 698; Tituria 1
VF, lightly toned, rev. slightly excentric
ex Lakeview coll.

The rev. shows the famous rape of the Sabine women. With it we are at the time shortly after the foundation of Rome.

Livius, Ab urbe condita I, 9:
The Roman State had now become so strong that it was a match for any of its neighbours in war, but its greatness threatened to last for only one generation, since through the absence of women there was no hope of offspring, and there was no right of intermarriage with their neighbours. Acting on the advice of the senate, Romulus sent envoys amongst the surrounding nations to ask for alliance and the right of intermarriage on behalf of his new community. It was represented that cities, like everything else, sprung from the humblest beginnings, and those who were helped on by their own courage and the favour of heaven won for themselves great power and great renown. As to the origin of Rome, it was well known that whilst it had received divine assistance, courage and self-reliance were not wanting. There should, therefore, be no reluctance for men to mingle their blood with their fellow-men.
Nowhere did the envoys meet with a favourable reception. Whilst their proposals were treated with contumely, there was at the same time a general feeling of alarm at the power so rapidly growing in their midst. Usually they were dismissed with the question, `whether they had opened an asylum for women, for nothing short of that would secure for them inter-marriage on equal terms.' The Roman youth could ill brook such insults, and matters began to look like an appeal to force.
To secure a favourable place and time for such an attempt, Romulus, disguising his resentment, made elaborate preparations for the celebration of games in honour of `Equestrian Neptune,' which he called `the Consualia.' He ordered public notice of the spectacle to be given amongst the adjoining cities, and his people supported him in making the celebration as magnificent as their knowledge and resources allowed, so that expectations were raised to the highest pitch. There was a great gathering; people were eager to see the new City, all their nearest neighbours-the people of Caenina, Antemnae and Crustumerium-were there, and the whole Sabine population came, with their wives and families. They were invited to accept hospitality at the different houses, and after examining the situation of the City, its walls and the large number of dwelling-houses it included, they were astonished at the rapidity with which the Roman State had grown.
When the hour for the games had come, and their eyes and minds were alike riveted on the spectacle before them, the preconcerted signal was given and the Roman youth dashed in all directions to carry off the maidens who were present. The larger part were carried off indiscriminately, but some particularly beautiful girls who had been marked out for the leading patricians were carried to their houses by plebeians told off for the task. One, conspicuous amongst them all for grace and beauty, is reported to have been carried off by a group led by a certain Talassius, and to the many inquiries as to whom she was intended for, the invariable answer was given, `For Talassius.' Hence the use of this word in the marriage rites.1 Alarm and consternation broke up the games, and the parents of the maidens fled, distracted with grief, uttering bitter reproaches on the violators of the laws of hospitality and appealing to the god to whose solemn games they had come, only to be the victims of impious perfidy.
The abducted maidens were quite as despondent and indignant. Romulus, however, went round in person, and pointed out to them that it was all owing to the pride of their parents in denying right of intermarriage to their neighbours. They would live in honourable wedlock, and share all their property and civil rights, and--dearest of all to human nature-would be the mothers of freemen. He begged them to lay aside their feelings of resentment and give their affections to those whom fortune had made masters of their persons. An injury had often led to reconciliation and love; they would find their husbands all the more affectionate because each would do his utmost, so far as in him lay to make up for the loss of parents and country. These arguments were reinforced by the endearments of their husbands who excused their conduct by pleading the irresistible force of their passion--a plea effective beyond all others in appealing to a woman's nature.

The Sabines were ancient people of central Italy, centered principally in the Sabine Hills, NE of Rome. Not much dependable information on them can be gathered. They were probably Oscan-speaking and therefore may be classed among the Sabelli. From the earliest days there was a Sabine element in Rome. After foundation of the double kingdom of Romulus and Titus Tatius the Romans were called Quirites too (populus Romanus Quiritium), referring to Cures, the capital of the Sabinians, where Numa Pompilius was originated too. The story of the rape of the Sabine women to supply wives for the womanless followers of Romulus is a legend explaining this fact. Many Roman religious practices are said to have Sabine origins. Rome was involved in numerous wars with the inland Sabines; Horatius is supposed to have defeated them in the 5th cent. BC, and Marcus Curius Dentatus conquered them in 290 BC. The Sabines became Roman citizens 268 BC. The Samnites were possibly a branch of the Sabines. Anyway often the Samnites were confused by the Romans with the Sabinians.

I have added a pic of the statue 'The rape of the Sabine women' of Giovanni Bologna standing in the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence and a pic of the homonymous painting of Nicolas Poussin from AD 1637.

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on September 19, 2006, 06:06:25 am
Veiovis and Amaltheia

Mn. Fonteius, gens Fonteia
AR - denar, 4.05g
         Rome 85 BC
obv. laureate head of Apollo Veiovis, r.
        MN FONTEI behind (MN ligate)
        CF under chin, [thunderbolt below]
rev. Infant winged Genius riding goat r., caps of the Dioscuri, surmounted by stars,
       to right and left, thyrsus below, all in laurel wreath
Crawford 353/1d; Sydenham 724b; Fonteia 11
The reverse of this coin imitates a statue in the temple of Veiovis in Rome, with Genius riding the goat Amalthea. Jupiter was suckled by Amalthea on Mount Ida, and her horns gave rise to the cornucopiae.

We have had a thread about this coin some time before
Here I will add informations which throw even more light on this mysterious issue (Georg Wissowa, Religion und Kultus der Römer, München 1912):

Just in the midth between the Lemuria and the Canaria the old table of ceremonies notes on May 21 an agonium which - following the added script of the Fasti Venusini (CIL I, 2 p.318) - was referring to the god Vediovis; even though this witness stands isolated it deserves belief because the affiliation of the god to the oldest cults is unquestionable and the date of this ceremony fits the little knowledge which we can find about the meaning of this god. The name which occurs in the forms Vediovis, Vedius, Veiovis characterized him explicitly as the counterpart of Diovis, Dius, Iovis, the god of heaven, and when he is invoked in the devotion's formula at Macr. S.III 9, 10 together with the di manes so this certainly points to a God of the Underworld; because of that the god named by Dion. Hal. II 10, 3 as Zeus katachthonios - to whom everybody was forfeited who has offenced the articles about the relationship of clients, a law that already Romulus has added to the Twelf Tables - probably was nobody else as Veiovis.

The devotion's formula - which evidently existed already in an older version - names before Vejovis and the Manes Dis pater the greek god of the Underworld, who here still stands next to Vejovis but soon has replaced him so that the Augustean time was absolutely without knowledge about the nature and meaning of this old deity and dwelled on various suggestions. Whereas outside of Latium no trace is found of his worship and the only extra-roman monument was the altar found near Bovillae consecrated by the genteiles Iuliei to Vediovis (CIL I 807 = XIV 2387), the god obtained nearly simultaneously two temples at the beginning of the 2nd century: one - vowed by L. Furius Purpureo during his Praetura in 554 = 200 BC and begun during his Consulate 558 = 196 BC - was situated on the Insula Tiberina and was consecrated on Januar 1 560 = 194 BC, the other - situated in the saddle between Capitole and Arx inter duos lucos - was donated 562 = 192 BC and celebrated its foundation on March 7. In this last temple stood a statue of the god made from cypress wood depicting him youthful, with arrows in his hands and a goat at his side:

Commemorating the greek tale of the nutrition of the infant Zeus by the goat Amaltheia and explaining the name Ve-iovis in analogy to vegrandis, vescus the God was interpreted as 'little Jupiter' whereas the depiction indeed showed an Apollo and in fact as Death-God with his perishing arrows, but with the goat added from the world of the Roman imagination; that the goat was seen by the Romans as an animal of the subterraneans arises from the ritual instructions where the Flamen Dialis were not allowed to touch a goat or name it, just as a dead body or beans(!).

The same equalization of the Death-God with Apollo occurs too on the god who was worshipped on the mountain Soracte near Falerii who - originally without a proper name - plainly was named Soranus pater but then not only in literature but during worshipping too was named as Apollo whereas others explained him by the name Dis pater: The expiation rite which was typical for its cult where the priests of the god - descending from certain families of the region and named hirpi i.e. wolfes - were stepping bare-footed over glowing coals was existing yet in Roman Imperial times.

Beg your pardon for the bumpy translation.

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on September 22, 2006, 06:28:13 am
Herakles with kantharos

There are rare depictions of Herakles showing him besides his usual attributes holding a kantharos, the typical attribute of Dionysos. This depiction we find in Imperial times at Smyrna for Domitian, Julia Mamaea, Julia Domna and Gordian III (I don't know wether this list is complete!). Here is my coin:

Ionia, Smyrna, Gordian III AD 238-244
AE 21, 5.69g
(without name of magistrate)
Bust, draped and cuirassed, laureate, r.
Herakles, nude, stg. frontal, head l., holding club and lion-skin in l. arm, pouring from kantharos with r. hand
SNG von Aulock 2230; SNG München 3244; SNG Copenhagen 1397 (rev.); BMC Ionia, 445
rare, about VF/VF, oliv-green patina, usual light roughness

The story behind the depiction of this reverse plays in the time after the twelve labours, which Herakles had to do for Eurystheus (the so-called Dodekathlos). After having completed these labours he moved around the world performing heroic deeds everywhere. He rescued Prometheus, fighted against the Centaurs, defeated the Amazones, accompagnied the Argonauts and killed the Giant Antaios in Africa, to name only few of them.

At his journey he finally came to Spain after having digged (referring to some authors) the narrow passage between Africa and Europe and so connecting the Ocean with the Mediterrean (Diodor. Sic. I.c.c.17.18.p.157). During his journey the sun in Africa burnt so hard that due to his impatience he shot arrows to the sun. For this bold deed Apollo gave him a golden cup as a present which he used as ship and not only to go to Spain but to return back to Africa together with the raped cattle of the Sun-god. After that he gave the cup back to Apollo (Apollodor I.II.c.4.§10). This cup he is holding on some coins from Smyrna (Froel. sensam.p.355). The cup is seen on other monuments too but perhaps this may have different reasons.

Herakles and Dionysos:
Actually the kantharos beside the thyrsos  is the typical attribute of Dionysos. Now Herakles and Dionysos have a lot in common. Both are Half-Gods, who at last were incorporated in the circle of the Olympic gods. Both died and then rose from the dead. Therefore both were identified with Christ in later times. But here I will restrict on their relation to wine. Dionysos is known as cultivator of wine and for bringing the wine to the human beings all over the world.  But Herakles too was not an anti-alkoholist! So we know a coin where he is shown staggered drunk by wine and hold by two satyrs.

And then there is the famous drinking contest between Herakles and Dionysos. It doesn't belong to the classic deeds of Herakles but especially in the time of Hellenism this theme was very popular. There was found a famous mosaic in the house of atrium in Antioch from the 2nd century AD. God Dionysos is resting on a kline (a kind of couch), holding a drinking cup and the thyrsos. Beside him stands the dark-skinned Herakles with a wine-glass, his club leaning at his knees. Dionysos is accompagnied by a fluteplaying Mainad, the young satyr Komos and the old god Silen. The victorious Dionysos holds his cup upside-down to show that he has empted it first.

There is no known proof in mythology that Herakles had participated in the Dionysean thiasos; probably it is a hellenistic invention very popular in Imperial times, which was originated because of the well-known preference of the heroe for wine, his even proverbial dipsomania. In addition Dionysos and Herakles were children from mortal mothers and relative 'new' Olympics. This too is promoting a connection between both. The depiction of Herakles in a Dionysean context was popular during the entire Imperial time; a special meaning - f.e. for creating a new myth or an allusion to cult practices - can't deduced from these pictures. They expresse rather a common symbolic of happiness in the sense of an idea of paradisiacal conditions and of welfare where the presence of the drunk Herakles adds a humouristic note to all. The dipsomania and the unbridled appetite of Herakles were popular topoi of the comedy writers too, f.e. Aristophanes. 

The mosaic today is in the Worcester Museum in Worcester/Massachusetts, USA.

Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: moonmoth on September 29, 2006, 06:25:45 am
Referring to Jochen's post on Vejovis and Amalthea -

The figure on the obverse is wearing a wreath which seems to include berries.  I wonder what that is?  If it's an underworld figure it might not be the normal laurel.  Could it be mistletoe?

This coin is a slight variation of the one you showed, which has the caps of the dioscuri above instead of to each side.  Like Jochen's coin, the wreath on the obverse also has berry-like objects, though they are differently placed.

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: slokind on September 29, 2006, 11:47:49 am
The Mediterranean laurel, laurus nobilis, produces berries in the fall.  On some red-figured vases, where a band of laurel is used as a border pattern, the berries are included, usually placed decoratively rather than botanically.  See the Pronomos vase in Naples, which, so far from funerary, is theatrical in subject matter.  I don't know whether the berries, if in the noonday sun they fell onto one's toga or onto the street, are among those that make a mess and stain.  This is also the laurel that can be used in cooking and medicine.  The look-alikes (as in California, where I come from) are some of them poisonous, but it was the true laurel that was used in Greco-Roman antiquity.  Pat L.

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on September 29, 2006, 06:17:01 pm
Once more we learn that each closer look on the coins leads to new discoveries! Nice!

Now I want to contribute
Some notes on Pan

After getting the following coins with depictions of Pan I thought it should be time to read about Pan. Here are the results. I hope there is something new for the Forum members.

1. Coins:
Moesia inferior, Nikopolis ad Istrum, Elagabal AD 218-222
AE 27, 13.03g
struck under legate Novius Rufus
obv. [AVT KM AVR] - ANTWNINOC (NO ligate)
bust, draped and cuirassed, laureate, r.
Pan, bearded, with horns and legs of goat, standing frontal, head r., treading
with l. foot on panther, laying on back to right; holding with r. hand lagobalon
over r. shoulder and nebris (pipe) in l. hand
AMNG 1933; Moushmov 1436
very rare, good F, bluegreen patina

This type seems to imitate the coins of Hadrianopolis where it occurs for Caracalla (Pick).

Lagobalon (lat. pedum) was a kind of boomerang for chasing small game (lagos, gr. hare).
The word 'panther' reminds of Pan but has a very different origin. It probably is of Persian origin like Pardalis (lat. panther). Here the panther seems to be a symbol for Pan as hunter of wild beasts.

Referring to some writers Pan was the son of Zeus and Hybris or Kallisto, or son of Hermes and Penelope or the Nymph Dryope. Some writers allude to two Pans (probably because he sometimes appears several herdsmen at the same time at different places!). He was raised by Nymphs in Arcadia especially by Sinoe. Short after his birth he ran away but was catched by Hermes who showed him to the Gods on he mountain Olympos who burst out laughing when they saw him and his buffoonery.

Arcadia was a rural, uncivilized region in Greece and so Pan was the God of mountains, sheep and herdsmen, of hunters too, and he liked to hunt. He was the leader of Nymphs who liked to dance around him. He loved to stay in caves. Siesta was hold sacred to him. Whom who happened to awake him he scared by shouting loudly so that he terrified ran away (therefore called 'panic'!).

He is depicted with horns, goat-feet, a tail and ram's-skin. So he reminds strong of the image we have of the Devil. But he should not be seen as theriomorphic god, as Animal-Human-God. Together with Zeus he defeated the Titans. For this battle he invented the Triton's horns as instruments for acoustic noise, gave these to his people and so put the Titans to flight. He was a companion of Dionysos and teached him to arrange his army in regiments and wings.

He was famouse because of his horniness. So he was after the herdsmen and mated with goats too. Especially he was after the Nymphs. Once he followed Syrinx who coming to the river Ladon could save herself only by transforming herself into reed. Because Pan couldn't see the right Syrinx reed he cut off several of them and bound them to a flute, the so-called Pan's-flute. With it he challenged Apollo with his lyre for a competition. But like Marsyas he was underlying by the arbitrage of the mountain god Tmolos. Apollo took away his flute and donated it later to Hermes. Another Nymph he was after was Echo known for her loquacity. She was said to be even his wife who bore Iynx to him, but later came to a bad end because of her love for Narkissos. Once he tried to rape the caste Pitys who could escape only by transforming herself into a pine. From that time on Pan wears a pine wreath on his head. His greatest success was the seduction of Selene, the Moon Goddess. He has seduced her by turning himself into a snow-white ram.

Pan is the only god who died in historic times. The news of his death came to Thamos a sailor whose ship was on a travel to Italy. A divine voice shouted across the sea: "Thamos, are you here´? If you come to Palodes announce there that the Grest God Pan is dead!". Thamos did so an at all coast rose crying and moaning. This occurs in the time of the emperor Tiberus. Plutarch - from whom we know this story - found the following explanation: The Egyptian Thamos has probably misunderstood the ceremonial moaning 'Thamos Pan-megas tethneke (= the infinite-great Tammuz is dead!)' as 'Thamos, the great Pan is dead!'. It was suggested that this story was invented only to frighten the superstitious Tiberius who has called Thamus at his court. In any case Pan was worshipped one century later all over Greece as Pausanias reports.

2. coin:
Makedonia, Antigonos II Gonatas ca. 319-239 BC.
AE 17, 5.65g
srruck 277-239 v.Chr.
obv. (anepigraphic)
        Head of Athena with crested Corinthian helmet, r.
rev. Pan, nude, stg. r., erecting tropaion, holding wreath in l. hand
       M in l. field, ANT between feet
cf. SNG Copenhagen 1208-1209 (different letters in l. field)
about VF, brown patina
Pedigree: ex Freeman & Sear

The revers reminds of the victory of Antigonos Gonatas over the Celts 277 BC.

This coin is not rare, but historical interesting. About the time of Antigonos Gonatas (277/6-240/39 BC) we don't know much. This time belongs to the the times which are the worst documented of the Greek history at all. But we know, that the reverse of this coins where Pan erects a tropaion is referring to the victory of Antigonos over the Celts at Lysimacheia 277 BC. In this battle it is said that Pan has appeared - as at Marathon or at Salamis - and has the Celts put in panic fear by his loud shouting. By this victory Antigonos could overwhelm Pyrrhos, Lysimachos and Ptolemaios Keraunos in Macedonia. Thus Macedonia after a time of disturbances got a time of calm and order again.

3. coin:
Thracia, Pantikapaion, struck under Perisad II 275-265 BC
AE 17, 3.71g
obv. (anepigraphic)
        Head of bearded Pan or Satyr, laureate, l.
rev.  P-A-N
       Head and neck of a bull with big eye, l.
SNG Cop. 32; SNG BM Black Sea 890-893; Anokhin Bosporous 132
about EF/EF

 A note from the consignor, a prolific writer on ancient history: "In Greek mythology, satyrs were half-man half-goat creatures who roamed the woods and fields, drinking wine, playing panpipes, and in constant search of nymphs. Attic painted vases depict them with snub noses, pointed goat ears, and long wavy hair, with mature satyrs often shown with goat's horns and full beards. Satyrs closely resembled Pan, the Greek god of shepherds and fields, and were his devout companions. Because of the physical similarity between the satyr and Pan, there has been a long numismatic debate on whether the emblematic head appearing on Pantikapaion coins represents Pan or a satyr. The more traditional interpretation is to view the character as Pan, a view bolstered by the usual presence of the word PAN on the coins. However Bosporous specialist David McDonald, expressing the opposing point of view, notes that the Russian numismatist A.N. Zograph, in his massive work Ancient Coins (published in Russian in 1951, but written prior to 1941), considered the image to be the head a satyr. Zograph (and later Anokhin in 1986) noted that the first coins with a satyr appeared in the region around 390 BC, during the rule of Satyros I (433-389?). Satyros the First was a local leader who conquered neighboring cities and introduced a centralized Bosporian state. The Russian numismatists speculate that the coins show a satyr which may commemorate Satyros. Jerzy Gorecki nicely sums up this point of view: 'Perhaps we should change the traditional interpretation of Pantikapaion->Pan into satyr->Satyros I.'"

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on September 29, 2006, 06:21:59 pm
Miletos - founder of Milet

Mysia, Miletopolis, Gordian III, AD 238-244
AE 23, 6.40g
       bust, draped (and cuirassed?), laureate, r.
      The heroe Miletos, in short military cloak, stg. frontal on prora(?), head r., raising r. hand
      and holding in l. hand spear and round shield
Franke, Griechische Münzen von Kleinasien, p.48, no.153 (only rev., but with different break)
extremely rare, about VF
Thanks to Pat Lawrence and Curtis Clay for the attribution and the legends!

When Europa was left by Zeus - on Crete he has created with her the sons  Minos, Rhadamanthy and Sarpedon - she married king Asterios of Crete. This marriage was childless. So Asterios adopted Minos, Rhadamanthys and Sarpedon and made them his heirs. When the brothers grow up they came into conflict about the love to a young beautiful boy named Miletos. This boy was created by Apollon with the nymph Aireia, who is called by others Deione or Theia. Miletos has elected Sarpedon who he loved most. Because of that he was expelled by Minos from Crete. With an important armada he sailed to Karia in Asia Minor and there he founded the city and the reign of Miletos.This region - called Anaktoria - was ruled since two generations by the giant Anax, son of Uranos and Gaia, and his son Asterios, a giant too. Miletos killed Asterios and buried the body on a small island near Lade, where his bones recently were excavated; he must be have a length at least of ten ells. But some writers say Minos have suspected Miletos of having planned to dethrone him and to seize the reign. Only his fear of Apollon has kept Minos from doing more bad to Miletos than only warning him. After that Miletos has fled to Karia unsolicited. Others claim that not Miletos but Atymnios, son of Zeus and Kassiopeia or Phoinix, has been the reason for the conflict.

In Miletos he married the king's daughter Eidothea who bore him twins, Byblis and Kaunos. Cp. Parthen. 11. The adolescent Byblis fell in passionate love to her brother Kaunos. Even though she knew of the unnatural aspect of her love she wrote a letter to him declaring her love. Kaunos was enraged and highly disgusted and to avoid further meetings with her he fled to the borders of Karia and Lykia and there he founded the city of Kaunos.

Miletos, who came frome Crete, is said to be the founder (or re-founder) of Miletos. Referring to Apollon. 3, 5 ff. he was the son of Apollon and Areia, daughter of king Kleochos (whose tomb was found in the sanctuary of Didyma near Miletos), he choosed Sarpedon as lover against Minos and had to flee. Referring to Nikandros (Anton. Lib. 30) Apollon has created him with the Minos daughter Akakallis and she marooned him, wolfes fed him and herdsmen raised him up (whe know such stories!). Minos was after him when he was adolescent, he fled to Karia and founded Miletos. According to others he first had to slain te giant Asterios, son of Anax, and therefore the region formerly was called Anaktoria. Referring to Ovid met. 9, 443 ff. Miletos is the son of Apollon and an otherwise unknown Deione and married Kyanee, daughter of Maiandros. Referring to Cramer Anecd. Gr. 2, 123, 30 Miletos himself is autochthon in Karia. According to Ephor. FGr.H 70 F 127 (Strab.) miletos was founded by Sarpedon together with people from the Cretean city Milatos.

Ranke-Graves: Because Miletos is a male forename the well-kown myth where two brothers
fight for the love of a woman here is given a homosexual twist. Actually - during a period of anarchy following the destruction of Knossos by the Achaiae about 1400 BC - numerous Greek talking Cretean aristocrats of Aiolic-Pelasgean or Ionic origin seem to have emigrated together with their native domestics to Asia minor, especially to Karia, Lykia and Lydia. Herodot doesn't mention the passed down reports about the dynasty of Sarpedon and claimed, that at his time the Lykians (Heroot I, 173; Strabon XII, 8, 5) and the Karians (s. 75, 5) have accepted the matrilinear origin. Miletos originally could be a Cretean word or a transliteration of milteios, meaning 'the colour of red ocker or red plumb' and therefore a synonym of Erythros or Phoinix, because both meaning 'red'. The colour of the Cretean faces was more red then the colour of the Hellenic faces;  Lykians and Karians were partially of Cretean origin.

Miletos was one of the most famous cities of Asia minor. After Sardes here were struck the oldest Elektron coins. The city's famoust sons were Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes and Hekataios, to name only few.
Miletopolis, the city where the coin above was struck, is a city situated in the northern Mysia southwest of the Milesian colony Kyzikos near the Miletopolitis limne (todays Manias Göl). The localisation at todays Melde is not sure. Miletopolis belongs to a large number of cities which were founded by Miletos especially at the coasts of the Black Sea.

Der kleine Pauly
Robert Ranke-Graves, Griechische Mythologie

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on October 07, 2006, 08:52:55 am
Herakles and the Nemean lion

1. The coin:
Maximian AD 286-305, AD 308
AE - Antoninian, 23mm, 3.88g
       Lyon AD 289 (pre-reform)
       Bust, draped and cuirassed, helmeted, r.
      Hercules, nude, stg. r., strangling the Nemean lion; behind him Victory flying and
      crowning him with a wreath, his club behind him on the ground.
RIC V/2, 462; C.654
scarce, VF, nice green patina

2. Mythology:
At the northern edge of the plain of Argos, in a short distance to Tiryns and Mykenai, mountains are rising over which the street goes to Corinth. The highest is the Apesas mountain where Perseus has sacrificed to Zeus the first time. Below the Apesas mountain the valley of Nemea is situated with several caves nearby. In this region a lion resided and made the whole landscape unsafe. The skin of this lion was immune against iron, bronze and stone. A god had sent him against the inhabitants as punishment. According to one of the tales the snake goddess Echidna was the mother of the lion from her own son, the dog Orthos. Thus he was the brother of the Thebean Sphinx. Hera is said to have him brought to her own land. Some say Selene has born him and has let him fallen on the Tretos mountain, or she has created him from the foam of the ocean and Iris has brought him to the Nemean mountains.

Certainly this lion was a very particular animal. He was well connected to death and the underworld in a special manner. The lions which were set on tombs by ancient artists remind on this ideas. As an hunter Herakles not has exterminated the usual animals of the earth like f.e. Orion and he never has played the role of a master of the underworld as hunting god but he seemed to have chased the death. He conquered and captured weird animals which belonged to gods sometimes to the gods of underworld too. When after his victory over the Nemean lion he took his head and skin over his shoulder he turned something evil which
previously has threatened the mortals with perdition into the promise of their rescue.

When Herakles moved out against the lion he came to the little town of Kleonai on the edge of the Nemean forests. According to a later tale his host was a poor farmer and peon named Molorchos originally probably an aborigine and founder of the city of Molorchia. His son was killed by the lion und now he wanted to sacrifice a ram for his guest. But Herakles gave order to wait for thirty days. If after this time he would not return then the lion has killed him too and he should sacrifice the ram to him as heroe. But if he would return then the ram would belong to Zeus Soter, the saver. Molorchos told him how he had to fight against the lion. It had to be a wrestling match because sword and spear would have no effect against him. To do that Herakles must enter in the lion's cave which had two entrances. One of them Herakles stopped up. After sword and spear proofed to be useless he gave the lion a bash with his club that it break apart. The lion tumbled and refused in his cave. In the following fight Herakles pressed the lion's neck so that the beast sufficated. In this fight the lion bit one of Herakles' fingers. Thirty days he needed for all. Not to go from Kleonai to Nemea. But probably to get the depth where the beast was living. Or was it the sleep in which he felt after struggling the lion? It is told about this sleep (Diod. Sic. 45. 4) and one should not forget it, the brother of death. The pictures of Herakles' works on the metopes of the Zeus-temple in Olympia shows the heroe almost half-sleeping, reminding of this dangerous slumber. When he awoke on the thirtieth day he crowned himself with celery like those who came out of a tomb; because the tombs were decorated with celery. The same wreath thereafter was borne by the winners in the Nemean games and later of Isthmos too.

Molorchos already wanted to sacrifice the ram to the heroe when he appeared alive. On his back he bore the lion. So the ram was sacrificed to Zeus Soter. On the next morning he went over the pass to Argos. From there he sent back a mulus to his host - as promised - and adored him highly. With the lion he came to Mykenai, the residence of Eyrstheus. The king frightened deeply about this uncanny deed and forbade Herakles to enter the castle with his prey now and in the future. Furthermore he let build an iron barrel under the ground and each time when Herakles approached he hid in this barrel. And from that time on he communicated with Herakles only by his herald Kopreus.

The invulnerable skin of the lion Herakles removed after he has cut it with the claws of the beast. Zeus put the beast as constellation to the sky to honor his son.

3. Background:
Hera was Herakles' great enemy because he was the son of Zeus who has betrayed her with Alkmene. When Kreon, king of Thebens, gave - after the death of Amphytrite - his daughter Megara as wife to Herakles Hera beat him with madness and Herakles killed his and two other children. Being conscious again he banned himself from Thebens to purify himself from his guilt. But the Pythia of Delphi added another punishment: He had to go as servant to his cousin Eurystheus and Hera challenged him with always new tasks. Various tasks are passed down. The order of the twelf workes today (the so-called Dekathlos) was invented by Apollodor and occurs first on the metopes of the Zeus-temple in Olympia 456 BC. The strangling of the Nemean lion is the first labor in this order and is at the same time the most often depicted. The rarest are the Stymphalic birds and the rape of Diomedes' mares.

4. Character and relevance of Herakles:
The figure of Herakles is disputed until today. On one side there is the noble-brave Herakles of the epos and the tragedy, on the other side the comical-bawdy Herakles of the comedy or the human-altruistic of the philosophers. Because of his human greatness he was the paradigm of the philosophers who made him a moral sufferer. He was a human being and then god again. Point of cristallyzation for the countless features which he got in the course of time seems to be the heros. The heros - originally anthropological conceived - was already in Mykenian times passed down in a more developed form as ti-ri-se-ro-e = tris(h)eros. The struggle with Kerberos and Hades, the tales of the apples of the Hesperids too, let gleam a myth of afterlife. His name means 'glory of Hera'. How does this match the hate by which he was pursuited by Hera? This antinomy could be understand better if it is suggested that it was originally Hera who sent out Herakles for his adventures to achieve fame and glory (kleos) for himself but for Hera too. The originally good relationship between both is confirmed by their joint fight against the Gigants and the Satyrs. The takeover of the Herakles figure by the Romans represents the completion of a long developement.

5. Herakles and Hercules:
Without any doubts the Roman Hercules came from Greece, perhaps about Graeca Magna, but that is not sure. In Middle Italy his cult can be verified since the 6th/5th century BC. It was widespread at the Osci (from where probably the name Hercules), the Latins and the Etruscans. He had a place already in Rome's first lectisternium 399 BC. In Rome he was a god of profit and the traders too and in this role he was a rival of Mercurius. Many inscriptions are evidence for his great worship. Often he is a interpretatio Romana for a local god. So he is Melqart in Africa, or Donar in Germania and Gallia or is called Hercules Magusanus, Saxanus or Deusoniensis.

In the Middle Ages Herakles was understood as antecipation of Christ because of his deeds (descent to the underworld resp. limbo, subdoing of Kerberos = Satan and so on) and because of its personal union of divine and human nature. Like Samson he too appears as one of the pre-Christian heroes.

It is well known that Commodus presented himself as Hercules, but it is known of Trajan too. And during the tetrarchy Diocletianus gave his Co-Emperor Maximianus the name Herculius and so keeping a distance to Iovius under which name he adopted himself into the family of Zeus. This Roman bildtradition (tradition of depiction) was later renewed during the Renaissance and kings like Henry IV and Louis XIV from France presented themself with club and lion-skin again.

6. History of art:
I have added a pic of the western metope from the Zeus-temple in Olympia, now in the Louvre/Paris like all other metopes.

The other pic shows a black-figure neck-amphora. The heroe is depicted nude except for baldric and scabbard. He holds the lion around the neck and strangles it to death. On the left, Ioalos, Herakles' companion, moves away looking back: on the right Athena, in peplos and helmet, holds a shield. This subject was especially popular during the middle and third quarter of the 6th century BC. The picture is origínated from the circle of Exekias, ca. 550-530 BC.
Photograph by Maria Daniels, courtesy of Harvard University Art Museums, 1990

Der kleine Pauly
Karl Kerenyi, Die Mythologie der Griechen - Die Heroengeschichten
Robert Ranke-Graves, Griechische Mythologie
Aghion/Barbillon/Lissarrague, Reclams Lexikon der antiken Götter und Heroen in der Kunst

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on October 15, 2006, 06:29:25 am
Venus Verticordia

The coin:
Mn. Cordius Rufus, gens Cordia
AR - denarius, 19.5mm, 3.82g
         mint of Rome 46 BC
obv. conjoined heads of the Dioscuri r., wearing laureate pilei surmounted by stars.
        RVFVS III.VIR behind
rev. Venus Verticordia standing l., holding scales and scepter, Cupid on her shoulder.
       MN.CORDIVS on r. (MN ligate)
Crawford 463/1a; Sydenham 976; Cordia 2s
About VF
ex Harlan.J.Berk
from Forum Ancient Coins

The Cordia family home, Tusculum, was a center of worship for the Dioscuri twelve miles from Rome. The reverse is a clever play on the moneyer's name and may also compliment Julius Caesar who claimed direct descent from Venus. The particular design of Venus may derive from a statue placed in the temple of Venus Genetrix in the year of issue (FAC).

This issue was struck on a scale commensurate with Rome s requirements at the time of Caesar s quadruple triumph when 5,000 denarii were paid to each legionary and 10,000 to each centurion. The Venus reverse is probably intended as a tribute to Caesar whose gens claimed descent from that goddess (Sear, The History and Coinage of the Roman Imperators, p.45. The scales I think are a tribute to the just contribution of the denarii. Usually these are an attribute of Annona and not of Venus.

Verticordia is a cognomen of Venus (Serv. auct. Aen. 1, 720), who has a fanum in the myrtle grove of the vallis Murcia (ibid. 8, 636). During the Hannibalian war (216 BC?) Sulpicia due to the dictum of the Sibyll from Cumae was determined by an heavy examination as pudicissima (Plin. nat. 7, 120. Solin. 1, 126) and a simulacrum was erected by her, quo facilius virginum mulierumque mens a libidine ad pudicitiam converteretur (turned from libido to shamefaceness!) (Val. max. 8, 15, 12). This has happened: At this time three Vestals have broken the laws of virginity and were buried alive. To reconcile the gods the senate due to the instructions of the sibyllinic books picked out hundred matrones and from these ten by fortune, and from these Sulpicia, daughter of Servius Paterculus and wife of Q. Fulvius Flaccus, was found as the most chaste and therefore had to put the picture of the goddess to the simulacrum. AD 114 because of a lightning prodigium an aedes was built (Plut. mor. 284 ab. Oros. 5. 15, 20). Ovid fast. 4, 133ff. connects Sibyllinum and temple with the celebration on April 1st, which were applied to Verticordia and Fortuna virilis and were practized in the baths by matronae as well humiliores (= from low origin) decorated with myrtle wreaths with the purpose of forma, mores, bona fama[//i] resp. harmony and pudicity. The name Verticordia is derived from vertere only by popular etymology (Ov. a.o. 161 u.a.).Ovid, Fasti, book 4, 157-161: In the time of our ancestors, Rome had lost its sense of shame, so they consulted the venerable Cumaean Sibyl. She ordered a temple to Venus to be built; and, this done, the goddess took the name Verticordia.

Der kleine Pauly
Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: slokind on October 22, 2006, 01:59:18 pm
It took me some time to find the images, because I didn't use this statue in course lectures, but it interested me, precisely because of the motif: Eros on Aphrodite's shoulder.  That means, simply, that this motif was available for Rome to adopt for V. Verticordia, just as the Old Silen dandling the infant Dionysos in his big hands was available for Baroque sculpture to adopt for St. Joseph dandling the baby Jesus.
It seemed worthwhile to hunt down the images, because this motif is not so common.
Pat L.

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on October 22, 2006, 02:50:30 pm
Your pics are phantastic! Thanks!

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Cleisthenes on October 24, 2006, 01:59:06 am
It took me some time to find the images, because I didn't use this statue in course lectures, but it interested me, precisely because of the motif: Eros on Aphrodite's shoulder.  That means, simply, that this motif was available for Rome to adopt for V. Verticordia, just as the Old Silen dandling the infant Dionysos in his big hands was available for Baroque sculpture to adopt for St. Joseph dandling the baby Jesus.
It seemed worthwhile to hunt down the images, because this motif is not so common.
Pat L.

Pat L.

These images are very interesting.  Thank you for taking the time!

Cheers, Jim (Cleisthenes)

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Arminius on October 25, 2006, 02:48:12 pm
The Love of Ares and Aphrodite

Amasea in Pontus,  Marcus Aurelius,
Æ32 (31-32 mm / 19.02 g), 163–164 AD.,
Obv.: [ΑΥΤ] ΚΑΙΣ Μ ΑΥΡ ΑΝ - [ΤΩΝΙΝΟΣ ΣΕΒ] , laureate-headed bust of Marcus Aurelius wearing cuirass and paludamentum, r.
Rev.: [ΑΔΡ] ΑΜΑΣ ΝΕ-ΩΚ Κ ΜΗΤ Κ] ΠΡΩ ΠΟΝ / [Ε]Τ [ΡΞΕ] (year 165 of the era of Amasea = 163-4 AD.) , to l., Ares standing, facing, head, r., wearing military dress, holding spear, resting hand on shield; to r., nude Aphrodite standing, l., covering her breasts with r. hand and pudenda with l. hand.
RPC online temporary № 5288 (10 specimens listed) ; Waddington, Rec. Gen p. 36, 18 ; BMC 1929-10-13-394 .

Ares embodied the very essence of war, earning him a reputation as a violent God, an immortal of action and determination. He was the son of Zeus and Hera, the King and Queen of the Olympic Gods, who weren't too keen on their (legimite for a change) son. Ares was accompanied into battle by his uncle Hades (the Lord of the Underworld), his sister Eris (Goddess of Discord), her son Strife and his two sons Phobus and Deimos (panic and fear). Ares rode into battle on the side of the Trojans with his horses, Flame and Terror, pulling his war chariot. He swooped down to help Aphrodite defend her son Aineias and saved him from sure death at the hands of the Achaians. While Ares protected Aineias with his shield, Aphrodite made her escape to Mount Olympus to tend her wounds.
Love Life: Ares never married but had an ongoing affair with Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love. They had three children - Phobus, Deimos and Eros (Cupid).

Ares and Aphrodite

But the minstrel struck the chords in prelude to his sweet lay and sang of the love of Ares and Aphrodite of the fair crown, how first they lay together in the house of Hephaestus secretly; and Ares gave her many gifts, and shamed the bed of the lord Hephaestus. But straightway one came to him with tidings, even Helius, who had marked them as they lay together in love. And when Hephaestus heard the grievous tale, he went his way to his smithy, pondering evil in the deep of his heart, and set on the anvil block the great anvil and forged bonds which might not be broken or loosed, that the lovers might bide fast where they were. But when he had fashioned the snare in his wrath against Ares, he went to his chamber where lay his bed, and everywhere round about the bed-posts he spread the bonds, and many too were hung from above, from the roof-beams, fine as spiders' webs, so that no one even of the blessed gods could see them, so exceeding craftily were they fashioned. But when he had spread all his snare about the couch, he made as though he would go to Lemnos, that well-built citadel, which is in his eyes far the dearest of all lands. And no blind watch did Ares of the golden rein keep, when he saw Hephaestus, famed for his handicraft, departing, but he went his way to the house of famous Hephaestus, eager for the love of Cytherea of the fair crown. Now she had but newly come from the presence of her father, the mighty son of Cronos, and had sat her down. And Ares came into the house and clasped her hand and spoke and addressed her:

Come, love, let us to bed and take our joy, couched together. For Hephaestus is no longer here in the land, but has now gone, I ween, to Lemnos, to visit the Sintians of savage speech.

So he spoke, and a welcome thing it seemed to her to lie with him. So they two went to the couch, and lay them down to sleep, and about them clung the cunning bonds of the wise Hephaestus, nor could they in any wise stir their limbs or raise them up. Then at length they learned that there was no more escaping. And near to them came the famous god of the two strong arms, having turned back before he reached the land of Lemnos; for Helius had kept watch for him and had brought him word. So he went to his house with a heavy heart, and stood at the gateway, and fierce anger seized him. And terribly he cried out and called to all the gods:

Father Zeus, and ye other blessed gods that are forever, come hither that ye may see a laughable matter and a monstrous, even how Aphrodite, daughter of Zeus, scorns me for that I am lame and loves destructive Ares because he is comely and strong of limb, whereas I was born misshapen. Yet for this is none other to blame but my two parents--would they had never begotten me! But ye shall see where these two have gone up into my bed and sleep together in love; and I am troubled at the sight. Yet, methinks, they will not wish to lie longer thus, no, not for a moment, how loving soever they are. Soon shall both lose their desire to sleep; but the snare and the bonds shall hold them until her father pays back to me all the gifts of wooing that I gave him for the sake of his shameless girl; for his daughter is fair but bridles not her passion.

So he spoke and the gods gathered to the house of the brazen floor. Poseidon came, the earth-enfolder, and the helper Hermes came, and the lord Apollo, the archer god. Now the goddesses abode for shame each in her own house, but the gods, the givers of good things, stood in the gateway; and unquenchable laughter arose among the blessed gods as they saw the craft of wise Hephaestus. And thus would one speak, with a glance at his neighbor:

Ill deeds thrive not. The slow catches the swift; even as now Hephaestus, slow though he is, has out-stripped Ares for all that he is the swiftest of the gods who hold Olympus. Lame though he is, he has caught him by craft, wherefore Ares owes the fine of the adulterer.

Thus they spoke to one another. But to Hermes the lord Apollo, son of Zeus, said:

Hermes, son of Zeus, messenger, giver of good things, wouldst thou in sooth be willing, even though ensnared with strong bonds, to lie on a couch by the side of golden Aphrodite?

Then the messenger, Argeiphontes, answered him:�Would that this might befall, lord Apollo, thou archer god-- that thrice as many bonds inextricable might clasp me about and ye gods, aye, and all the goddesses too might be looking on, but that I might sleep by the side of golden Aphrodite.�

So he spoke and laughter arose among the immortal gods. Yet Poseidon laughed not, but ever besought Hephaestus, the famous craftsman, to set Ares free; and he spoke, and addressed him with winged words:

Loose him, and I promise, as thou biddest me, that he shall himself pay thee all that is right in the presence of the immortal gods.

Then the famous god of the two strong arms answered him: �Ask not this of me, Poseidon, thou earth-enfolder. A sorry thing to be sure of is the surety for a sorry knave. How could I put thee in bonds among the immortal gods, if Ares should avoid both the debt and the bonds and depart?

Then again Poseidon, the earth-shaker, answered him: �Hephaestus, even if Ares shall avoid the debt and flee away, I will myself pay thee this.�

Then the famous god of the two strong arms answered him: It may not be that I should say thee nay, nor were it seemly.

So saying the mighty Hephaestus loosed the bonds and the two, when they were freed from that bond so strong, sprang up straightway. And Ares departed to Thrace, but she, the laughter-loving Aphrodite, went to Cyprus, to Paphos, where is her demesne and fragrant altar. There the Graces bathed her and anointed her with immortal oil, such as gleams upon the gods that are forever. And they clothed her in lovely raiment, a wonder to behold.

~Homer's Odysessy~

And in plain english:

Aphrodite was married to Hephaestus, the God of the Forge. Hephaestus was lame and ugly, and Aphrodite was not very happy with the marriage. She had many lovers, but her favourite was Ares.

Ares and Aphrodite were dallying together when their interlude was rudely interrupted. You see, the god of the sun, Helios, from whom little, if anything, could be kept secret, spied the pair in enjoying each other one day. Helios promptly reported the incident to Hephaestus, who was understandably angry. Hephaestus contrived to catch the couple "in the act", and so he fashioned a net to snare the illicit lovers. At the appropriate time, this net was sprung, and trapped Ares and Aphrodite locked in very private embrace.

But Hephaestus was not yet satisfied with his revenge - he invited the olympian gods and goddesses to view the unfortunate pair. For the sake of modesty, the goddesses demurred, but the male gods went and witnessed the sight. Some commented on the beauty of Aphrodite, others remarked that they would eagerly trade places with Ares, and they all laughed.

Well, except for Ares, who was out of sorts, and Aphrodite, who, if goddesses can blush like maidens, surely did so.

- information from Mythography

"not even the God of War withstands him; for we hear, not of Love caught by Ares, but of Ares caught by Love--of Aphrodite. The captor is stronger than the caught; and as he controls what is braver than any other, he must be bravest of all."


Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on October 26, 2006, 03:50:05 pm
Hi Arminius!

A nice and interesting article! I have seen the coin too and I'm happy that you got it!

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Arminius on October 28, 2006, 02:07:37 pm
The fourth labor of Heracles, the Erymanthian Boar

For the fourth labor, Eurystheus ordered Heracles / Hercules to bring him the Erymanthian boar alive. Now, a boar is a huge, wild pig with a bad temper, and tusks growing out of its mouth. This one was called the Erymanthian boar, because it lived on a mountain called Erymanthus. Every day the boar would come crashing down from his lair on the mountain, attacking men and animals all over the countryside, gouging them with its tusks, and destroying everything in its path.
On his way to hunt the boar, Hercules stopped to visit his friend Pholus, who was a centaur and lived in a cave near Mount Erymanthus. Everyone knows that centaur is a human from his head to his waist, and a horse for the rest of his body and his legs. Hercules was hungry and thirsty, so the kindly centaur cooked Hercules some meat in the fireplace, while he himself ate his meat raw.
When Hercules asked for wine, Pholus said that he was afraid to open the wine jar, because it belonged to all the centaurs in common. But Hercules said not to worry, and opened it himself. Soon afterwards, the rest of the centaurs smelled the wine and came to Pholus's cave. They were angry that someone was drinking all of their wine. The first two who dared to enter were armed with rocks and fir trees. Hercules grabbed burning sticks from the fireplace and threw them at the centaurs, then went after them with his club. He shot arrows at the rest of them and chased after them for about twenty miles. The rest of the centaurs fled in different directions. One of the centaurs, Chiron, received a wound that no amount of medicine would heal...but what happened to Chiron is another story.
While Hercules was gone, Pholus pulled an arrow from the body of one of the dead centaurs. He wondered that so little a thing could kill such a big creature. Suddenly, the arrow slipped from his hand. It fell onto his foot and killed him on the spot. So when Hercules returned, he found Pholus dead. He buried his centaur friend, and proceeded to hunt the boar.
It wasn't too hard for Hercules to find the boar. He could hear the beast snorting and stomping as it rooted around for something to eat. Hercules chased the boar round and round the mountain, shouting as loud as he could. The boar, frightened and out of breath, hid in a thicket. Hercules poked his spear into the thicket and drove the exhausted animal into a deep patch of snow.
Then he trapped the boar in a net, and carried it all the way to Mycenae. Eurystheus, again amazed and frightened by the hero's powers, hid in his partly buried bronze jar.
( from )

Sebastopolis-Heracleopolis in Pontus, Julia Domna,
Æ29 (27-29 mm / 10.47 g), 205-206 AD.,
Obv.: IOYΛIA - ΔOMNA [AV] , draped bust right.
Rev.: CЄBACTOΠ {HP}AK-ΛЄOΠO ЄT / HC (year 208 of the ity era = 205-206 AD.), Herakles standing right, nude but for lion's skin billowing out behind from his shoulders, holding Erymanthian Boar in his arms, about to cast it down on Eurystheus who is cowering in a bronze jar partly buried.
BMC 13.38, 1 ; Sear GIC 2343 .

About a similar coin from Nicaea:  ( The canonical representation of the fourth labor of Heracles, the capture of the Erymanthean Boar, in sculpture, painting, and coins shows the hero carrying his prize "piggy-back" over his shoulder, sometimes in the act of surprising Eurystheos with it, who hides in a pithos in fright. The present, apparently unpublished piece, (BITHYNIA, Nicaea. Marcus Aurelius) has the hero, labeled "The Founder of the Nicaeans," carrying the beast in front of him. There seems to be only one numismatic parallel for this depiction: a medallion of Commodus (Gnecchi 34; Stoll 103), where Heracles is seen in a similar stance, but with the boar on a rock in front of him and the Nemean Lion behind. On this medallion the scene could be interpreted to show Heracles carrying the boar to the rock. The striking similarity of these two unrelated numismatic specimens implies that this particular scene was taken from a sculptural group or painting showing this version of the legend.

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on November 12, 2006, 04:37:50 pm
Zeus Kasios

Syria, Seleukia and Pieria, Trajan AD 98-117
AE 23, 12.65g
        Head, laureate, r.
       Perspective view of the tetrastyle temple of Zeus Kasios with canopy-like roof; on
       the roof eagle, within cult-stone.
       in the r. field D (= year 4)
       in ex. ZEVC / KACIOC (Z mirrored)
BMC 274, 39; SNG München vgl. 990ff. (dort ohne D); Price - Trell 212, fig. 445; Sear GIC 1081

Seleukeia was founded together with Antiocheia ad Orontes as its harbour 300 BC by Seleukos I. The history of Seleukeia was connected closely to that of Antiocheia, the capital of Syria. Due to the boom years in Roman times Seleukeia was a wealthy city demonstrated not least by its large coinage. Main deity was Zeus worshipped as Zeus Keraunos and Zeus Kasios. The depiction on this coin shows that Kasios was worshipped as Sacred Stone similar to that of Elagabal in Emesa. The canopy-like roof seems to be an advice that here we have a shrine for a procession. Zeus Kasios was worshipped too in Pelusium.

Some authors say that Kasios has been a particular man to whom Zeus once came as guest and whom he could convince to erect a temple and to pay divine honour to him. In turn Zeus got his name as cognomen (Lactans. Instit. divin. lib. I. c.22 §23).
Other authors however derived this name from Kasio, one of the Cycladic islands, or from Kasos, son of Klitomachos, so that there is nothing for sure. His usual shape was a rock or a steep mountain as we can see on several coins. On one of them we see a tetrastyle temple with a rock in the midth, an eagle on the roof and the inscription ZEVS KASIOS (Hederich).

There is no other Olympic god than Zeus where the idg. ethymology and its meaning - and so already the pre-mediterranean, from idg. religions derived origin and character attributes - is so doubtless. The basic meaning is something like 'who flashs up bright', 'who shines' or 'sheet lightning'. In Mycaenian time we have two phases in the development of the Zeus idea:
1) the 'conflict of two religious concepts' by assimilation of the idg.-greek Zeus, i.e. the patriarchal Zeus Pater and Zeus Athanatos with the quite heterogenous because to the matriarchal context belonging 'Cretic' Zeus Kretagenes and Megistos Kouros, i.e. the mediterranean type of the 'divine child'.
2) the genealogic adaptation of the Zeus mythos by its incorporation in succession and 'Kingdom in Heaven' mythologems of Asia Minor in the 2nd millenium BC. Through this Zeus became the 'son' of the ungreek pair of the gods Kronos-Rhea and so the first of the Kronids. The conflict between Zeus and Kronos, the battle of Zeus against the Titans, Typhos and others are crisises on the way to the Olympic Megistos Theos, reflectance of the religious conflict with mediterranean High-god, heaven, weather and mountain deities. So even Olympios - the famous name of  Zeus - is ungreek, and so the mythologem of the mountains as domicile of the families of gods. The famous Homeric epikleisis of Zeus nephelegereta (= 'Gatherer of Clouds') is Ugaritic and originally an epitheton of Baal! The religious displacements sometimes could be located exactly geographically, so f.e. in the case of the Northern Syrian Zaphon-Kasion mountain, the arena of the Typhon myth of the 2nd. millenium BC.

Kasion is the repitition of probably an Aramaeic quasju(n) ('peak of a mountain, end of a mountain, promontory'), which in turn has replaced at end of the 2nd. millenium BC a Canaanitic-Phoinician sapon: It is the name of the highest mountain (1770m) in Northern Syria (today gebel el-aqrac), seat of Baal Zaphon and his cult. It was the holy mountain of the Canaanits and is mentioned in the Bible (f.e. Jesaja 14 or psalm 48). It is discussed too wether this mountain is identical with Zion, the holy mountain of the Israelits. Seafaring devotees of this god have settled his cult probably before this mountain was renamed as Kasion on a 13m high sand-hill at the west-end of the Sirbonic sea (today sabhat el-bardawil) 15km east of Pelusion (today tell el-farama). This hill was named Zaphon too and because of its connections to the Syrian mountain then named Kasion when this mountain changed its name. Both places got in Hellenestic times - parallel to the displacement of Baal Zaphon by Zeus Kasion - the name Kasios mountain and in Roman times mons Casius. On it stood the temple of Zeus Kasios and here Pompejus Magnus was buried (Plin. H. N. lib. V. c. 12 & Strabo lib. XVI p. 760). This mountain until today is hold sacred by the Nusairians (Alawites).

The myth of Typhon:
This mountain plays a role in the myth of Typhon too. Typhon was a phantastic mixed creature with hundred dragon heads of old-greek mythology - influenced by the Orient - all with a terrible voice and snake-legs, child of Tartaros with Gaia, who wanted to have him as ruler of the world against Zeus after the fall of the Titans. In a terrific world burning caused by the thunderbolts of Zeus the heads of the rebel burned up, he was overthrown into the Tartaros. In the clamour of storms (Typhon was father of the bad winds) and in the eruptions of vulcanos the god became manifest. With Echidna he has created other monsters: Orthos, Kerberos, Hydra, Chimaira and others. The description of the Battle of Titans by Hesiod is topped by a 'cyclic' theogonia which is reported by Apollodor: Here the gods turned to animals in fear of Typhon and fled to Egypt, and Typhon in an infight at the mountain Kasion snatched from Zeus his sickle, cut his hand and foot tendons and dragged him to the Kerykaion cave in Cilicia; Hermes and Aigipan outsmarted his female guard, the dragon Delphyne, and so Zeus after a bloody struggle was winner and buried Typhon under the Aetna volcano.

For the connection with the stone cult I refer to the contribution 'Baetyl - the sacred stone' in this thread

Benjamin Hedrich
Der kleine Pauly

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on November 12, 2006, 04:43:50 pm
Zeus Kataibates

And because we are at Zeus here another epikleisis:

Syria, Cyrrhestica, Cyrrhus, Marcus Aurelius SNG UK 660
Marcus Aurelius AD 161-180
AE 23, 12.9g
Bust, laureate, r.
Zeus Kataibates, in himation, std l. on rocks, resting r. arm on knee, holding
thunderbolt in r. hand and leaning with l. hand on sceptre; l. in front of him eagle r.
SNG UK 1301, 660
extremely rare, with attractive red earthen patina

Kataibates (= descending) was an epikleisis of Zeus as the god of lightning (cf. Aischyl. Prom. 358), to whom places hit by lightning (called elusia, enelausia, lat. putealia, bidentalia) were consecrated. These places were surrounded by fences ore other enclosures and hold as sacred. Cults for Zeus Kataibates, the 'Descender', were found in Athens, Olympia (Paus. 5, 14, 9), on several Aegean islands, in Tarentos and in Kyrrhos in Syria.

Kataibates was a name for some other deities too:
1) for Acheron, the Underworld river, because the shadows on their way to the
    Underworld had to descend to him.
2) for Apollo, who was invoked under this name if he should assure a happy return.
3) and for Hermes in Athens and Rhodos as companion of the shadows on their way to
    the Underworld.

BTW Demetrios Poliorketes too was called Kataibates in Athens (where he climbed down from his charriot).

Epikleisis = a name under which a god was invoked.

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on November 12, 2006, 04:45:40 pm
Venus Cloacina

Roman Republic, L. Mussidius Longus, gens Mussidia
AR - denarius, 3.73g, 17.5mm
         Rome, 42 BC
obv. Bust of Concordia, veiled and diademed, r.
        behind CONCORDIA
rev. Round platform with balustrade and inscription CLOACIN, on which two femle
       figures are standing (probably Cloacina and Venus), resting with l. hand on
       cippus. Left figure holding branch (probably myrtle) in raised r. hand; a small
       stairway on the left side with porticus.
Ref.: Crawford 494/42a; Sydenham 1093; Mussidia 6b; BMCR 4242
nice VF, bankers mark on obv.

For a long time I have wondered how Venus, goddess of love and beauty, could have this cognomen, which have a special smell. Here I will try an explanation:

The rev. shows the shrine of Venus Cloacina whose fundaments could be seen today on the Forum Romanum in Rome at the South side of the basilica Aemilia. This sanctuary is one of the oldest on the Forum. It is so old that even the Romans didn't understand its real meaning and invented myths to explain it. Cloacina probably is derived from the ancient Latin word 'cluere', meaning 'to purify'.

After the rape of the Sabin women - look at the article in this thread - a war broke out between the Romans and the Sabins. The raped women bravely went between their fathers and their new husbands ans so stopped the slaughter. A reconciliation should have been occured at this very place with an expiation and purification (cluere!) ritual, as Plinius reports in his Roman history (NH X, 119-120). There Myrtles had played an important role. It is said that they were found here and they were used for purification because they should have great purification power. Furthermore they were sacred to Venus, the ancestor of the Romans.

Then at this place Vergina or Virginia, the beautiful daughter of Lucius Virgineus, a plebeian centurio, was killed by him to avoid the shame to become the slave of the tyrannic decemvir Appius Claudius Crassus. Appius Claudius was fallen in love to her and claimed that she was the daughter of a slave who had escaped from him. Due to the rigorous Laws of the Twelve Tables then she too was his property. This murder led to the abolishment of the decemviri (449 BC) and Lucius Virgineus became the first elected tribune. This story probably based on the myth of Lucretia who was raped by the son of king Tarquinius Superbus and because of that commited suicided. This event was the end of the Etruscian kings in Rome and the begin of the Roman Republic. 

The sanctuary of Venus Cloacina marks the place where the Cloaca Maxima reaches the Forum and takes the river Velabro. This river was the frontier between the region of the Romans and the Sabins where now the adversary parties have made peace. The sanctuary - known by its depiction on these coins - was not roofed but made by a round embracing wall and two cult statues. Originally it was probably the shrine of Cloacina (Liv. III. 48). The origin of her cult and the erection of her sanctuary probably belongs to the the first period of the history of the Cloaca Maxima, either of the time of its construction or of the time of an important renovation even though the tradition ascribed it to Titus Tatius (Lact. Inst. I. 20.11). In the course of time Cloacina was identified with Venus and called Venus Cloacina. In doing so the fact could have played a role that the myrtles were sacred to Venus. So this myth, the reconciliation of the Romans and the Sabins, could be the attempt to explain these unknown connection.

Before the Forum Roman became the center of the Roman Empire it was an unsane marsh, full of Malaria mosquitos, only crossed by cattle trails. It could not be populated before it was drained and dewatered by the Cloaca Maxima. The Lacus Curtius reminds on its watery past. The originally open sewer was built by Etruscians the great taskmaster of the Romans. Because of that Cloacina probably was an Etruscian goddess and the Romans - as so often - have absorbed her. So it is explicable that she too is responsible for the wedding bed. The Cloaca Maxima was a great revolutionary invention. It first made Rome habitably. It is not overstated to say 'Rome, that is the Cloaca Maxima'! And to have a goddess for it is well understandable!

The relicts of the shrine were found AD 1899-1901 in front of the Basilica Aemilia. It consists of a round marble base with a diameter of 2.40m, resting on a slab of Travertine and eight courses of various kinds of stone. The character of these courses shows that the foundation was gradually raised as the basilica encroached upon it. The shrine shows two female deities. The left one seems to raise a myrtle branch. This then would be a symbol of purification and of the wedding ritual of passage. The right one seems to be armored and then would be the guardian of the enclosure.

I have added two pictures: The first shows a model of the shrine of Cloacina, the other shows the fundament of the shrine how you can see it today on the Forum Romanum. I want to recommend warmly the following link to all interested in Roman history Here you can find a nice 3D view of the Forum and naturally the shrine of Cloacina!

William Smith, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (online)

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on November 18, 2006, 06:45:52 pm
The struggle between Xanthos and Achilleus

Aeolis/Asia Minor, Kyme, pseudo-autonomous, time of Gallienus
AE 21, 4.2g
struck under magistrate Ermeias, AD 253-268
        Youthful bust of Senate, draped, r.
rev. AIL.ER - M[E]
       River-god Xanthos, bearded, wreathed, nude to hips, leaning l., resting l. arm on
       vase from which water flows, holding in r. hand long waterplant.
       KVMA / I in l. field
       in ex. [Y]ANTQO[C] (Y meaning Greek XI)
SNG von Aulock 1648; Franke KZR 204; SLG Prowe III, 724; BMC 13, 114

Looking closer at your coins everytime you can detect very interesting stories. This happened to me looking at this coin. First I was interested in it only because of the named river-god. This it rather rare. But researching more I found the following:

First: It is the Xanthos from Troas not from Lycia! Today it is called Kucukmenderes. The river Xanthos originates from the Ida mountains, runs through the plains of Troy and flows after 97km north of Troy into the Hellespont, today called Dardanelles. Several of its tributaries are river-gods too.

Homer says that only the gods called him Xanthos, yellow (because of the colour of his water), but men called him Skamandros. In Greek mythology he was an Oceanid, a son of Oceanos and Tethys. By Idaea he had a son Teukros.

This river played an important role in the Troyan War. During the siege of Troy the Achaeans had set up their camp near his mouth and most of the battles happened on the great plain of Skamandros. But at the end of the Troyan War Skamandros, the river-god himself, encroached upon the war!

In book XXI of his Iliad - near the end of the war, Achilleus again was engaged - Homer writes
how the Trojan troops flee in panic from Achilles. One portion of the army heads for the city while another group seeks refuge near the River Xanthos. Achilles cuts off the second group and kills many of them as they try to cross the stream. Achilles is pushing the Trojans back killing everyone in his way. He spares no one mercy. All these Trojans fall into the river Xanthos and Achilles follows to kill them. The river-god asks Achilles to stop killing people in his river because the water is getting all bloody. Achilles agrees but then Xanthos turns around and asks Apollo to help the Trojans. This enraged Achilleus so much that he began to fight against the river-god.

The god of the river is antagonized by all this bloodshed in his waters, and so he attacks Achilles with great waves and currents. Achilles begins to falter under this onslaught, but Poseidon and Athena reassure him, while Hera and Hephaistos attack the river with fire. Seeing his water boil away in great, mysterious heat, Xanthos relents.

After this began what is called 'theomachia': The gods also engage in combat, so excited are they by human warfare. Athena defeats Ares and Aphrodite, while Hera drives Artemis from the field. Poseidon challenges Apollo, but the younger god does not accept his uncle’s dare because of deference to his age. Achilles continues to chase the Trojans, and Agenor, a half-brother of Hektor, attempts to fight him in single combat; but Agenor is far inferior to Achilles, and Apollo finally rescues him. This diversion allows most of the retreating troops enough time to take refuge in the city.

A slightly ironic commentary on Achilles eventual death occurs in his battle with the river. The river, rising in flood against Achilles because of all the dead bodies thrown in it, sweeps Achilles away. Achilles, who is often an overpowering natural force against the Trojans, is here thwarted and almost killed by the natural force of the river. Achilles is so alarmed by the river that he becomes fearful of ignominious death by drowning rather than the glorious death in battle that has been prophesied. Only the intervention of Hera through Hephaistos, as God of Fire, saves Achilles. Symbolically, the two great elemental forces of fire and water are in conflict, with Achilles in the middle.

I have attached a map of Troas where you can see Troy and the Skamandros.

(here you find the original text of Homer!)
(the map)

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Cleisthenes on December 01, 2006, 02:56:47 am
The Erymanthian Boar

Herakles fourth labor was to capture the Erymanthian Boar alive.

". . . now that animal ravaged Psophis, sallying from a mountain which they call Erymanthus. So passing through Pholoe he was entertained by the centaur Pholus, a son of Silenus by a Melian nymph. He set roast meat before Herakles , while he himself ate his meat raw. When Herakles called for wine, he said he feared to open the jar which belonged to the centaurs in common. But Herakles , bidding him be of good courage, opened it, and not long afterwards, scenting the smell, the centaurs arrived at the cave of Pholus, armed with rocks and firs. The first who dared to enter, Anchius and Agrius, were repelled by Herakles with a shower of brands, and the rest of them he shot and pursued as far as Malea, Thence they took refuge with Chiron, who, driven by the Lapiths from Mount Pelion, took up his abode at Malea. As the centaurs cowered about Chiron, Herakles shot an arrow at them, which passing through the arm of Elatus, stuck in the knee of Chiron. Distressed at this, Herakles ran up to him, drew out the shaft, and applied a medicine which Chiron gave him. But the hurt proved incurable, Chiron retired to the cave and there he wished to die, but he could not, for he was immortal. However, Prometheus offered himself to Zeus to be immortal in his stead, and so Chiron died. The rest of the centaurs fled in different directions, and some came to Mount Malea, and Eurytion to Pholoe, and Nessus to the river Evenus. The rest of them Poseidon recieved at Eleusis and hid them in a mountain. But Pholus, drawing the arrow from a corpse, wondered that so little a thing could kill such big fellows; howbeit, it slipped from his hand and ligting on his foot killed him on the spot. So when Herakles returned to Pholoe, he beheld Pholus dead; and he buried him and proceded to the boar-hunt. And when he had chased the boar with shouts from a certain thicket, he drove the exhausted animal into deep snow, trapped it, and brought it to Mycenae."
SOURCE: Loeb Apollodorus, translated by Sir James G. Frazer, 1921.

The following coin:
ROMAN REPUBLIC: M. Volteius M.f. Ca. 78 BC. AR denarius (3.68 gm). Rome mint. Head of young Hercules right, wearing lion´s skin /Erymanthian boar running right, [M.] VOLTEI M.F. in exergue. Crawford 385/2. Sydenham 775. RSC Volteia 2.

The sculpture:
Berlin-Tiergarten, Lützowplatz – "Herkules und der erymantische Eber", Bronzeplastik, 1904 von Louis Tuaillon / "Hercules and the Erymanthian Boar" 1904, by Louis Tuaillon.

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on December 03, 2006, 02:25:29 pm
Herakles and the giant Antaios

Cilicia, Tarsos, Philip I, AD 244-249
AE 37, 19.96g
        bust, draped and cuirassed, radiate, r.
        P-P l. and r. in field
       Herakles stg. facing, head l., leaning l., wrestling Antaios; he lifts Antaios up
       into the air by the waist while Antaios tries to break his grip;
       B to left, A/M/K/G to right
SNG Levante 1153 (same dies); Hunter S.556, 59, pl. LX, 18 (rev. same die); Voegtli 17h
good F, usual roughness

Antaios, lat. Antaeus, son of Poseidon and Gaia, was a huge giant, who is said to have a length of 60 Greek cubits. He was king and ruler of Libya and forced all strangers who entered his empire to wrestle with him. Beause of his immense force it was easy for him to strangle all combattants. Their skulls he used to built a temple for his father Poseidon. He for himself lived in a gruesome cave under a big rock in which he slept on the bare ground because he got stronger and stronger by the power he gained from his mother Earth. His usual food were lions wich he catched alive. In doing so his land was stripped by people because he didn't save the life of his people more than the life
of the strangers. Otherwise he should be the founder of the city of Tingis.

When Herakles was on the way to capture the cattle of Geryon for Euristheus he came to Libya and came into conflict with Antaios. Both dropped their lion's skins which they wore, Herakles applied oil to his skin as the Greek did, Antaios threw sand over his body to double his strength. Then the fight began. Both were astonished about the strength of his combattant. But Antaios tired first and Herakles could threw him to the ground. But touching the earth Antaios recovered again and the fight moved on. Exhausted again Antaios dropped to the earth himself to get new power. There Herakles recognized the earth as source of his strength. He embraced him and lifted him up into the air and struggled him to death.

It is said that he was borrowed in Tingis. It is told that Sertorius has opened his grave and has found bones 60 cubits long. Horrified he sarificed and then closed the grave again. It had the shape of a laying man and it is told that everytime someone took earth from it raining starts and didn't stop earlier before this earth is put to the grave again.

Originally Antaios, referring to his name ('encounter'), was a spook, a ghost, compare 'Antaia', a spook from the circle around Hekate, finally Hekate herself. Naturally the spook wants to return to its habitation, the earth; not earlier than in hellenistic time it
was changed into the symbolical streams of power of the earth.

The oldest trace of the myth points to Irasa near Kyrene; there Antaios forced the suitors of his daughter Barke on a footrace, a motive known from other myths too. During the continuing discovery of North-Africa the Greek colonists pushed this legendary figure always farther to the West until it got a definite place in Tingis (Mauetania). At the same time in connection with the growing antagonism between Greeks and Libyans it got a pronounced evil character. As shown on vase paintings of the 5th century BC (f.e. the crater of Euphronios in the Louvre) the fight between Herakles and Antaios was interpreted as triumph of the scholastic Greek athletics over the barbarian power of nature.

In hellenistic time Antaios was identified with an Upper-Egyptian god and the city of Antaiupolis was named according to him. His tomb was worshipped in Tingis. The future ruler of Mauretania led back their origin to Sophax, son of Herakles with the widow of Antaios.

I have added two pics.
1) The pic of the famous crater of Euphronios showing the fight bewteen Herakles and
    Antaios; Attica, c.510 BC, toda in the Louvre/Paris.
2) The pic of the oil painting 'Hercules and Antaeus' of Antonio Pollaiuolo, AD 1460,
     today in the Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence. During the Renaissance this theme
     was very popular.

Der kleine Pauly
Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on December 03, 2006, 02:30:18 pm
Anna Perenna

Roman Republic, Annius T. f. T. n., gens Annia, and L. Fabius L. f. Hispaniensis
AR - denarius, 3.76g
         mint in Spain or North-Italy, 82-81 BC
        Bust of Anna Perenna, diademed and draped, r., caduceus behind, scales before,
        T beneath bust
rev. Victoria in biga r., Q above
       in ex L.FABI.L.F.HISP.
Crawford 366/1a; BMC Spain 1-12; Sydenham 748; Annia 2a
nice EF

This type belongs to an imperatorial coinage struck for the war against Sertorius in Spain. Sertorius became a supporter of Marius and fought against Sulla. 83 BC he was sent as Praetor to Spain and here for some years he erected a government in exile. 72 BC he was murdered in a complot. The Quaestor Fabius, named on this denarius, switched to Sertorius some time later and perished together with him.
The Ides of March, March 15., not only are the well-known day of death of Caesar but the Festival of Anna Perenna too! But who is Anna Perenna?

An older myth tells that Anna Perenna was an old woman from the city of Bollivae in Latium. In 494 BC the Plebeians moved out to the Mons sacer, c.3km north-east of Rome, because they denied to pay tax and to be conscripted to the army without having a vote in the Roman Senate. They even planned to separate frome Rome. As is generally known they were convinced to come back because they got the institution of the Tribunus plebis who should represent the vital interests of the Plebeians and defend their freedom against the Patricians. The myth tells that Anna Perenna brought bread and cakes to the Plebeians and so she saved them from starving. This is why she was popular on the common people and considered as goddes after her death.

A later tradition from the time of the myth of Aeneas made Anna the sister of Dido, queen of Carthage. After Dido has committed suicide Carthage was conquered by indigenes under Iarbas and Anna had to fly. First she found shelter by the king of Melite, a small island in front of the African coast. But when Pygmalion, the king of Syria, demanded her to hand over to him, she fled from the island. A heavy storm throw her to the coast of Latium. At this time Aeneas was the ruler of Laurentum, exactly where she was landed. Aeneas and his companion Achates went to the beach and he recognized her. Aeneas began crying when he welcomed her remembering the sad fate of Dido, and took her to his palace. But Lavinia the wife of Aeneas was not amused about that. In a dream Anna was warned to be alarmed at the traps that Lavinia would set for her and at the dead of night she fled from the palace.       
While she was wandering she met Numicius, the god of a nearby stream who carried her off to his bed. The servants of Aeneas searched for Anna and followed her tracks to the river bank, and, while they wondered where to go next a shape rose from the water and revealed to them that Anna, once an exile, had become a water nymph, whose new name, Perenna, signified eternity. Aeneas' servants in their joy scattered among the fields and passed the day in feasting and festivities, which became established as an annual celebration of the festival of Anna Perenna.
There is another opinion too that she committed suicide by drowning in the river Numicius because of her desperation.
In another myth she was an old woman again. Mars, god of war, was fallen in love to Minerva, goddess of war and art and a sworn virgin. Mars asked Anna Perenna for interceding on his behalf. But instead of this - knowing about the impossibility of his wishes - she dressed herself like Minerva and came to Mars veiled. When he tried to kiss her she lifted her veil, break out in laughter and mocked Mars. Minerva's main festival, the Quinquatrus, was celebrated 4 days after the festival of Anna Perenna so this could be reason of this story.

You see that the exact identity of Anna Perenna is unexplained. Even the ancients didn't know it! Possible is the derivation from 'anus = old woman'. The etymology from  annus (lat. year) and the interpretation as goddess of the ring of years is too even to be correct! Also her festival in March, the 1st month of the Roman calendar, is not sufficient because Mars, after whom the March is named, nevertheless was a god of the year! According to Aulus Gellius (in Noctes Atticae) Varro wrote 'Anna et Perenna', as if there were two persons! Ovid knows of together six variations but all are objected. For sure she is connected to earth and fertility but she is no  indigitation of Ceres!

The river Numicius was regarded as sacred to Anna Perenna. At his origin a temple was built for Aeneas as Jupiter Indiges, a title, which usually was given to deified mortals. At his mouth the city of Lavinium was situated, a name which is said to originate from Lavinia, wife of Aeneas, who was an old local deity too. So Anna Perenna and Lavinia could well be two aspects of one and the same deity. Lavinia is said to have prophetic abilities too, an attribute which usually was connected to water-nymphs. Her father was a certain Anius, the eponym (giver of the name) of the river Anio whose name sounds like Anna too. Furthermore you have to cross the river Anio to go from Rome to the Mons sacer!

But every etymology would be invalid if Anna Perenna has not a Latin, but an Etruscian or pre-indoeuropean origin! Then Anna could be a 'Lallname' (babble name), which later became a proper name.

What we know for safe is the following: The Festival of Anna Perenna was celebrated on the 15th of March and was beloved by the common people, though it was also an officially recognized holiday. We know from Ovid (Fasti, III. 523 foll.) how it was celebrated. On the evening of the 15th, people would gather at the 1st milestone on the Via Flaminia in her sacred grove of fruit trees (in bloom at that time of year) by the banks of the Tiber, and camp out, some bringing tents, others making little shelters from leafy tree branches. There they picnicked merrily into the night, feasting, dancing, singing, and celebrating with much wine, toasting to health and long life. It was believed that one would live as many years as the cups of wine one could drink, and so it was of course traditional therefore to get very, very drunk. The songs were full of obscenities. This festival connected the old and the new; it is interesting to note that the Via Flaminia was famous for its tombs and cemeteries. We know by Macrobius (Sat. I. 12.6) that sarifices were done in her name 'ut annare perannareque commode liceat', i.e. that the ring of years may should close happily.

In AD 1999 a fountain was unearthed in Rome which was devoted to Anna Perenna. He was found at the corner of the Piazza Euclide with the Via G.Dal Monte in the northern part of Rome. The fountain is originated from the 1st century BC and was used until the 6th century AD. A great number of magic objects were found in it: plates with formulas of conjuration, lead-boxes with anthropomorphic figures, innumerous coins and a copper-kettle. They all now could be seen in the National Museum and the Diokletian Museum. 

I have attached a photo of the archaeological place of the fountain, 10-13m under the street level.

Ovid, Fasti 3, 517ff.
Macrob. Sat. 1, 12, 6
Der kleine Pauly

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on December 09, 2006, 04:44:57 pm
Juppiter Optimus Maximus

This will be my last contribution to this thread for this year. I hope it is interesting for lovers of the Roman mythology!

The coin:
Roman Republic, Petillius Capitolinus, gens Petillia
AR - denarius, 18.1mm, 3.82g
         Rome, 43 BC
obv. Eagle with spread wings stg. half-right on thunderbolt
        above PETILLIVS, beneath CAPITOLINVS
rev.  Hexastyle frontside of the temple of Iupiter Capitolinus with three-stepped base;
        garlandes hanging down in the three middle intercolumnaries, on the pediment
        frontal seated figur(?), on acroteries horse-protomes, above figures stg. with
        sceptres, on top biga r.  with charioteer.
        S - F at sides
Crawford 487/2b; Sydenham 1151; Petillia 3
about VF

SF stands for Sacris Faciundis. Petillius Capitolinus doubtless was member of the XV viri sacris faciundis responsible for the religious ceremonies. His family seems to have one of the hereditary offices which were referring to the temple of Iupiter on the Capitolium (Iupiter Capitolinus).

Juppiter Optimus Maximus:
The name Iuppiter originates from the Vocativus *dieu-pater. The stem *dieu- means something like 'shining, divine heaven and lighting day'. Writing Iuppiter with two p's is correct. The reason is the gemination of consonantes. From obliques casus is generated another Nominativus: Iovis. So Iuppiter is the god of the heavenly light. His old cognomen Lucetius (the shining) point to that too.

Iuppiter isn't Zeus! In fact both have the same indoeuropean origin, but the Greek Zeus was mixed up very early with orientalic ideas and has been anthropomorphized. His numerous erotic adventures from which several children descended and his perpetual struggling with Hera are typical for Zeus. Nothing of that we find on Iuppiter! He was not the father of divine or half-divine beings.  He was not the husband of Iuno, and Minerva was not his daughter! But he was rather the divine principle of the highest being. The places struck by lightnings were sacred to him (puteals). However the assimilation between Zeus and Iuppiter happened already in the time of the Roman Republic.

In historical times Iuppiter Optimus Maximus was the main and state god of Rome. Optimus doesn't mean 'the best', but because it is originated from 'ops' (= power) it means the 'most powerful'. Increasing in honor Iuppiter became the protector of all of the Roman people. With the development of urbanization and the increasing importance of the city, it was only natural that this tutelary deity should have risen to greater pre-eminence, while his associate Mars shed agricultural associations for more bellicose dispositions. Under the name of Iuppiter Capitolinus, he presided over the Roman games, always an important feature of ancient city life. With the introduction of Emperor worship, a means of testing the loyalty of the subject as much as an official religion, Iuppiter's political function was somewhat decreased, though traitors were still thrown from Tarpeian rock on Capitoline Hill. Iuppiter was no longer the embodiment of the greatness and prosperity of the Roman Empire, but rather, he served as a divine guide of the world. Cicero, who in 43 BC had his head and hands cut off for advocating a return to republican principles, equated Jove with numen praestantissimae mentis, "the presence of a supreme mind." This was a conception not unlike monotheism of Christianity, to which the conversion of Emperor Constantine in 312 AD meant the beginning of the end of the European pagan era.

The temple on the Capitoline Hill:
The temple of Iuppiter Optimus Maximus was situated at the southern slope of the Capitoline Hill. Together with Iuno and Minerva they represent the so-called Capitoline Trias. His temple was the most magnificent in Rome.

It was vowed by king Tarquinius Priscus while battling the Sabines, completed by his successor Tarquinius Superbus and consecrated under the consul M. Horatius Pulvillus in 509 BC. Construction and consecration so fell in the time of the Etruscian kings a fact which later was obscured by the Romans. In the temple Iuppiter took the middle cella, Iuno Regina the left one and Minerva the right one. Especially Etruscian master builder have participated in the design and the construction of the temple. Erecting a statue - known already from the cities around Rome - constitutes a break in the history of the Roman religon: "It was the first step on the way which later led to the result that the old shapeless powers could be thought of only anthropomorphized and if this was impossible were forgotten." (Clavus)

The temple of Iuppiter was the centre of the national life. Here the consules took the oath of office and here always the first meeting of the senate took place. Here the military commanders sacrificed before the go to war and here always the elebration of triumphs ended. Thereby the triumphator colored his face with red lead to look like the clay of the statues.

Several times the temple burned down mostly by the stroke of lightning, but during the Civil War 69 AD too when the adherents of Vitellius assault the Capitoline Hill. At last it was in AD 86 when Domitian rebuilt the temple and founded too the agon Capitolinus which consisted in chariot races, sportive and musical competitions.

The temple was built on substructions. There were three cellae side by side. That in the middle was dedicated to Iuppiter and contained a terra cotta statue of the god, with a thunderbolt in his right hand, said to have been the work of Vulca of Veii, the face of which was painted red on festival days. The statue was clothed with a tunic adorned with palm branches and Victories (tunica palmata), and a purple toga embroidered with gold (toga picta), the costume afterwards worn by Roman generals when celebrating a triumph. The entablature was of wood, and on the apex of the pediment was a terra cotta group, Jupiter in a quadriga, by the same Etruscan artist as the statue in the cella. This was replaced in 296 BC by another, probably of bronze. There is no doubt that pediment and roof were decorated with terra cotta figures, among them a statue of Summanus 'in fastigio' (perhaps therefore an acroterion). In 193 BC the aediles M. Aemilius Lepidus and L. Aemilius Paullus placed gilt shields on the pediment. In 142 the ceiling was gilded. This temple became a repository of works of art of many sorts, the gifts of Roman generals and foreigners, as well as of dedicatory offerings and trophies of victory, of which the earliest recorded was a golden crown presented by the Latins in 459. The number of these became so great that in 179 BC it was necessary to remove some of the statues and many of the shields affixed to the columns. Sadly nothing remained of ths temple because of the chaos in the middle ages. So we are dependent on the description of Plinius and others and the depiction on coins.

The mintmaster:
It's interesting that the mintmaster - named as Petillius Capitolinus on the coin - occurs in the satires of Horatius (Sat. lib. IV)! Note 14 of the link below: Petillius charged with the controllership of the Capitolium once was accused of having stolen the golden crown of Iuppiter Capitolinus. Only because he was friend of Augustus the judges have found him not guilty. Another one added that this was the reason that he was named Capitolinus! But that seems to be unsubstantiated as Terentius already has noted. But that Capitolinus as friend of Augustus was absolved to honor the Emperor has added a negative touch, is a bit doubtful, because amicus here seems to be only a parvus amicus meaning a client, and in this case Augustus was not only legitimated but obligated to save his client as well he could. Indeed there was another reason too to do so; for it was his adoptive father, the great Iulius Caesar - as mentioned by Sueton - who has stolen three thousand pounds of gold from the Capitolium during his first consulate. And therefore Petillius could have said not without some right - like that of Terentius -: ego homuncio non facerem (Me as such a mediocre being would never have done that)!     

I have added two pics:
1) A diagram of the Capitoline Hill where you can see the ancient buildings in relation
     to Michelangelo's famous piazza.
2) A model showing the temple how it could have been looked. Clearly you can see
     the decoration of the roof.

- Der kleine Pauly
- Rainer Pudill, Die Götter Roms, in 'Das Fenster', Oct. 2006
- (The theft of Petillius)
  Rome/_Texts/PLATOP*/Aedes_Jovis_Capitolini.html (History and description of the
  temple of Iuppiter!)
- (Model of the Capitoline Hill)

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on December 15, 2006, 02:11:34 pm
Ganymedes - the beautiful

Troas, Dardanos, Hadrian, AD 117-138
AE 21, 4.53g
      Bust, draped and cuirassed, laureate, r.
rev. DARDAN - WN
      Eagle facing, head l., carrying Ganymedes, wearing chlamys and Phrgian bonnet,
      holding pedum in raised r. hand
very rare, about VF

Note: This is the companion piece to Bellinger T136 from Troas-Ilium and Bellinger describes the reverse as "Remarkable in the presentation of a scene of Trojan mythology anterior to the Homeric story".

Ganymedes was the son of Tros, founder and king of Troy, and his wife Kallirrhoe, daughter of Skamandros, according to others son of Laomedon. He was of unbelievable beauty. Once when he was hunting at the mount Ida, others say near the Dardanic promontory, Zeus sent an eagle to abduct him. In heaven he replaced Hebe and became the cupbearer of the gods. He handed the gods nectar and ambrosia. Hera was very angry with Zeus because Hebe was her daughter. According to other authors Zeus needed Ganymedes for his amorous plays. To Tros he gave later a golden grape-vine and  two immortal horses which later got Herakles who in return freed his daughter Hesione of the monster Ketos. Finally Zeus put Ganymedes as constellation to the sky.

But there is this story too: Eos the goddess of dawn has fallen in love with Ganymedes and has abducted him. Zeus then has stolen him from Eos.

This should be behind the myth: When Tros has erected the city and the castle of Troy and has all arranged well he sent his son Ganymedes with fifty men to Lydia to bring Zeus a thank offering. Tantalos, king of Lydia, regarded them as scouts or agents and put them to prison. But when he realized their peaceful purpose he set them free again. Meanwhile Ganymedes has fallen ill and died. Thereupon all returned home exept Ganymedes. Tantalos let him entomb in the temple of Zeus. Because of that the poets have invented the story of the abduction by Zeus.

According to other authors Tantalos was king in Phrygia and Paphlagonia. When he raped Ganymedes because of his great beauty he denied to give him back to Tros. So between both kings a great war originated, and Ilos, the other son of Tros, went on with the war against Pelops, son of Tantalos, so that he was forced to flee to Greece.

Others suggest that it was not Tantalos but Minos from Crete who was the robber of Ganymedes. Under the appearence of friendship he was guest of Tros and then has abducted Ganymedes when they were hunting and took him to Crete where he has committed suicide because of home sickness and mourning. When Minos entombed him in the temple of Zeus it was invented that Zeus has took him to heaven.

Some authors refer his beauty not to the beauty of his body but of his psyche, his intelligence and virtue.

Others claim that the whole story was invented only to euphemize unnatural desires.
Ganymedes, meaning such as 'the lustrous-happy' (actually the joyfull excited by erotic passion) was the son of the Dardanic king Tros (and Kallirrhoe), brother of Ilos and Assarakos. According to Homer Il. 20, 231ff. he was hold for the most beautiful of all mortals. He was raped by the gods to the Olympos to serve as cup-bearer for Zeus and to enjoy eternal youth. As compensation Tros got immortal horses. According to Homer h. 4, 2002 Zeus abducted him for the gods by a blast of wind. The Little Iliad (and Euripides) made Ganymedes the son of Laomedon, and he was given a golden rape-vine by Zeus. Since Ibykos and Pindar the motiv for the abduction was seen in pederasty which by this myth got a kind of heavenly apology. Platon (in his Phaidros) used the myth for his theory of love, but in his nom. 1, 8 he criticized the Cretans for their vice and their appointment to Zeus. In 4th century BC Ganymedes was a popular figure of comedies. At this time was introduced the motiv of the abduction by the eagle as messenger of Zeus, firstly in fine arts, much later literarily. Not until the Hellenism Zeus himself became the robber in the shape of an eagle. The motiv of Hera's jealousy was Hellenistic too. In the kind of Euhemeros Phanokles, Mnaseas and others replaced the divine robber by heroes: Tantalos or Minos. To put him as a constellation to the sky (aquarius) is from the late Hellenism, so it is too with the eagle (aquila). In imperial times the myth of Ganymedes has been mentioned by philosophers and church-fathers often very polemically. It is created literarily in Lukian's dialogues and in the Dionysiaka of Nonnos.

Only a short note here to the pantheistic hymne 'Ganymed' of the young Goethe belonging to his 'Sturm- und Drangzeit' (Wie im Morgenglanze du rings mich anglühst, Frühling, Geliebter!)

History of art:
Much more numerous are depictions in the fine art. Ganymedes was a popular theme in ancient times. The Attic vase painting depicts particularly the pursuit and seizure of Ganymedes by Zeus, f.e. the kantharos of the Brygos painter, c.450 BC, and the bell krater of the Berlin painter, c.490 BC, where Zeus is forced by Eros. Famous too is the terracotta group in Olympia, .470 BC, showing the seizing of Ganymedes. Not until post-classic times the abduction by the eagle, who takes him to heaven or to whom Ganymedes gave water, became the subject of depiction. 340/330 Leochares created a sulpture of the abduction. On tombs and sarkophaguses of early deads these doubtless have symbolic meaning.

The Renaissance has interpreted Ganymedes carried to heaven as an allegory of the elevation of the human soul to god (Scene of the bronze door of Filaretes, St.Peter, Rome, 1435-45). On the other hand by the variation of the eagles's posture the homosexual connotation of the motiv has been expressed (drawing of Michelangelo, c.1533). Rembrandt has satirized the theme by creating a Ganymedes who in fear is passing water (1635, Dresden). Corregio's depiction is the counterpart to the unification of Io with the cloud of Zeus (c.1530-32; Vienna). Thorvaldsen has depicted Ganymedes the cup-bearer several times (1804, 1816, 1817; Copenhagen). The elevation of Ganymedes as aquarius to the sky (and of the eagle as aquila) is found in Peruzzi's frescoes in the Villa Farnesina in Rome (1509-1511)
(1) Nectar, which according to the later mythgraphs was a supranatural red wine which gave immortality, actually was a primitive brown met from fermented honey.
(2) Ambrosia, the delicious food of the gods, seems to have been a porridge of barley, oil and fruits. With that the kings were indulged whereas their subjects (before introducing grain)
had to feed on asphodel's roots, mallows and acorns (Robert von Ranke-Graves)

I have added the following pics:
1) A pic of the red-figured Attic vase of the so-called Berlin painter. Ganymedes here is depicted with a hoop, symbol of youth, and a cock, which was a symbol of homosexuality. It is now found in the Louvre.
2) The pic of the mosaic from the House of Dionysos in Nea Paphos/Cypros. This is the classic depiction which is found on my coin too.
3)The pic of Rembrandt's painting from the Gemäldegalerie in Dresden. Here Ganymedes is shown full of fear! I couldn't resist because of the charming details!

Robert von Ranke-Graves, Griechische Mythologie
Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon
Der kleine Pauly
Aghion/Barbillon/Lissarrague, Reclams Lexikon der antiken Götter und Heroen in der Kunst

Best regards and a happy and healthy new year!

I have added a 2nd coin with the Ganymedes theme which I got after contributing this article. But  I want to share it here:

Thracia, Hadrianopolis, Septimius Severus, AD 193-211
AE 25
obv. AV KAI [...]
Bust, draped and cuirassed, seen from behind, laureate r.
Ganymedes, with Phrygian bonnet, stg. l. with crossed legs, holding lagobolon
in l. hand and resting with r. hand on eagle, stg. frontal with head r., on rocks;
r. on ground Pan flute.
Jurokova 920 (1 ex. in Istanbul); Varbanov (engl.) 3348 (citing Jurokova)
extremely rare, F/about VF, black-brown patina

This coin shows a scene right before the abduction. Wether the eagle is Zeus himself or only the messenger of Zeus can't be said for sure.


Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on December 31, 2006, 11:23:06 am

Until today I have presented only coins from my collection. Today I must show another coin from CoinArchives because my coin is too worn to give a good scan. Beg your pardon in advance!

Thessaly, Thebens, 302-186 BC
AE 23, 7.63g
obv. head of Demeter, veiled and crowned with grain-wreath, l.
      Protesilaos, in military cloak and helmeted, armed with sword and shield, jumping from
      a ship's prow to l. on the beach.
Rogers 550; BMC 50; Moustaka 92; SNG Copenhagen 261
extremely rare, VF

The depiction on the reverse is playing at the beginning of the Troyan War. It shows the heroe Protesilaos jumping as the first Greek on the Troyan beach where he was killed as the first of the Greeks. Protesilaos, who is said to have been a suitor of Helena, led the men of Phylake (which later was incorporated in Thebens) on forty ships to Troy, even though he was just married (Homer Il. 2, 695ff.). When the Greeks with their ships came into the range of sight of Troy they hesitated to go on land because Thetis has prophesized Achilleus that the first going on land would be the first being killed. Thereupon Odysseus is said to have thrown his shield on land and then haved jump on it so that his feet haven't touched the ground. So Protesilaos was the first one. After having killed several Troyans he was slain by Hektor or by a friend of Aineas.

Protesilaos, an uncle of Philoktetes and son of Iphiklos originally was named Iolaos, but due to the matter of his death he was renamed (Protesilaos = the first of the people). He was buried on the Thracian  Chersonnesos near the city of Elaios where he was whorshipped as god. High elm trees planted by nymphs stood inside the sacred area and shadowed his tomb. It was said that the twigs looking over the sea to Troy were early green but soon bare too whereas the twigs turned away from Troy stayed green still in winter. When the elm trees were grown so high that it was possible to see Troy from the tops they withered and new trees grew up.

In his temple were oracles especially for warriors. Severel deseases were hailed there too. His spirit once took revenge at the Persian Artyaktes. Artyaktes has disgraced his temple by whoring with broad and then from Xerxes requested the temple treasures. Soon after that Artayktes was besieged in Elaios and when he tried to flee captured. He promised the Greek to pay hundred talents for the stolen treasures and twohundred talents for himself and his son. But Xanthippos, leader of the Greek, refused his offer, and so his son was stoned to death and heself hung.
Protesilaos and Laodameia
Laodameia, wife of Protesilos, daughter of Akastos (according to others it was Polydora, daughter of Meleager), missed her husband so awesome that she - when he was on his joutney to Troy - made a statue of him from wax or bronze and took it with her in her bed. But that was only a poor consolation, and when she got the news of his death she asked the gods to have mercy and to allow Protesilaos to come back to her even for only three hours. Zeus allowed that and Hermes brought the spirit of Protesilaos from the Tartaros back to animate the statue. Protesilaos spoke through its mouth and conjured his wife to hesitate no longer and to follow him. As soon as the three hours were over she stabbed herself to death being in his arms. That's the reason that the depiction of Protesilaos and Laodameia was a popular motiv on  sarcophaguses.

Another myth tells that she was forced by her father Akastos to marry again. But she has
spent her nights rather with the statue of Protesilaos until once a servant looked through the gap of the door of her bed-room. He saw her embracing someone and hold it for her lover. He told that to Akastos and he broke into her bed-room and realized the truth. Akastos didn't want her tantalized by a fruitless desire and commansed to burn the statue. But Laodameia jumped into the fire and perished together with the statue.

There is another story too where Protesilaos survived the Troyan War and sailed home. He took Aithylla, sister of king Priamos, as captive on his ship. On the journey home he landed on the Macedonian peninsula of Pellene. While he went on land for seaking water Aithylla conceived the other captured women to burn the ships. So Protesilaos was forced to stay on Pellene where he founded the city of Skione. But that seems to be wrong: Instead of this Aithylla together with Astyoche and the other captives set the ships on fire at the bank of the Italian river Navaithos; this name means 'burning of ships'. And Protesilaos were not among those they kept imprisoned.

History of art:
I have added the depiction of a marble statue of a wounded warrior. This is the Roman copy of a Greek original from the times of the Antonines, c.138-181, today in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Here the statue is supported by a tree stump. It was surely not seen at the Greek original. But it is remarkable, that it is a sword of Greek type. The headdress, the simplicity of the body, the quasi-parallel folds of the drapery and the complicated pose in momentary action, all point to a date around or a little before the mid-fifth century B.C. for the Greek original.
A second statue in the British Museum has a planklike form surrounded by waves, suggesting the statue might represent Protesilaos descending from his ship, ready to meet his fate. However, the Museum's statue was reinterpreted as a dying warrior falling backward, following the discovery of a wound carved in the right armpit. The Roman writer Pliny mentioned a so-called vulneratus deficiens ("falling warrior") as being among the works of the Greek sculptor Kresilas.

An additional note:
Ovid (Heroides 13) has invented a letter from Laodameia to her far lover. Within the vers Bella gerant alii, Protesilaus amet = Wars should be made by others, Protesilaos should love. This vers is said to be used by the Hungarian king Matthias Corvinus (AD 1440-21490) for the famous word Bella gerant alii, tu, felix Austria, nube! = Wars should be made by others, you, lucky Austria, marry!

Robert von Ranke-Graves, Griechische Mythologie
Karl Kerenyi, Heroengeschichten
Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon
Gerhard Fink, Who's who in der antiken Mythologie

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on January 05, 2007, 03:25:05 pm
The three Graces

Thracia, Pautalia, Caracalla, AD 198-217
AE 28, 15.33g
struck under magistrate Caecina Largus (AD 198-201)
       Bust,draped and cuirassed, seen from behind, laureate, r.
       in ex. PAVTALI / AC
       The three Graces, nude, embracing each other; the first one seen from the l. side,
       holding jar in the r. hand, from which water flows, the second one seen from
       behind, head r., with garment around the hips (crescent?), holding both arms on
       the shoulders of the other two; the third one seen from the r. side, holding jar in
       the lowered l. hand, from which water flows.
Ruzicka 503, pl.III, 13 (1 ex. in Sarajewo)
very rare, about VF

Pautalia is known as a famous bath, full of parks with tempels and statues. It is known that especially the die-cutters from Pautalia have taken statues for the reverses of their coins. So probably the depiction of these three Graces too is the copy of an original statue.

The Graces or Charites were daughters of Zeus and Erynome. They were quasi a trifold Aphrodite. In later times they were depicted nude. In their temple in Orchomenos in Boiotia they were worshipped in the form of three stones, which were fallen down from heaven to king Eteokles so it was suggested. It was said: The Charites were trifold, should they be a flower, the goddesses or maidens. Eteokles had three daughters, named Trittai, the Trifolds. While performing a dance for the Charites they fall into a fountain which they hadn't mentioned. But the earth had pity with them and let sprout a flower which was called Trittai too and which was trifold too. The myth of the three stones fallen from heaven shows the heavenly aspect of the Graces, the story from the disappesaring in the fountain the connection to the depth of water and the Underworld. This has been said by the mythographs too: the Charites were daughters of the Night and Erebos, or the daughters of Lethe, the River of Forgetting in the Underworld. Probably the daughters of Hekate and Hermes were the trifolds too.

Hesiod and Pindar in Boiotia sung about three of them. The three 'Queens' of Orchomenos were named Aglaia, Euphrosyne and Thalia. Pindar celebrated the 'pure light of the Charites'. In Laconia they were named Kleta, the Called, and Phaenna, the Shining. These were typical names of the moon. The Atheneans too know two Charites: Auxo, the Growing, and Hegemone, the Advancing. They were called daughters of Uranos too.

The Graces, greek. Charites, meaning the 'lovely, friendly', were a trias of blessing issueing deities, originally probably without individual names and not determind in their function or number. This made easy the contact with female nature spirits of similar character  like Nymphs, Muses or Hores. The Attic cult titles Auxo (the growing), Thallo (the flourishing), Karpo (the fruit-bearing) show an early fusion with the Hores. The ambiguity in naming and numbering is affirmed by the replacement of Karpo by Hegemone in the oath of the ephebes on the stele of Acharnai. Their basic function was to donate vegetative fertility shown by their herbal attributs. A lunar relation should be denied, and as well a etymology of light. Rather the assignment of the Charites to the chthonic Charon alternatively of the Charis Hegemone to the Psychopompus Hermes Chthonios should be considered. Their ancient cult in Orchomenos, city of the Minyeans, which was connected to three aniconic meteorites (Pausan. 9, 38, 1) too has traces of agrarian-chthonic orientation. Its character of mysteries and the affinity of the Charites to the circle of Eleusis strengthens the suggestion that there is a relationship with the Eleusinian Potniai, particularly because Pindar gives them the epitheta basileiai, semnai, potniai, the Queens, the Venerables and the Mistresses..

Because obviously the Trias of Orchomenos was sanctioned not until the cult institution of Eteokles which was orientated to the baetyls priority should be addmitted perhaps to the dualism which is known from many other sources. Then the equalization with Damia and Auxesia, hypostases of Demeter-Kore, could get support. By the way here and in Elis somewhat points to a connection to Dionysos, whom the prayer of the Elisian women let approach in the shape of a bull together with the Charites. - The junction with powerful fertility deities has later relegate them to the second rank of elementary numina. So it was possible in Athens that Aphrodite together with her Charites epiklesis could adopt the leadership of the trias during the Kurotrophon-duty on the Attic ephebs. This is understandable because of the telluric side of the nature of the great goddess as we have seen so often. From Homer on the Charites - as companions of Aphrodite and together with their mistress - have made the transformation to the embodiment of grace and charm. This was initiated mainly by poetry and myths. The aesthetic and poetic valuation of charis coming from this transformation is expressed by the newer names of Aglaia, Euphrosyne and Thalia. In this function the Homeric Charites fulfill the role of serving, decorating, music making and dancing companions of the Goddess of Love. Their genealogic incorporation into the series of Zeus daughters seems to be too schematic. To put the Homeric Charis at the side of the lame artist Hephaistos - where she later was replaced by Aphrodite, the first of the Charites - was a play with the contrast which was loved by the epos.
History of Art
In Fine Art the Charites appear as companions of the gods, who took part in the wedding ceremonies of Thetis and Peleus ('Francois-Vase', c. 570 BC; Florence, MA). On a late-archaic relief from Thasos (c. 480 BC; Louvre) they appear clothed in front of Hermes. Beginning in the 4th century BC the type of the three nude Charites, embracing each other, became very popular. The one in the midth is shown from back, the other two in varying profiles. According to Seneca their positions refer to the trifold aspect of a gift: donating, accepting, thanking. As most famous example of this type is considered a group of sulptures in the Museo dell'Opera Metropolitana of the cathedral of Siena (Roman copy of an Hellenistc original) and a fresko from the 1st century BC from Pompeji (Neapel, MN). The humanists of the Renaissance have taken up this motiv and have expanded it: They have added a trifold meaning of love - beauty, desire, fulfillment - or a trifold allegory - chastity, beauty, love. In Boticelli's 'Primavera' (1477/78; Uffizi, Florence) the three Graces - here clothed - are dancing as voluptuousness, chastity and beauty a round dance beside Venus. An obvious analogy to the three Graces could be seen in some depictions of the three goddesses at the Judgment of Paris. Because this motiv gave the artists the chance to depict three nude women at once it was so successful. There are four versions from Rubens and five from Boucher. 

I have added the following pics.:
1) A pic of the fresco from Pompeji
2) A cut-out from Botticelli's 'Primavera', showing the three dancing Graces

Der kleine Pauly
Karl Kerenyi, Die Götter- und Menschheitsgeschichten
Aghion/Barbillon/Lissarrague, Lexikon der antiken Götter und Heroen in der Kunst

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on January 12, 2007, 05:17:04 pm
Hi jarhead!

I think there are better threads for your question on this Forum! F.e. this one

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on January 12, 2007, 05:19:06 pm

Phoenicia, Tyros, Valerian I, AD 253-260
AE 30, 17.29g
       Bust, draped, radiate, r.
      Diomedes, nude except chlamys, stg. l., r. foot on rock, holding in r. hand the palladium
      and in l. hand sceptre; behind murex snail
SNG Copenhagen 391; BMC 467
rare, about VF

Diomedes was the son of king Tydeus of Aeolia and his wife Deipyle. Because his father was killed during the campaign of the Seven against Thebens, he fought together with the so-called Epigones against Thebens and succeeded in avenging his father by defeating Thebens. After that he was known as one of the suitors of Helena. But as we know he couldn't get her and married Aigialea, daughter of Adrastos, who was his aunt. He was the leader of the Argives and joined the Troyan War with the big armada of eighty ships. Soon he became famous for his bravery and was hold - together with Achilles and Ajas  - one of the greatest heroes. Almost he had slain Aineas if not Aphrodite had intervened in the last moment. During this struggle she herself was wounded at her hand by Diomedes and put to flight. Finally Apollo could save Aineas from the rage of Diomedes.

Together with Odysseus he was sent to the island of Lemnos to take back Philoktetes and the arrows of Herakles. Only with these arrows the Greek could resist the deadly arrows of Apollo who stood on the side of the Troyans as we know. At a night-time investigation trip together with Odysseus they could capture the Trojan spy Dolon. He told them details about the Thracian camp. Diodemed killed him and entered the camp of the sleeping Thracians. There he killed many warriors, among them their king Rhesos, and abducted his horses. It was suggested that the fate of Troy would depend on these horses. Athena had to invent to stop them, and they returned to the Greek camp.

From Hellenos, one of the sons of Priamos, Diomedes has come to know where the Palladion was located. The Palladion was a wooden statue (xoanon) of Athena - or her companion Pallas - wearing helmet, shield, spear and distaff. By prayers of Ilos, founder of Troy, it has been fallen from the sky and was regarded as guarantor of the invincibility of the city. To make a theft more difficult several identical copies were made. Together with Odysseus they surmounted the walls of Troy and stole the statue. When Odysseus tried to outsmart Diomedes - he claimed that Diomedes had catched the wrong statue - the statue made a move and so Odysseus' fraud was blocked. A dispute started, and Odysseus pulled his sword underhand. But by the shadow at the wall Diomedes was worned of Odysseus' deceitfulness. He could overcome Odysseus, bound his hands and drove him back to the Greek camp by beating him with the flat side of his sword. That was the end of their friendship.   

The courage of Diomedes was so great that he fought against Ares, the War God, himself, so that Athena was needed to save Ares. Hektor too he has almost slain. But he got a wound at his foot by an arrow of Paris. His dark sides were the rape of the executed queen of Amazones Penthesilea whose dead body he threw in the river Skamandros, and then together with Odysseus the infamous complot against Palamedes which was so tricky that the innocent Diomedes was stoned to death. Finally by help of the traitor Antenor Troy was conquered. Together with othere heroes he entered the wooden horse. As prize he got the Palladion which previously Odysseus had taken from Ajas. But after that Diomedes must leave Troy thievishly with his ships because Odysseus had incited the Greek to stone him.

Afer leaving Troy he had an unhappy fate like most of the Greek heroes. In a dark night he lost his way and landed at the Phalerian harbour of Athens. His men held it for an hostile land and began to sack it. It came to a fight with Demophoon and his Greeks, some men were killed and Demophoon could get the Palladion. So it came to Athens. Aphrodite too hadn't forgotten the dishonor Diomedes had done to her. She seduced his wife to begin a love affair with Kometes, son of Sthenelaos. Additionally Oeax, brother of Palamedes (we remember), convinced her, that Diomedes had brought a new wife from Troy. So when Diomedes returned home he was nearly killed if not Hera saved him at her altar where he had fled.   

Together with his followers he first fled to Corinthe, from there to Aetolia, where he succeeded in avanging his uncle Oinaios who was pressed hard by the sons of Agrios. After that he settled there. 

But there are other myths too which suggest that the story with Oinaios was before the Troyan War. Today it is suggested for sure that Diomedes is a pre-homeric heroe. He should have gone from Argos directly to Italy where he has given support to the pressed king Daunos against the Messapias. As prize Diomedes was allowed to chose between the whole booties and the conquered land for himself and his men. But as arbitrator Althainos, the step-brother of Diomedes, fallen in love with Eyippe, daughter of Daunos, awarded the land to Daunos. In anger Diomedes cursed the land. The gods answered his prayers and made the land infertile. Thereupon Daunos persued Diomedes, catched and killed him.
Another myth tells that Diomedes indeed got the land and Daunos' daughter too. He had created Diomedes and Amphinomos with her and has been died in old-age. In any case he should have been strong enough to fight on order of Venus together with Turnus and Latinus against Aineas when he had landed in Italy. He is said to have founded the Pythian Games and the city Argos Hippium, the later Arpi in Southern Italy. He is said to have first worshipped Hippolytos and built a temple for him.

After his death Diomedes too was worshipped as god. It is told, that when his men were sacrificing to ihim after his death, they were ambushed by  enemies and killed. But after that they were transformed by Zeus into birds which were tame at Greeks but never tolerated Romans or Barbarians. Diomedes had a great temple at the mouth of the river Timavus. The Venetians sacrificed a white horse to him. In Umbria he was worshipped as native god. Because he was a great and avid devotee of Athena it is said she herself has adopted him to the gods.

Our Diomedes, the Thydeides, is not the Diomedes, son of Ares, with the man-eating horses which then were defeated by Herakles!

Vase-painting of Diomedes advancing r., holding Palladion, Diomedes painter (c.380 BC), Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

Karl Kerenyi, Die Heroengeschichten
Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon
Der kleine Pauly

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on January 12, 2007, 05:23:05 pm
Juno Sospita

1st coin:
Roman Republic, L. Procilius, gens Procilia
Ar - denarius
        Rome, 80 BC
obv. Head of Juppiter r.
        behind S.C
rev. Statue of Juno Sospita, advancing r., holding shield and spear, snake before
       behind L.PROCILI / F
Crawford 379/1; Sydenham 771; Procilia 1
Clearly you can see the beak-shoe-like bending of her shoes!

2nd coin:
Roman Republic, L. Roscius Fabatus, gens Roscia
AR - denarius serratus, 18.10mm, 3.8g
        Rome, 59 BC*
obv. bust of Juno Sospita wearing goat-skin cap, r., behind modius
        beneath L.ROSCI
        bankers mark in r. field
rev. Virgin in long clothes stg. r., feeding snake, which erects before her in several
       coils, behind cista
       in ex. FABATI
Crawford 412/1 (symbols 23); Sydenham 915; Roscia 3; Albert 1329
scarce, toned VF, appealing silver
ex Harlan J. Berk
* Dated 64 B.C. by Crawford and hence also by Roman Silver Coins , Volume I. The revised date is based on the outstanding analysis of the Messagne Horad by Alan Walker and Charles Hersh, ANS Museum Notes No. 29, New York, 1984, pp. 103-134

Some notes on Iuno:
The name of Iuno has no connections to the name of Juppiter, because the initial sound is always i (and not 'di' as on Juppiter, 'diou-pater'), and particularly because the following u is not created by the diphthong ou. Then there is the name of the gens Iunia which never is written with a diphthong. Probably Paul Wissowa is right who puts Iuno to iuvenis, iuvenca and such words and interprets it as 'young woman', 'nubile wife'. That shows that Iuno originally had no close connection to Juppiter like Hera to Zeus. Today it is suggested that each woman from ancient time on has had her own Iuno like the men who have had their own genius. In literature it is found not until Tibull, but the fratres Arvales sacrificed to Iuno Deae Diae, the Juno of the goddesss Dia, at the Picularia.

Iuno Sospita:
To understand the meaning of the figure in historic times the Italic influence is essential, especially the Etruscan conception which goes back basically to the Greek Hera. The cult of Iuno was wide spread over Italy. Lanuvium was the city of Iuno Seispes Mater Regina; by the people this was etymological turned from Seispes - whose meaning is unclear until today - to Sospes or Sospita, meaning helper or savior.
Propertius reports as cult rite for the Iuno of Lanuvium in which a virgin had to feed a snake (perhaps a temple snake, then the cave which is mentioned is only a 'novellistic painting of our literally sources'). This was suggested as chastity proof and as omen for the fertility of the land in the next year, two very heterogenous elements (the chastity proof perhaps secondary?). In 338 BC the cult was adopted as official cult of the state but was left in Lanuvium. The Sacerdos Lanuvini, a priesthood formed by knights, were known from imperial times. The consules too were sacrificing to the goddess. In 194 BC she got a temple in Rome too by C. Cornelius Cethegus at the forum holitorium, without ceasing the cult in Lanuvium. This temple was renewed by Julius Caesar after Juno Sospita has appeared in a dream to Metella Caecilia with the message she wants to leave Rome if her temple was neglected furthermore. Denarii of Julius Caesar are known where the reverse shows Sospita driving a biga.

The sanctuary of Sospita in Lanuvium has been highly praised in the war against the Insubrians (Livius). Her offiial holiday was February 1st. The depictions show the goddess armed with spear  and a violin-shaped shield looking like the shield of the Salii priests, wearing (Etruscan) beak-shoes which were bended upwards at the toe-cap and a goat-skin which was helmeted-like pulled over her head. The scholar Latte suggests the snake and the cult statue to be signs of an etruscificated type of the Athena Polias. It was not allowed to sacrifice goats to Juno. Ovid assumes because they were hated by Juno. But it could be that Juno had a special relation to goats because as pasture goddess Juno Caprotina she was responsible for goats too. But basically I couldn't find any convincing theory.

Shield of the Salii: Holy shield which is said to be fallen from the sky in the time of Numa Pompilius. The nymph Egeria betrayed the secret of the shield, the ancile, to Numa: It was the pledge of the Roman dominance. Hereupon Numa Pompilius charged the best artists to make eleven copies of the shield, so that it was impossible to find out the original. The priesthood of the Salii, priests of Mars, was authorized to keep the twelve shields. Now the violin-shaped shield of Sospita doesn't seem to be identical with the ancile of the Salii. As we can see on coins of Augustus (RIC 136, 137) and of Antoninus Pius (RIC 736) the ancilia were made from two round shields with a small oval shield laying above them connected alltogether with numerous bolts. Because of that a connection between Sospita and the Salii could be denied.

Athena Polias: The life-size statue of Athena Polias made from olive-tree wood stood in the Erychtheion on the Akropolis in Athens. This originally was the temple of Athena Polias, the city-goddess of Athens. It was said that this statue was fallen from the sky. Her cult was the oldest and the most important in Athens.
I have attached a pic from the temple of Juno Sospita at the Foro Olitorio in Rome, which today is the church of San Nicola, and a pic of the statue of Juno Sospita from the Musei Vaticani, probably a marble cult statue from the 2nd century AD.

Der kleine Pauly
Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon
Michael Krumme, Römische Sagen in der antiken Münzprägung

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on January 14, 2007, 10:11:55 am

If my records are correct this is a little jubilee. It's my hundredth contribution to this thread! I hope you enjoy it! Some themes I have still in petto.

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: whitetd49 on January 14, 2007, 11:43:27 am

If my records are correct this is a little jubilee. It's my hundredth contribution to this thread! I hope you enjoy it! Some themes I have still in petto.

Best regards

Jochen, that is indeed a significant accomplishment and contribution to the Boards, Congrats.  Further discussion of Juno Sospita on Roman coins at:

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Cleisthenes on January 15, 2007, 05:53:06 am

If my records are correct this is a little jubilee. It's my hundredth contribution to this thread! I hope you enjoy it! Some themes I have still in petto.

Best regards


Bravo!  I really enjoy this thread and your contributions--I have learned so much!

Regards, Jim (Cleisthenes)

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on January 20, 2007, 02:38:05 pm

The coin:
Bithynia, Nicomedia, Plautilla, wife of Caracallus, died AD 212
AE 21
        bust draped, r.
       Skylla riding over waves, l., holding rudder(?) over shoulder and dolphin in
       outstretched r. hand
Rec.Gen. 253
very rare, F/F+, green patina

Most of us know Skylla from Homer's Odyssee.  Kirke has warned Odysseus that if he sailed too close to Skylla she would attack and eat his crew. If he sailed too close to Kharybdis he would surely be caught when she sucked down the sea in her regular routine. Odysseus could sail by Skylla and take his losses or he could linger and fight Skylla, thus loosing the entire crew to Kharybdis. It was a cruel choice for Odysseus but it got worse.
Odysseus wanted to fight Skylla and then try to flee before Kharybdis rose to action. Kirke scolded him and said he must yield to the Immortals. Odysseus did yield. He did not warn his crew of the danger because Kirke said it would do no good. Skylla was bloodthirsty and she would have her way.
When Odysseus and his brave crew came to the Rovers, Odysseus put on his finest armor and stood with two spears scanning the rockface for any sign of Skylla. Regardless, he was still taken by surprise. They gave Kharybdis a wide berth and sailed near Skylla’s rock. While Kharybdis kept their attention with her gushing and sputtering, Skylla swooped down unseen and snatched up six of the crew. Their legs and torsos were dangling from Skylla’s mouths as she lifted them to her cave to eat them. They screamed for Odysseus and begged for help but he stood helpless on the deck with the rest of the terrified crew. Odysseus said it was the most pitiful scene his long suffering eyes had ever seen.

Skylla (lat. Scylla) and Kharybdis (lat. Charybdis) are the names of two rocks between Italy and Sicily, and only a short distance from one another. In the midst of the one of these rocks which was nearest to Italy, there dwelt, according to Homer, Skylla, a daughter of Krataiis (lat. Crataeis), a fearful monster, barking like a dog, with twelve feet, six long necks and mouths, each of which contained three rows of sharp teeth. The opposite rock, which was much lower, contained an immense fig-tree, under which there dwelt Kharybdis, who thrice every day swallowed down the waters of the sea, and thrice threw them up again: both were formidable to the ships which had to pass between them. Later traditions represent Skylla as a daughter of Phorcys or Phorbas, by Hekate Krataiis or by Lamia; while others make her a daughter of Triton, or Poseidon and Krataiis, or of Typhon and Echidna.

Skylla and Glaukos:
Skylla, the myth tells, had originally been a beautiful maiden sought by many suitors, but she scorned them all and lived with the Nereids, the sea-nymphs, who loved her.
Also Glaukos fell in love with her. He is said to have been a mortal fisherman who, after chewing a plant, became a sea deity, but he is also called son of Nereus and Doris, being then the brother of the Nereids. It is said that he changed his shape near Anthedon in the island of Euboea, acquiring a new appearance with amazing colours. And so he got a beard of dark green hue, and hair covering both shoulders and back, and his groins merged into a twisted fish form. Not wishing any more to remain on earth, he plunged into the sea, and being received by the divinities of the sea, he was purged of his mortal nature by Okeanos and Tethys, who did this wonder with the help of magic songs, and by bathing his body repeatedly in many streams.

But when Glaukos declared his love to Skylla, she, not being able to decide whether he was a monster or a god, fled from him, and he, wounded by her refusal, sought Kirke, hoping that this witch, with the help of her magic herbs, would make Skylla to love him. But Kirke fell herself in love with her visitor, and while advising him to scorn her who scorns, prayed instead to be herself united with Glaukos. But Glaukos had no intentions of renouncing his love for Skylla. So he told the witch:
Sooner shall foliage grow on the sea, and sooner shall sea weeds spring up on the mountain tops, than shall my love change while Scylla lives. Ovid, Metamorphoses 14. 38
And since a woman would seldom listen to love poems addressed to another woman, Kirke, on hearing these words, was herself enraged. But she would not harm Glaukos, whom she loved, and instead turned her wrath upon the girl whom he loved. And so Kirke, leaving her palace, went to Rhegion in the 'toe' of Italy, and poisoned with drugs the water in which Skylla used to bathe, and when she went down into it she was transformed into a monster who was woman above, but fish from the hips down, with six dogs joined to her body.
Since that time Skylla, from her cliff, became a pest to all sailors, and those who escaped Kharybdis, who was on the cliff on the other side of the strait, became her victims, as occurred to several of Odysseus' companions, whom she devoured. But some have said that at the time when Aeneas came with his fleet after the sack of Troy, Skylla had already been changed into the dangerous rock, which still stands to this day.

Another tradition related that Skylla was beloved by Poseidon himself, and that Amphitrite, from jealousy, metamorphosed her into a mon­ster. Herakles is said to have killed her, because she had stolen some of the oxen of Geryon, but Phorcys is said to have restored her to life. Virgil speaks of several Scyllae, and places them in the lower world.

Then there is the myth of another Skylla, daughter of King Nisos of Megara, who, in consequence of her love of Minos, cut off the golden hair from her father's head, and thereby caused his death. She has sometimes been confounded with the monster Skylla.

The myths around Skylla are typical fairy tales told by sailors all around the world. In hellenistic times they were decorated phantastically. These are f.e. the myth of the love of Glaukos or the theft of Geryon's oxen. Platon, Eratosthenes, Cicero and Ovid declared these tales for pure phantasy whereas others located them in the Strait of Messina. Near was situated the Cape and the City of Scyllaeum. Even modern topographists are seeking Scylla and Charybdis in these region, but in the Bosporos too. The originally mere animal shape on Homer later was changed in literature and arts into a variable mixed figure (biformis, triplex and multiplex).

Like other mythical creatures Skylla was already in ancient times interpreted realistical (as giant-octopus), rationalistical and allegorical-ethical. The latter was the case in the Middle Ages too: Frescoe in Corvey, 9th century AD  Incidit in Scyllam, qui vult vitare Charybdim (= He who want to avoid Charybdis is catched by Scylla) first in the Alexandreis of Walter de Chatillon, 12.Jh.

I have added a pic from the Paestan Red Figure Calyx krater, signed by Asteas, from c. 340 BC, now in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu, California, USA
It shows a detail of the monster Skylla, from a scene depicting Zeus, in the shape of a bull, carrying Europa across the seas. The sea-goddess is depicted as a beautiful mermaid-like nymphe with serpentine fish tail in place of legs, a cluster of dog-fores circling her waist, and a trident in her hand.

Ovid, Metamorphosen
William Smith, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Bography and Mythology (online)
Der kleine Pauly

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Cleisthenes on January 22, 2007, 05:24:46 am

Most of us know Skylla from Homer's Odyssee. 

Skylla (lat. Scylla) and Kharybdis (lat. Charybdis) are the names of two rocks between Italy and Sicily, and only a short distance from one another. In the midst of the one of these rocks which was nearest to Italy, there dwelt, according to Homer, Skylla, a daughter of Krataiis (lat. Crataeis), a fearful monster, barking like a dog, with twelve feet, six long necks and mouths, each of which contained three rows of sharp teeth. The opposite rock, which was much lower, contained an immense fig-tree, under which there dwelt Kharybdis, who thrice every day swallowed down the waters of the sea, and thrice threw them up again: both were formidable to the ships which had to pass between them.


Once more, thank you for such an interesting and informative post.  I only have a couple of things to offer.  The first is an allusion made to this dangerous duo by the contemporary singer/song writer Sting (when he was performing with the band "Police"):

           You consider me the young apprentice
           Caught between the Scylla and Charybdis . . .
                                        (from "Wrapped Around Your Finger")

Your post helps the modern bard's lyrics assume a more appropriate amount of awe.

The second "thing" I have to offer is the photo of one of my coins, the reverse of which depicts the world's most famous poet:

Ionia, Smyrna. Circa 125-115 B.C. AE 23mm/ Homereum (7.95 gm). Eymelos and Ippyroy, Magistrate. Obv: Laureate head of Apollo right Rev: ÓÌÕÑÍÁÉÙÍ – EYMHËÏÓ I/ ÉÐÐYÑOY, the poet Homer seated left, holding staff and scroll. Milne 221.

Strabo mentions this issue of bronze coinage from Smyrna specifically when, discussing the city, he says ". . . there is also a library; and the 'Homereum', a quadrangular portico containing a shrine and wooden statue of Homer; for the Smyrnaeans also lay especial claim to the poet and indeed a bronze coin of theirs is called a Homereum" (Strabo, Geographica XIV, I.37, transl. by H.C. Jones, The Geography of Strabo, VI [Loeb, 1960], pp. 245-247).

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on February 02, 2007, 06:05:21 pm
Apollo with double-axe

The coin:
Phrygia, Eumeneia (Fulvia), Nero, AD 54-69
AE 20, 4.60g
struck under Nero as Caesar AD 50-54
       Bust, draped, bare-headed, r.
rev. (from r. to l., each from top to bottom)
      Apollo, nude, chlamys over l. arm, stg. l., holding raven in outstretched r. hand and
      double-axe in l. arm
RPC 3149 (28 ex. listed); SNG Copenhagen 394; SNG von Aulck 3591; SNG München 207; BMC 41
rare, VF, nice for the type
Eumeneia was named Fulvia BC 41/40 to honour the eastern activities of Marcus Antonius whose wife was Fulvia.

Julius Kleon, mentioned on the rev., had the title ARXIEREVC THC ACIAC, meaning 'Highpriest of Asia'. His wife, Bassa Kleonos, was Highpriest, Archiera, too. She too was mentioned on coins, struck for Agrippina jun., mother of Nero. This feature is known only for Archierontes: Both spouses were Archierontes und for both were struck coins. The function of the Archiereus was closely related to the Imperial Cult. Each district had an Archiereus who had to supervise the Imperial Cult who first was established by the sucessors of Alexander the Great, the Diadochs, and then adopted by Augustus. He had to open up the festivals and to entertain the imperial temple with his money. He had the chairmanship in the koinon. Probably his role was only religious, not political. Disputed is wether his function was identical with the role of the Asiarch.

Meaning of the double-axe:
Double-axe (lat. bipennis) is greek Labrys. This word probably is of pre-greek origin possibly from an Aegean language. It is an axe with two blades which are arranged symmetrially on both sides of the shank. The Labrys was used for handcraft purposes and as weapon, on Homer only used by the enemies of the Achaeans especially by the Amazons. Originally coming from the Middle East then in Asia Minor, particulary in Caria, until latest times attribute of numerous local deities the Labrys became in the 2nd millenium BC one of the most important religious symbols in the Minoic Crete. Here only goddesses were depicted with a Labrys. This is seen as proof for an old matriarchy or as hint to the male mate of the Great Goddess and as insignia of the priestking. Double-axes were erected as cult symbols and consecrating gifts, sometimes made of precious material, and as devine protection carved in the bearing stones of the base of the Cretean palaces. In Asia Minor besides Demeter and Kybele many male deities were wearing a Labrys too, f.e. Zeus as Labraundos, Men or Apollo Tyrimnaios. Sometimes this is suggested as symbol of the weather and storm god but without adequate matter.

On the Greek mainland the Labrys passed over completely to male figures. Since geometric times the Labrys appears as sign of holiness, f.e. on Herakles, Theseus, Hephaistos and others. In Italy the Labrys doesn't play a big role except in eastern cults. The axe in the
fasces has no connection to it. The Kleine Pauly says that the actual character and the cultic use of the Labrys needs a clarification again. Sadly here too the esotericism has adopted this tool. In the net you find strange explanations, especially by the so-called feminists.

The Labyrinth of Knossos
If you talk about the double-axe you had to talk about the labyrinth too.The most famous labyrinth naturally is the Labyrinth of Knossos. Referring to the myth it was built by Daidalos for the Cretean king Minos to hide the Minotauros. This was a monster with the shape of a man with the head of a bull. It was born by Pasiphae who had fallen in love to a beautiful white bull. The Atheneans had to sacrifice ten virgins each year to Minotauros until Theseus came to Knossos, killed the Minotauros and released the Atheneans from this awful bloody toll. He suceeded in getting out of the labyrinth by the famous ball of twine which he was given by the princess Ariadne so he could mark his way out. But there is another myth too where Minos had put Daidolos himself into the labyrinth and that he and his son Ikaros could flee from it by using wings. Diodor suggests that Daidolos has had Egyptean models for the building. Depictions of the labyrinth are found frequently on Cretean coins. On Roman mosaics often the struggle between Theseus and Minotauros is depicted.

The opinion that labyrinth originally means a subterranean prison or a mine is still represented by Kerenyi. This interpretation is strengthened by the fact that the stone pits of Gortyn on Crete with its channels which lead deep in the mountain were called labyrinth (however by later writers) and that the double-axe was used as tool. 

But the common opinion is that the meaning of labyrinth is 'House of the Double-axe'. So it was seen by Evans who has digged out Knossos. He found numerous depictions of double-axes engraved in the walls. But what he has found were actually the palaces of the kings of Knossos with numerous rooms, corridors, staircases and pantries which with its unclearness resembles a labyrinth. But please don't confuse a labyrinth with a maze. This has many furcations, the labyrinth only one but complicated way!

The term labyrinth in fact is tied up to the Cretean building but describes an immemorial human idea too, an archetype in the sense of C.G.Jung or Kerenyi. It is not characteristic that the way-out is impossible but that it however exists. Underworld, death and life, eternity are represented in the labyrinth of the myth, the dance and fine arts. So it is understandable that labyrinths could be found in all human cultures all over the world.

The labyrinth in Christianism
Long forgotten the labyrinth was rediscovered in the Gothic. In great number it appears in gothic cathedrals. Famous are the labyrinths of Chartres, Amiens, Reims but Siena too and other cities. I'm regulary in Amiens at the Comic Festival. Sitting at the Quai Belu in the Quartier St.Leu at the Somme Channel and seeing how on the other side this middle age marvel arises over the small houses of the Old Town one becomes catched by a feeling of awe and a religious shudder. It is overwhelming. Therefore I have choosed this labyrinth as an example. It was first built AD 1288 and after its destruction renewed 1827-1897.

When the Christianism arose naturally the greek mythology was present and the Christians have always incorporated the myths of other people as the prearrangement of the Salvation Story. And so the myth of Theseus and the labyrinth was interpreted as the symbolic story of the saving of mankind. And Theseus became Christ who save us from the intricate labyrinth of our life and lead us by the twine of love to new life. The way of the labyrinth was seen as image of the path of life. To walk the lines promised redemption and replaced for the poor as way of expiation the pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

The Kleine Pauly

I have added
a) the picture of a double-axe
b) the picture of a Cretean woman with two double-axes
c) the picture of the labyrinth in the cathedrale of Amiens

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Cleisthenes on February 07, 2007, 07:56:33 am
Apollo with double-axe

Meaning of the double-axe:
Double-axe (lat. bipennis) is greek Labrys. This word probably is of pre-greek origin possibly from an Aegean language. It is an axe with two blades which are arranged symmetrially on both sides of the shank. The Labrys was used for handcraft purposes and as weapon, on Homer only used by the enemies of the Achaeans especially by the Amazons. Originally coming from the Middle East then in Asia Minor, particulary in Caria, until latest times attribute of numerous local deities the Labrys became in the 2nd millenium BC one of the most important religious symbols in the Minoic Crete. Here only goddesses were depicted with a Labrys. This is seen as proof for an old matriarchy or as hint to the male mate of the Great Goddess and as insignia of the priestking. Double-axes were erected as cult symbols and consecrating gifts, sometimes made of precious material, and as devine protection carved in the bearing stones of the base of the Cretean palaces. In Asia Minor besides Demeter and Kybele many male deities were wearing a Labrys too, f.e. Zeus as Labraundos, Men or Apollo Tyrimnaios. Sometimes this is suggested as symbol of the weather and storm god but without adequate matter.

On the Greek mainland the Labrys passed over completely to male figures. Since geometric times the Labrys appears as sign of holiness, f.e. on Herakles, Theseus, Hephaistos and others. In Italy the Labrys doesn't play a big role except in eastern cults. The axe in the
fasces has no connection to it. The Kleine Pauly says that the actual character and the cultic use of the Labrys needs a clarification again. Sadly here too the esotericism has adopted this tool. In the net you find strange explanations, especially by the so-called feminists.

Best regards


Congratulations on another very interesting post.  Ever since I read this a few days ago, it seems like I am seeing double-headed axes all the time.  Here is an example found on a coin currently being offered by Joe, here at FORVM.  The coin is doubly (sorry for the pun) interesting because the Janiform obverse device incorporates both female and male portraits.

19456. Silver drachm, BMC Troas p. 93, 14 (same dies), gVF, Tenedos mint, 3.376g, 15.9mm, 180o, c. 450 - 387 B.C.; obverse male and female janiform head (Zeus and Hera?); reverse TENE-D-I-ON, large double-axe, kantharos right, grapes left, all in incuse square; toned; rare.

Cheers, Jim

p.s.  I have copied only a short excerpt from Jochen's original post.  If you missed it, it is worth a read.

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on February 10, 2007, 02:13:50 pm
The Amazons

Galatia, Ancyra, Antoninus Pius, AD 138-161
AE 28, 13.15g
      bare head, r.
     Amazon in short chiton, wearing boots, advancing r. with waving chlamys, holding shield
     and double-axe in l. hand and rudder in r. hand
about VF, spotted patina
(This coin was presented some time before by Cleisthenes!)

The shield of the Amazon is a so-called pelte, a light leaf-shaped shield (with indentation) made from basketry or wood, covered with leather and used by Thracian lightly armed.

The origin of the Amazons
The Amazons were a community of warlike women, called by the Scyths 'men-killing', who drew the bow, threw the spear, went hunting, but didn't like housework. They were children of Ares and the nymph Harmonia (or Aphrodite) born in the valleys of the Acmonean Phrygia. First they lived at the Amazon river, which now is called Tanais (todays Don) according to Tanais, son of Amazon Lysippe. He offended Aphrodite because he spurned marriage and addicted himself to war. To satisfy her thirst for revenge she managed that Tanais fell in love with her mother. To avoid the incestuous desire he jumped into the river and was drowned. Thereupon Lysippe led her daughters along the coasts of the Black Sea to a plain of the river Thermodon. There they bore three tribes each of them founding a city. From these times on the Amazons counted their parentage by their mothers. Before Lysippe died in war she founded the big city of Themiskyra and defeated all tribes up to the river Tanais. From the booties they built great temples for Ares and Artemis Tauropolis. They conquered major parts of Asia Minor and Syria and founded the cities Ephesos, Smyrna, Kyrene and Myrine. After being defeated by the Greeks at the river Thermodon in Asia Minor they retreated into the land of the Skyths and merged with young natives who could gain their confidence and joined them so generating the people of the Sauromates (Herodot, Hist. IV, 110-117). The Greeks often met the Amazons. Here are the most famous myths:
Herakles and Hippolyte:
This was the ninth labour of Herakles. Admete, daughter of Eurystheus, whom Herakles was damned to serve, wished to get the girdle of Hippolyte, queen of Amazons. So Herakles was sent to Pontos at the Black Sea, where the Amazons lived near the river Thermodon. The bravest among them was her queen Hippolyte. As insignia she had gotten the girdle from her father Ares. Herakles and his companions landed at Themiskyra near the mouth of the Thermodon. It is said that Theseus and Telamon were with Herakles too. The Amazons weren't averse to the heroes and Hippolyte was inclined to donate the girdle to Herakles. But then Hera appears in the shape of an Amazon and aroused the suspicion against Herakles and his companions that their intention was to rape Hippolyte. So a slaughter occured between the Greek heroes and the Amazons. Herakles killed the queen and took the girdle. This is depicted on the relief of the metopes in Olympia. The girdle was kept in the temple of Hera in Mykenai.
It is told  too that it was Theseus who captured the girdle and donated it to Herakles, or that Herakles has taken Hippolyte to Greece where she has born his son Hippolytos.

Theseus and Antiope:
It is told too, that Herakles succeeded in conquering Themiskyra not until the Amazon Antiope fell in love with Theseus and betrayed her sisters. But it is told too that Theseus together with his friend Perithoos moved out to rape Antiope, an analogy to the rape of Helena. In Athens she is said to have given birth to Hippolytos, or Demophon. Here the myths of Herakles and Theseus were mixed up.To free their queen or to revenge the dishonor Theseus has done to her by marrying a second wife, the army of the Amazons appears at Athens. It came from the North making long detours from the coasts of the Black Sea because the Amazons were no seafaring nation but a people on horses. The left wing of the army leaned against the Areopag (the name refers to Ares because the Amazons here 
sacrificed to Ares) at the place where later the Amazoneion was built, the sanctuary of the heroes to honor the Amazons. The right wing stood at the Pynx. From there they advanced against the Akropolis. But an Athenian army attacked them from behind coming from the Hill of the Muses. So in the 4th month of siege they have been forced to close a peace agreement. This was the first time that the Athenias had to fight against foreign invaders on their own homeland. The wounded Amazons were sent to Chalkis to heal them. This all was real history for the Athenians. They showed to visitors strange tombs and attributed them to the Amazons: In Athens the tomb of Antiope, in Megara the tomb of Hippolyte. This was strengthened by the halfmoon shaped shields of the Amazons which could be recognized. Great wall paintings show the battle. One was found in the Stoa poikile, the 'Painted Colonnade[/i].
It is told too, that Herakles came to help his friend Theseus, and that Penthesilea already took part in this war. Accidentally she should haved killed her queen Hippolyte. 

Achilleus und Penthesilea:
After the death of Hektor Penthesilea, queen of the Amazons, came with her army to Troy to attend the ceremonies of his funeral. It was said that accidentally she has killed Hippolyte, mother of Hippolytos. King Priamos of Troy should sanctify the murder. By the way Priamos is said to have fight against the Amazons already in his youth. This battle occured at the river Sangarios (Homer Ilias III, 189). It is said that the Amazons had to distinguish themselfs by fighting against men bevor they were allowed to choose a lover. So the virgin Penthesilea appears at Troy. Eleven days Achilleus has given for the ceremonies. On the twelfth day the beautiful Penthesilea attacked the Greeks. But how beautiful and lovely she was, and how well she could have replaced the daughter of Briseus (we remember?) Achilleus recognized not before he hit her deadly with his spear. In the moment he looked in her dying eyes he fell in immortal love with her. It is even said that he has raped her dead body. Thersites, the ugliest Greek at Troy, mocked Achilleus due to his unnatural lust, until Achilleus slew him. This deed outraged the Greek and Diomedes threw Penthesilea's body into the river Skamandros. But it is said that she was saved and Achilleus has given her body to the Troyans to bury her.
The Amazons are a fabulous nation of war-like women. In Homer's Ilias only indistinct reminscences are found: Bellerphontes defeated them in Lykia; Priamos has fighted them in Phrygia; a hill in the Troyan plain is regarded as tomb of the Amazon Myrine; the Amazons altogether are called antianeirai, later interpreted as 'anti-male' or 'equal to men'. Directly after the end of the Ilias the Aithiopsis is attached: The Amazon Penthesilea comes to help Priamos against the Greeks, is killed by Achilleus and bemoaned by him. The main features of the later Amazon myth are the following: Coming from the East they founded a women state in the North-East of Asia Minor, between Sinope and Trapezus, with the capital Themiskyra. They worshipped Ares (as their ancestor) and Artemis (Tauropolis). For reproduction they lived together with a neighbour people for two month in the springtime. The boys then were killed (or made disabled for war by breaking their legs or sent back to their fathers). The girls stayed virgins until they have killed three enemies. Their arms are arrows and bow and a sword hanging on a band running across their chest; mostly they are mounted. Men don't count for their family tree.. Main sources: Diodor and Strabon. Herodot connects the Amazons with the Skyths and says the Sauromates (Sarmates) descend from the Amazons. Obviously they were located more to the East when no Amazons were found at the river Thermodon. Pompeius says he has fighted Amazons north of the Kaukasos! Already early Amazons too were known in Libya which undertook many conquering
campaigns. Many Aiolian and Ionian cities claimed to be founded by Amazons of Asia Minor, so Smyrna and Ephesos.

Interpretation: The etymological deduction from Greek mazos with alpha privativum (meaning: without breast) is obviously wrong! In fine arts they are always depicted with two breasts. Obsolete too is the interpretation as an army of warlike priestesses of Artemis. Today the general opinion is that the myths are an echo of historical battles against matriarchalic tribes of Asia Minor (not Hettites!) mixed with magical and fabulous motives (f.e. women rape), tied up to tombs which were worshipped at several places in Greece. In Athens the Amazoneion was situated at the declivity of the Areopag, nearby the tombs with the Amazonis stele alluded to Antiope and Hippolyte.
When the Spanish conquistadores conquered South-America they met Indian tribes where the women fighted together with the men. So they were thinking they have found the enigmatic people of the Amazons and called the greatest river on earth acording to them Amazonas. 

History of art:
In ancient art the Amazons were depicted usually mounted. Their arms are very different from the arms of the hoplits: Bow, double-axe and light half-moon shaped shields emphasize the strangeness.There are many pictures of Amazons, mostly in the Attic vase-painting, where the episode with Herakles and Theseus occurs too; then in the sculpture of buildings as vast sequence of battle scenes on metopes and friezes, f.e. the Temple of Zeus in Olympia (c. 470-460 BC), the Parthenon (447-438 BC) and the Temple of Apollo in Bassae-Rhigalia (about 420 BC; London). According to the Athenians the battle against the Amazons which have invaded Attica was a mythic prefiguration of the struggle of the Athenians against the Barbars. The Roman sarcophages were dominated by the events at Troy. Achilleus raising the dead Penthesilea or, not so often, the arrival of the Amazons after the death of Hektor. In many Roman copies (f.e. in Berlin, PM; in  Copenhagen, CG; in New York, MM; in the Louvre and in Rome, MC) have passed down the statues of the wounded Amazons which according to a report of Pliny the Elder were created by the famous sculptors Phidias, Polyklet, Kresilas, Kydon and Phradmon during a contest for the Temple of the Ephesian Artemis (the award went to Polyklet). The Amazons were a theme too in the Renaissance (Carpaccio). Rubens has painted a great battle painting in the Baroque and at last the German expressionist Beckmann (1911; Beverly Hills, R. Gore Rifkind Coll.)

I have added two pics:
1) Attic black-figured neck-amphora, now in the British Museum, London
   The pic shows the famous fight between Achilleus and Penthesilea at Troy.
2) Marble statue of a Amazon (so-called typeI9, now i the Museo Vaticano, Rome
   C. 440/430 BC. This is one of the statues created during a contest for the Temple of the
   Ephesian Artemis in Ephesos. The original probably was made of bronze.

More pics you find under

Der kleine Pauly
Karl Kerenyi, Heroengeschichten
Robert von Ranke-Graves, Griechische Mythologie
Aghion/Barbillon/Lissarrague, Reclams Lexikon der antiken Götter und Heroen in der Kunst

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on February 10, 2007, 02:16:10 pm
Cheiron, the wise kentaur

Kingdom of Bithynia, Prusias I., 183-149 BC
AE 20, 6.38g
obv. (anepigraphic)
       Head of Dionysos, with ivy-wreath, r.
rev. Kentaur Cheiron, stg. r., holding Lyra with both hands, waving chlamys behind him
      Monogram in lower r. field
SNG Copenhagen 639; BMC 9; SG 7266

Cheiron, or Chiron, was the son of Kronos  and Philyra. When Kronos approached Philyra he was taken by surprise by his wife Rhea. In fear of her he turned into an horse. When Philyra after the birth of Cheiron saw his shape as horse he she was so ashamed that she was transformed into a lime tree. It is told too that Cheiron like all other Kentaurs has Ixion as father.
So Cheiron was a kentaur, a creature mixed of horse and man. But he is said to have been such a good physician, musician and astronomer, that he was the educator of Achilleus, Asklepios, Jason and Achilleus. He was the teacher in sience of many princes of his time too:  Nestor, Amphiareus, Peleus, Meleager, Theseus, Hippolytos, Palamedes, Menestheus, Odysseus, Diomedes and Kastor and Polyneikes, to name only few. Aineas is said to be one of his students too. He was the first great teacher of mankind, who teached them justice, holding the oath sacred and bringing the gods thanks offerings. He has teached the humans to interpret the constellations on the sky and is said to have made a calendar for the Argonauts. But he teached his students the art of warfare and hunting too. He teached Dionysos the art of eating and to sacrifice. His best friend was Peleus and he made available that he could marry Thetis. The date of the marriage he calculated astrologically and succeeded in that it was raining at this day and so the gods could descend from the heaven to participate in the festivities.

Despite all of his good attributes he died a very painful death. Once when Herakles was visiting him, an arrow from his quiver fell down and hurt Cheiron's foot. Because this arrow was dipped into the poison of the Lernaeic Snake it caused the most terrific pain to him and couldn't be hailed. As son of Kronos he was immortal so that there was no end of his torture. There he prayed Zeus imploringly that he should let him die until Zeus answered his prayers. It is told that Prometheus was forged to the Kaukasus because of his sacrileges and that he could be unbanned only if an immortal took the death for him.So Cheiron went into the Hades and Prometheus has been freed and became immortal by the death of Cheiron.

His wife was Chariklo, a nymph, who bore him the daughter Okyroe. She too was turned before his appalled eyes into a horse. It is said too that his daughter was Endeis who later became the wife of Aiakos and by him mother of Peleus.

He is said to have lived in a big cave at the mount Pelion in Thessalia. Here he received sick persons to heal them.

Because of his piety, justice and his other virtues and because he had to die such an awful death without any own debt, Zeus finally put him as constellation to the sky. The Magnetes in Thessalia worshipped him as god and sacrificed to him the firstling of the fruits.

In a note from Hederich I found this: It seems to be paradox that the most famous physician of his time must die from a uncurable wound. But always when the science has come to the highest level began a time of descent and the science slowly dies off. This was Cheiron's fate.

Chiron, literally mostly Cheiron (hypokoristikon* of Cheirisophos) was originally a healer god with chthonic features, who lived at the mount Pelion. The Thessalic Magnetes brought offers to him as physician; even human sacrifices are attested. A dynasty of physicians in this region ascribed themself to Cheiron. He was seen as son of Kronos who attended the nymph Philyra in the shape of a horse. He belongs to the kentaurs, but he differs from them not only by his origin, but particularly by his justice, clemency and piety. He is immortal and is called a god by Aischylos. He is educator and teacher of many famous heroes and teaches them medicine, hunting and playing the kithara. The Attic poets of the comedy used him against the so-called modern music. Against the tradition that Cheiron after the separation of Thetis from Peleus became educator of Achilleus Homer introduced Phoinix as educator and left to him only the medical care.

*hypokoristikon = term of endearment, pet name

History of art:
In the ancient art of Greece, first of all in the Attic vase painting, Cheiron has until Classic times an entire human body with an attached back part of a horse (amphora of Oltos, about 510 BC; Louvre). Often he is clothed as a human; such he received Peleus who brings the little Achilleus on his arms to him (white-ground oinochoe from Vulci, about 510 BC; London, BM). On two wall-paintings from Pompej and Herculaneum Cheiron teaches Achilleus to play kithara, now in the shape of a horse with the upperpart of a human body (both about AD 70; Naples, MN). As educator particularly of Achilleus Cheiron appears in the paintings of the Renaissance. The corresponding wall-paintings of Rosso Fiorentino in Fontainebleau (1535-1540) however indicate mainly the preferences of king Franz I: fencing, swimming, hunting and tournaments. The Achilleus cycle of Rubens (about 1631; Prado) shows the young Achilleus riding on Cheiron, on a painting of G.M.Crespi (about 1700; Vienna, KM) he is teached archery. The dying Cheiron was depicted by Filippino Lippi (about 1500; Oxford, Christ Church College).

I have attached the pic of the amphora of Oltos.

Der kleine Pauly
Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon
Aghion/Barbillon/Lissarrague, Reclams Lexikon der antiken Götter und Heroen in der Kunst

Best regards

Additionally I want to show a pic provided by Pat Lawrence. She writes: In the Basilica of Herculaneum there is a group of unusually careful Late Republican or Early Imperial copies of Classical paintings. Each of them seems to refer to its own Hellenistic city or kingdom.
* The Cheiron instructing Achilles (a) has Macedonian architecture in the background, (b) may flatter Alexander who was tutored by Aristotle by comparing him with Achilles who was tutored by Cheiron. (c) And also it may be a copy as good as could be done freehand in fresco at Herculaneum of the painting by the most famous name in Greek painting, Apelles, who did work for Alexander.
In addition, and this is what delights me most, the great painter in a great period has contrived to show a centaur SEATED, as if having two upper torsos weren't a great impediment to doing so! In fact, equine hindquarters in seated position, in marble, have been found, too (in Greece, not Italy), as if the wonderful tour de force inspired imitation.


Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on February 17, 2007, 12:28:05 pm
The Kentaurs

Because we have talked about Cheiron I think this is the appropriate place to present the tribe of Kentaurs as a whole.

The coin:
Gallienus, AD 253-268, sole reign AD 260-268
Rome, after AD 260
       Head, radiate, r.
      Kentaur, advancing l., r. fore-foot raised, holding globe in extended r. hand and rudder
      over l. shoulder; above back of horse wave-lines
      in ex. H
Göbll 378b; RIC V/2, 164; C.73
VF, nice portrait, flan damage
ex Fowler coll.
ex Stacks auction 27.6.1969, lot 659
ex Gerald Gartspein coll.
There are some difficulties to attribute the object above the l. shoulder. Cohen writes 'des fleches' = thunderbolt, RIC interprets it as trophy, but it is obviously a rudder. That would match the wave-lines too!

When Ixion once at a binge with the Olympic gods was drunken too much he tried to approach Hera herself. According to an advice of Zeus Hera gave a cloud her own shape and Ixion created with this cloud (Nephele) the Kentauros. He became the ancestor of all Kentaurs. Other tell that the Kentaurs were sons of Ixion's or Apollo's son Kentauros with mares of Magnesia in Thessalia. They then had been educated by nymphs from the mount Pelion. With horses they created the hippokentaurs.

The Kentauromachia:
Peirithoos, son of Ixion too, his mother was Dia, was king of the Lapiths. To his marriage with Hippodameia he invited all Olympic gods except Ares and Eris, because he rembered the disaster which Eris has caused at the marriage of Peleus and Thetis. More guests than expected came and so he was obliged to place the Kentaurs, his cousins, in a big cave. The Kentaurs were not accustomed to vine. When they were confronted with it they dispised their own curdled milk and got drunk by the unmixed vine. When the bride came to welcome them their leader Eurytos lunged at her and dragged her away to rape her. Thereupon all Kentaurs lunged at the women and young boys to do the same. Peirithoos and Theseus heard the cries and came to help Hippodameia. They mutilated Eurytos and threw him out of the cave. A great fight began between Kentaurs and Lapiths lasting til night. Many were killed on both sides. This was the beginning of a long lasting war. Caused it was by Ares and Eris who wanted to revenge the insult which was done to them.
The Kentaurs suffered a big defeat. Theseus expelled them from their seats at the mount Pelion. But they resisted desperately. After having gathered themselfs again they invaded the land of the Lapiths, surprised their army and massacred the greatest part. The survivors fled to Elis. But they were driven away by the Kentaurs again until they found a new home in Malea. 

The ferocious character of the Kentaurs and the bad influence of vine is seen too when Herakles on search of the Erymantian boar was visiting them. He was admitted hospitably by their king Pholos. He treated him with fried meat, eating only uncooked meat himself. To give him vine too he didn't risk because the amphora with vine was the collective property of all Kentaurs. But Herakles reminded him that this amphora with vine Dionysos had donated to them for exactly this occasion. When Pholos gave him this vine the other Kentaurs smelled its aroma, got angry and attacked them with rocks, rooted out trees,  fire and axes. Pholos hid in his cave, but Herakles could kill the first aggressors. To protect her grandchildren Nephele caused a strong rain, so that the chords of Herakles' bow softened and he slipped on the ground. Nevertheless he succeeded in killing them or chasing them away. The surviving Kentaurs sought for shelter at their king Cheiron, others came to Pholoe, some to Sicily where they were killed by the Sirens. In the meantime Pholos who buried his dead relatives has extracted one of Herakles' arrows and said: "How it is possible that such a strong being could be killed by such a small scratch?" There the arrow slipped down, hit his foot and killed him immediately. Herakles buried him with great honors at the mountain which bears now his name.
The Kentaurs were four-legged beings mixed by human and horse which inhabited exclusively the Greek mainland, i.e. the mountain woods of Thessaly, the western part of Arcadia and its neighbourhood and the region around Cape Malea. Roscher (Myth. Lex.) suggested that they are the personification of the ravaging nature of wild creeks, Mannhardt (Wald- und Feldkulte) wind spirits, like the wild men of the Germanic popular belief, but more correct seems to be Nilssen: " The Kentaurs are a species of those nature demons with whom the primitive phantasy fills he whole nature, and especially they are demons of the pathless mountains and the dense woods - inhabited by savage animals - which inspired men with fear and fright. Behind them is something elementary which is found in the common rural population of all times." These ideas then were transferred to the cloddish half-barbaric inhabitants of the wood-mountains. The former equalization with the Indian Gandharvas now is obsolet, orientalic influences unlikely. In older depictions, already in 8th century, the Kentaurs were depicted as complete men with torso and hind-legs from horses growing out from the back, in later times as horses with torsos of men instead of horse-neck and head, so having four horse-legs. Winged and horned Kentaurs are rare.The type of a female Kentaur was invented by Zeuxis end of 5th century; the desription in Lukian's Zeuxis is worth to be read. The myth confronts the Kentaurs with the Lapiths, beginning with Homer Iias I, 267ff. The so-called Kentauromachia (fight of the Kentaurs) first occurs in nature but was later located to the house of Peirithoos, king of the Lapiths. Occasion was the marriage between Peirithoos and Hippodameia where the Kentaurs were guests, but drunken have tried to rape the women. They were defeated by the Lapiths and chased away. Besides the Lapiths the myth confronts the Kentaurs too with individual heroes, so Herakles, Peleus and Atalante. In the meantime because of their horniness and greed for vine they were connected to Dionysos and Eros. Some Kentaurs emerged as individuals, f.e. Eurytion and Nessos (the Kentaur with the poisoned skirt!). Representatives of a more mild, hospitable type were Cheiron and Pholos.

The Lapiths:
The Lapiths were an early lost tribe in the northern part of Thessaly, in the myth a species of huge but generally knightly noble heroes of the antiquity. Several Thessalian nobilities claimed the Lapiths as their ancestors. Also more southern even on the Peloponnesos Lapiths are said to have been resident. The Attic demos Pirithoidai attributed themself to the ancestor Peirithoos. Polypoites, the son of Peirithoos, and Leonteus, the son of Koronos,
have participated in the Troyan War, others in the Chase for the Kalydonian Boar or the Voyage of the Argonauts. The shield of Herakles was decorated wit the depiction of several Lapiths as rivals of the Kentaurs. The Kentauromachia was one of the favourite subjects in fine arts. It was interpreted as echo of fights between neighboring Thessalian districts, or of fights between the Thessalian nobility of the midlands against the coast cities, or of fights between the masterrace of the Thessalian lowlands against the popular religion of the wood-lands. Some of its pre-hellenic traces are said to be found in the Albanian language.

History of art:
The double nature of the Kentaurs was depicted always in the same kind. In Greek antiquity the good, civilized Kentaurs have human legs and feet and are sometimes clothed like men. The savage Kentaurs in contrast have four horse-legs. The Kentauromachia, their fight against the Lapiths, was a symbol of the fight with the barbaric Non-Greeks, first of all the Persians; it appears since archaic times in sculptures of pediments, metopes and friezes of the temples. The most famous example are the figures from the western pediment of the Zeus-temple in Olympia (457 BC). Other ancient works show the Kentaurs demanding their part of the vine from Pholos, or the Kentaur Nessos attempting to rape Deianeira. Sometimes they are seen as companions of Dionysos.
The double nature of the Kentaurs moved them in Christian interpretation into a region between the beatified and the underworld, or forced them into the deepest level of the hell to the damned. Thus they appear on portals and capitals in the Middle Age together with demonic mythical creatures, often as symbols of the devil or paganism. In early Renaissance the subject of the female Kentaur was picked up again (Boticelli, 'The Calumny of Apelles', 1495; Uffizi), but the Kentauromachia too (Michelangelo, marble relief, about 1492?; Florence, MB - Piero di Cosimo, painting, about 1505-15007; London, NG), which occurs too in the work of Rubens, L. Giordano and others till F. v. Struck. The Kentaurs remain an
effective theme up to Picasso!

Der kleine Pauly
Robert von Ranke-Graves, Griechische Mythologie
Benjamin Hederich, Gründliche Mythologie
Aghion/Barbillon/Lissarrague, Reclams Lexikon der antiken Götter und Heroen in der Kunst

I have added the pic of the Kentauromachia on the Attic red-figured column krater in the Louvre, about 450-440 BC, and
the pic of the southern metope 31 from the Parthenon, showing the fight between a Kentaur and a Lapith (c. 447-433 BC), today in the Louvre too.

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Cleisthenes on February 23, 2007, 07:03:42 pm
The Kentaurs

Because we have talked about Cheiron I think this is the appropriate place to present the tribe of Kentaurs as a whole. . . (see thread Reply#187, 17 Feb.)


Thank you, once again, for your always interesting and informative posts!

Cheers, Jim

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Cleisthenes on March 02, 2007, 06:32:09 pm
Here is a coin, the reverse of which depicts Aeneas.  I made a quick check of your index, Jochen, and I didn't find a reference to Aeneas.  If I am repeating a post, I apologize!

JULIUS CAESAR, Dictator, died 44 BC; SILVER DENARIUS, 3.81 grams, 18.91 mm., VF+, minted in Africa.  Obverse: Diademed head of Venus right;  Reverse: CAESAR behind Aeneas advancing left, holding Palladium and his father Anchises on his left shoulder; Reference: Sear 355, New Sear 1402, Syd 1013.

Aeneas, was, in mythology the son of Anchises, a Trojan prince, and of Venus, goddess of love. After the capture of Troy by the Greeks, Aeneas was able, with the help of his mother, to escape from the fallen city. Carrying his aged father on his back and leading his little son by the hand, he made his way to the seacoast. In the confusion of flight, his wife was left behind.
A long, perilous, and adventure-filled voyage took him to Thrace, Delos, Crete, and Sicily, where his father died. The goddess Juno, who had always hated Aeneas and wanted to keep him from founding Rome, which she knew was his destiny, tried to drown him in a violent storm. He and his crew were cast up on the African coast, where they were welcomed by Dido, the beautiful queen of Carthage. Dido fell in love with Aeneas and begged him to remain. When he refused and set sail, she took her own life in despair.
After several years of wandering, Aeneas reached Italy and the mouth of the Tiber. There he was hospitably received by Latinus, king of Latium. He became betrothed to Lavinia, the daughter of Latinus, but before he could marry her, Juno caused Turnus, king of the Rutuli and a rejected suitor of Lavinia, to make war against Aeneas and Latinus. The war was resolved by hand-to-hand combat, in which Turnus was defeated and slain by Aeneas. Aeneas then ruled for several years in Latium and, marrying Lavinia, founded the Roman people called Latins.
His descendants Romulus ans Remus founded the city of Rome.
The great Roman epic, The Aeneid, by Virgil, tells the story of Aeneas' perilous wanderings  in detail and ends with the death of Turnus.


Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on March 10, 2007, 03:49:04 pm
Apollo Patroos

This coin is in a bad shape. But it is interesting mythological and historical because of its depiction. Please look at the thread 'Mythological interesting coins'. There I have shown a similar coin with two dogs, SNG Levante 1099. So this is a kind of continuation of the article above.

Trajan Decius, AD 240-251
AE 35, 27.29g
in l. and r. field P- P
in l. and r. field A/M - K
Perseus, nude except chlamys over l. shoulder, stg. l., holding harpa in l. arm, head of Medusa in l. hand
and in extended r. hand cult-statue of Apollo stdg. frontal on omphalos and holding in each hand a dog
with head up.
ref. SNG Paris 1757; not in SNG Levante
rare, F+/about VF, oliv-green patina, usual roughness

Perseus was the suggested founder of Tarsos.
A = PRWTH = the first
M = MEGISTH = the most important
K = KALLISTH = the most beautiful
G = 3, capital of three provinces
B = 2, holder of two neocories
We have heard already that especially the cities in Asia Minor have had a strong economical competition with each other. One of their most effective weapons in this war were oracles, neokories and adorning titles. The most important rivals of Tarsos were the cities of Mallos, Aigeai, Adana, Mopsuestia and Anazarbos. As result of this rivalry Tarsos got the titles AMK (see notes above) and METROPOLIS. But some time later Anazarbos got the same titles and attempted to top them by adding ENDOXOC (= the most famous). Aigeai, the third biggest citiy of Cilicia, had a very important temple of Asklepios, which was a great privilege. Mallos issued coins on which it proudly pronounced that the prophet Amphilochos was the founder of the city and furthermore it had the temple of Athena Magarsis. To emphasize the relevance of its oracle Mopsuestia issued coins showing a tripod and a burning altar meaning that Mopsiestia was the oracle of the prophet Mopsos.

Innumerable voyagers, merchants and pilgrims, but armies too visited these cities which were situated on the main route from Syria or Mesopotamia to the western Asia Minor. Gifts to the tempels and statues, but the sale of wreaths, crown and votive animals could deliver vast income. It was possible to earn money by ministration in the temples or service in the cities, but in the same way by the treatment and healing of diseases or by making forecasts in the temples. Because of that it is understandable that their coins - going from hand to hand like advertorials today - depicted the most important attractions of the cities. So the cities in this way made propaganda for their temples, gods and goddesses or oracles.

Finally Amphilochos and Mopsos were the most famous seer of the ancient world and because in Mallos and in Mopsuestia stood their temples, they stood far over all other cities. Aigeai too was visited by numerous guests because of its temple of Asklepios.

When the oracle of Apollo was brought to Tarsos (in a special kind raising two dogs on the fore-legs), the city finally had a temple too by which it could compete with the other cities or even outrival them. As the first god who teached medicine to mankind, he especially was the the rival of Asklepios of Aigeai. But Asklepios compared with Apollo was only a second-rank god and could not stand the power of Apollo. So the forecasts of Apollo were seen as superior to the others. This is one of the reasons to suggest that the dogs raised by their fore-legs should represent the two other seers.
There is nothing known of a cult of Apollo Lykeios in Tarsos. The Ionian Apollo must be brought to Taros by Geek immigrants. Sureley he was identified with a local god of Tarsos with similar healing power. In this case the name Apollo Lykeios is a moderne ascription. Because on other coins the legend PATROOC is found here too it is probably the matter of the cult of Apollo Patroos. Apollo as founder and guardian of the human civilization was regarded by the Greeks as founder of their cities and laws. So Apollo Patroos in Athens was seen as guardian of all Ionians. His temple in Athens was built 350-300 BC and stood in the area between Metroon and the Stoa of Zeus Eleutheros. Apollo, whose temples are often found in or near the agoras of ancient Greek cities, was here called Patroos (= 'Fatherly' or 'ancestral') because he was believed to have been the father of Ion, the progenitor of all the Ionic Greek people (including the Athenians).

Apollo had secretly slept with Kreusa, the daughter of king Erechtheus of Athens and the wife of Xouthos. When she gave birth to a son nine months later Apollo immediately took the boy to his famous sanctuary at Delphi, so her husband would not find out. The priests there gave him the name 'Ion'. As the marriage between Xouthos and Kreusa had remained childless, Xouthos went to Delphi to ask the oracle for advice. He was told that the first person he was to meet on his way out of the sanctuary would be his son. This was Ion, who was acknowledged by Xouthos because he vaguely remembered an affair with a Maenad during an orgy for Dionysos in his younger years. Back in Athens, Kreusa at first did not recognize her son and tried to poison him. The priests of Apollo eventually explained the situation to Kreusa and Ion and Ion later became king of Athens.

A 2.5 meter tall statue of a draped Apollo, who probably played the kithara (now in the colonnade of the Agora Museum), was found near the temple and may be the cult statue by the sculptor Euphranor that was seen by Pausanias.

Sadly all temples in Tarsos are destroyed or Christian churches were built upon them. This may be the reason because no statue of Apollo holding the dogs was found.

Bekircan Tahberer, Apollo Lykeios in Ancient Tarsus Numismatics (Thanks to Pat Lawrence) (Euphranor called Eupranor in error)

I have added a pic of the Apollo Patroos now in the Agora Museum in Athens.

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Cleisthenes on March 16, 2007, 10:49:20 am

Thank you, once again, for such an interesting and informative post.


Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on March 24, 2007, 01:11:27 pm
Hekate Triformis

Phrygia, Apameia, quasi-autonomous, 2nd century BC
AE 15, 2.80g
obv. APAM - EIA
       Bust of the City-Tyche, draped and wearing mural crown, r.
rev. APA - MEIWN
      Hekate Triformis, three-figured, with 3 heads and 6 arms, each with double-chiton and
      wearing kalathos, holding torches
Ref.: cf. SNG von Aulock 3475 (but different legends); BMC -
Very rare, VF


Like on many other mythological figures there are many different opinions about Hekate's parents. Regarding to some mythographs she was the daughter of Perses and Asteria (therefore called Perseis too), a Titan, regarding to others daughter of the Nyx (night), or of Zeus and Asteria or even Hera. After born by Hera she was given the name Angelos and was brought by her father Zeus to the Nymphs who should educate her. When she was grown up she stole her mother Hera the box with make-up which she used to paint her face glossy. This box she gave to Europa, daughter of Phoinix. When Hera wanted to punish her she first fled in the bed of a woman in childbed, then between men wearing a dead. After Hera has
stopped the pursuit Zeus sent the Kabirs who should purify Hekate. This happened in the lake of Acheros, and because of that she was made to a goddess of the underworld, especially of the deads.

Others, who regard her to be the daughter of Zeus and Demeter, suggest that she was of great strength, so that Zeus sent her to the underworld to search for the lost Persephone (look at the article 'The rape of Persephone' in this thread). So Hekate remained an Underworld goddess.

Those who regard her to be the daughter of Perses and Asteria, suggest that Zeus - because she as a Titan has helped him against the Titans - has given her the power over heaven, earth and sea, so that she gave wealth, glory and victory to those who were worshipping her in proper style.

Usually dogs were sacrificed to her. The wealthy Athenians put at the end of each month food on the crossroads, called Hekate's meal, which thereafter was eaten by the poor people.

Regarding to another story (Diodor. Sic. I. IV.) she was the daughter of king Perses of Tauria, a bold and cruel princess who loved to go hunting, who, if she couldn't find any wild game, shot humans. She understood well to use poisonous herbs. Especially she used wolfsbane to kill strangers by mixing it under the meal. Finally she killed her father too in te same way usurping his reign. She built a big temple for Artemis and sacrificed to her all strangers she could get. Later she married Aietes and got by him Kirke, Medea and Aigialos. Her two daughters became famous sorceresses too. She is said to be the mother of Skylla too by Phorkys.

According to the distribution of her cult and the individual names formed by her name (Hekateios, Hekatomnos,and so on) she is a goddess domiciled in the southern Asia Minor (Caria). Sadly her definite origin is not determined closely until today. The earliest evidence of her cult, a round-temple with bustrophedon* inscriptions and the cult law of the Molpoi - written down about 100 BC - originated from Miletos, and one of her main sanctuaries stood in Lagina in Caria. Hesiod praised Hekate as All-Goddess, who as Helpfully sit in judgement, has gotten from Zeus a part of earth, sea and heaven and assisted hunters, herdsmen and fishermen; even Kourotrophos she is called, like Artemis, helper in many situations. So
she was especially regarded as guardian of the gateways and the three-ways (Trivia). This
was connected, like the Kourotrophos too, with purgation sacrifices, the typical dog sacrifices. The dog as demonic animal belongs to the accentuation of the weird, spooky, and sometimes chthonic (of the underworld). But Hekate is not a typical figure of Asia Monor, and cult rites are known only from inscriptions: the function of the eunuchs and the office of the Kleidouchos, the keeper of the key.

History of art:
For Athens the statement of Pausanias 2, 30.2 - on the occasion of the mention of the cult statue made by Myron in Aigina which he called Xoanon - is true that Alkamenes was the first who has made a three-figured picture of Hekate with his Hekate Epipyrgidia (= standing on the tower) at the entrance to the Akropolis in Athens. This is confirmed by the missing of the three-figured type before the last quarter of the 5th century BC. One-figured Hekates, assured by inscriptions too, are found on classic red-figured vases, Artemis like, with torches. Not before Alkamenes began the abundance of three-figured statues, at first archaicizing, then archaistic Hekateia, in each case varying; the three-shape wiith three heads, the herm being danced around; the dance around the threefold full-figure often with torches as attributs. In hellenistic friezes and reliefs they were sometimes performed to masterly made phantasia shapes: solo figured but with three heads and six arms.

Sadly the figure of Hekate is adopted by the so-called feminists, so that the informations from the internet often are useless. Recently a book from Nina Werth about Hekate is released (Hekate, Antiquates - Archologische Forschungswergebnisse, Bd.7, 2006) where she tried to prove that Hekate is not originated from Asia Minor. But this book (a dissertation?) is very expensive and so I hadn't read it. The interpretation of the Triformis as the depiction of the young girl, the mature wife and the old woman surely is wrong. Hekate was depicted always as a young girl! The equalization with the moon and its three phases is from later times. It should not be forgotten that in early times Hekate was only one-figured!

*bustrophedon = a kind of ancient writing where the lines in turn were written from l. to r. and then from r. to l., as it was done when plugging with oxen.

Der kleine Pauly
Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon

I have added the following:
a) the pic of a Roman copy of the famous Hekateion of Alkamenes (c.430 BC), today in
    Reijksmuseum in Leiden/Netherlands, and
b) the cut-out of a pic from an Apulean red-figured krater, which shows a scene from Orpheus'
    voyage to the underworld. Depicted is Hekate holding a torch and Kerberos. C.330-310 BC,
    today in the Antikensammlung, Munich/Germany

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on March 24, 2007, 01:14:40 pm
Poseidon and the nymph Beroe

Phoenicia, Berytos, Elagabal, AD 218-222
AE 26, 12.47g
Bust, draped and cuirassed, seen from behind, laureate, r.
Poseidon, in himation, advancing r. with a sidestep, head l., holding his trident in l. arm, raising
the nymph Beroe, kneeling l. before him, looking up to him; the nymph, in
transparent chiton, scooping water with a jar, the l. hand raised in defense.
SNG Copenhagen 118; BMC 183; Lindgren II, 120, 2268
Very rare, about EF, chocolate-brown patina

The myth of Beroe is found detailed in Nonnus' Dionysiaka. In ancient times Berytos was suggested as a center of laws and legislation. Therefore especially in the first part we find several hints on laws and justice. The text rests on Nonnus' text, but I have shorten it heavily. Nevertheless I hope the excessive style of Nonnus could be recognized!

Birth and Youth of Beroe
There is a younger legend, that her mother was Aphrodite, who bore her to the Assyrian Adonis. When the hour of birth approached Hermes came to help the labour of Beroe and Themis (the Goddess of Law) was her Eileithyia (Birth Goddess). And like the Lakonian women bring forth their sons pressing their feet upon a round leather shield Themis hold Solon's laws against her to lighten her birth. The newborn girl was bathed by the four Aetai (winds) who after that proclaimed the laws of Beroe to the whole world. Okeanos, the first herald of these laws, poured his floods around the earth. Aion, the time, wrapped up the child with the robe of Dike, the Justice. The four Horai, the four seasons, sang the birth of Aphrodite's daughter. Aphrodite gave her daughter to Astraia, mistress of Justice, to educate her and she fed her with the milk of of justice and streams of Attic laws. If the girl thirsting asked for a drink she gave her speaking Pythian water kept for Apollon, or the stream of Ilissos which is inspired by the Attic Mousa. The dancing maidens of Orchomenos, the Charites, drew from the Hippokrene, fountain of imagination, dear to te nine Mousai, delicate water to wash her. Beroe grew up and got the very likeness of her mother and her shining feet. Her white robes falling down to the girl’s feet showed the blush of her rosy limbs.

Beroe - Goddess of Berytos
Then Aphrodite recognized the prophetic intelligence of her daughter and she studied the foundation of the brilliant cities of ancient days. She saw how Mykene girt about with a garland of walls by the Kyklopian masons took the name of twinkle-eye Mykene; how Thebes beside the southern Nile took the name of primeval Thebe; and she decided to design a city named after Beroe, being possessed with a passion to make her city as good as theirs. She observed there the long column of Solon’s Laws, that safeguard against wrong, and turned aside her eye to the broad streets of Athens, and envied her sister the just Judge. She hurried to the hall of Allmother Harmonia and asked: " Tell me, which of the cities has the organ of sovereign voice? I joined Zeus in wedlock with Hera his sister, after he had felt the pangs of longlasting desire and desired her for three hundred years. In gratitude he promised a worthy reward for the marriage that he would commit the precepts of Justice (Dike) to one of the cities allotted to me. I wish to learn whether the gift is reserved for land of Kypros or Paphos or Korinthos or Sparta, or the noble country of my own daughter Beroe". Harmonia answered: "I have oracles of history on seven tablets. But since you ask me about the directing laws, this prerogative I keep for the eldest of cities. Whether then Arkadia is first or Argos, Hera’s city, whether Sardis be the oldest, or even Tarsos celebrated in song be the first city, or some other, I have not been told. The tablet of Kronos will teach you all this, which first arose, which was coeval with Dawn." And then they went to the glorious oracles of the wall, until she saw the place where Ophion’s art had engraved in ruddy vermilion on the tablet of Kronos the oracle to be fulfilled in time about Beroe’s country. And Aphrodite could read: "Beroe came the first, coeval with the universe her agemate, bearing the name of the Nymphe later born, which the colonizing sons of the Ausonians, the consular lights of Rome, shall call Berytos". And then: "When Augustus shall hold the sceptre of the world, Ausonian Zeus will give to divine Rome the lordship, and to Beroe he will grant the reins of law, when armed in her fleet of shielded ships she shall pacify the strife of battlestirring Kleopatra." - Nonnus, Dionysiaca 41.263

The marriage of Beroe
Flying high up in the sky Eros with his flaming bow put two arrows on the chord to inflame simultaneously two wooers in desire for Beroe's love, the vinegod Dionysos and Poseidon, the ruler of the sea. He beat Dionysos with madness so that he offered his treasures to the bride, life's merry heart and the ruddy vintage of the grape. And he goaded to love the lord of the sea, that he might bring the maid a double lovegift, seafaring battle on the water and varied dishes for the table. But Dionysos he set more in a flame, since wine excites the mind for desire, and wine finds unbridled youth much more obedient to the rein when it is charmed with the prick of unreason. Then he raised up like a false bird and cried taunting: "If Dionysos confounds men with wine, I excite Dionysos with fire!'
And Dionysos looked at the tender shape of the longhaired girl full of admiration and he couldn't tear his gaze from her. He appealed Helios to remind of his love to Klymene and to pause his car to extend the light of the day. He crept around Beroe and kissed each place which was hit by her shoes of roses. He gazed at her lovely face which need no meretricious rouge and no deceiving ringlets which she could threw back coquettishly. But the natural and innocent beauty confuses the desperate lover even more!

Thirtsty by the heat of the Dog of heaven (Sirius) Beroe sought out a near spring and bent down with parched lips and scooped the cool water. When she was gone, Dionysos would bend his knee to the lovely spring, and hollow his palms in mimicry of the beloved girl: then he drank water sweeter than selfpoured nectar. Then he cried: "‘Maiden,accept the nectar - leave this water that maidens love! Avoid the water of the spring, lest Seabluehair steal your maidenhood in the water! O that I also might become a flood, like Earthshaker, and murmuring might embrace you!" Then he changed his shape to a hunter and said to Beroe; "Artemis, where are your arrows? Who has stolen your quiver?" And so he flattered her comparing her with several deities. And Beroe smiled and was pleased because in her childlike simplicity she couldn't see through his tricks and her heart didn't know yet the desire of love. He asked for her father Adonis, as one of his hunting friends, and approached always nearer. Then he discarded his human shape and stood before her as a god. He said: "Maiden, for your love I have even renounced my home in heaven. The caves of your fathers are better than Olympos. I desire not the sceptre of my father Zeus as much as Beroe for my wife. Maiden, when I hear that your mother is Kypris, my only wonder is that her cestus has left you uncharmed. How is it you alone have Eros for a brother, and yet know not the sting of love. Girl, you have the blood of Aphrodite - then why do you flee from the secrets of Aphrodite? Do not shame your mother’s race. Harsh are the Erotes when there’s need, when they extract from women the penalty for love unfulfilled. Beware of the god’s horrid anger. What gifts will Poseidon bring? Salt water as a bridegift? Or sealskins breathing the filthy stink of the deep? I will provide you with Satyrs as chamberlains. My bridegift will be my grape-vintage too. I will bring you the gold from India and amber from the Eridanos, from the border of the earth! Away with the trident! Flee Poseidon!" But Beroe pressed the fingers into her ears to keep the words away. So she made trouble for lovestricken Lyaios.

Then out from the sea came Poseidon, moving his wet footsteps in search of the girl over the thirsty hills, and sprinkling the unwatered earth with watery foot. He espied Beroe, and from head to foot he scanned her divine young freshness while she stood. Clear through the filmy robe he noted the shape of the girl with steady eyes, and cursed the jealous bodice wrapt about in many folds which hid the bosom, he ran his lovemaddened eye round and round her face, he gazed never satisfied on her whole body. With flattering words he tried to make friends with the maiden: "One woman outshines all the lovely women of Hellas! Beroe has appeared a fourth Charis, younger than the three! Maiden, leave the land. That is just, for your mother grew not from the land, she is Aphrodite, daughter of the brine. Here is my infinite sea for your bridegift, larger than earth. I will make Proteus chamberlain of your marriage-consummating bed, and Glaukos shall be your underling - take Nereus too, and Melikertes if you like; and I will call murmuring Okeanos your servant, broad Okeanos girdling the rim of the eternal world. I give you as bridal gift all the Rivers together for your attendants. If you are pleased to have waitingmaids also, I will bring you the daughters of Nereus; and let Ino the nurse of Dionysos be your chambermaid,!"
Thus he pleaded, but the maiden was angry and would not listen; so he left her, pouring out his last words into the air: "Happy son of Myrrha, you have got a fine daughter, and now a double honour is yours alone; you alone are named father of Beroe and bridegroom of the Foamborn." Then he offered many gifts to Adonis and Aphrodite, bridegifts for the love of their daughter. Dionysos burning with the same shaft brought his treasures, all the shining gold that the mines near the Ganges had brought forth in their throes of labour; earnestly but in vain he made his petition to Aphrodite of the sea.

Now Aphrodite was anxious, for she feared both wooers of her muchwooed girl. When she saw equal desire and ardour of love in both, she announced that the rivals must fight for the bride, a war for a wedding, a battle of love. Kypris arrayed her daughter in woman’s finery, and placed her upon the fortress of her country, a maiden to be fought for as the dainty prize of contest. Then she addressed both gods in the same words: "I could wish had I two daughters, to wed one as is justly due to Earthshaker, and one to Lyaios; but since the undefiled laws of marriage do not allow us to join one girl to a pair of husbands together, let battle be chamberlain for one single bride, for without hard labour there is no marriage with Beroe. Then if you would wed the maid, first fight it out together; let the winner lead away Beroe without brideprice. Both must agree to an oath, since I fear for the girl’s neighbouring city. Make treaty before the marriage, that seagod Earthshaker if he lose the victory shall not in his grief lay waste the land with his trident’s tooth; and that Dionysos shall not be angry about Amymone’s wedding and destroy the vineyards of the city. And you must be friends after the battle". The wooers agreed to this proposal. Both took a binding oath. From heaven came all the dwellers on Olympos, with Zeus, and stayed to watch the combat upon the rocks of Lebanon. Poseidon armed himself with his Assyrian trident, shaking his maritime pike and pouring a hideous din from a mad throat. Dionysos threastening the sea danced into the battle with vineleafs and thyrsos. Dionysos and his sylvan gods battle Poseidon and his sea gods in a contest for Beroe's hand in marriage.

Then Zeus breaking up the contest granted the hand of Beroe to Poseidon, and pacified the rivals’ quarrel. For from heaven to check the bridebattle yet undecided came threatening thunderbolts round about Dionysos. The vinegod wounded by the arrow of love still craved the maiden; but Zeus the Father on high stayed him by playing a tune of thunder, and the sound from his father held back the desire for strife. With lingering feet he departed, with heavy pace, turning back for a last gloomy look at the girl; jealous, with shamed ears, he heard the bridal songs of Amymone in the sea. The syrinx sounding from the brine proclaimed that the rites were already half done. Nereus as Amymone’s chamberlain showed the bridal bed, shaking the wedding torches, the fire which no water can quench. Phorkys sang a song; with equal spirit Glaukos danced and Melikertes romped about. And Galateia twangled a marriage dance and restlessly twirled in capering step, and she sang the marriage verses." - Nonnus, Dionysiaca 42.1

(will be continued)

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on March 26, 2007, 05:36:23 pm

Beroe - the oldest of the Cities
(Rather litterally:)
Here in the city of Beroe which emerged at the very creation of the universe dwelt a people agemates with the dawn, whom Phyusis (Nature) by her own breeding, in some unwedded way, begat without bridal, without wedding, fatherless, motherless, unborn: when the atoms were mingled in fourfold combination, and the seedless ooze shaped a clever offspring by comingling water with fiery heat and air, and quickened the teeming mud with the breath of life. To these Phyis gave perfect shape the golden crop of men, brought forth in the image of the gods, with the roots of their stock in the earth. And these dwelt in the city of Beroe, that primordial seat which Kronos himself builded ...
O Beroe, root of life, nurse of cities, the boast of princes, the first city seen, twin sister of Aion (Time), coeval with the universe, sea of Hermes, land of Dike (Justice), bower of Euphrosyne (Merryheart), house of Paphia, hall of the Erotes, delectable ground of Dionysos, home of the Archeress, jewel of the Nereides, house of Zeus, court of Ares, Orchomenos of the Charites, star of the Lebanon country, yearsmate of Tethys, running side by side with Okeanos, who begat thee in his bed of many fountains when joined in watery union with Tethys - Beroe the same they named Amymone when her mother brought her forth on her bed in the deep waters!" - Nonnus, Dionysiaca 41.51

Beroe is the eponym of Berytos, todays Beirut, this poor and opressed capital of Libanon. It is a typical founder myth. The group of statues decorates the pediment of the main temple of Berytos, which in ancient times was called Beroe/Beroia too. For the love of Beroe, daughter of Aphrodite and Adonis, struggled Dionysos and Poseidon, until Zeus stopped the undecided battle and gave Beroe to Poseidon. The Lord of the Sea donated to the city the grace to win each naval battle (Nonnos 41.10-43). Probably Beroe is symbolizing the water supply of the city or an important spring. In ancient times these were essential for the city. That she was called the daughter of Aphrodite and Adonis may originate in a local myth where she was made the daughter of the Phoenicean gods Ashtarte and Adon.

Interestingly in his last part Nonnus changed from Beroe to Amymone. Whose myth is related to the myth of Beroe insofar as she was a nymph too who was raped by Poseidon:
Amymone was one of the fifty daughters of Danaos. When once she was sent for water she fell asleep. She was found by a satyr who wants to rape her. She called Poseidon for help who threw his trident to the satyr which stuck in a rock. Then she was raped by Poseidon himself who created Nauplios with her. By his order he drew the trident out of the rock and three springs came out of the holes. These were called the Amymonean and later the Lernean fountains. Aischylos is said to have written a tragedy about this which was lost.

Nonnos, Dionysiaka
Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon

I have added a detail of an Attic red-figured vase, showing Poseidon seducing Amomyne. C.475-425 BC, today in the Hermitage in St.Petersburg

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on March 26, 2007, 05:47:17 pm

Phrygia, Kibyra, quasi-autonomous, 1st century AD
AE 17, 2.4g
struck under archiereus Klaud. Biantos in the time of Domitian, 81-96
Bust of Ino, draped and veiled, r.
Humbled bull, butting r.
Ref.: BMC 21; Imhoof-Blumer, Kleinasiatische Münzen, 18; Imhoof-Blumer, Griechische Münzen, 657a corr. (wrong obv. legend IAL and wrong interpretation as Dionysos)
rare, about VF

This coin shows the rare portrait of Ino. We know that it is really Ino because on some coins she is named in the legend. For that look at Ed Snibles wounderful online version of Barclay Head's Historia Numorum

Look at the article about Melikertes too in this thread!

This myth is found in several different versions because it was wide spread over Greece and because ancient dramatists have worked on this theme.
Ino was the daughter of Kadmos, king of Thebens in Boiotia, and his wife Harmonia, so a sister of Semele, Agaue and Atonoe, and the second wife of Athamas. To him she bore two sons, Learchos and Melikertes. Because she hated her stepchildren Phrixos and Helle from Nephele, the first wife of her husband, she tried to put them away. She convinced the women of Boiotia to torrefy their seed and caused a great famine thereby. When Athamas sent messengers to the oracle of Delphi to beg for help she corrupted the returning men to say that Phrixos should be sacrificed to end the disaster. But Phrixos and Helle succeeded in escaping by flying on a winged golden ram, which was sent by Zeus, to Kolchis. Here is the beginning of the myth of the Argonauts (Apoll. Bibl. I, 79-81).
Because Ino - asked by Zeus - has nursed the little Dionysos, son of her sister Semele, when Hermes brought him after her death to the nymphs of the mountain Nysa, she was hated by Hera. She sent the Erinye Tisiphone who beat them with madness and Athamas shot his son Learchos with an arrow thinkig he was a stag. Seeing this Ino took her other son Melikertes and jumped from a rock into the sea. Both drowned. According to others she has put him in a kettle with boiling water before. But Zeus recalled her kindness against his son Dionysos and didn't want sent them to the Tartaros (Sometimes this is assigned to Poseidon who saved them, asked by Aphrodite, Ovid Met. IV, 416-543). Therefore he made her the seegoddess Leukothea, the 'White Goddess', a protective goddess of the seamen, and Melikertes the god Palaimon. He was sent on the back of a dolphin to the Corinthian Isthmus where Sisyphos, brother of Athamas, founded the famous Isthmian Games to honour Melikertes.

It was Ino-Leukothea who took pity on Odysseus who drifted as castaway on a raft in heavy storm. She gave him her veil and pointed him the way to his rescue. So Odysseus could save his skin by swimming to the far coast (Homer Od. V, 333-364, 353). Euripides, who has written the lost tragedy 'Ino', seems to have transferred the old fairy tale motive of the evil stepmother to Themisto, the third wife of Athamas: Trying to kill Ino's children she killed her own children because Ino has arranged a clothing change underhand. (Hygin. Fabulae 4)

The myth of Ino, Athamas and Melikertes is relevant also in the context of two larger themes. Ino had an end just as tragic as her siblings: Semele died while pregnant with Dionysos, Zeus' child, killed by her own pride and lack of trust in her lover; Agae killed her own son, King Pentheus while struck with Dionysian madness, and Aktaion, son of Autonoe, the third sibling, was torn apart by his own hunting dogs. Also, the insanity of Ino and Athamas, who hunted his own son Learchos as a stag and slew him, can be explained as a result of their contact with Dionysos, whose presence can cause insanity. None can escape the powers of Dionysos, the god of wine. Euripides took up the tale in 'The Bacchae', explaining their madness in Dionysiac terms, as having initially resisted belief in the god's divinity.

According to Kereny Ino primary was a Dionysian woman, a Mainad. Mainads were known that in their furiousness they never spare even their own children and lacerated them. To these terrible women naturally belongs Medea too, who together with Jason later plays the leading part in the myth of the Argonauts. Leukothea, actually leuko thea, the White Goddess, was a sea goddess of the popular belief, who was equated with Ino, daughter of Kadmos, by Homer (Od. V, 353f.); the context must be seen in a historic dimension. The motive of jumping into the sea recures in close analogy at Britomartis-Diktynna, but Glaukos too, and should show an existentiell transformation. The story of the veil (Homer Od. V, 346ff.) is a known fairy tale motive and matches well the old sailors tale of the homecoming of the castaway. After the identification of Leukothea with Ino the religious content is arranged widely by the features of Ino. Ino had cults in Boiotia, on the Corinthian Isthmos, on Crete and other places. In Boiotia her cult varied noticably between a divine and a heroic cult. Leukothea is attested in other regions too. Comparable to Leukothea in Rome is Mater Matuta, she has had a temple in Rome. Palaimon is called Portumus, the Harbour God.

Der kleine Pauly
Karl Kerenyi, Die Mythologie der Griechen
Robert von Ranke-Graves, Griechische Mythologie
Gerhard Fink, Who's who in der antiken Mythologie

I have added the pic of a mosaic from the Villa Romana del Casale on Sicily, c.320 BC. It shows Leukothea swimming on the back of the sea-god Triton across the sea. She is accompagnied by her son Palaimon riding on a par of dolphins.

Sorry, I have difficulties to load the pic. So here is the link

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on April 07, 2007, 03:05:54 pm
Some notes on Mithras

Often a coin is only the begin of an extensive search for information. This happens to me here too! It starts with a tiny coin from Kios, but it gave reason to deal finely with Mithras. This was my will already for a long time especially because of its close relation to Christianism and because here in Germany are found several ancient Mithraea, f.e. at Saalburg.   

1st coin
Bithynia, Kios, 325-300 BC
AE 13, 1.57g
obv. Head of Mithras, wearing tiara orthe, r.
rev. K - I
      Kantharos, with two vine-grapes hanging down from it, all in wreath of grain-ears
ref.: SNG Copenhagen 382
Very rare, about VF

2nd coin
Pontos, Trapezos, Caracalla, AD 198-217
AE 27, 11.05g
struck year 153 = c. AD 205-208(?)
obv. AV(?) KA M AV - ANTWNIN[OC]
      Head, laureate, r
rev. TRAP - ZOVNTIWN / E RNG (ligate)
       Mithras, wearing Phrygean bonnet, riding on horse r., burning altar before
ref.: cf. Rec. Gen. 29, pp. 111-112 (but tree behind!)
F/good F, dark green-brown patina
ex Stephen M. Huston FPL 102, august 1990, lot 12
ex Garth R. Drewry coll.
ex CNG electronic auction 160, 14. Feb. 2007, lot 136

History and development of Mithraism:
The mithraism existed over a period of nearly two thousand years. It is understandable that it has changed in these long times and has made a development from its primary role in the Indo-Iranian domain, over the religion of the Parthian kings to the Roman mystery religion. Yes, looking at it closely, there are traces of Mithraism in Christianism today, as we will see!

Primary Mithras is an Indo-Iranian god. His name litterally means something like 'contract', or as person 'mediator of the contract'. In the Iranian religion of Zoroaster (c. 7th century BC) he was regarded metaphysically as mediator between Ahuramazda and Ahriman, between the principle og Good and Evil. He was guardian of the contractual law and the Iranians were known to have sworn by Mithras. In this role he appears in a contract of king Mattiwaza from Mittani with Suppililiuma from Hattusa, king of the Hetits.

Cosmological seen he was the aspect of the early, bright day. He is called too 'far looking, always waking and thousand-eyed'. The connection between his light-nature and law-keeping is supplemented by the cosmologic-solar relation to the pasture land rich in water and cattle (see oxen of Helios). Even though Mithras primary was the mediator between brightness and darkness, heaven and earth, good an evil, which was expressed in the mysteries by the cock, announciating the early morning, and the snake, symbolizing earth, water and underworld, he later was equated with the Baylonian Samas and the Greek Helios-Apollo, and so getting solar aspects. According to some scientists the mythological killing of the moon bull by 'the sun' Mithras should be seen in this connnection too. Thus this symbolic nucleus was already disposed in the primal Iranian phase.

As 'strong armed' leader of the warlike male companionships of ancient Iran, Mithras, the 'Avenger of Injustice', adopted features of the martial rulers. The riding and bow-shooting Mithras from Dura Europas was the representative of the military side of the Mithras rites and its risidues of royal and male companionships. This is pointing back to the god of royal dynasties, to whom at the autumnal season-festival Mithrakana horses, symbolizing solar power of the ruler and heavenly primordial order, were sanctified. Though Mithras was named not until Artaxerxes II in the inscriptions of Achaemenids together with Ahura Mazda and Anahita (Anaitis), the above mentioned features have connected him very early with the crown. Mithras has connected the king with the men who were fighting for him. Artaxerxes II (405-359 BC) and Artaxerxes III (359-338 bC) both have worshipped him officially. Dareios III the luckless Great-King and adversary of Alexander the Great has prayed before the battle of Gaugamela 331 BC to the sun, to Mithras and the holy fire, asking for divine support. His bitter defeat didn't interfere with the proximity to the guardian god Mithras. Mithradates IV  of Pontos (120-63 BC), the famous adversary of Rome, traced back his name to Mithras as did his ancestors. Also the royal cult of Antiochos of Commagene (c. 70-35 BC) stood completely in the sign of Mithraism.

He was a celestial god of fate and the donator of solar brightness of happiness. The occurence of the term mitra- in Pontic and Indo-Greek ruler names, as well as the royal investiture scenes on the relief of Nemrud Dagh from Antiochos of Commagene, where the god wears the (i)tiara orthe[/i], and on the Sassanidian rock paintings of Taq-i-Bostan and Teng-i-Saoulek, where Mithras is depicted with a radiated nimbus, show that these conceptions are effective in the course of a syncretistic fusion with the sun-god Helios.

Sometime the god starts his way to the West and he came in contact with the Greek philosophy, he was molded greek. When this occured we don't know for sure. The Hellenistic mysteries emphasized besides the demiurgic, life and fertility donating deed of the tauroktonos (the bull-slayer) the soteriologic function of the guardian god Mithras. Mithras was seen as Redeemer and Saviour. This function was already preformed in ancient Iran as it could be seen in the west Iranian names Mithrbocht (= redeemed by Mithras) or Mithrobouzantes (= owning salvation by Mithras). Therefore a non-Iranian origin of the Mithras mysteries must be denied. On the other side the ancient relation of Mithras to the purifying fire is the premise for the eschatologic acting of the world destroyer Mithras (=
Helios-Phaethon), where the primary dualism of Mithras (Phaeton) and Sol occurs, which could increase to the battle between both as it could be seen on the reliefs of Osterburken or Virunum. The mystic paradoxon of the soteriologic and the eschatologic role of Mithras is integrated in the Zervantic-Babylonian Aion-speculation of the late ancient times.. The light-god Mithras (genitor luminis), as Sol invictus successful victor over the powers of darkness becomes the cosmic renewer being mixed with the indigenous Phanes-Protogonos. The ancient myth of the celestial rock birth, which is close to the Agdistis circle of Asia Minor, leads from the general suggestion of a mountain god, who comes down from his height, to the Epiphany of the Awestic Light-Mithras of the mountain. Sol Mithras Invictus then gave opportunity to worship simultanously several gods which are related to the sun. To these important elements appears as essential ritual act the slaying of the bull, the tauroctony. This could be interpreted as collective sacrificing meal which is known from ancient hunting communities. The ancient Iranian mythology knows the tauroctony too as act of creation from which then the world with all its diversity originates.

(will be continued)

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on April 13, 2007, 11:54:33 am

3rd coin:
Cilicia, Tarsos, Gordian III,  AD 238-244
AE 33, 21.52g
obv. AVT KM ANT GORDIANOC CEB , P/P in l. und r. field´
      Bust, draped and cuirassed, radiate, r.
rev. TARCOV M - HTROPOL, in l. field M/K, in r. field A/B/G
       Mithras, in short military cloak and waving chlamys, as sun-god with radiate crown,
       kneeling with l. knee on back of a bull, pulling with l. hand its head backwards and
       holding in raised r. hand the sacrificing knife (so-called tauroctony)
ref.: BMC 258
very rare, F/F+
Because of its bad shape I have added a sketch of the rev.!

The mystery cult of the late Roman Empire:
There is a report  of the first appearence of Mithraism in the Roman Empire by Plutarch. He states that the Mithraism was common at the Cilician pirates and when Pompeius defeated the pirates 67 BC it became known to the Roman soldiers. This matches the opinion of Ulansey that at this time Tarsos was the origin of the Roman Mithraism ( It was a religion of traders, slaves and especially of the soldiers. There was no social discrimination in Mithraism, but that is known in other mysteries cults too. However it was not allowed for women! Its most important characteristica were
(1)  The virginal birth in a rock cave.
       That's the reason that all Mithraea (the Mithras sanctuaries) are always subterranean.
(2) The initiation, a kind of baptism, by the taurobolos
     Here the nephyte stood in a deep cavity and a bull was slaughted above him so that he
     was lavished with its blood. This was seen as the transition to a new life.
(3) The 7 steps to highest consecration (7 sacraments!)
     There were 7 grades starting from Raven up to Pater. They were symbolized by planets,
      elements and different depictions on the tauroctonies.The neophyte could ascend by
      rigorous examinations and a question and answer ritual. A kind of catechism was known
      for that. As highest rank of Pater he was the representative of Mithras himself.
(4) The Holy Communion
     This occurs to mention the last meal of the Master with his disciples. Bread and a mixture
     of wine and water was handed. The consecrated wafers were wearing a cross!
(5)  The resurrection and the life after death
      It consisted in the participation in the ascension which was done by Mithras and Sol, and
      the following unification with the divine.
(5) The court in afterlife, reward and punishment
     The Mithraism was a ethical religion which demanded from its believers purity,
     chasteness and self-control.
Diocletian, Galerius and Licinius have consecrated temples to Mithras. The Mithraism was wide spread as far as Spain and Britain. The largest document regarding the Mithraism was written by Julian II, the last pagane emperor, for the birthday of Mithras, December 25. He has done the taurobolium for himself and as Pater he was member of the highest rank. But for Julian all the different deities only were names for the highest divine idea. So Mithras and his cult only were parts of this plurality.

As we have seen the Mithraism has many parallels to Christianism, not only the date of 25. of December, which was adopted by Christianism for its Christmas. The great theologian Carl Schneider once has said: "What was beautiful and superior in the sun cult was adopted by Christianism; Helios became Christ." Apostle Paul was born in Tarsos and he will have known the Mithraism. But wether and how far this has an impact on his religion is disputed.

Why Christianism succeeded and Mithraism perished? To answer this whe have to look at the differences:
In Mithraism there was no self-sacrificing of the god.
It was not allowed for women to join the mystery, a great drawback, especially when we look at the important role of women in the early Christianism.
The cult was strictly hierarchical arranged contrary to the early Christianism (This later was changed!)
And the most important fact: Mithraism was a mystery cult. There was no mission whereas in Christianism mission really was commanded!
Furthermore especially the Mithraism was heavy chased by Christianism. Its mithraea were destroyed, there priests often killed (so the bones of the slain priest were found in the mithraeum of the Saalburg) and churches were built over the mithraea (f.e. San Clemente in Rome). AD 378 Mithraism was definitely forbidden in the Roman Empire but could be found in isolated regions until 7th century.

I have added
a) the pic of a tauroctony from the Louvre
b) the pic of a altar of Mithras from London, where the identification of Mithras with Sol
    Invictus could be seen (But this is disputed!).

Der kleine Pauly
Karlheinz Deschner, Dreimal krähte der Hahn
Hans Kloft, Mysterienkulte der Antike nice! nice! Scetch of the rev.!

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on April 13, 2007, 12:04:39 pm
Hector - Heroe of Troy

Ilion (Lat. Ilium), the famous Troy, is known for a series of coins showing motives referring to the Troyan War. Normally it is difficult to get one of these coins because they are heavy searched after. So I'm glad to represent here a coin showing the most famous Troyan heroe on its reverse.

Troas, Ilion, Julia Domna, AD 194-217
AE 27, 8.80g
       Bust, draped, r.
       c/m in l. field, oval incus with bust of Athena, r.
rev. EK[TOR - ILEWN]
       Hector, in military cloak, hurrying r., holding shield and hurling spear with raised
       r. hand
BMC 83 var.
rare, good F
From Forum Ancient Coins

Hector, in Homer's Ilias the greatest heroe of the Troyans, was son of king Priamos and his wife Hekuba. He was killed by Achilleus and with his funeral the Ilias ends, which describes of the ten years siege of Troy only 51 days, in detail only 4 days. Of his numerous deeds, told by Homer in his Ilias, I have selected some of the most importants.

(1) The Duel with Ajax
Hector was the bravest of the 50 sons of Priamos. By his own hand more than thirty noble Greek were killed, among them Protesilaos and Antilochos. Famous is his struggle against Ajax, the Telamonian. In this duel both fought so bravely that no one could beat the other. After hurling their spears against another they grabbed stones and finely they took their swords. But their heralds kept them off.  They came apart after Ajax has donated his baldric to Hector and Hector gave him his sword. By this baldric Hector later was dragged around the city-walls and it was the same sword by which Ajax later slayed himself. 

(2) The Death of Patroklos
When Achilleus in his anger retired from the battle, the Greek were in very bad way. Hector could repel the Greek to their camp, then he attacked their barricades and with an immense stone throw he forced open the camp gate. After that he set the Greek ships on fire. Because of his strength he was called 'the support of the fatherland', on which Troy rested and by whose fall Troy would fall too. For it was destined by the fate that Troy couldn't be conquered as long as Hector was alive. It was Patroklos, the friend of Achilleus, wearing his cuirass, who succeded finally in repelling the Troyans back to the city. Alone he almost has assaulted Troy if not Apollo has intervened and has thrice repulsed Patroklos off the walls. The battle lastened to the beginning of the night when Apollo came behind him and hit him between the bladebones so strong that his helmet fell down, his spear split and the shield dropped to the ground. When Patroklos faltered back Hector slayed him with one hit. The cuirass of Achilleus he took as prize.

(3) Hector's Death
By the death of his friend Patroklos Achilleus was pulled from his anger against Agamemnon and he didn't wish more than to avenge his death. Hephaistos has forged a new cuirass for Achilleus in order of his mother Thetis. This he tied up and then he jumped into the fray. When he has driven all Troyans into the city Hector alone was brave enough to stay outside the walls. But when Achilleus attacked him he retired too. Now the gods intervened. Athena in the shape of his brother Deiphobos advised him to resist, he would help him if needed. So Hector expected Achilleus and the struggle began. But Deiphobos has vanished. Furthermore Athena helped Achilleus by all means so that he could hit Hector's neck and he fell down. Crying evil invectivenesses he stabbed him with his spear to death. Dying Hector predicted him his near death by Paris and Apollo. But Achilleus transfixed his feet, tied him to his chariot and dragged him miserably from the walls across the field to the ships. Before he is said to have dragged him thrice around the walls of Troy. Others say he has dragged him only around the tomb of Patroklos as it was Thessalian convention. 

(5)Hector's burial
Thereupon in Troy raised crying and moaning. Priamos together with Hector's wife Andromache and her children, Astyanax, Laodama and Polyxena, came suppliantly to Achilleus, fell to the ground, embraced his knees and asked him in tears to release Hector's body so that he could give him a decent funeral. But not until the children start to beg him and Polyxena, who was desired by Achilleus already before, offered herself as his slave, the other Greek princes advised him to take the gifts and the gold and to give back Hector's body to Priamos. After heavy reproaches according the deeds of his sons he gave him unwillingly Hector's body. Then Hector was buried under the greatest moaning of the Troyans. These festivities lastened ten days and the war rested for this time. Then Homer's Ilias ends 

Hector is the most important heroe of the Troyans and was instead of his father Priamos their highly venerated commander-in-chief. Noble mind, sense of duty and responsibility and trust in god were glowing from his character. Sometimes overhasty with words and decisions he consulted his friends like Polydamas and others and was dispraised sometimes. Reading the Ilias unbiasedly it is noticeable that Homer's sympathies lay on Hector. An abundance of epitetha and parables reveal that he is Homer's favourite heroe. You should read the scene (Homer Ilias 6, 390-502) where Hector took leave of his wife Andromache and his little son Astyanax. It is the most moving scene of the entire Ilias.

Looked at that way the Ilias is virtually an accusation against the brutal ethics of the Greeks. The merciless treatment of the slayed Troyans, the brutal murder of Astyanax,
the brutal rapes and their struggle for spoils and women, that all is deeply abhorrent. It is the transition from the Bronze Age of the Troyans to the Iron Age of the Achaians, as one likes. Has Homer tried to confront the ruling houses with a mirror? Perhaps. But whether they have regarded that?

After his death Hector was worshipped as god for a long time in Ilion at the entrance to the Hellespont (todays Dardanelles). The Thebeans were predicted well-fare of his city if they would bring the mortal remains of Hector from Asia to Thebens. They did that and at order of Zeus they worshipped him as heroe. This is told by Pausanias too. At Sappho, who glorified Hector in an epic poem about his marriage, Hector, meaning 'conservator of the city', is an epithet of Zeus.

Der kleine Pauly
Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon
Robert von Ranke-Graves, Griechische Mythologie
Karl Kerenyi, Griechische Göttersagen
Homer, Ilias

Hector's deeds are depicted on many vase paintings. Of these I have selected these three:
(1) The scene of his leave-taking. It is Hector's last visite to his family before his duel with Achilleus: Astyanox, on Andromache's knees, is stretching his arms to touch Hector's helmet. It is an Apulian red-figure column-crater from Ruvo, c.370 360 BC. Now in the Museo Nazionale of the Palazzo Jatta in Ruvo di Puglia (Bari).
(2) An Attic red figure vase depicting Achilleus slaying Hektor.
     The original piece is found in the National Archeological Museum, Athens.
     This is a reproduction from the private collection of Tia C. J. H.
(3) The red-figure vase painting by the Brygos painter. It shows Hector's father Priamos, the king of Troy, who has come to the tent of Achilleus to beg for the return of his son's body. Achilleus initially ignored his request, as seen here, not even looking at Priamos. Hector's body is laying on the ground below.

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on April 14, 2007, 01:22:22 pm
Juno Caprotina

The next article is for our Republican friends!

Roman republic, R. Renius, gens Renia
AR - denarius, 3.92g, 15.33mm
Rome, 138 BC
obv. Head of Roma,wearing decorated and winged Attic helmet, r.
X behind
rev. Juno Caprotina in goats biga galopping r., holding reigns and sceptre in l. hand
and whip in r. hand.
beneath C.RENI
in ex. ROMA
Crawford 231/1; Sydenham 432; Renia 1
VF, toned, small, struck on small flan

Caprotina (= wearing goat's-skin) is an epithet of Juno in her aspect as a fertility Goddess. As Juno Caprotina she is associated with goats (Latin capra, "she-goat", caper, "he-goat") and with figs, both of which are symbolic of fertility: the fig fruit bears many seeds (and the well-known obscene meaning of fica), and goats are well-known for their randiness. Her festival was called the Nonae Caprotinae, or the "Nones of Caprotina", held on the nones or 7th day of July, and it was exclusively celebrated by women, especially slave-women.

The Roman explanation of the Nonae Caprotina is thus: after Rome had survived a siege by the Gauls (historically in the 4th century BCE), some of the less-friendly neighboring Latin tribes decided to take advantage of Rome's weakened position and demanded Roman women in marriage, under the threat of destroying the city. While the Senate debated what to do, a slave-woman named Tutela or Philotis took the matter into her own hands: with a group of other slave-women dressed as free women, she went to the amassed enemy army, and under the guise of celebrating a wedding feast, got the Latins quite drunk. After they had fallen asleep the slave-girls took their weapons, and Tutela climbed a nearby wild fig tree (caproficus in the Latin) and waved a torch as signal for the Romans to attack. This they did, andthey succeeded in defeating their enemies, and as a reward for the resulting victory, the Senate gave each slave-woman who participated her freedom, as well as a generous dowry. After that, in remembrance of the victory, the Nonae Caprotina were celebrated. Typically were obscene mocking speeches hold by the slaves, beating with birches and throwing of stones. Fig-branches and the milky sap of the fig-tree were offered to Juno, and festivities, feasts and rites were held in the fig-grove of the Campus Martius outside of the pomerium. (Varro, De Ling. at. VI, 18, Plut. Romul. 29, Camil 33.)

Another explanation for this festival was that it commemorated the day that Romulus, the legendary founder of Rome, mysteriously vanished during a thunderstorm, after which he was believed to have been taken by the Gods and made immortal. The site of his disappearance was the Palus Caprae (or "Goat's Marsh") in the Campus Martius, a swampy basin not far from the spot where the Pantheon is nowadays. The Nonae Caprotinae were also connected with the Poplifugia of the 5th of July, traditionally said to commemorate the people's panicky flight when faced with either a) the enemy army come to seize the women, or b) the occasion of Romulus's disappearence into thin air. The actual, original meaning of the Poplifugia had been long forgotten, though it may have referred to a ritual defeat or chasing away of the neighboring Latin armies. Another connection between the Nonae Caprotinae and the Poplifugia is that it was traditional on the Nonae Caprotinae for the women to run or be chased from the Temple of Juno to the fig-grove where a feast was held.

Goats, figs, and a fleeing populace are the common threads in these traditions; also located near the Palus Caprae (which is the name given to that area only in the legend of Romulus' disappearance) were the Aedicula Capraria, the Shrine of the Goat, and the Vicus Caprarius, a road literally named "Goat Street", which was probably named so because it led to the Aedicula Capraria. It is not known if the Aedicula Capraria was used in the festivities of the Nonae Caprotina, though that would seem likely. And yet another tradition names the invading army that frightened the populace so as being from Ficulea or Ficulnea, an ancient Sabine town whose name means "Of the Fig-Tree".

The various and confused explanations given for the two related festivals point to both their importance and their ancient origins. Probably they are both linked to the fig-harvest, which takes place in Italy in June and July, and to Juno as a Goddess of the fig tree who ensured a bountiful crop. The milk-like sap of the fig tree connects it with fertility, both of Juno as the Mother Goddess—who was after all equated with the Greek Hera, whose spilled breast milk was said to have formed the Milky Way—and of goats themselves, who were often kept for milk. The fertility of the figs and goats brought by Juno Caprotina was probably seen as encouraging the fertility of the women, as certain of the rites of the Nonae Caprotinae compare with the Lupercalia, a festival also dedicated to fertility. The other major theme of the Poplifugia and the Nonae Caprotinae (as well as the Lupercalia) was the ritual spiritual cleansing of the city: the fig was known in ancient times as a purgative, and thus associated with the driving out of evil (as both figs and fig-branches were used in the Greek rite of the Thargelia, when Athens was symbolically cleansed), so that the people and the crops might prosper. The Flight of the People (enemy army or panicky populace) may also connect to a symbolic driving out of enemies or bad spirits.

Juno Caprotina was usually depicted with goats, naturally enough: on our coin she rides a biga, a two "horse" chariot in this case drawn by a pair of goats; her dress flows in the wind of her speed and she holds what looks like a riding crop. On another coin, on which her portrait is stamped, she wears a head-dress made of goat-hide, with the goat's head over her own so that the horns are preserved in the back, and the lower jawline of the goat runs along her own.

Some notes on Romulus:
He was slain by the Senate or disappeared in the 38th year of his reign. Romulus's end, in the 38th year of his reign, was a supernatural disappearance, if he was not slain by the Senate. Plutarch (Life of Numa Pompilius) tells the legend with a note of skepticism:
"It was the thirty-seventh year, counted from the foundation of Rome, when Romulus, then reigning, did, on the fifth day of the month of July, called the Caprotine Nones, offer a public sacrifice at the Goat's Marsh, in presence of the senate and people of Rome. Suddenly the sky was darkened, a thick cloud of storm and rain settled on the earth; the common people fled in affright, and were dispersed; and in this whirlwind Romulus disappeared, his body being never found either living or dead. A foul suspicion presently attached to the patricians, and rumors were current among the people as if that they, weary of kingly government, and exasperated of late by the imperious deportment of Romulus towards them, had plotted against his life and made him away, that so they might assume the authority and government into their own hands. This suspicion they sought to turn aside by decreeing divine honors to Romulus, as to one not dead but translated to a higher condition. And Proculus, a man of note, took oath that he saw Romulus caught up into heaven in his arms and vestments, and heard him, as he ascended, cry out that they should hereafter style him by the name of Quirinus."

This event should have happened - according to some scientists - on the day of an eclipse. Sadly the reported dates vary very strongly! Here are some datas I have found on the web:
(1) It took place shortly before an eclipse of the Sun that was observed at Rome on June 25, 745 BC and had a magnitude of 50.3%. Its beginning occurred at 16:38, its middle at 17:28, and its end at 18:16.
(2) Romulus vanished in the 54th year of his life, on the Nones of Quintilis (July), on a day when the Sun was darkened. The day turned into night, which sudden darkness was believed to be an eclipse of the Sun. It occurred on July 17, 709 BC, with a magnitude of 93.7%, beginning at 5:04 and ending at 6:57. All these eclipse data have been calculated by Prof.Aurl Ponori-Thewrewk, retired director of the Planetarium of Budapest.

Additional I have found only the pic of an Etruscian front tile showing Juno Caprotina.

Der kleine Pauly
Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on April 29, 2007, 10:46:27 am
The Thracian Rider-God Heros

1st coin:
Thracia, Odessos, Lucius Verus, AD 161-162
AE 19, 5.22g
Bust, draped and cuirassed, seen from behind, laureate, r.
rev. ODE - CC - E - ITWN
      The Thracian Rider-God Heros, nude except Chlamys, on horse trotting r., holding
      transverse spear before chest.
AMNG 2249
rare, VF, nice green patina
The horseman is often called the Emperor, but because of its nudeness alone it is surely the Rider-God Heros.

2nd coin:
Thracia, Odessos, qasi-autonomous, 270-250 BC
AE 22, 7.54g
obv. Head of Zeus, bearded, laureate, r.
rev. The Thracian Rider-God Heros, bearded, nude except chlamys, wearing kausia, trooting
       on horse r., beneath as monogram A; with baseline
       in ex. ODHCITWN
AMNG 2206; BMC Black Sea 291
Rare, VF+, brown patina with some earthen highlights
ex David Freedman coll.
ex CNG auction 61, 25.9.2002, lot 194
Note: Kausia = a flat Thracian bonnet

The Thracians were an old indo-european people or group of peoples in ancient times. They are mentioned already by Homer in his Ilias and described by Herodot. Thracian tribes settled on the Balkans, the actual Thracia, todays Romania, Moldawia, Serbia, Makedonia, Bulgaria, Northern-Greece and between the Carpatian Mountains and the Aegean Sea, and in Asia Minor: Mysia, Bithynia and Paphlagonia. The are the greatest people after the Indians, Herodot wrote. They have had no own scripture, but had close connections to the Greeks and their culture. The ancient religion of the Greeks was strongly influenced by the Thracians. A number of Greek gods actually had Thracian origin, among them Ares, Dionysos, Herakles and Orpheus. Their language was Thracian.

Under the Thracian gods particularly interesting was the Heros-God, known as the Thracian Horseman, as he was worshipped by the Thracians, because he was not a specific person like the Greek gods. Although ancestor worship of real people who had done great deeds bled into it, the Thracian Hero was an abstract figure, the idea of a Hero. It is this metaphysical entity ('Wesenheit') around which the worship was centered. The Hero was no doubt the central figure in Thracian religion, the hope and faith of the people. Their hero was all­seeing and all­hearing, he was the sun and also the ruler of the nether world, he was the protector of life and health, and kept the forces of evil at bay. In modern Bulgaria he continues to perform that function going by the name of St.George.

The Thracian Hero was depicted all the time, all over the place. Always on a horse, slaying something, slaying anything, usually with a spear. Over 1500 stone reliefs and more than 100 bronze statuettes of the Horseman have been uncovered on the territory of present-day Bulgaria. From antiquity, through Roman times, through the middle ages, and today, the image of the Horseman is inescapable in Bulgaria.
The Thracian Hero is also responsible for the Greek word heros from which the English word 'hero‘ is derived. The ethymological origin is indo-european *ser- = protect (Webster)
This hero-god was a war-god, he was the son of Bendis, the Great Mother of Gods, and her lover too. Bendis was worshipped as goddess of hunting and fertility. Her son was born virginally. Another important aspect of the Thracian religion was the belief in Immortality, known already from the 6th century BC or even earlier. Because of that the Christianism was accepted in Thracia very early. The religious components like mother, son, immaculate conception and Lord's Supper had an old tradition in Thracia. I remind on the letters of St.Paul to the Thessalonians written AD 51.
He was worshipped at hundreds of sanctuaries, peasants are still making pilgrimages to one of Bulgaria’s main Thracian Horseman sanctuaries, in fact that is how a lot of Thracian archeological sites in Bulgaria have been found.Arheologists just followed the local people to the places where they performed their “Christian” rituals, in fact the rituals and celebrations were {Like St. Trifon} Christian only by name. In most cases the peasants didn’t even know that the places they went to were ex-Thracian altar sites, they had simply been going there since time in memorial, only after the archeologists dug the site, did the people see the Thracian altars. 1000 years earlier the Church had done a very good job of burying “pagan” alters, and erasing the “pagan” names, but it couldn’t change, or eliminate the culture and rituals. Today St. George is the Hero’s new name. You can see images of St. George on a horse, slaying a dragon, all over Bulgaria.

The Madara Horseman
We must mention here the Madara Horseman too. This is a large rock relief from the early medieval times near the village of Madara in northeastern Bulgaria. The relief depicts a majestic horseman 23 m above ground level in an almost vertical 100-metre-high cliff. The horseman, facing right, is thrusting a spear into a lion lying at his horse’s feet. An eagle is flying in front of the horseman and a dog is running after him. The scene symbolically depicts a military triumph. The monument is dated back to circa 710 AD and is allocated to the Proto-Bulgarians who settled in this region. Other theories connect the relief with the ancient Thracians, claiming it portrays the Thracian Rider-God. It has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1979.

Besides the two coins which have been struck in a temporal distance of  400 years I want to show an altar of the Thracian Horseman and then too the monmental relief of the Madara Horseman


Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on May 03, 2007, 03:21:23 pm
The unlucky King Kyzikos

Mysia, Kyzikos, quasi-autonomous, 2nd-3rd century AD
AE 29, 8.3g
struck under strategos Aur. Aristeidos
obv. KYZ - IKOC
      Head of Kyzikos, diademed with taenia, r.
rev. CTR A / [YR AR ]IC / TE[I ]DOY / KYZIKH / NWN
      (in 5 lines) all within laurel-wreath
SNG 91 var. (has an additional line)
Very rare, VF/about VF, dark-green patina
Note: In Münsterberg is named a strategos Aur. Aristaidoas. May be he is the same magistrate named in the legend.

The myth of Kyzikos belongs to the ambit of the myths around the Argonauts and their quest for the Golden Fleece. Kyzikos, son of Aineus, a former ally of Herakles, and his wife Ainete, daughter of Eusor (or son of Apollo and Stilbe), was the king of an island of the Propontis (todays Sea of Marmara), called Dolionos or Arkton, which was surmounted by the Dindymon mountain. When the Argonauts on their journey to Kolchis, where they want to get the Golden Fleece, had luckily passed the Hellespont, they came to this island. Here Kyzikos just have married Kleite from the Phrygian city of Perkote and invited all to take part in his wedding ceremonies. And so they did. On this Island, called Island of Bears too, six-arm sons of Rhea were living. The Doliones hadn't worry about them because they were descendants of Poseidon. But when the Argonauts hereafter climbed the mountain Dindymon the earth-born Giants attacked their ship, the 'Argo'. But Herakles succeeded in killing most of them. With it the desaster started which the Argonauts brought to the Doliones. The Argonauts said good bye and took course to the Cimmerian Bosporos. But in the night a heavy storm descended on them and they were thrown back to the island. Because of the darkness Kyzikos couldn't recognize his guests and regarded them as his enemies, the Pelasgians, and a serious fight occured between them. In this fight Jason, the leader of the Argonauts, killed Kyzikos by his own hand, regarding him a pirate. When the sun raised the noble King Kyzikos lay dead at his feet. Both sides realized their terrible error, and Jason arranged a honorable funeral and gave the reign to Kyzikos' sons. It is told by some that in mourning all of the Argonauts have cut their hair. The burial ceremonies lastened three days and Orpheus, an Argonaut too, was assigned to reconcile Kyzikos' soul. But adverse winds prevent them of driving on. Then the seer Mopsus could understand the cry of a kingfisher and gave them the advise to reconcile Rhea, who was angry because of the death of her sons. So the Argonauts climbed the Dindymon mountain again and erected a wooden statue from a grape-vine for the goddess. Therefore Rhea is sometimes called Dindymene. Then they continued their journey.

Another version of the myth tells, that Kyzikos was a king of the Pelasgians in Thrace, was dispelled with his people from his home and then settled in Asia where he married Kleite, the daughter of Merops, king of Rhybakos, and so came to success. When the Argonauts landed at his island his people had attacked them because they regarded them as their enemies who had dispelled them from Thrace. Kyzikos has tried to detach them and then was killed accidentally by Jason. Kleite, just married, couldn't bear that and of love to Kyzikos she committed suicide by hanging. The Nymphs of the grove had cried hereafter so heavenly about her death that from their tears a spring arised called the Kleite Spring. 

Others tell that he was killed in a fight with Piasos, his father-in-law, who had loved his daughter, the wife of Kyzikos, unseemly, when because of that it came to a struggle between them. But this seems to be another myth going back to Euphorion and mentioned by Schol. Apoll. Rhod. I, 1063.

In another version of the journey of the Argonauts Valerius Flaccus (Argonautika 3.20) writes that Rhea, the Great Mother who has a cult at top of the Dindymon mountain was offended by King Kyzikos, so that she forced the Argonauts to revenge her. Kyzikos namely, betrayed by his too great love of the chase, once have killed a sacred lion with his spear that was wont to bear its mistress, the Great Mother through the cities of Phrygia and was now returning to the bridle. And now in his hybris has hung from his doorposts the mane and the head of his victim, a spoil to bring sorrow to himself and shame upon the goddess. But she, nursing her great rage, beholds from the cymbal-clashing mountain the ship of the Argonauts with its border of kingly shields, and devises against the hero deaths and horrors unheard of: how in the night to set allied hands at strife in unnatural war, how to enmesh the city in cruel terror. The Argonauts killed Kyzikos and his men at night in a confused battle.

The Doliones mourned for a full month, didn't lightened a fire and lived by uncooked food, a custom which could be observed during the Games of Kyzikos until now.

Some call his subjects Dolopes. In any case the island thereafter got the name Kyzikos and so the capital too. Later the island became a peninsula called Arktonesos (= Island of Bears). The city of Kyzikos had two harbours connected by bridged channels. Under Roman rule Kyzikos remained one of the most wealthy and powerful cities in Asia Minor, especially by its location which brought forward the trade. Until the 6th century AD it was the capital of the province Hellespont.

Orpheus Argon. 500
Hygin. Fab. 16
Apollod. lib.I, c.9.§18
Euphorion II.c
Strabo lib.XII.p.575
Val. Flacc.Argon. 3.20
Schol. Apollon. ad lib.I.v.948

Der kleine Pauly
Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon
Robert von Ranke-Graves, Griechische Mythologie
Karl Kerenyi, Die Mythologie der Griechen - Die Heroengeschichten

Sorry, I couldn't find any additional pics for this myth!

Best regards 

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on May 06, 2007, 04:00:49 pm
Hylas - Herakles' Favorite

At first it seemed difficult to attribute this coin. But finally I succeeded by using 'Historia Numorum' von Barcley Head which is provided by Ed Snible under
The coin:
Bithynia, Kios, Geta as Augustus, AD 209-212
Ae 24, 7.42g
      Bust with scale-armor, lareate, r.
rev. LK - IA - NW - N
      Young Hylas, with waving clothes around his hip, advancing l., holding with r. hand
      drinking vessel at his mouth.
Ref.: ANS -; cf. SNG von Aulock 518 (rev., for Volusian), cites Rec.Gen. p.225, 125;
        probably unpublished in major works
Very rare, F+, brown patina

Hylas, meaning 'of the wood', was the son of Theodamas, king of the Dryopians in Thessaly. When Herakles came to Trachis he met Theodamas, who was plowing his fields with oxes. Because he was hungry and because he wanted to start quarrel with the Dryopians he asked him for an ox. When Theodamas refused the delivery of an ox Herakles slew him and abducted Hylas as infant. Later Herakles fell in love with him and Hylas became his favorite.

After having brought the Erymanthian Boar to Erichtheus Herakles together with the youth Hylas went to the Argonauts to take part in their journey to Kolchis to get the Golden Fleece.  After their adventures in Kyzikos they must land at the coast of Kios in Mysia, because they had to repair the rudders which were broken by Herakles. Hylas was sent out to fetch water for Herakles. When he came to a spring the nymphs of the spring in which he dipped his pitcher were so excited because of his beauty that they drew him into the water to keep him forever. And he was never seen again. Herakles started out to search for Hylas but in vain. Only his pitcher he found at the border of the spring. But Herakles' thrice-repeated cry was lost in the depths of the water. Only the voice of Hylas came from the depth like a far echo. In anger Herakles threatened to waste the land if Hylas were not found dead or alive.

In a vision to Herakles Hylas rises from the water’s level, clad in saffron weeds, the gift of the unkind Nympha, and standing by his dear head utters such words as these: ‘Why, father, dost thou waste time in vain lament? Mine now by fate’s appointing is this glade, this home, wither at cruel Hera’s behest the wanton Nympha has stolen me; now doth she win me power to consort with the streams of Zeus and the heavenly deities, and shares with me her love and the honours of the fountain." - Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica 4.22

In the morning oportune winds came up and because Herakles didn't return Jason, the leader of the Argonauts, commanded to continue their voyage without Herakles. But some say that the Argonauts took Herakles search only as pretense to dispose him because he regularly broke his rudders due to his supernatural power. (Schol. Apollon. ad I.c.v. 533&1163). So Herakles must stay in Mysia.

It is told, that the inhabitants of Kios, in memory of the threat of Herakles and to appease him, every year search for Hylas in a big ceremony. On a stated day they roamed the woods and the mountains, and their priests thrice called the name of Hylas and thrice the echo answered. Probably these ceremonies were the cause for the myth of Hylas (Theocrit. xiii. 72; Strab. p. 564.). But even though this myth was told first in Alexandrinian times the so-called "cry of Hylas " occurs long before as the " Mysian cry " in Aeschylus (Persae, 1054), and in Aristophanes, Plutus, 1127). " to cry Hylas " is used proverbially of seeking something in vain .

Hylas, like Adonis and Hyakinthos, represents the fresh vegetation of spring, or the water of a fountain, which dries up under the heat of summer . It is suggested that Hylas was a harvest deity and that the ceremony gone through by the Kians was a harvest festival, at which the figure of a boy was thrown into the water, signifying the dying vegetation-spirit of the year. The melancholic tunes linked with these ceremonies were known already to Aischylos.

The connection between Herakles and Hylas doubtless was homoerotical coloured. He was his 'catamite. So Hylas appears already in ancient times as an example for the homoeroticism of the great Greek heroes, either eulogized or condemned.

Kios (Lat. Cius), later named Prusias ad Mare too, was an ancient Greek city bordering the Propontis (now known as the Sea of Marmara), in Bithynia, and had as such a long history, being mentioned by Homer, Aristoteles and Strabo. It was colonized by the Milesians and became a place of much commercial importance. It joined the Aetolian League, and was destroyed by Philip III of Makedonia. It was rebuilt by Prusias I of Bithynia who renamed it for himself. An important chain in the ancient Silk Road, it became known as a wealthy town.

History of art:
This myth was very popular as is proofed by numerous places in literature and depictions in  art. Hylas appears in Hellenistic and especially in Roman art, particulary in Pompejian paintings (Villa Ephebi). Holding a jar in his hand the youth tries to flee from the nymphs. Giulio Romano (AD 1499-1546) picked up this subject as is testified by a drawing in Vienna (AD 1530) for a lost painting. Then there ia a sculpture by Thorwaldsen (AD 1768-1844) in Copenhagen (1831) and several paintings by J.W.Waterhouse (AD 1849-1917).
I have added:
(1) a mosaic, (Grenoble, Musée de Saint-Romain-en-Gal)
(2) a painting of Francesco Furini (1603-1646), Hylas and the Najads (1638; Firenze, Palazzo Pitti)
(3) and a painting of J.W.Waterhouse (1896/8; Manchester, CAG)

(a) Primary literature:
Strabo, Geography 12.4.3
Strabo XII, 564
Apollonois Rhodios, Argonautika I, 1207-1357
Apollodor. I, 117
Vergil, Bucolica 6, 44ff.
Theokrit Idyll. XIII

(b) Secondary literature:
Der Kleine Pauly
Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon
G . Turk in Breslauer Philologische Abhandlungen, VII (1895)
W . Mannhardt, Mythologische Forschungen (1884) .
Robert von Ranke-Graves, griechische Mythologie
Karl Kerenyi, Griechische Heroengeschichten
Aghion/Barbillon/Lissaraue, Reclams Lexikon der antiken Götter und Heroen

(c) Paintings:

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Arminius on May 12, 2007, 03:48:05 pm
This one is different from those former easy informations provided by Jochen and a few others.
Here is the coin - what might be the mythological background? (Don´t ask me - i have no idea so far).

Nicomedia in Bithynia, Marcus Aurelius, 161–180 AD.,
Æ24 (23-25 mm / 10,25 g),
Obv.: [ΑΥ] Κ Μ ΑΥΡ ΑΝΤΩΝЄΙ[Ν] , laureate head of Marcus Aurelius, r.
Rev.: ΜΗ ΝΕΩΚ-Ο / ΝΕΙΚΟΜ , eagle standing, r., spreading wings, fighting serpent erect before it.
RPC temporary № 5654 .


Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on May 12, 2007, 03:58:08 pm
Hi Arminius!

That's very interesting because I got a similar coin from Apollonia Pontica. I will post it in the Provincial board to not confuse the Mythological thread by a longer discussion!

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on May 19, 2007, 05:35:20 pm
Aphrodite Urania

1st coin:
Kingdom of Bosporus, Queen Gepaepyris, AD 37-39
AE 23 (12 nummi), 8.04g
      Bust of Gepaepyris, draped and diademed, r.
rev. Bust of Aphrodite Urania, veiled and wearing kalathos, r.
      IB in front of her
Mac Donald 306; Anokhin 326 var.; RPC I, 1907 var. (both have IB behind the bust)
about VF, brown patina with green highlights

This coin comes from a geographical region about which I have had only superficial knowledge, the Kingdom of Bosporus. Between the seventh century BC and the fourth century AD, the Cimmerian Bosporus, an area covering the Crimean and Taman Peninsulas of southern Ukraine, consisted of a vigorous and sophisticated culture that maintained close ties to the Greco-Roman world. Much of what is known about this region comes from the coins struck by the local cities as well as the Kingdom of the Bosporus, initially independent, but by the first century BC, a client-kingdom of Rome. Alltogether an exciting matter which is worth to be engaged with!

The chief deity of the whole bosporan kingdom was no doubt Aphrodite Urania: the centre of her worship was on the east side of the strait where she had a temple in Phanagoria and one called the Apatouron on the south side of Lake Corocondamitis: after this sanctuary she is described in inscriptions as Apatourias or more often Apatourou medeousa [Minns 1913 p. 618]. Apatura probably originates from Scythian/Sarmatian *ap- tur-, meaning 'water- overflowing'.

2nd coin:
Macedonia, Uranopolis, quasi-autonom, c. 300 BC
AE 15, 3.34g
struck under Alexarchos
obv. eight-pointed star, representing the sun, in dotted circle
rev. OYRANIDW - POLEWC (in straight lines from top to bottom)
       Aphrodite Urania in sleeved chiton and cloak fixed on l. shoulder and enclosing
       legs and l. l. arm, std. half l. on celestial globe, upper part of the body and
       head turned facing. On the head she wears a conical cap ending in a star. Her
       r. hand resting on a long staff which ends at the top in an oval shaped sun
SNG ANS 914ff.; BMC Macedonia, p.134, 2ff.; SNG Copenhagen 455-7; SNG Evelpidis 1363; Lindgren 1260; AMNG III, 3, pl.25, fig.4
very rare, F+, light-green patina

The name of the city and this type refer to Uranos, the devine personification of the city. The city was a foundation in the vicinity of the Athos mountain on the peninsula Aktos, the most east cape of the Chalkidike. It was founded c.316-300 BC by Kassander's youngest brother Alexarchos, who was half-mad and acquited himself for Helios, the sun. For statisticians: This is the earlist depiction of the globe on a coin!

Primarily Aphrodite probably was a mother and fertility goddess of growing and emerging. By assigning a longing desire to nature she became the Goddess of Love and step by step of Beauty too. Early scholars claim that the origin of her worship originates already from the time where the Greeks still were not separated from the other indo-european people. A goddess with a similar character is found at the majority of these people. While Aphrodite is mentioned already in the earliest epic literature her name is not found on the Linear B tablets of the Mykenian religion. Most probably her cult came to Greece in the peiod between 1200 BC and 800 BC. Her name is obscure and unexplained until now. For Homer, Hesiod, and other early writers, the goddess was intimately linked to Cyprus. The Odyssee lists Paphos as the goddess' homeland, while the Iliad makes Kypris her most common epithet. Hesiod calls her both Kyprogene and Kythereia.

Among leading scholars, there is something of a consensus that the cult of Aphrodite originally came to Greece from the ancient Near East: "Behind the figure of Aphrodite there clearly stands the ancient Semitic goddess of love, Ishtar-Astarte, divine consort of the king, queen of heaven, and hetaera in one." This view receives strong support from the Greeks themselves. Pausanias, for example, offered the following opinion: "The Assyrians were the first of the human race to worship the heavenly one (Aphrodite Urania); then the people of Paphos in Cyprus, and of Phoenician Askalon in Palestine, and the people of Kythera, who learnt her worship from the Phoenicians."
And so Aphrodite has numerous characteristics in common with Astarte. Both are depicted as goddesses of love and associated with rites of prostitution, for example. Aphrodite, like Astarte, was represented as armed and invoked to guarantee victory. As such she was called Areia and became the lover of Ares, to whom she was mythological related because he was the god of thunder too and thus of the fertilization of earth too. Later mainly three different forms of Aphrodite developed - a kind of a panhellenic trifold 'Great Mother'.

Aphrodite Urania:
In Homer's hymnos the goddess occurs as 'Mistress of the wild animals (pothnia theron)', which mated with each other on her hint. Especially the Goddess of Love was differentiated by two aspects, the 'holy, heavenly' Aphrodite Urania and the 'Aphrodite Pandemos', who belonged to the 'whole people'. This sometimes is called the dualism of Aphrodite. Platon has suggested that two different goddesses existed: Aphrodite Urania, goddess of the noble love, and Aphrodite Pandemos, daughter of Dione and goddess of the common morality. This was interpreted by Platon (in his 'Symposion') as the homosexual and the heterosexual love (eros).

Aphrodite Urania (Venus caelestis), the Holy Love (sacral), the Heavenly Love, the Heaven's Queen, stands for the 'virginal, celestial, noble love'. As Urania she was made the daughter of Uranos, who was said to have born her without a mother (so Platon), or to a daughter of Zeus as bright heaven and Dione, his female complement. As such she was worshipped on top of the mountains, therefore called Akraia, where she was nearer to heaven. In this function serves a polos, a round narrow cap on her head symbolizing the support of the heavenly globe, or the celestial globe or a turtle as the same symbol.

As the Greek descendant of the Semitic fertility-goddess Istar, Aphrodite has inherited as her astral symbol the planet of Istar, better known to us as Venus. In the Greek sources themselves, Plato is our earliest authority for this identification. A decisive question for the historian of religions is whether Aphrodite's identification with Venus is relatively late in origin, or whether it has a foundation in the goddess' aboriginal cult. Here the goddess' epithet Urania offers a valuable clue. Urania - "celestial one" - was a Greek translation of the Semitic title malkat ha-ssamayim, "the queen of the heavens," long understood as having reference to Venus. This epithet finds precise parallels in the cults of other Venus-goddesses throughout the ancient world. In Sumer f.e. Inanna was identified with the planet Venus. The Akkadian Ishtar shares the same epithet as is known from hymns. In Babylonian astronomcal tablets she is named "the bright queen of heavens", among the various names for the planet Venus. The Canaanite goddess Anat, whose fundamental affinity with Inanna and Ishtar is well-known, was likewise deemed the "Queen of Heaven" in Egyptian sources. And she too has been identified with the planet Venus. The celestial goddess figures prominently among the pagan gods mentioned in the Old Testament, and no doubt there was much truth in the Israelite's admission that the people had long burnt incense to the Queen of Heaven. Although Jeremiah does not name the goddess in question, Astarte seems the most likely candidate. Astarte's identification with the planet Venus is commonly acknowledged, as is her affinity with Aphrodite. Indeed, a late inscription, c. 160 BC, identifies Astarte and Aphrodite Urania.

History of Art:
Pausanias reports an Aphrodite Urania from gold and ivory erected in the temple of Aphrodite in Elis. The left foot of the statue rested on a small turtle. This statue was ascribed to the famous Phidias (500-432 BC). Sadly this statue was lost. So we have only the description. A torso in the Pergamonmuseum in Berlin possibly refers to this statue.

Der kleine Pauly

I have added the pic of Aphrodite Apatoura of a terracotta vase from Phanagoria. It shows surprisingly a near connection between Aphrodite Urania and Anadyomene! But it is not so much surprisingly when we look at the mythology: Aphrodite was suggested to be the daughter of Uranos. When Kronos cut the genitals of his father and threw them into the sea a white foam originated around them which for some time was floating on the sea until finally Aphrodite emerged from it (Hesiod Theog.v.188; Serv. ad Vergil. Aen.V.v.801). On a scallop she came first to the island of Kythera and flowers sprouted everywhere where her feet touched the ground (Hesiod Theog.v.192). I think you all know the famous painting of Botticelli 'La nascita de Venere' (The birth of Venus)'.

Another pic is from the Naples Museum. It shows a beautiful, noble head usually called 'Sappho', but Evelyn Harrison, a eminent scholar in Pheidian sculpture, is sure that is shows the 'Pheidian head of Aphrodite Ourania (Hesperia 53)'. The pic is from Pat Lawrence, thanks!

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on May 19, 2007, 05:41:35 pm
Sandan of Tarsos

Out of a far, strange world!

Cilicia, Tarsos,autonomous issue, 1st century BC
AE 21, 6.54g
obv. Bust of the city-goddess (Tyche), veiled and turreted, r.,
      on the face c/m in the shape of a male radiate head (Helios?) in circular incus.
rev. Pyre of Sandan in pyramidal shape, crowned by an eagle with spread wings, stg. r. on a
      small round base; within cult statue of Sandan wearing polos and holding double axe,
      stg. r. on a winged and horned lion, r. hand raised; besides l. and r. a baetylus; altogether
      on a round base decorated with garlandes.
      in the r. field from top TAR[C]EWN
      in the l. field from top AR / AR / DI / Q
Ref.: SNG BN 1333-1334; Sear GIC 5672
about VF, slight roughness

History of religion:
Center of the cult of Sandan was Tarsos. Tarsos was an important foundation of the Hetits and in Greek and Roman times the most eminent city of Cilicia. From the early times of Hetits it has kept Sandan as its main god. But Tarsos was a stronghold of syncretism too. Here Baal, Tarz and Zeus have been melted into Sandan and in Hellenistic times he was identified with Herakles too. The cult image of the god was depicted already on Seleucid coins (Houghton Coll. 475 ff.).The iconographic details of Sandan and his beastlike mixed being we know already from oriental arts, especially from the region of the Hetits.

The cult of Sandan, or Sandon or Sandas (LIMC VII), is a remnant from the time when Cilicia was conquered by the Hetits in the 17th century BC. In its Luwian form it was Teshub, the god of mountain storms. In the Hetitian sanctuary of Yazilikaya he is depicted as a bearded man, wearing a conical head-dress, holding a club and a plant, probably with reference to the Mesopotamion 'Tree of Life'. Like the other Hetitian high gods his feet never touched the earth. He was riding on the backs of mythological animals, has been borne on the shoulders of lower deities or was walking over the tops of the mountains. The tops of the mountains reminded the Hetits of their high loomed homeland, and so did the high head-dress and the pyramidal shape of Sandan's pyre. Whereas the cult of Sandan in Tarsos was assimilated with the cult of Herakles, in fact  - by his origin as nature god - he resembles more the Greek king of gods Zeus. This depiction of Sandan appears about 2000 years after his first occurence in mythology, but the similarity with the Hetitian original is striking (CNG).

Referring to his name Sandan (or Shantash too) was warshipped not only in Cilicia and Cappadocia but in Lycaonia, Isauria, Pisidia, Caria and Lydia too (look at 'Sandon' in Pauly-Wissowa or 'Sandas' in Roscher). According to H.T.Bossert he was the main god in Crete too, and it was the same god and his epiphany they longed for when the women performed her dances with bare breasts and snakes in her hands (but since then disproved by Linear B studies!). In historical times he has survived in Dionysos and Bes, the dwarf with the lion-skin over his shoulder, in Herakles with the lion-skin, especially serving disguised as woman at the court of Omphale, struggling with the lion or subdoing the bull of Marathon, as Apollo and Ares/Arte-mis Lafria = Labrys, i.e. with double-axe (the androgyne hunter split in a male and female aspect).

In hieroglyphic Hetitian texts Santas is called 'the Great', and in Syria his cult is found until the 3rd century AD. Eusebius writes that Herakles in Phoenicia and Cappadocia and yet in his times has been worshipped under the name Desandus (Tesh Shandash). And several rulers seem to call themself Tesh Shantash, where Tesh is the stem of a word we know from the Greek theos (= god).The Great Hunter then is identical with the ruler, an idea which later had big influence on the ideology around the Roman emperor. So the funeral fire, the so-called consecratio seems to be a direct copy of Sandan's pyra.
The Pyra:
On coins of Hellenistic times Sandan always is depicted nude, standing on the back of a lion, a burning altar behind, the lion winged and horned, the god with a mystical flower and a double-axe in his l. hand, wearing a polos on his head, which should show that he is the world pillar holding apart heaven and earth. He is depicted too standing within a pyramide shaped structure, his pyra, a funeral pile, on which he was burned. This pyra obviously was built so skillfull, that it became the symbol of the world mountain with the eagle of apotheosis on top and flanked by the two personified world pillars, representing the split world mountain. Sandan was regarded as founder of Tyros and often identified with Perseus who was worshipped as founder of the city too.

The pyra plays an important role in the cult of Sandan. It was a pyramide made from wood which was erected to burn Sandan in the shape of an idol. In Rome the cult around Sandan became the role model for the consecration celebrities of the apotheosis of the emperor. Like Herakles and the Tyrian god Melqart Sandan was raised up to heaven by the fire. This symbolism has strong connections to the Phoenician sun-bird: Phoenix after dying in the fire is eternally reborn in the fire. Here we found the idea of re-birthing or resurrection of death.

The Roman emperor too burnt up like Sandan in the shape of an idol. A wax doll was playing the role of the deceased Caesar in the consecration celebreties. And afterwards his soul was raised to heaven by the sun-bird. For that an eagle was set free from its cage at top of the burning wooden pyramide (symbol of phoenix!). This was found too in the temple of Melqart in Tyros: A flying eagle on top of the burning world pillar (or world tree).
Sandan and Christianism:
The creator of Christianism in the form we know today was Paulus of Tarsos. Our Christianism actually is Paulism. He grow up in a city known as centre of the cult of Sandan known by the Greek under the name of Herakles too. H.-J. Schoeps, whom I have the honour to get to know in the 60th years in Erlangen, writes about the religious enviroment in which St.Paul grew up before he came to Jerusalem. Each year in honour of Sandan-Herakles in Tarsos the festival of the funeral pyre was celebrated. The idea behind the mysterium was the dying of nature under the withering sommer heat and the following re-flourishing to new life. This reveals its close relationship to the cult of the Syrian Adonis, the Phrygian Attis, the Egyptian Osiris and the Babylonian Tammuz. Schoeps infers: "That the young Saul has seen the processions in honour of this deity on the marketplaces and in the streets of Tarsos can't be proofed, but seems to be most probably!".
On the other side no sign of syncretism of Syria or Asia Minor could be found in his letters. So nobody today is following the conclusions of Schoeps and Goppelt, that Paulus was influenced in his christianology - even only indirectly - by these impressions in his youth. But we must concede that by deities like Sandan, Herakles, Dionysos or Mithras the idea of resurrection after death was well known to the people and was not surprising.   

I have added the pic of a tetradrachm of Antiochos VIII Grypos (121-96 BC), CSE 489, from Tarsos (from CoinArchives). Here you can see the details of the pyre better than on my coin.


Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: gordian_guy on May 27, 2007, 10:18:14 pm

Tarsus being one of those cities of Cilicia that seemed to have a long mythological history minted an amazing variety of coins, including these types of Sandan on his horned-lion-like creature with wings. I post here my variety of Jochen's coin without the pyramidal temple, just Sandan on his beast. I have an interesting similar type for Tranquillina.


Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on June 02, 2007, 02:47:22 pm
Diana Nemorensis

Roman Republic, P. Accoleius Lariscolus, gens Accoleia
AR - Denarius, 3.90gm, 19.7mm. 
        Rome, 43 BC
       Archaisized bust of Diana Nemorensis, draped, r.
rev. Triple cult statue of Diana Nemorensis (Diana, Hecate, Selene) facing,
       supporting with their hands and shoulders a bar; behind them a grove of five
       cypresses; the figure on the left (Diana) holds a bow in her outer hand, the
       figure on the right (Selene) a poppy.
Crawford 486/1; Sydenham 1148; Accoleia 1 
gVF, light toning, with a reasonably unobtrusive banker's mark.
According to Andrew Alföldi this coin is a type from the later time of this issue recognizable by the hairdress of Diana Nemorensis on the obv.: The first type has a double row of knob-like curls bordering the flatly combed hair which clings closely to the skull. An intermediate type has a braid falling down on the neck and the last one has a hair-dress covering the flatly combed crown of hair with a turban-like cloth wrapping - as we can see here.

The family of the mint-master is originated from Aricia at the Lake Nemi were the grove and the temple of Diana Nemorensis stood. Here too votiv-inscriptions of the Accoleii have been found. Octavian's mother was from Aricia. Perhaps Octavian himself has influenced the selection of this coin-motive.

Sadly most often the description of this coin is wrong. Often the bust on the obv. is called Acca Larentia. But more errors can be found on the rev. (A. Alföldi):
(1) Often the three figures were called Nymphae Querquetulanae. But it could be seen clearly that the depicted trees are cypresses and not oaks which would be expected for oak-nymphs. Cypresses usually remind the Romans of fear and death matching the ambit of Diana-Hecate. So the trees are neither poplars too.
(2) The figures don't hold beams with trees on it, but it is a bar which they hold on their shoulders to stress their connection (like the statue of the Dioscurs in Sparta), and the trees belong to a grove in the background. The misinterpretation is understandable because of the alterations made by the die-cutters during the issue of this series. So the three figures look like caryatids and the lower parts of the trees have been left out. On the first types they are seen clearly. 
(3) The object held by the left figure (Diana) naturally is a bow and not a poppy. A poppy could be held by the right figure (Selene) even though in later issues the plant looks more like a lily.

Diana Nemorensis literally means 'Diana of the Wood'. Her sanctuary was found at the
northern shore of a lake below the cliffs of the todays city Nemi. This lake, called  'Diana's mirror' too, in ancient times was known as the Lake of Aricia. However Aricia was situated about three miles off at the foot of the Mons Albanus and separated by a steep descent from the lake, which lies in a small crater-like hollow on the mountain side. This sanctuary was the most important Roman sanctuary of Diana. 

According to one story the worship of Diana at Nemi was instituted by Orestes, who, after killing Thoas, King of the Tauric Chersonese (the Crimea), fled with his sister Iphigenia to Italy, bringing with him the image of the Tauric Diana hidden in a faggot of sticks. After his death his bones were transported from Aricia to Rome and buried in front of the temple of Saturn, on the Capitoline slope, beside the temple of Concordia. The bloody ritual which legend ascribed to the Tauric Diana is familiar to classical readers; it is said that every stranger who landed on the shore was sacrificed on her altar. But transported to Italy, the rite assumed a milder form. The fight for the Rex Nemorensis is said to be an old reminiscence of that ritual. But Alföldi denies any connections to the Tauric Diana.

The votive offerings found in the grove of Ariccia portray she was conceived of as a huntress, and further as blessing men and women with offspring, and granting expectant mothers an easy delivery.

Diana was worshipped in a sacred grove. Sir James George Frazer writes of this sacred grove in his book 'The Golden Bogh'. Legend tells of a tree that stands in the center of the grove and is guarded heavily. No one was to break off its limbs, with the exception of a runaway slave, who was allowed, if he could, to break off one of the boughs. According to legend, only a man possessing great inner and outer strength would be able to do this. Upon breaking off a limb, the slave was then in turn granted the privilege to engage the Rex Nemorensis, the current king and priest of Diana in the region, in one on one mortal combat. If the slave prevailed, he became the next king for as long as he could defeat challengers.

This resembles a rite of initiation. The legend of Rex Nemorensis is similar to Aeneas who had to break the golden bough from the tree of the Underworld in order to complete his sacred quest. Aeneas encounters Charon the guardian who refuses to let him cross the Underworld lake. Charon and the King of the Woods are parallel figures as the latter is guardian of Lake Nemi. The King of the Woods also is referred to by other names such as a type of Green Man figure, in Italian Witchcraft as the Hooded One since he is covered with greenery of Nature, and in Diana's sacred grove at Nemi he is called Virbius.

The festival of Diana Nemorensis was celebrated on August 13. and was mainly a festival for slaves (Bellinger, 116). Already very early Diana was equated with Luna (Selene), later with the Greek Artemis too. To which extent the Latin Diana has to be differentiated from the Greek Artemis today is nearly impossible to decide. But very early she was known as Diana triformis or Diana triplex. Ovid calls her Trivia ('who is invoked on three-ways', Metam. II, 416), which originally is an epitheton of Hecate, because Diana as Moon goddess shares the nightly regime with Hecate. Then she is called Titania by Ovid because of her seeming relationship to Hyperion (Metam. III, 173). Under this name she appears as Fairy Queen in Shakespeare's 'Summernightdream'. But Diana has not been simply taken from the Greek. The depicted statue on this coin probably is Etruscian. And so is the archaic depiction of the bust on the obv. So Diana probably has come to the Romans by intermediation of the Etruscans. She was worshipped in groves like the German tribes worshipped their deities in groves according to Tacitus. The temple of Diana was built later in Hellenistic times without replacing the grove. The coin could prove that the old cult statue and the cypress grove still existed in the time of the late Republic.
About the political statement of the coin depiction one can only speculate. There could be a connection to the Latin League which existed until 338 BC. In its first phase until end of the 6th century it was a cultic union around which the political fusion took place. The centre of this alliance was - beside Juppiter Latiaris on the Mons Albanus - the Diana of Aricia. When this alliance got under the supremacy of Rome the sanctuary of Diana was put on the Mons Aventinus. In a second phase from about 500 BC until the desaster of the river Allia (387/6 BC) the Latins freed themselfs from the supremacy of the Romans, but were attached again to the Romans after the legendary battle of the Lake Regillus. After joining of the Hernicians to the alliance it became a Triple Alliance. Possibly the depiction alludes to this Alliance and was then an appeal for unity.   
(will be continued)

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on June 02, 2007, 02:49:17 pm

Because this is the only coin I know with an allusion to Acca Larentia I want to tell about her mythology even though she was not meant on this coin. The Nymphae Querquetulanae I will mention too.

Acca Larentia:
This myth exists in two different variations, one without, the other with a connection to the Roman founder myth. The first goes back to Varro: Once the temple servant challenged the god Hercules to a game of dice. The price was a meal and a girl. The servant playing alternately for the god and for himself lost the game and the meal was sacrificed to the god. The girl was Acca Larentia. She was left in the temple for the god. And there she dreamt she has had sex with the god and he has promised her that she would get a price from the man she would encounter first. This was the wealthy Etruscian Tarutus who married her. After his death she became his heir and later bequeathed her wealth to the Roman people. In honour and filled with thankfulness the Romans celebrates the Larentalia. This was said to have happened in the time of the king Ancus Marcius.

In the other version Acca Larentia is the wife of Faustulus, the royal herdsman and foster father of the twins Remus and Romulus. because she formerly was a lupa = prostitute. The meaning occurs that a she-wolfe, lupa too, has suckled the twins. After the death of Faustulus Acca married the rich Tarutius and  established later the Roman people or Romulus as her heirs.

It is told too that Acca Larentia has had twelve sons. After the death of one of them she adopted Romulus. These twelve men then have got the name Arvales fratres, the brothers of the meadow. Their sign was a wreath of grain-ears and a white taenia. This could be the connection between this myth and the worshipping of the rural Lares which matches the name and the time of the festival (December 23., followed by the festival of the Lares on December 24.). Acca Larentia seems to be originally identical or at least close related to Dea Dia. She is said too to have the cognomen Fabula by which she became the ancestor of the gens Fabia. 

According to public opinon the Larentalia are a festival of the deads which was celebrated by the Pontifices and the flamen Qirinalis at her tomb near the Velabrum on December 23. On the otherside there was another festival for her in April! The analysis of these myths is very difficult because oral traditions and speculations are nearly unseparable. The she-wolfe of the founder myth is the animal of Mars, the human foster mother certainly secondary and even later the connection to the harlot of the Hercules temple. The equation lupa[/i} = she-wolfe = prostitute is a kind of euhemeristic myth explanation. So the nurse of the twins gets her name. Just these two myths are connected because Hercules often appears as double of Faunus, the god of the Lupercal, whose priests are called luperci. Probably the figure of Larentia originates from the time before the foundation of Rome and belongs to the ambit of the wolfe god Faunus and has a relevance in the Lupercalia, a rural fertily festival. If that is correct the name Larentalia is not derived from Larentia but contrary Larentia from Larentalia. Acca Larentia was seen too - beside Mania - as 'Mater Larum', the mother of the Lares.

Nymphae Querquetulanae:
These nymphs, called Querquetulanae virae too, were the nymphs of the green oak grove inside the city of Rome. Referring to these nymphs the Porta Querqetularia has gotten its name. According to Tacitus the Mons Caelius was called Querquetularia in ancient times. Therefore it is suggested that the grove and the gate has been situated on the southern slope of the Caelius. But the precise site is not known. Probably it was between the Porta Capena and the Porta Caelimontana direct south of the recent church S. Stefano Rotondo. The connection of the three female figures on this late republican coin to the oak nymphs is very questionable. 

Der kleine Pauly
Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon
Andrew Alföldi, Diana Nemorensis, in Am. J. of Arch. Vol.64, No.2 (Apr., 1960), S.137-144
Samuel Ball Platner, A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome, London, Oxford University Press, 1929 (zu finden unter

I have added a pic of the Lake Nemi from AD 1831 and a pic of Turner's painting 'The Golden Bough'

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on June 02, 2007, 02:50:45 pm
Apollo Smintheus and the herdsman Ordes

Dedicated to my friend Lars!

Preliminary note: The name of the herdsman referring to on these coins has been passed down as Ordes, not Orodes as he is named in error in Bellinger!

1st coin:
Troas, Alexandreia, quasi-autonomous, AD 2nd-3rd century
AE 22, 4.5g
       Bust of city-goddess (Tyche), draped and turreted, r.: behind vexillum inscribed CO/AV
rev. [CO or COL] AV TROAC
      The herdsman Ordes, in short dress and wearing boots, advancing l., holding pedum
      over l. shoulder, r. hand raised; r. behind him cattle leaping r., head turned l.; on the l.
      side grotto within laying cult-statue of Apollo Smintheus, above Apollo Smintheus stdg. r. 
ref.: Bellinger A480; BMC 41
rare, about VF, weakness of strike on upper part of rev.

2nd coin:
Troas, Alexandreia, Caracalla, AD 198-217
AE 23, 6.99g
       Head, laureate, r.
rev. CO - L - A - VG TR
      Horse, grazing r., behind herdsman Ordes, holding pedum over shoulder, stg. r., crooked
      forward; on the l. side tree with leafed twigs
ref.: Bellinger A284; BMC 95
about VF

The mythology of these coins have made troubles to me. Mostly Iliad I, 39 is added as a reference. But when you read it nothing is told about the mythology of the depicted scenes! The reason is they play chronologically after the Troyan War and are included in a rather unknown (for us!) local myth. I have found these explanations in an article of Peter Weiss and will follow him here: 

Whereas Homer's Iliad I, 39 describes the famous invocation of the Plague-Apollo Smintheus by his priest Chryses (for further informations look at the article of Apollo Sminthreus in this thread ), the cult legend we are looking for is found in a scholion (A) to Iliad I, 39. In this scholion Polemon of Ilion is cited as source, a perieget living around 200 BC. The passage probably is originated from the Periegesis Iliov (3 volumes) which is attested by the Suda. Under the lemma 'Smintheu' we find the following:

Epitheton of Apollon. Sminthos is the locality in the Troas where a sanctuary of Apollo Smintheus existed by the following reason: In Chryse, a city in Mysia, a certain Krinis was priest of the local Apollon. Angered at his priest (the reason we dont know) Apollo sent a plague of mice to devastate the crops. But later repenting he appeared to Ordes, the chief-herdsman (archiboukolos) of Krinis,  who hospitably received him, and Apollo promised to kill the mice with his arrows. When leaving he commanded to communicate his epiphania to Krinis too. After this has taken place Krinis erected a sanctuary for Apollon and gave him the epitheton Smintheus; because in their native language the mice are called 'sminthoi'. This legend is found at Polemon. 

The depiction of the 1st coin:
On the lower left side we see a grotto within laying the cult-statue of Smintheus and above the god himself is standing r. in the same iconography. Before and greater - in the centre of the depiction - a herdsman is standing, holding a pedum over his shoulder in emotional, obviously frightened attitude, his r. hand raised (a gesture expressing surprise and adoration at once), behind him a cattle, rearing up and frightened escaping r., head turned backwards. (It seems that Krinis the priest was owner of a notable herd of cattle. This is explicable if we suggest that the cattle belonged to the god himself.) Imhoof-Blumer responded to this scene in detail and started the discussion. He cited the Iliad-Scholion, but doubtfully, denying a reference to it. But he already recognized that it was a grotto with a hidden cult-image; additionally he states in a supplement, it may have been recovered sometime later (in historic time). G.F.Hill took this image - inspired by W.Leaf - as origin of a study and connected it with the myth of the herdsman Ordes; Leaf himself joined him in hs monography about Troy: "This enables us to complete the legend; the figure above the cavern is of course Apollo himself appearing to Ordes, and the actual cult-statue of the god as he appeared was afterwards found on the actual spot of his epiphania.". This analysis is accepted and plausible. But in this case two different events have been combined in one depiction: the Epiphany which then - if we don't wont accept two different Epiphanies - is surely identical with the epiphania, the appearence of the god to Ordes at Polemon resp. the Scholion when the god left, and the - subsequent - discovering of the cult-image, probably by the same herdsman (about which in the shortened article from Polemon nothing is found, but about which he probably could have reported; in the Scholion only cursorily is told about the foundation of the cult by the priest Krinis).

The depiction of the 2nd coin:
As is known the herdsman appears another time on coins of the colonia - he is part of one of the most frequent coin pictures of the city. He is added in imperial times often to the old parasemon of the Hellenistic Alexandreia, the grazing horse, which in turn already was emblem of the polis of Neandria, incorporated in a synoikismos with Alexandreia. In imperial times - from Commodus on - this horse often is accompagnied by a herdsman with pedum. Therefore already soon the herdsman was seen in connection to the herdsmen of the other coinage (W.Wroth, in BMC Troas, as well Hill, but without any consequences), but sometimes the connection was denied too with weak arguments. But I think never before the close question has been asked wether by the formation of this group concrete mythological connotations would originate. There are some reasons for this suggestion. First: often a tree is added to the horse and the herdsman. According to the conventions of the picture language of imperial times pretty sure a sacred area should be indicated by this. With it the limits of a mere parasemon are already left. Then a distinctive feature of the herdsman always has been neglected: On several depictions (especially the better ones) he stands crooked forwards, as if he has been pointed by the the horse to something. As we have seen the herdsman seemingly was the main figure in a recovering story in the scope of the cult legend of Apollon Smintheus. Because of that the suggestion is close that the depiction of this coin with herdsman and horse points to a further detail of this recovery legend: Thus the horse - some time after the Epiphany depicted on the other coin - has led the herdsman to the recovery of the cult image, a topos often found in ancient literature. Some depictions suggest that in front of the horse a spring or a creek is hinted. Here too it is at least worth mentioning that Menander Rhetor has described the sacred groof of Apollon Smintheus situated within springs and creeks. The suggestion here put up for discussion matches a centralpoint of G.F.Hill that here an animal was the guide and he dedicated a full chapter to ancient analogies - however he thought of the cattle beside the herdsman in the first covered coin.

If our suggestions are correct this would mean twofold. The belief of the myth of the 'old' first cult image of Smintheus put it on an equal level like the 'fallen from heaven' palladion of Ilion, the most famous city in the Troas. So the archaic cult image of Smintheus in the imagination was not a human but a divine work. A hint in this direction could come from Menander Rhetor in his Sminthiakos, where he - beside some other and a bit vague - recommends when talking about the cult image to say "may be that this cult image is fallen from heaven too (445, 19)". On the other side sometimes in the future the old parasemon of Neandria and then of Alexandreia - which originally and for a long time surely had no connections to the cult legend - would have been amalgated. That means that in later times there was the need to find an aition for the parasemon and to develop  a solution. The two original disparate elements 'horse' and 'herdsman' were easily to be connected as matter of fact; in respect of content the recovery legend seemed obviously to be the closest solution. In the evolution of the cult legende this was in respect to the content and chronologically too the last step. That this occured not until imperial times - long after Polemon and when Alexandreia was already colonia - is by all means possible.

- aition: reason, legend to explain something
- Epiphany: appearance, especially of a god
- parasemon: sign, symbol, f.e. of Greek ships
- pedum: crook, hooked staff of herdsmen
- periegesis: kind of travelogue, the most famous perieget later was Pausanias
- scholion: ancient comment to ancient authors   
- Suda: the largest Byzantine lexicon, c. AD 970
- synoikismos: combining several villages to one polis (city)

(1) Homer, Ilias
(2) Alfred R. Bellinger, Troy the Coins, Princeton University Press 1961 (Reprint 1979
     Sanford J. Durst)
(3) Peter Weiß, Alexandria Troas: Griechische Traditionen und Mythen in einer römischen
     Colonia, in 'Schwertheim, R. - Wiegartz, H.  (Hrsg.), Die Troas - Neue Forschungen zu
     Neandria und Alexandria Troas II, Asia Minor Studien 22, (1996) 157-173'
(4) G.F.Hill, Apollo and St.Michael: Some Analogies, in The Journal of Hellenic Studies,
     vol.36, 1916, pp. 134-162'
(5) CNG Coins
(6) Wikipedia

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Joe Sermarini on June 23, 2007, 07:18:38 am
I think these posts would also be excellent Numiswiki entries.   I started one for Apollo Smintheus. 

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on June 23, 2007, 03:36:11 pm
I think some articles should be revised for a better English style!

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on June 23, 2007, 04:23:13 pm
Hera Lakinia

Magna Graecia, Bruttium, Brettii, AD 214/213-211
Ar - Drachm, 21mm, 4.39g
      struck during Hannibal's campaign in southern Italy after the Battle of Cannae
obv. Bust of Hera Lakinia, veiled and wearing polos, scepte over l. shoulder, r.: behind a fly
rev. Zeus, nude, stg. l., r. foot set on Ionic capitel, holding sceptre in l. hand; in front of him
      eagle flying l., holding wreath in talons
      in r. field BRETTIWN from top to bottom
Ref.: SNG ANS 26; HN Italy 1970; Scheu 84; Arslan dies 28/33
SS, very attractive style, dark toning

It's interesting that the identity of both depicted deities is discussed controversially. The preference for Hera Lakinia on the obv. is resting on the fact that there was a famous temple in honour of Hera and the local mint. The deity on the rev. because of his attitude reminds of the classic iconography of Poseidon but the eagle in front of him allows only the interpretation as Zeus.

Lakinia is a surname of Hera under which she was worshipped in the neighbourhood of Croton where she has a rich and famous sanctuary. ut he adoration was widely spread over Magna Graecia. About the origin of her name there were some different opinions. Some suggest that Lacinius was a bandit who was up to his mischief near Tarent. When he has stolen Hercules some of Geryon's cattle Hercules slew the thief. At the locality where he has killed Lacinius Hercules built the temple of Juno Lacinia (Strab. VI, 261 & 281; Liv. XXIV, 3).
Or the name is derived from the Lacinian promontory on the eastern coast of Bruttium, west of the mouth of the Tarentian gulf (today Cape Nao), which Thetis was said to have given to Juno as a present (Serv. ad Aen. iii. 552.).
Or it is said too that Lacinius was a king which has ruled at the Lacinian promontory. When Herakles drove his cattle on the way to Greece nearby he was put to flight by Lacinius because he built a temple to honour Hera by whose view Herakles removed in disgust. Six miles away Herakles killed accidentally a certain Kroton whom he buried with great honour. And he predicted that in future times a city will be raised at this spot which bears his name (Diodor. Sic. IV, 24; Ovid Metam. XV, 12ff.).
This temple in historical times was the yearly meeting place of all Greeks from southern Italy (Magna Graecia). Derived from the ruins of this temple and the rest of the columns this promontory in the Middle Ages was callede 'Capo delle Colonne'.

The Romans, despite their hatred for the Carthaginians, identified Tanit with their Juno, an aspect of their Great Goddess as Mother and Patroness of Childbirth, a Light-Goddess who brings forth children into the day. As Tanit was also a Goddess of the Sky, the Romans named her Dea Caelestis, "the Heavenly Goddess", or Virgo Caelestis, "the Heavenly Virgin". On coins of the 4th and 3rd centuries BCE she is occasionally depicted riding a lion and holding a lance; generally she is shown in portrait form wearing a diadem or crown, with wheat sheaves bound in her hair as a wreath, the crescent moon behind.

Referring to a Roman legend, Hannibal, the great general of Carthage, once raided the temple of Juno Lacinia. This temple was richly decorated and famous for having a column of solid gold; Hannibal, to test the story, drilled into the column. Finding that it was indeed solid, he decided he would take it as plunder. That night, however, he dreamt that the Goddess warned him not to despoil her temple, telling him that she'd destroy his remaining eye if he did. There Hannibal in Juno Lacinia recognized his own hometown Goddess, Tanit, so left the column unmolested in the temple. From the filings of the column he had a golden cow cast, which was then placed on the top of the column.

It deserves to be noticed that Hannibal dedicated in the temple of Juno Lacinia a bilingual inscription (in Punic and Greek), which recorded the history of his campaigns, and of which Polybius made use in writing the history of the Hannibalian war. (Polyb. iii. 33; comp. Liv. xxviii. 46.)

Another story deals with Zeuxis, the famous Greek painter, scholar of Apollodoros of Athens, 435-390 BC. He has invented the so-called illusion painting, a kind of painting, which was so naturalistic, that the birds came flying to pick at the painted vine-grapes (Plin. Nat. 35, 64). The inhabitants of Kroton, todays Crotone in southern Italy, decided to decorate the temple of Hera Lakinia with paintings of special value. They spent much money to entrust the most famous painter of their time, Zeuxis of Herakleia, to do the work. He chose to paint an image of Helena - the acme of female beauty. For that the Krotoniati should show him their most beautiful maidens from whose he chose the five loveliest. He was convinced that it was impossible to find all features - he needs to show beauty - in only one wife, because nature never creates an individial being so that it is ideal in all of its parts (Cicero, De Invenzione II, 1).

The Bruttii were an Italic people of Lucanian origin, living at the 'Italian Boot' in poorness and harshness as herdsmen and charburner and by robbery. It is said that they came from Brettos, son of Hercules and Baletia, daughter of the son of Baletus, from which the city of Brettium should have its name. The Bruttii several times fought succesfully for their freedom and together with Pyrrhos they stood against the Romans who 278-272 BC triumphed six times over the Bettii and took large territories from them. 216 BC they seceded to Hannibal, hoping to get their freedom back by his victory and becoming his last refuge finally (Liv. 28, 12, 6). By the victorious Romans they were punished very severely. After a newly revolt they were subdued definitely by building military roads, colonias and extensive slavery. The Romans neither treated them ever as allies nor took them as soldiers.

Sadly the temple of Hera Lacinia was destroyed and the only remnant is a column which is shown on the added pic (Thanks for the correction to Dapsul!).

Der kleine Pauly
Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon
Ovid, Metamorphosen

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Joe Sermarini on June 23, 2007, 04:33:46 pm
I think some articles should be revised for a better English style!

Best regards

Numiswiki is a wiki, so someone will almost certainly revise it. 

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on July 02, 2007, 03:36:11 pm

The next contributions refer to Egyptian mythology!

Egypt, Alexandria, Hadrian, AD 117-138
AE - drachm, 35.3g, 20.22g
       Alexandria, AD 117/8 (year 2)
      Bust, draped, laureate, r.
rev. Euthenia, clad in garment of Isis (in chiton and peplos with the typical knot before her breast), wearing crown of Isis (sun disk between horns), leaning l., resting l. arm on small sphinx, laying r., and holding in raised r. hand grain-ears, poppies and lotus-flower(?).
in field LB (= year 2)
Ref. Milne 844; BMC -
VF, brown patina
From Forum Ancient Coins, thanks!

The portrait of Hadrian is a bit unusual and reminds of Caligula. It seems that it needed some time until the Alexandrians got the right portrait!

The typical knot at the breast is the so-called Knot of Isis, the Tit-Knot. This knot originally was a special knottet girdle tie und has relations to the religious sign of Ankh. The Ankh Cross was suggested in ancient Egypt as symbol of welfare and life. The Knot of Isis looks like an Ankh Cross with depending wings.

The dominant triad of Egyptian gods, during the Roman period, was composed of Sarapis, Isis and Harpokrates. Nilus and Euthenia seem to have been  next in importance to the great triad, so far as Alexandria and the coinage are concerned. Euthenia was a very late addition to the Egyptian pantheon. Originally the personification of 'abundance' and 'plenty', and represented on the regular coins of Rome as Abundantia, she became the consort of Nilus, during Ptolemaic times, and acquired the status of an important goddess. She was often assimilated  to Isis. Euthenia makes her first appearance on Alexandrian coins during the age of Augustus and seems to relate to the importance of Egypt as a supplier of grain to Rome (a trade that was important to both parties).

Referring to the Greek mythology Euthenia seems to be one of a group of younger Graces. The others are her sisters Eukleia (reputation), Eupheme (acclaim) and Philosophryne (welcome). Her parents are said to be Hephaistos and Aglaia (Orph. rhapsod. fragm.)
The Egyptian Euthenia is often equated with the Roman Abundantia. Both were responsible for the grain supply. But there are differences too. Whereas Euthenia was seen as goddess Abundatia was a pure personification. So she had no own temples. And as an abstract idea she has no own mythology!


Severus Alexander, AD 222-235
AR - denarius, 19.6mm, 3.22g
        Rome, edition 10, AD 229
       Bust, draped, laureate, r.
       Abundantia, richly draped, stg. facing, head r., holding cornucopiae with both hand and
       emptying a lot of coins.
ref.: RIC V/2, 184(c); C.1; BMC 591
nice EF (revers!)
Occasion: Perhaps the rev. refers to money gifts which the emperor gave to his soldiers before he went to the East to fight against the Parthians. Under their new dynasty of Sassanides the Parthians have begun to invade Asia.

The added pic shows a marble statue representing Euthenia. Reclining on her left side, she is shown wearing the garment of Isis. Her arm rests on a crouching sphinx, the symbol of Egypt. She holds in her left hand a vessel for holy water and is surrounded by eight children, representing half the number of measuring units (cubits) of Nile flood height required for a bountiful harvest which is sixteen cubits. It is from the time of Hadrian, AD 120-140, and is found in the Greco-Roman Museum in Alexandria.

I have acquired the coin with Euthenia because of the nice small sphinx on which she is resting. Therefore some words about the sphinx.

The Egyptian Sphinx:

Although we usually relate the term sphinx to mean the Great Sphinx of the Giza Plateau in Egypt, there were numerous sphinxes of various type in ancient Egypt (as well as elsewhere in the ancient world). The Great Sphinx guards the Great Pyramid of Giza, and was re-discovered during the reign of Napolean, during his Egyptian campaign. It has been nearly completely covered by the desert sand. The head of the Great Sphinx is believed to be modeled after the pharaoh Khepfre (Cheops), the body is that of a lion, and it is believed to have been carved about 2500 BC, during the time of the building of the Great Pyramid.

There are three types of sphinx:
(1) The androsphinx, the typical lion with a human face/head
(2) The criosphinx, a ram-headed lion
(3) The hierocosphonx has the body of a lion and the head of a hawk.
Rarely was the Egyptian sphinx portrayed as a female. When it was, it symbolized Isis and/or the reigning queen. In Egypt the intellectual faculties ennobled the bestial traits present in the physical makeup of this creature. But, in early Greek mythology, the bestial nature warped the mind and spirit of this being and it was portrayed as an unhappy monster, a symbol of the 'terrible mother'; the monster of death bringing extreme bad luck and the perversion of the intellect, womanhood, and power.
The Greek sphinx had the bust and head of a lady, the wings of an eagle, the body and legs of a lioness, and the tail of a snake or dragon. Sometimes it was portrayed with the body of a bull and the legs of a lion. Like many other fabulous beasts, the Greek sphinx was thought to live in the Ethiopian mountains.

The Sphinx is a legendary creature made up of both human and animal parts. This figure originated in Egypt and then spread, with many modifications, throughout the ancient world. Its name comes from Egyptian ssp-'ng, meaning 'living image' (not from Greek 'sphingo = to strangle', which is often found too). According to this she is the image by which the Egyptians wanted to express the nature of their ruler.

The Egyptian androsphinx guarded pyramids, tombs, and sacred highways.
The Phoenicians and Syrians linked the sphinx to the guardian spirit lamassu
and made it a symbol of rulership and the guardian of temples and palaces.

The Egyptian androsphinx is a symbol of abundance, power, wisdom, mysteries, riddles, truth, unity, and secrets. Sometimes a pair of sphinx was pictured with the tree of Life as a symbol of fertility and conception. As a solar symbol, the sphinx is often associated with the sun god Ra; Horus in the Horizon; and Harmakhis, the Lord of the Two Horizons, who represents the rising and setting sun, rebirth, and resurrection.

Androsphinx usually bear the face of the pharaoh who ordered their construction and symbolize the divine power and wisdom he used to rule and protect his people.
Since its form combines human and animal parts into one body, the sphinx usually symbolizes the union of mind and body or intellectual, spiritual, and physical strengths with varying results. It is also, when composed of four animals including a human, a symbol of the four elements - earth, wind, fire, and water. The Druids counted a many-breasted sphinx among their fertility and maternal symbols.

As the Lord of the Two Horizons, the androsphinx's dual nature came to reflect the dual nature of Christ who was both human and divine. Like many other solar symbols, the androsphinx was placed in or near early Christian graves as a representation of the divine Light of the World.

Sphinx composed of a man's head and chest, eagle's wings, a bull's hindquarters, and a lions' forequarters became symbols of the Biblical tetramorph and the four living creatures of Revelation. [Ezek 1:5-14; Rev. 4:6-8] These in turn represent the cherubim; the four Evangelists and their Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; the four kings of the created world - the lion (king of the jungle), the eagle (king of the air), the bull (king of the farm), and man (king of creation); and, according to St. Jerome, Christ's Incarnation (the man), His Passion (the bull), His Resurrection (the Lion), and His Ascension (the eagle).

I have added the pic of the Androsphingen of the Avenue of Sphinges of the temple of Luxor (Arnold, D., Lexikon der ägyptischen Baukunst, Düsseldorf 1994).

Der kleie Pauly

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on July 02, 2007, 03:42:00 pm
The river Nile

Here is the next contribution to the theme Roman-Egyptian mythology. The cause for this article was the following coin, especially the meaning of the IS on the upper field of its reverse which has fascinated me.

The coin

Egypt, Alexandria, Hadrian, AD 117-138
AE - drachm, 35.4mm, 26.43g
Alexandria, 129/30 (year 12)
Bust, draped and cuirassed, seen from behind, laureate, r.
rev. Rivergod Nilus, bearded and laureate, nude to hips, leaning l., holding cornucopiae in outstretched r. hand and reed in l. arm, resting with l. arm on small hippopotamus, stg. r.,
in ex. LDWDEK (= year 12)
in upper field LS
Milne 1267; Dattari 1805; Köln 993; Emmet 1015
about VF, blue-green patina

IS = 16 (cubits), means the optimal level of the flood of the Nile. The S should be read as 'digamma', not as 'stigma'! The cubit was the unit length measured from ellbow to the tip of the middle finger. It ranged from 45 to 53cm. But the so-called Egyptian Royal Cubit (meh nesut) was always 52.3cm (with a deviation of only under 5mm over the times!). 


The dominating trias of Egyptian gods during Roman times was made of Serapis, Isis and Harpokrates. The next important deities seemed to be Nilus and Euthenia, at least insofar the coinage of Alexandria is considered. Nilus was the rivergod of the river Nile which is the source of all life in Egypt as we all know. Although he was regarded in Pharaonian times under the name 'hapi' only as a minor deity he achieved big importance in Roman times in Alexandria. The die cutters seemed to be very free in the depiction of this god and took obviously much pleasure in developing an endless series of types and varieties. He was often assimilated with Osiris and he in turn with Serapis.

Although Nilus represents the important river Nilus, in Greek mythology he didn't play a big role. Referring to Hesiod (Theog. 338) he was son of Okeanos and Thetis. He had several children, f.e. Memphis, mother of Libya, who then became mother of the Egyptian Belos and of Agenor. Other children were Chione, Anippe, Kaliadne and Polyxo.

The fertility of the narrow strip of country in the Nile valley depends upon the River Nile, which overflows its banks every year and brings down fresh soil from the hills. The river is at its lowest between April and June, the period of winter. Fed by the melting snows on the Abyssinian hills, and by the equatorial lakes, which are flooded during the rainy season, the gradual rise of the river becomes perceptible about the middle of June. The waters first assume a reddish tint on account of the clay which they carry. For a short period they then become greenish and unwholesome. Ere that change took place the Ancient Egyptians were wont to store up water for domestic use in large jars. By the beginning of August the Nile runs high. It was then that the canals were opened in ancient days, so that the waters might fertilize the fields. As the Nile rose the peasants were careful to remove the flocks and herds from the lowlands; and when a sudden irruption of the water, owing to the bursting. of a dike, or an unexpected and unusual increase of the river, overflowed the fields and pastures, they were seen hurrying to the spot, on foot or in boats, to rescue the animals and to remove them to the high grounds above the reach of the inundation. . . . And though some suppose the inundation does not now attain the same height as of old, those who have lived in the country have frequently seen the villages of the Delta standing, as Herodotus describes them, like islands in the Aegean Sea, with the same scenes of rescuing the cattle from the water. According to Pliny, a proper inundation is of 16 cubits. He writes "When the waters rise to only twelve cubits, the country experiences the horrors of famine; when it attains thirteen, hunger is still the result; a rise of fourteen cubits is productive of gladness; a rise of fifteen sets all anxieties at rest; while an increase of sixteen is productive of unbounded transports of joy. The greatest increase eighteen cubits; the smallest rise was that of five." (Translation by Bostock, thanks to Curtis Clay!)

When the river rose very high in the days of the Pharaohs, the lives and property of the inhabitants were endangered; in some villages the houses collapsed. Hence the legend that Ra sought to destroy his enemies among mankind.

The inundation is at its height by the end of September, and continues stationary for about a month. Not until the end of September does the river resume normal proportions. November is the month for sowing; the harvest is reaped in Upper Egypt by March and in Lower Egypt by April. It was believed by the ancient farmers that the flood was caused by the tears of Isis which she wept about Osiris. When Sirius rose before dawn about the middle of July it was identified with the goddess. In the sun-cult legend this star is Hathor, "the eye of Ra", who comes to slaughter mankind. There are evidences that human sacrifices were offered to the sun god at this period.

By Homer the Nile was called - like the old capital city Memphis  and the entire land - Aigyptos. The Egyptians worshipped him as bringer of fertility, so at Silsile in Upper-Egypt and especially in Babylon, the recent Old-Kairo. Here the Under-Egyptian Nile sources were assumed whereas the Upper-Egyptian sources were sought in Elephantine (Herodot 2, 28; between the rocks Krwphi and Mwri). The inundation was measured at the southern point of the island of Rhoda near Kairo. The height of the Nile inundation is partially maintained in the so-called Stone of Annals, where 4 cubits were the normal height. In Hellenistic times the normal height was 16 cubits. But this shouldn't be seen as an increase of the flood but rather as an alteration of the used gauge.

After all the sources of the Nile were unkown to the Ancients. I remind you on the famous Four-River-Fountain of Bernini on the Piazza Navona in Rome. Here the Nile veils his head because of his unknown origin (though there is the bon-mot that the actual reason is that he doesn't want to see the church Sant'Agnese in Agone of Borromini!). Ovid (Metam. 2.254) reports the following: "When Phaethon riding the chariot of the sun scorched the earth: Nilus in terror to the world’s end fled and his head, still hidden; this seven mouths gaped dusty, seven vales without a stream.". The real  sources of the river Nile were discovered not until the end of the 19. century. The exciting story of this discovery - especially the quarrel between Burton (to whom we owe the Tales of 1001 Nights!) and his rival Speke - you can find in the web.

The Hippopotamus:

Some words about the hippotamus, Hippopotamus amphibius L. It was known by the Ancients particularly from the river Nile (hence the name!), but from Palestine too. In rivers from West-Africa (Senegal?, Gambia?) the smaller species Hippopotamus liberiensis Mort. was known. That the hippo was found in the Indus too was stated by Onesikritos but denied by Strabo 14, 706, and not suggested by Pausanias 4, 34, 3. Already in later ancient times the hippo was nearly exstirpated in Egypt and never became homelike again. It was exported to Rome for animal fights (especially against crocodiles) and later this exotic behemoth was found in imperial bestiariums.

History of art:
I have added the pic of the famous Nile statue in the Vatican (Photography of 1892 from my collection). The Vatican Nile, itself a copy of a Hellenistic statue, probably Alexandrian in origin, was discovered in the early sixteenth century in excavations of the shrine to Isis and Serapis near Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome. Pliny the Elder mentions a similar sculpture in ancient Egypt in his Natural History (36.58), explaining that the babies surrounding the river god represent the ideal height of sixteen cubits to which the Nile river rose annually, thereby assuring abundant fertility in Lower Egypt. The sixteenth, the most important of all, is just emerging from the cornucopiae. Unfortunately the statue is much restored in the Renaissance.
Der kleine Pauly
Wilkinson, Ancient Egypt

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on July 08, 2007, 11:05:11 am
Agathodaimon and Uraeus

This should be the last article of the short excursion in the Greek-Egyptian mythology.

The coin:
Egypt, Alexandria, Hadrian, AD 117-138
AE33, drachm, 22.10g
Alexandria, AD 133/134 (year 18)
        Bust, draped and cuirassed, laureate, r.
rev. Agathodaimon, bearded, erected r., and Uraeus-Snake, erected l., confronted;
       Agathodaimon wearing shkent (double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt) and
       holding kerykeion with his tail; Uraeus-Snake wearing crown of Isis (sundisk
       between horns) and holding sistrum.
       across field L  IH (year 18)
Ref.: Dattari 7901
Very rare,  VF

Agathodaimon, lat. Agathodaemon, was in Greek mythology the 'good spirit' of grain fileds and vineyards. Usually the Greeks drank a cup of pure wine in his honour at the end of each meal (according to Aristophanes, Equites, 106). He was also regarded as the protecting spirit of the state and of individuals. He was often accompanied by 'Ayaq Tim (good fortune)', and in this aspect may be compared with the Roman Bonus Eventus (Pliny, Nat Hist. xxxvi. 23), and Genius. He is represented in works of art in the form of a serpent, or of a young man with a cornucopia and a bowl in one hand, and a poppy and ears of grain in the other.
Agathodaimon should not be confused with the many snakes of the Thracian snake-cults or the snake-god Glykon of the false prophet Alexander of Abounoteichos.

According to the story of Re, the first uraeus was created by the goddess Isis who formed it from the dust of the earth and the spittle of the sun-god. The uraeus was the instrument with which Isis gained the throne of Egypt for her husband Osiris.
The uraeus was a symbol for various things from early times including: the sun, Lower Egypt, the king and a number of deities.
As the sacred creature of the Delta city of Bto, the reptile was known by the same name. She soon became an emblem of all of Lower Egypt. The uraeus was often depicted with the vulture Nekhebet who served the same function for Upper Egypt. Together they symbolized the unification of the two lands. The creatures also appear together in the pharaoh's nebty or "Two Ladies" name.

The cobra was also called the "fiery eye" of Re and two uraei were sometimes depicted on either side of the solar disk. A gilded wooded cobra called netjer-ankh ("living god") was found in the tomb of Tutankhamon. It is representative of the cobra's associations with the afterlife. In funerary works, the cobra is often depicted spitting fire. Two cobras doing just that were said to guard the gates of every "hour" of the underworld. During the Late Period, uraei were also shown towing the barque of the sun in funerary papyri. In all of these examples, the cobra's protective nature is clearly demonstrated. The cobra was also representative of various deities such as Neith, Ma'at and Re.

About the meaning of this coin:
The coins of Alexandria differ strongly from the coins for the other part of Egypt, the so-called Nome coins, even though they all were struck in Alexandria. Whereas the Nome coins show the many different gods  and snake-deities of Egypt, the coins of Alexandria are always 'Greek'. So the Greek god were assimilated with Egyptian gods and the Egyptian gods were subject of a syncretism. The names of these new gods were always Greek, f.e. Hermanubis, Harpokrates  or Sarapis, never Egyptian. It should be mentioned that the assimilation regularly is founded on only one aspect of the two deities, f.e. for Anubis and Hermes only the fact that they accompany the deads. Their other, very different features were neglected.
The snake on the right side of the coin has been called Uraeus by all catalogers of Alexandrian coins and that name is not incorrect. The snake with its expanded hood doubtless resembles a n erected cobra. It is not, however, to be confused with the early known royal cobra, Edjo (also known as Buto). Edjo was a symbol associated with the pharaohs of Lower Egypt. When shown together with Nehkbet, the vulture-headed god of Upper Egypt, the symbol was called Uraeus by the Greekand was symbol of the dominion over all of Egypt.

What's the meaning of the cobra on this coin? In Roman times Isis, through the process of syncretism, had become an universal god and merged with the Syrian Astarte, Hathoe and Bastet, the cat goddess. Nut and Sothis too were merged with her and the new goddess emerged with the name Isis-othis. At the same time, Renenutet, sometimes called Thermuthis, the Egyptian goddess of fertility and harvest was personified as a cobra too. She was the mother of Nepri, the personification of wheat, who in turn was equated with Osiris, the wheat god. The parallelism between Thermuthis and her son Nepri, and Isis and her son horus, led to their ultimate union in the form of a cobra, who was worshipped by the name Isermuthis.

Bewildering as all this might sound, it is important to realize that Isermuthis, in her cobra form with the attribtes of disk, horns and sistrum, is still Isis but with her specific role as fertility goddess of agriculture being singled out and empasized.

At the time this coin was struck in Egypt the great triad of the Graeco-Egyptian gods was represented by Sarapis, Harpokrates and Isis. Could the snake on the right side of the coin be Sarapis? Usually it is designated as Agathodaimon. It is a very ancient chthonic deity and in early times largely worshipped in the old Greek cities as a househld god. But in Alexandria, almost from the date of the city's foundation, it had been elevated to the role of protector and provider for the entire city and later for all the country since it wears the shkent, the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt. It was also a fertility god  and a healing spirit, particularly when associated with Asklepios. The snake entwined staff, the kerykeion (lat. caduceus), held in the coils of the Agathodaimon had in the Roman era become a symbol of plenty, particularly in dealings with grain. 

Very early in the Ptolomaic era, the Agathodaimon had to share its role as patron god of Alexandria with a new god  - the great Sarapis. According to Tacitus (Hist. IV 83-84) Sarapis was most likely introduced into Egypt by Ptolemy I, Soter. This god was the result of a kind of syncretism between the spirit of all the deified Apis bulls with Osiris, the grain god. So Serapis too was a god of fertility and grain and is depicted always with a kalathos on his head. Because of this Serapis and Osiris were interchangeable. The oneness of these two deities is illustrated by a coin of Antoninus Pius, showing Agathodaimon with the head of Sarapis (BMC 1103)

So this coin again shows symbolic the overwhelming importance of Egypt for the grain supply of  Rome. Wether this symbolic and rather indirect message has been understood by the people we naturally don't know. But on the other side it is likely that the individual in ancient times knew far more of the gods he or she lived by than the average citizen today.

So this specimen is a beautiful example for the melting of Greek and Egyptian religion on a Roman coin!

Source: L.E. Beauchaine, Graeco-Egyptian religion and Roman Policy on a Coin of Alexandria, Journal of the Society for Ancient Numismatics (SAN), vol.xviii, pp.4-7

The Greek word Ouraios (Uraeus) seems to go back to an Egyptian word iaret, meaning 'who is erecting'. The Uraeus was the snake on the forehead worn by the king on a diadem and from the Middle Empire on at his crown, showing a rearing cobra with billowing neck. An Egyptologist wants to attribute the snake worn as emblem at the head to a curl worn by ancient Libyan tribes on their forehead. Others regard the snake as symbol animal of the pre-historic empire of Buto, whose goddess Uto seated in the shape of an uraeus on the vertex of the king. The uraeus generally is the symbol of royalism and divinity and therefore it is worn too by the king gods Horus and Seth. Because of spitting glow which averts all evil the uraeus is called the fiery eye of the sun-god Re. By equating with the sun-eye Hathor could be invoked as Uraeus-Snake, so f.e. in inscriptions on coffins. Tefnut in her special function as fire goddess (named Upes) wears an uraeus on her head.

I have added a beautiful pic of an uraeus wearing the double crown (shkent).

(will be continued)

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on July 28, 2007, 08:41:13 am

In the end I want to tell a bit about the Egyptian crowns. Probably this will not be new to all dealing with ancient Egypt, but I hope for some members it could be helpful nevertheless.

The crowns of ancient Egypt:
Generally this subject is very confusing because the number of different crowns is so large. There was a real crown cult in Egypt and the crowns themself were regarded as deities. The White Crown was Upper Egypt and the Red Crown was Lower Egypt. Therefore I could give only a short overview.

[1] The crowns of the Egyptian kings:
- The Red Crown of Lower Egypt, deshret, originally was the crown of the goddess Neith, the patron goddess of Sais in Lower Egypt. It is not known yet what the long thin line stands for.

- The White Crown of Upper Egypt, hedjet, was worn by the rulers of Upper Egypt before the unificaton of Egypt. It had a special relation to the goess Nekhbet. The shape was like a mitra, our bishop's hat.

- The Double Crown, pshent or shkent, a combination of the Red Crown with the White Crown. It was called by the Egyptians sechemty or psechemty, meaning such as 'the both mighty'. Egypt was unified c.3200 BC by king Menes. From that time on the Egyptian kings were wearing this Double Crown.
- The Blue Crown, khepresh, was a war crown and a kind of helmet. We see it on Ramses II in the battle of Kadesh against the Hetits.

- The Atef was the crown of Osiris. It looks like the White Crown (hedjet) with a red feather on each side. It was the symbol of Busitis, the cult place of Osiris in the Nile delta and it seems to be the expression of a unity of parts of Lower and Upper Egypt already before the unification of Egypt by Menes. It was worn during cult ceremonies.

- The Hemhem Crown or Composite Crown (hemhemet = war shouting) was an elaborate form of the Atef crown, called Triple Atef Crown too. It was composed of three Atef Crowns with an Uraeus on each side. It was the symbol of the power of the Egyptian kings and was worn only by special ceremonies.

- The feather crown, anedtj, was a cult crown and usually worn only at cult ceremonies. It was made of a sun-disk between two ostrich feathers.

- The Nemes actually was no crown but a head cloth, worn by the kings. We know it from the famous bust of Tutankhamun.

[2] Of the crowns of the Egyptian deities and queens only these two:
- The crown of Hathor, the sun-disk between two horns of a cow. This was the crown of the goddess Hathor.

- The crown of Isis. It originally was a throne, because the throne was the hieroglyph for Isis, Egyptian = seat, throne. Later when Isis was assimilated with Hathor she took over the crown of Hathor, the sun-disk between the horns.

I have added the following three pics:
- Kronen #1 shows from l. to r.
the Red Crown (deshrent), the White Crown (hedjet) and the Double Crown (shkent)
- Kronen #2 shows from l. to r.
the Blue crown (khepresh), the Atef crown, the Hemhem crown (l.) and the Feather Crown (anedtj) (r.)
- Kronen #3 shows from l. to r.
the Nemes head cloth, the Hathor crown and the old Isis crown.
- L.E. Beauchaine, Graeco-Egyptian Religion and Roman Policy on a Coin of Alexandria, Journal of the Society for Ancient Numismatics (SAN), vol.xviii, pp.4-7
- nW.R.Cooper, The Serpent Myths of Ancient Egypt, 1878?
- Manfred Lurker: Lexikon der Götter und Symbole der alten Ägypter
- (Zoology of the Uraeus-Snake)

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on July 28, 2007, 08:43:12 am
Zeus Olbios and the Priest-Kingdom of Olba

Quite a long time I was interested in the names Aias and Teukros on the coins of Olba. Now I went further in this matter and here are the results of my investigation!

The coin:
Cilicia, Olba, quasi-autonomous, 11-12 BC
AE 16, 4.52g
struck under Aias, son of Teukros, archiereus and toparch of Kennatis and Lalassis (year 2)
       in dotted circle
rev. Thunderbolt
      above ARXIER / AIANTOS
      beneath TEVKROV
SNG BN Paris 807; RPC 3729; Staffierie, Olba 15, 14
Ver rare, about EF, glossy dark-green patina
ex auction F. Sternberg Zürich XXV, 1991, lot 160
ex auction M&M XVII, 2005, lot 965
Expansion of the legends:
[1] TOPARXOV KENNATWN KAI LALASSEWN ETOVS B, (on order) of the toparch of the people of Kennatis and Lalassis, year 2
[2] ARXIEREWS AIANTOS TEVKROV,  (on order) of the archiereus Ajas, son of Teukros
[3] The thunderbolt is the symbol for Zeus Olbios, the Olbian main god.

I have added the pic of another coin (RPC 3725) from CoinArchives. It shows the Priestking Aias as Hermes wearing a cap. The rev. shows the sign of the Teukri, the triskeles.

North of Silifke in the so-called Rough Cilicia, near the village of Uzuncabur, we find the old cult-place Olba with the temple of Zeus Olbios. This temple of Zeus was the center of power of the priest dynasty of the Teukri. Their symbol was the triskeles. The priest dynasty of the Olbian temple state has controlled an area which was circumscribed by the rivers Kalykadnos and Lamos. The center of their power was the Zeus Olbios sanctuary built by Seleukos I Nikator, the founder of the Seleukid Empire around 300 BC. In Hellenistic times (3rd - 1st century BC) it had been extended monumentally to become one of the biggest sanctuaries in Asia Minor. This temple and a huge army tower with a height of more than 20 m and a elaborately decorated tomb tower demonstrate the connection of religious and political power.

About 45 BC Olba's Priest Kingdom had been weakened and Tyrants began capturing the country. At this time, one of the King's relative's, Zenophanes, cooperated with the Tyrants and seized the whole country. The Roman Administration preferred to control Olba with the help of a local priest king instead of a garrison, because of the unsuitable physical features of the region. When Zenophanes came to power, Rome started to lose control. Octavianus, Antonius and Lepidus established the Triumvirate Empire in Rome and shared the management. Antonius had the east lands. Octavianus and Antonius travelled to straighten out the east and killed Zenophanes and gained control over the priest kings again.
Zenophanes's daughter, Aba, married the Priest King, and joined the Olba Kingdom family. The king died from the plague and the administration passed to their mother Aba as her sons were too young to come to power. There was a disagreement between Lepidus and Octavianus in 33 BC, as a result of this Lepidus accepted the superiority of Octavianus, and retreated from Triumvirate. So Octavianus and Antonius became secret rivals in order to dominate Rome. During Antonius's journey to Persia he fell in love with Cleopatra, so his relationship with Rome got worse. However, Cleopatra wanted to regain the old lands and own Ptolemaios's splendor. She succeeded in benefiting from Antonius's passion for her, and beat Rome with the help of the Romans. Antonius married Cleopatra and gave some land to her.
Cleopatra owned the Olba Kingdom, which had many cedar trees used to make ships.
Triumvirate ended formally in 32 BC by Octavianus, after Antonius gave the land to Cleopatra, and Octavianus went to war against them.
Cleopatra donated the Olba to Aba because of her help. Aba was killed, but the Olba Kingdom continued up until 20 BC by her occupants. After this date Rome took responsibility of the administration of the area.

The Olbian Priest dynasty which could be proud for good relations to Augustus didn't succeed in outlasting the fundamental changes in the course of the Roman engagement in Asia Minor. At least  when the province Cilicia was established (1st century AD) the Priest reign changed to an urban administration. This fundamental change took place probably under Vespasian when he founded Diocaisarea which soon incorporated the temple. With it the sanctuary no more was the indisputable center of the whole region but primarly only an usual city sanctuary. 

The Priestkings of Olba ascribed their dynasty to Teukros, heroe of the Troyan War (Strabo 14, 5, 10). The Hellenistic inscriptions show a big number of theophoric names of typical Luwian origin. Especially frequent are names with the component 'tarki', 'tarko-', 'tarky-' and 'troko-'. These names refer to the Luwian weather god Tarhu(nt), the main god of the Luwian pantheon. Naturally Tarhu(nt) in Hellenistic times was equated with Zeus. Significantly under the names of the Zeus priests of Olba besides Teukros, Zenas and Zenophanes (these too theophoric names related to Zeus) Takyaris occurs too. So the assumption is close that the cult of Zeus Olbios was  a Hellenized Tarhu(nt) cult (Trampedach).

But what is the origin of the claimed ancestry from Teukros? The problem is that there are two different groups of myths containing Teukros and both are not compatible:
[1] The Teukros of the Apollo Smintheus myth of Troas
[2] The Teukros of the Troyan War of Homer

The Apollo Smintheus cult is said to be founded by Cretian Teukri near the Troyan Chryse when they settled there. So the identity of the names of the two mountains of Ida could be explained. Over the years the Troyans developed from the Teukri (Aischylos, Agamemnon 112). This Teukros then - as father of Tros - became the ancestor of the Troyan kings. To strengthen the connection with Troas he got as parents Skamandros and a Troic mountain nymph.

Teukros too occurs in Vergil's Aeneis. Dido told Aeneas about Teukros who came as refugee to her father Belus who ruled in Sidon. He gave him the reign over Cyprus. Teukros claimed that he was related to the Troyan king dynasty by his mother Hesione, daughter of Laomedon, who had to follow Telamon as prisoner of war to Salamis. Vergil here skilfully connects both Teukros epics but doesn't mix up the genealogies.

At Homer Teukros was the son of Telamon and half brother of Aias the Great. About the genealogic origin Homer reports nothing. This reconstruction is from Prinz: "Zeus created Aiakos with Aigina. Aiakos married Endeis and created with her Peleus and Telamon. They killed their half brother Phokos. After that murder Peleus and Telamon had to flee from Aigina because of the anger of Aiakos. Peleus came to Phthia and Telamon to Salamis." This genealogy leads from Teukros over Telamon and Aiakos to Zeus himself and got 'quasi canonic character'. This genealogy f.i. was adopted by Pindar (4th Nemean Ode).

But how Teukros came to Cyprus? In Aischylos' 'The Persians' the chorus - describing the Persian Empire - lists the cities of Cyprus. And here appears - beside Paphos and Soloi - Salamis too! And now we have the missing link between Teukros and Cyprus. Teukros founded a city on Cyprus and named it Salamis referring to his hometown. Details could be found at Sophokles (Aias 1008-1021) and Euripides (Helena 87-104, 143-150). This founder myth was known already in the first third of the 5th century BC. But Athens too was interested in a myth which could legitimate its military intervention on Cyprus. For that purpose Athens had first mythologically to take in Salamis. This was done - according to Plutarch - by an arbitration between Spartians and Athenians by which Salamis was granted to Athens. A main argument of Solon, the leader of the Athenian delegation, was the hint that Salamis once was dedicated to Athens by the sons of Aias.

But probably the Cyprian founder myth is originated from Salamis itself. The initial point according to Prinz was the homonymy of the island of Salamis and the city of Salamis on Cyprus. The descendants of Teukros, the Teukri, kept the power on Cyprus until  c.310 BC when Ptolemaios I removed their reign.

The suggested connection of Olba to the Greek myth is represented in this way:
There is no convincing relation to the Troic Teukros. The founder myth of the Zeus Olbios temple by Strabon refers clearly to the heroe of Homer's Ilias. Additionally the name Telamon occurs in the region of Olba not scarcely and the geographical proximity of Cyprus is another evidence. And Teukros is not seen only as founder of the city but as founder of the important Zeus Salaminios temple too. This could be the reason for the Olbian priests to go back to Teukros. And Teukros was suggested as descendant of Zeus too which was stressed especially by Isokrates.

The paradigm of Mallos has demonstrated for the first time that mythological founded Hellenism could bring concrete advantages - in financial aspects too. The consequence was a race of cities and sanctuaries for a noble ancestry. Even the old metropolis of Tarsus has participated with an 'Argivian' founder myth. This has been stressed after the appearence of Alexander the Great. He who searched for prestige needed a Greek myth. In the course of this development the Olbian priestkings too searched for a mythological connection to the Greek 'history'. Amphilochos and Mopsos were inappropriate because they were related to Apollon. The cult of the Anatolian weather god - who could only be identified with Zeus - needed another founder figure. Teukros was appropiate because of several reasons:
[1] He was a descendant of Zeus
[2] He was founder of a famous and not so far Zes sanctuary
[3] He was the ancestor of a famous dynasty of rulers.
After founding Seleukeia ad Kalykadnum Seleukos I did reference to the nearby Zeus Olbios. The Olbian priests told Seleukos the founder myth of their sanctuary with the (now) noble Greek ancestry and as gratification they have been confirmed or introduced as regional kings by Seleukos (Trampedach).

History of art:
Of the temple of Zeus Olbios remained 30 high columns. They are of Corinthian order and were the oldest of this kind in Asia Minor. In the middle of an impressive mountain landscape these 2300 years old columns rise to heaven. I have added a pic. Recently the Universities of Rostock and Konstanz undertake archaeological excavations.

[1] Kai Trampedach, Teukros und Teukriden. Zur Gründungslegende des Zeus Olbios-Heiligtums in Kilikien, in: Olba II, Mersin 1999, S. 94-110
[2] Pilhofer/Börstingshaus, Olba/Diokaisarea - Priesterstaat und Doppelstadt -, Vorbereitungsübung zur Kilikienexkursion 2006
[3] Friedrich Prinz, Gründungsmythen und Sagenchronologie, Beck 1979

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Cleisthenes on August 15, 2007, 01:35:36 am

It has been far too long since I engaged in this discussion board.  I had some catching-up to do.  Your posts on Mithras, Hector, Juno Caprotina, the Thracian Rider-God Heroes, King Kyzikos, Hylas, Aphrodite Urania, Sandan, Diana Memorensis, Apollo Smintheus & the herdsman Ordes, Hera Lakinia, Euthenia, the River Nile, Agathodaimon & Uraeus and Zeus Olbios are all superb!

This board is better than grad school!

Thank you,

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on August 15, 2007, 04:46:39 am
Hi Jim!

Thanks so much! It would be nice to hear too which subjects are wrong!

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Coin_Fan_Blue_Hens on September 02, 2007, 10:48:00 am
Check out the Mythological coin of Romulus and Remus suckling the wolf. I like that coin, mostly because I have an interest in the founding of Rome, and Roman history.

Probus, Antoninianus, 276-282, Siscia, Officina 3
Radiate, cuirassed bust right
She-wolf right, suckling Romulus and Remus
XXIT in exergue
21mm, 3.15g
RIC V, Part I, 703 (R2)
Ex Goran Petrusic, eBay, June 2003
you can view the coin from this link!

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on September 08, 2007, 04:32:07 pm
Some notes on Nemesis

1st coin:
Claudius, AD 41 - 54
AV - Aureus, 7.71g, 18mm
Rome 46/47
laureate head r.
Pax/Nemesis advancing r., holding with l. hand winged caduceus and points with it at snake, coiling r. at her feet; holding fold of her robe before the chin
RIC I, 38; C.57 (Lyon AD 45!); von Kaenel 628 (this specimen!)
R2; about VF
ex coll. Moritz Simon, Berlin (1930?)
ex Glandining & Co., London 1929, Nr.666
ex Cahn, Ffm. 1930, Nr.232
ex MuM, Basel

In connection with this coin we should talk about the strange gesture where Nemesis holds a fold of her robe before the chin. Rossbach (in Roscher, Mythologie, 1909) takes it for a gesture of modesty. LIMC IV, sv. Nemesis 232 writes, that it is a gesture symbolizing self-restraint in victory. Her spitting into her bosom ('spuere in sinu') is apotropaic in nature. The type itself was first used by C.Vibius Varus in AD 49 BC (Cr. 494/35). Claudius' re-use of this type was surely due to his personal antiquarianism.

2nd coin:
Moesia inferior, Nikopolis ad Istrum, Macrinus AD 217-218
AE - AE 26, 12.2g
struck under legate Statius Longinus
bust, laureate, r.
Nemesis, wearing double chiton, standing l., holding scales and cubit, l. to her feet a wheel
AMNG 1769 var. (has different legends and scourge instead of cubit!)
some green encrustations, elsewise EF, choice portrait
I think here it is actually a cubit because of its marks and not a scourge!

Not long from Marathon, where the mighty Persian army was defeated by the Athenians in historical times (490 BC), there was a sanctuary and statue of Nemesis. It is told that the Persians' pride was such that they believed that nothing stood in the way of their taking Athens. Accordingly, they brought a piece of Parian marble to make a trophy to celebrate their victory, being persuaded that their task was already accomplished. But as it happened, they met defeat, and of this same piece of marble, the Athenian sculptor Phidias made a statue of Nemesis, the goddess who punishes the proud. According to others the statue was made by Agorakritos, one of his pupils.

Nemesis is most commonly de­scribed as a daughter of Night, though some call her a daughter of Erebus or of Okeanos. She is a personification of the moral reverence for law, of the natural fear of com­mitting a culpable action, and hence of conscience, and for this reason she is mentioned along with Aidos, i. e. Shame (Hes. Theog. 223). In later writers, as Herodotos and Pindar, Nemesis is a kind of fatal divinity, for she directs human affairs in such a manner as to restore the right proportions or equilibrium wherever it has been disturbed ; she measures out happiness and unhappiness, and he who is blessed with too many or too frequent gifts of fortune, is visited by her with losses and sufferings, in order that he may be­come humble, and feel that there are bounds beyond which human happiness cannot proceed with safety. This notion arose from a belief that the gods were envious of excessive human happiness (Herodot, i. 34, iii. 40 ). Nemesis was thus a check upon extravagant favours conferred upon man by Tyche or Fortuna, and from this idea lastly arose that of her being an avenging and punishing power of fate, who, like Dike and the Erinyes, sooner or later overtakes the reckless sinner (Apollon. Rhod., Sophocles, Euripides, Catull). The inhabitants of Smyrna worshipped two Nemeseis, both of whom were daughters of Night (See the article in this thread). She is frequently mentioned under the surnames Adrasteia and Rhamnusia, the latter of which she derived from the town of Rhamnus in Attika, where she had a celebrated sanctuary. Besides the places already mentioned she was worshipped at Patrae and at Kyzikos. She was usually represented in works of art as a virgin divinity, and in the more ancient works she seems to have resembled Aphro­dite, whereas in the later ones she was more grave and serious, and had numerous attributes. As winged she should be first depicted in Smyrna. Here is a short listing from my collection:
winged, hand to chin, with caduceus, snake before
winged, hand to chin, with caduceus and wheel
hand to chin, with bridle and wheel
hand to chin, with cubit and wheel
with cubit and patera (2x)
with cubit and scales
with cubit, scales and wheel (5x)
wearing polos, with cubit, scales and wheel
with scales, scourge and wheel
with scales, cornucopiae and wheel (2x)
with short rod and cornucopiae
with short rod, cornucopiae and wheel
with short rod, bridle and wheel (3x)

Often these are goddesses who can't be identfied exactly. Pick has used in this cases a double name, f.i. Nemesis-Aequitas (with scales) or Homonoia-Nemesis (with cornucopiae). The winged Nemesis usually is called Pax-Nemesis.

But there is an allegorical tradition that Zeus begot by Nemesis at Rhamnus an egg, which Leda found, and from which Helena and the Dioskuroi sprang, whence Helena herself is called Rhamnusis. On the pedestal of the Rhamnusian Nemesis, Leda was represented leading Helena to Nemesis (Pausanias). The Rham­nusian statue bore in its left hand a branch of an apple tree, in its right hand a patera, and on its head a crown, adorned with stags and an image of victory. Sometimes she appears in a pensive stand­ing attitude, holding in her left hand a bridle or a branch of an ash tree, and in her right a wheel, with a sword or a scourge.

Nemesis literally means 'the allocator, the reciprocator'. Hence as goddess of the moment she is the anthropomorphized presiding fate. In Rhamnus happened a melting with Themis-Gaia. Later she was approximating Tyche-Fortuna. As cosmic fate she has been praised in hymns (Orph. Hymn.).

The religion of the ancient Greeks originated from the religion of the immigrated Greeks and the pre-hellenic population in Asia Minor and Greece. Compared to the great monotheistic religions it attracts attention that the greek religion missed clear laws and prohibitions eventhough the goddess Nemesis and the Erinyns punished violations of nature and especially matricide. We can speak - in ancient times since Xenophanes - of an anthropomorphism - a humanization of the gods; so they are by their origin as mythological figures more similar to men in their failing than the one and only god in Judaism, Christianism or Islam. We have even the suggestion that gods and men originally were from the same species which was separated not until late at Mekone (Hesiod, Theogon. 512). A nice idea, isn't it?

I have added a pic of the statue of Themis from Rhamnus, an art work of Chairestratos which was preserved.

Der kleine Pauly
Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon
Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on September 08, 2007, 04:35:18 pm
The Star of Bethlehem: Mythology or not?

"Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold there came wise men from the East to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and have come to worship him." (Matthew 2: 1f.)
"and, so, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was." (Matthew 2:9)

Since the late ancient times it was tried to explain these lines. When we try to explain the Star of Bethlehem we have in principle the following options:
(A) The Star has never existed. It was added later as sign of divinity and choiceness and so like the story of the virgin birth and other miracles.
(B) It was a supranatural phenomenon like angel.
But these explanations we should disregard until we don't have exhausted all possible scientific possibilities. And there we have several. If we ask wether a natural phenomenon exists which could explain the Star we have these interpretations:
(C) Scientifical explanations:
1. It was a comet. But this is surely wrong. First there was no comet found for the relevant time, and then in ancient time a comet was seen as sign for coming desaster (desaster = bad star!). It was only Julius Caesar who succeeded in re-interpretating a comet as sign for his divinity!
2. It was a supernova. Such phenomenon Kepler has first seen on October 10. 1604 in the sign of Ophiuchus and immediately thought of the Star of Bethlehem. But for the relevant time no supernova is known. And it couldn't not have been overlooked!
3. It was a special conjunction of the planets Jupiter, Saturn and Mars. Such conjunction Kepler could observe between the signs of Sagittarius and Ophiuchus. In error he suggested that this conjunction was the reason for the supernova.   
The last two explanation originates on Kepler. Strange to say Kepler didn't use these explanations but suggested a supranatural phenomenon. Since these times no other explanation was found and there was no scientifical discussion about the Star. But in 1999 the American astronomer Michael R.Molnar has published a new explanation. His ideas I want to share, because the starting point of his research was an ancient coin of Antochia!

In AD 13/14 Antiochia started to struck a series of small bronze coins, showing on the rev. a ram and a star.

Syria, Antiochia ad Orontem, quasi-autonomous, AD 13/14
AE 21, 4.46g
struck under the governor of Syria,Metellus Creticus Silanus
obv. bearded head of Zeus, r.
      Ram, leaping r., head turned back, star above
      beneath DM (year 44 of the Actian era)     
Ref.: SNG Copenhagen 97; SNG München 645; BMC 65; RPC 626, 4269
about VF, black-brown patina, light roughness
Q. Caecilius Metellus Creticus Silanus was legatus Augusti pro praetore in Syria AD 11-17

Molnar starts from a new conception. Suggesting that the wise men from the east are men with knowledge of stars and planets and astronomy and astrology was not separated in ancient times, he puts himself in the world of ancient astrologers and asks what could have been the belief of the ancient astrologists. One of his main sources is the Tetrabyblos of Ptolemaios. In this work the ram (Lat. aries) was called the sign of "Judaea, Idumea, Samaria, Palaestina and Coele Syria", exact the countries ruled by King Herodes. So this coin may be edited to commemorate the take-over of Judaea by the Romans in Antiochia in AD 6. In any case not the Pisces (fishes) were the sign of Judaea, as it is claimed often today, possibly because the fish (Greek ichthys) was an important symbol of the early Christians. Others suggest the lion as the sign of Judaea probably because they think of the 'Lion of Juda'. Others suggest Virgo possibly because of the Virgin Mary. But actually it was Aries, the ram, where the ancient astrologers were looking in searching for news for Judaea.

The star on the rev. of the coins not only is a sign of divinity but a symbol for Jupiter/Zeus too, who is depicted on the obv. So the rev. means "Jupiter in the sign of Aries". Naturally the coin itself has no direct relation to the birth of Jesus. But it was the starting point Molnar used to get new conclusions for the Star of Bethlehem

"On April 17, 6 BC two years before King Herod died Jupiter emerged in the east as a morning star in the sign of the Jews, Aries the Ram. The account in Matthew refers twice to the Star being in the east with good reasons. When the royal star of Zeus, the planet Jupiter, was in the east this was the most powerful time to confer kingships. Furthermore, the Sun was in Aries where it is exalted. And the Moon was in very close conjunction with Jupiter in Aries. Modern calculations suggest that this was close enough to be an occultation (eclipse). But the Sun’s glare would have hidden that event. Saturn was also present which meant that the three rulers of Aries’ trine (Sun, Jupiter, and Saturn) were present in Aries. Saturn and Jupiter were said to be attendants on the rising Sun, another regal aspect for astrologers. By modern expectations this is trivial, but for ancient stargazers this configuration was truly awesome." (Molnar)

Firmicus Maternus, an astrologer in the time of Constantine I,describes AD  334 in his Mathesis this constellation as condition for a divine and immortal nature. Because at this time he converted to Christianity he probably means Christus.

"The lunar occulation of Jupiter on April 17, 6 BC was just one of several astrological conditions pointing to a king's birth. The greatness of a ruler or king was said to depend on the number of regal astrological effects at the time of birth. This distinguished, say, a low level governor from an emperor. Knowing that lunar conjunctions (close approaches) with Jupiter were one condition for a king's birth, I looked for the closest conjunctions, namely occultations in the time frame biblical scholars claim as likely for the birth of Jesus. I quickly focused on the occultation of April 17, 6 BC after realizing that Jupiter was also "in the east" in Aries. "In the east" is mentioned twice by Matthew because astrologers such as the Magi said this was the most important time for Jupiter to produce future kings. Moreover, the Moon's incredible nearness to Jupiter amplified that power. Keep in mind that astrologers of Roman times were making crude calculations of planetary positions to create horoscopes, but they could not predict eclipses or occultations as we now can. However, they could estimate when these were likely. But keep in mind that the occultation was the key to finding this incredible day which has many important conditions pointing to the birth of not just a king, but a great king in Judea." (Molnar)

The ideas of Molnar I can report only heavily shortened. Naturally it is much more complicated and profund. For all interested in his ideas I recommend his book. Mr.Molnar is very friendly and you can ask him questions.

Naturally there are objections too. The most important I think are these two:
[1] Why only Matthew mentions The Star of Bethlehem and the Magi from the east? It is known that especially Matthew in his gospel makes an attempt to explain the story of Jesus as a fullfillment of old prophecies. "The birth of Jesus was never recorded. However, the evidence is that the early Christians did believe Jesus was born under the Star because the prophecy of Balaam (Num. 24:17) said the Messiah would be revealed by a regal Star.
[2] The Tetrabiblos of Ptolemaios has been written 100 years after the gospels and the Mathesis of Maternus not earlier as in the time of Constantine I. Is it possible that the Babylonian astrologers could know these interpretations? And how could Matthew knew them?

Note: Although Matthew calls them Magi, they often were called 'The Holy Three Kings" and even their names are known (Kaspar, Melchior and Balthasar). It's not wide known that the bones of the Holy Three Kings are kept in a shrine in the Cathedral of Cologne and are one of the most import relics of the Catholic Church.

I have added the pic of a scene found on a capital of the church Saint-Lazare in Autun/France from AD 1475, showing the adoration of the child. In the upper left the Star of Bethlehem is depicted - as comet as usually.

Michael R. Molnar, The Star of Bethlehem: The Legacy of the Magi

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: curtislclay on September 25, 2007, 09:03:51 am
In my opinion by far the most probable hypothesis is Jochen's (A), the star never existed, no wise men traveled to Judaea for Jesus' birth, these are just embellishments added to Jesus' biography after his death, in order to make his birth seem miraculous and foreordained.

In this case, of course, it is pointless to search for astronomical explanations of the star, since it never existed.

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on September 25, 2007, 09:49:14 am
I confess, that is my opinion too! But what's the matter with Molnar's suggestion that the rev. of this coin shows the astrological constellation 'Jupiter in Aries'?

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: curtislclay on September 25, 2007, 11:18:33 am
I'm certainly willing to accept an astrological interpretation of the ram.  BMC p. lix: "The ram has been explained by K.O. Müller as a sign of the zodiac, indicating the period of the year at which the foundation of the city took place."

A star on coins, however, normally stands for the sun.  How does Molnar explain the coins of 55/6 AD with Tyche head on obv., same ram looking back rev., but above the ram either a star alone or a crescent conjoined with a star? (RPC 4286-7, cf. 4290-1)

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Sid on September 25, 2007, 01:06:46 pm
I've read Molnar's book, which I would say is absolutely full of holes, which I won't go into here; I don't want to dilute the Mythology thread. I'll just answer Curtis' question that he interprets the later coins as a symbol of Nero who was supposedly going to rise from the dead in the land of Palestine (although he's not dead yet). The star or crescent there are nothing but majestic symbols for the emperor.
Molnar is first and foremost an astrologer, not a credible astronomer, historian or researcher.

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Robert_Brenchley on September 25, 2007, 04:41:02 pm
There's no doubt that a star was associated with the messiah; Balaam's star prophecy in Numbers 24:17 (A star shall come out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall arise out of Israel) is used regularly in a Messianic context. A star shaped like a sword, which was evidently a comet, 'standing over the city' is one of the omens Josephus quotes in the runup tot he First Revolt. Matthew was a Jew who rejected the rebels completely, and wanted to say that his guy, born a generation earlier, was the messiah. So he puts the star in the sky to lead the wise men, and it ends up 'standing' (same peculiar phrase, though we can only speculate about the relationship between the two texts) over Bethlehem. He Believed Jesus was bringing in a thoroughly Jewish Kingdom of God, but with space for Gentiles. So he brings Gentiles to worship the baby, along with Jews. I've read several astrological explanations of the star, and found none of them convincing.

Numbers, of course, does not say that the messiah has to be a native Israelite, thus leaving a loophole for a Roman emperor to arise out of Palestine, and be dutifully hailed by Josephus as messiah. What are the ancient sources for the story of Nero redivivus?

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on September 25, 2007, 05:21:27 pm
Molnar cites Sueton, Nero 40 and refers too to Dio Cassius, Roman History 63.27.2. After Nero's death several false "re-born" Neros occured in the East, probably because of the prophecy of astrologers (Tacitus, Histories II.8.1). There should be 'The Sibylline oracles' (which I personally don't know) collecting prophecies from the 2nd century BC to the 5th century AD, not related to the Roman Sibylline Books, where such prophecies about a re-born Nero are found. Nero was seen as Antichrist by Jews and Christians. The Revelation of Saint John seems to see Nero in this role too. The number of of the beast 666 could point to Nero. May be that Nero's astrologer, Balbillus, was the spirit behind these beliefs.

Best regards 

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Robert_Brenchley on September 26, 2007, 01:06:27 am
I'd forgotten about Suetonius' comments (it was rather late at night). The idea that 666 is intended as Nero redivivus is well-known, and won't go away. I'm not convinced though; there's a distinct lack of early Christian references to Nero's persecution (odd if they had such a dreadful memory of the guy!). The Jews didn't see anyone as Antichrist for obvious reasons; they're still waiting for the Messiah. I think the most we can say is that Nero was a popular ruler who died under somewhat mysterious circumstances, and some of his supporters probably didn't accept that he was dead; Suetonius reports a comparable state of affairs after Caligula's death, though it didn't last as long.

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on October 01, 2007, 02:35:38 pm

Hadrian, AD 117-138
AR - denarius, 18mm, 3.83g
        Rome, AD 134-138
       Bare head, r.
      Tellus standing facing, head left, wearing tunic to knees, right breast exposed, plow
        handle in right hand, rake upwards in left, two ears of grain in ground, r.
RIC II, 276; C.1427; BMC 738; Hill 528
This type has been struck to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Hadrian's reign, praising the stabile world achieved by his wise rule.

Tellus, Lat. = earth (like Virtus feminin despite the masculine ending -us, difference between natural and grammatical genus!), was the goddess of the motherly earth and so very similar to the Greek Gaia. Her name was unexplained already in ancient times. It could be connected with 'terra', but Greek telao (supporting) or Lat. tollo (raising, accruing) was named as origin too. Diod. Sic.suggests that her original name was Titaea or Titia. In principle she was one of the primary goddesses. Varro calls here together with Jupiter the first and most important pair of gods.

But in Rome she was much younger. 268 BC Publius Sempronius devoted a temple to her in carinis, on the property of Sp. Cassis at the declivity of the noble regio IV of the Carinae, when during a battle against the Picentinians a earthquake occured. So the term TELLVS STABILITA is ambigous: It means on the one hand quite real the firm earth, untroubled by earthquakes, but - like on this coin - the world stabilized and quiet by the reign of the emperor too.

Because the earth is the source of all growth she was closely connected to Ceres, the goddess of fertility. So to honour her at the beginning of the winter sowings in January the feriae sementivae (sowing ceremonies) and on the country the paganalia were celebrated. To Tellus and to Ceres a pregnant sow was sacrificed. On April 15. with the participation of the Pontifices and the Vestal Virgins the Fordicias occured on the Capitoline Hill and in the 30 Curias and pregnant cows (fordae) were sacrificed to them. The ashes of the unborn calves was kept by the Vestal Virgins until the festival of the Palilias when it was used - mixed with the ash of the 'October Horse' - as agent for a ritual purification (suffimen).

The official Tellus cult was relative young and didn't reach to the times of the Roman kings.
It was not until the early Republic when the name of Tellus became known by the oath which was sworn by Roman commanders at the case of a devotio, the self-sacrificing for the army. The formula was 'Dis Manibus Tellurique' and with the word 'Tellurique' the earth was touched. The most famous devotio I think was by the consul Publius Decius Mus AD 340 during the 2nd war against the Latins. So it is understandable that Tellus occurs in burying rites and burying poems too as Terra Mater or Ceres Telluris. Telluric today is nearly synonymious with chthonic, meaning subterranean.
Terra Mater seems to be the translation of Greek Demeter, which probably means 'Ge-Mater'. Nevertheless always Tellus has kept its Roman character (which is true for other goddesses too, f.i. Juno or Minerva). Because of that it is not allowed to identify Tellus just with Gaia. A reason could be that Tellus symbolizes the 'home earth' and therefore was immunized against religious taking over from outside. The Roman author Vergil has called Italia Saturnia Tellus, the earth of the Golden Century. Therefore I want to restrict this contribution to the Roman Tellus and Gaia should be left eventually for another article.

History of Art:
In the first time there was no own depiction of Tellus although in the above mentioned Tellus temple a wall painting of Italia should have been. Not until the early Empire we can find personified depictions of Tellus. We know that especially Augustus went back to older mythological ideas. The most famous is the wall relief of the Terra Mater at the east-side of the Ara Pacis, the peace altar of Augustus on the Campus Martis. She is depicted as a mother, seated on a chair without arms and back, surrounded by children which probably should symbolize the seasons. She is too depicted on the famous cuirass of Augustus, laying on the ground, looking up to Saturn, a clear message for Saturnia Tellus, the beginning of a new Golden Century. 

This motive was admitted by a 2nd coin which I have taken from Coinarchives:
Julia Domna, AD 193-217
AR - denarius, 3.36g
        Rome, AD 207
       Bust, draped, r.
       Tellus, resting l., l. arm on urn and r. hand on globe; above her the
        personifications of the four seasons.
RIC 549; Hill, 850.

I have added a pic of the wall relief from the Ara Pacis.
Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon
The Kleine Pauly

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on October 01, 2007, 02:43:22 pm
The myth of Tereus and Prokne

Thracia, Bizya, Geta, AD 209-21
AE 26, 10.05g
Bust, draped and cuirassed, seen from behind, laureate, r.
rev. BIZ - Y - HNWN
A banquet scene: Bearded man reclining on kline to left, resting with l. arm on pillow, touching with r. hand shoulder of a woman seated half-right at his feet, youth in short chiton standing left, his r. hand on opening of a high amphora, behind him a tree with armor hanging in twigs; on the right side forepart of horse to left, raising l. forefoot; beneath the kline a tripod(?), in the upper field  a shield.
Jurukova 63 (different obv. legend); Varbanov (engl.) 1491 var.
extremely rare, about VF(?), nice green patina

Sometimes it is suggested that the reverse shows a scene of the myth of Tereus, Prokne and Philomele. This interpretation is very questionable. I will talk about that in the second part of this article. But first the myth.

Tereus, a son of the war god Ares, was King of Thrace. Because he has helped King Pandion of Athens against the King of Thebens, Pandion gave him his daughter Prokre as wife. Prokne bore him a son, Itys. Prokne had a sister, Philomele. Once when Philomele want to visit her sister in Thrace, Tereus got her from Athens. Because of her beautiful voice he fall in love to her, his desire raised until he raped her. After this crime he cut out her tongue, so that she couldn't reveal it and hid her away in the forest. Back home he told Prokne that her sister Philomele has died. But the mute Philomele wove a tapestry depicting what had happened and that she was alive and could send this cloth to Prokne. Prokne pretended to celebrate Dionysos' festival and by raving around she found her sister. Seeing her bad state she decided to take terrible revenge. The most  terrible version comes from Ovid's Metamorphoses: Prokne slayed her son Ithys, cut him to pieces, boiled him and served him as meal for Tereus. When he asked for his son, she answered that he was already here, and then she threw the head of Ithys on the table. Tereus jumped up, pulled his sword and want to kill them. But Prokne and Philomele were transformed to birds, Prokne into a nightingale, and Philomele into a swallow, and could escape. Tereus himself was made to a hoopoe.

Originally Tereus was located at Daulis in Phokis, but he is found at Pagai in Megaris too. It was first Sophokles who has relocated his home to Thrace. His tragedy 'Tereus' from before 414 BC is lost. In Aristophanes' Birds Tereus calls all birds to a meeting. The myth originally seems to be an aitiological animal fairy tale which explains the voice of the birds. The swallow can't sing, the song of the nightingale sounds moanfully and reminds on 'Itu, itu' (= Itys). This myth has been taken by Ezra Pound for one of his Pisan Cantos (IV).

And by the curved, carved foot of the couch,
claw-foot and lion head, an old man seated
Speaking in the low drone...:
Et ter flebiliter, Itys, Ityn!
And she went toward the window and cast her down,
"All the while, the while, swallows crying:
"It is Cabestan's heart in the dish."
"It is Cabestan's heart in the dish?
"No other taste shall change this."
And she went toward the window,
the slim white stone bar
Making a double arch;
Firm even fingers held to the firm pale stone;
Swung for a moment,
and the wind out of Rhodez
Caught in the full of her sleeve.
...the swallows crying:
'Tis! 'Tis! Ytis!

This is only a part of the Canto dealing with the inconceivableness of the beauty. The poem starts with the smouldering walls of Troy - consequences of the violent rape of the beauty. Here Philomele is transformed into a nightingale and Prokne into a swallow. Pound interweaves this old Greek myth with the Provencal myth of the cavalier Cabestan whose heart was served as meal to his beloved by his jealous wife. The name Itys melts subtly with Cabestan and forms 'Ityn'. Inimitable in English the answer of the swallows to the question:
"It is Cabestan's heart in the dish?"'
"...'Tis! 'Tis! 'Ytis!''

(following Eva Hesse, Ezra Pound - Dichtung und Prosa, 1959)

In a coin description on CoinArchives CNG writes: "Possibly a local depiction of a myth involving the Bizyan king Tereus....The coin type allegorically depicts the moment when Tereus is served his son's corpse by his wife."
But the interpretation of the reverse depiction as scene of the myth of Tereus has no actual background. I couldn't find Bizya as home of Tereus. There is no figure we can name. We have no hint for Tereus, Ithys, or Prokne. We have the horse, the shield and the armour on the rev., which have no analogy in the myth.
Jurukova, Bizye, p.37, sees a grave monument with a so called Death Feast. But that doesn't match the armor and the shield!
Pick, Jahr. Arch. Inst. XIII, 145, calls it a banquet of a god and a goddess (Theoxenion).
Varbanov calls the male figure Dionysos.

I have attached the pic of a banquet-scene on a red- ad white-figured crater. I don't know the artist nor the age of this crater, but it matches the coin depiction astonishing closely! It is the same position of the figures on the kline, we have the attendants, the amphora, even the shields at the wall! And we have a tree-footed table aside. So I think the so-called tripod under the kline could be a table to!

Recapitulatory  we can say we have a banquet-scene, possibly with Dionysiac background, but that's all! Sadly!

History of Art:
In ancient times only rarely has been dealed with the myth of Tereus (list from
We have a neck-amphora from the Diosphos painter, showing Tereus and Prokne, now in Naples.
We have a hydria fragment from the Altamura painter, showing Tereus with bird on head, pursuing Prokne, now in Taranto/Italy.
We have a cup fragment from the Magnoncourt painter, showing Prokne and Philomela with Itys, now in Basel.
We have high classical marble sculpture, showing a child leaning against his mother's leg (Prokne and Itys), in Athens,
and cup in Paris from Makron, showing besides others Prke and Philomela with Itys.

I have attached a pic of the Makron cup (the related myth part only) and the pic of the painting 'Tereus' from Peter-Paul Rubens, showing Tereus confronted with the head of his son Itys.

Ovid, Metamorphoses VI, 438-674
Der kleine Pauly
Karl Kereny, Die Mythologie der Griechen
Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon
Robett von Ranke Graves, Griechische Mythologie

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on October 20, 2007, 03:42:06 pm
Mars and Rhea Silva

The coin:
Antoninus Pius, AD 138-161
AE - As, 26.71mm, 11.65g
Rome, AD 140/144
       head, laureate, r.
rev. T - R - POT - COS III
Mars, nude, chlamys over l. arm, helmeted, spear in r. hand and shield in l. hand, coming down from heaven to Rhea Silvia, sleeping at his feet, nude except a garment slid down to her hips, laying l. on rocks, r. arm over head, head resting on l. hand
in lower field SC
RIC III, 694; C.885; BMC 1370
Very rare, VF, dark, nearly black patina
ex Küncker auction 133, Osnabrück 11./12. Oct. 2007, lot 8870

Prokras, descendant of Aeneas, was king of Alba Longa. When he deceased he left two sons, Numitor Silvius, the older, who was mild and well-tempered, and Amulius Silvius, the younger, who was brutal and power-hungry. Amulius kicked Numitor off the throne and exiled him. His son he let kill. His daughter Rhea Silva (or Silvia) he made a Vestal so that no descendant could threaten his reign. But when Mars first saw Rhea Silva he fell in love to her, seduced and raped her. She bore him a pair of twins. When Amulius heard that, he gave order to kill Rhea Silva and the twins. His servants should drown them in the river Tiber. But the servants had pity on the children and gave them to the Tiber in their cradle. The cradle was taken away by the water and finally was attached to the branches of a tree. Another version told that they were rescued by the god Tiberinus. When Mars heard of the ill fate of his children he sent a she-wolf to nurse them and wood-peckers which fed them with grains and seeds.

Once the herdsman Faustulus when he was in search of one of his goats came to the cave of the she-wolf and found the twins. He took them and gave them to his wife Acca Larentia to bring them up. They were named Remus and Romulus. But when the herdsman heard of the fate of Rhea Silva and her children he recognized that he has found the grandchildren of King Numitor. But for fear of Amulius he kept still. Remus and Romulus became tough youths and  together with their companions they ranged the woods. Often they had to defend her father's herds against wild animals and other herdsmen. On such an occasion Remus once was captured and brought to the aged King Numitor. When Faustulus and Romulus came to free Remus Numitor recognized his grandsons. The twins and their companions moved to Alba Longa, conquered the castle and killed King Amulius. Numitor was made king again. But the twins wouldn't rule in Alba Longa, but intend to found their own city. The rest ist well known!

There are several dfferent versions of this myth. The most important are from Plutarch (Vitae Parallelae, Romulus), who is based on Diokles of Peparethos, and from Dionysios of Halikarbassos. Possibly this myth - and so the myth of Aeneas too - first emerged by Greek influence to connect the Roman history to the brilliant history of Greece. By writing the Aeneid Vergil succeeded convincingly in this subject.
In one version Rhea Silva is said to be burned (the usual penalty for sinful vestals), in another version she has drown herself in the river Tiber. Referring to Dionysios of Halikarnassos her original name was Ilia and the name Rhea Silva she got when she became vestal virgin.

We know that under Antoninus Pius occurs a return to ancient Roman religion and mind (in distinction from Hadrian, whose character was stamped Greek.). So we find on his coins all themes of Roman mythology which ever were put on coins. Most of these coins had been struck between AD 140/144. The theory that they had been struck because of the 900-years anniversary celebration of the founding of Rome can't be proofed. This coinage more probably can be seen as a basic program for the principles of his further political activities. Often the depicted motives refer to events in Rome and Latum, which too stand in the center of Antoninus' social care.

This is the first depiction of this important founder myth on Roman coins. On sarcophages we find it 100 years earlier, f.i. on the columbarium of the Statilii on the Mons Esquilin. Here Mars with his usual stepping schema approaches his victim who bears a jar which she afraid let fall. This is an illustration of the version of Dionysios of Halikarnassos. A wall painting in Pompeji is closer to our coin depiction. In Nero's Domus Aureus finally we have assembled all obligatory elements, but laterally reversed. Here we find too persons which observe the events and on the r. side an unidentified temple. This specification of the area is not needed on coins because of their roundness.
The depicted topos - a deity is floating down to a human being - is known from other myths too. We find it in the myth of Endymion and Selene or when Ariadne is found by Dionysos. It is known since Hellenism. Because of the down floating figure of Mars the model for the depiction could probably not be a statue

I have added the pic of the painting 'Mars and Rhea Silvia' of Peter Paul Rubens.

Plutarch, Vitae Parallelae
Der kleine Pauly
Michael Krumme, Römische Sagen in der antiken Münzprägung, 1995
Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon,

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on October 27, 2007, 04:15:54 pm
Faustulus and the twins

Roman republic, Sextus Pompeius Fostlus, gens Pompeia
AR - denarius, 20mm, 3.88g
Rome, 137 BC
obv. Head of Roma, wearing winged helmet, r.
X before, jug behind
rev. SEX.PO - F - OSTLV - S
She-wolfe, stg. r., head turned back, suckling the twins Remus und Romulus; behind tree with three woodpeckers, at left herdsman Faustulus, wearing short cloak and pointed hat, stg. with crossed legs bended r., with l. hand resting on staff, r. hand raised.
in ex. ROMA
Crawford 235/1c; Sydenham 461a; Pompeia 1a; BMC 927
attractive VF
ex Kagin's Long Beach Sale, Feb. 1987, lot 4474

The rev. of ths coin shows the most important moment of the Roman founder myth: The discovering of the twins. The name Faustulus is not explained satisfyingly until now. Sometimes it is suggested that the familiy of the mintmaster claimed descent from Faustulus. But 'der kleine Pauly'  thinks tat this is not true but it is probably a hint to the depicted figure. The tomb of Faustulus was suggested to be on the Forum Romanum. Indeed the Lapis Niger (black stone) was seen as tomb of Romulus, but ths version contradicts the version of his Ascension. So the view developed that the tomb was built for Romulus but then his foster-father was buried within.

The location of the ancient lupercal (the cave of the she-wolf) is unknown. The Ficus Ruminalis (lat. 'ruma' = teat, it originally was sacred to the goddess Rumina) was shown at the comitium of the puteal of Attus Navius. There this augur should have replaced the fig-tree. But Livius tells us that the Ogulnii, aedils in 296 BC, have erected a statue of the she-wolf with the twins ad ficum ruminalem. But obviously there was no cave! First Augustus - as he writes in his res gestae - has established this cave at the Mons Palatinus. In January AD 2007 Italian archaeologists have found during restauration workings near the palace of Augustus a chamber which because of its wall paintings they suggest to be the Augustean lupercal. For a discussion about this find please look at this thread

The festival of the Lupercalia, by the way, is older than the myth of the she-wolf and the twins. Lupercus was the name of an ancient god of the herdsmen and the Lupercalia so were the festival of herdsmen in honour of their guardian against wolves and other beasts. 'Lupa' too is Latin 'wolf' and 'prostitute'. This could be a random synonym. Probably the story of Acca Larentia, wife of Faustulus, who in a version of the myth should have been a prostitute herself, was invented afterwards because of this alikeness of names. So we have a version of the myth with the she-wolf and another version without. Mommsen says to this subject: "The founder myth is new and badly invented!"
For the story of Acca Larentia please look at the relating article in this thread!

I have added a pic of the place with the recently found cave at the Palatinus.

Mommsen, Römische Geschichte
Der kleine Pauly
Michael Krumme, Römische Sagen in der antiken Münzprägung, 1995
Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on October 27, 2007, 04:17:32 pm
Romulus and the first triumph

Romulus has been depicted on coins not before Augustus. It was said that Augustus was flirting with the idea to take the name Romulus for himself. But as we know he has abstained it. Romulus indeed was the foundr of the city, but as first king definitely not an example for the Republic. Quite the opposite to it he was seen as tyrant and Cicero compared some of his adversaries like Sulla, Lepidus or Caesar with Romulus. At Horaz the mythological fratricide became the original guilt ('Erbschuld') which was responsible for the  misery of the Civil War. And that was the reason why Augustus quit the adoption of the name Romulus. It was not until the Flavians when Roman mythological themes occured on coins again.

The coin:
Hadrian, AD 117-138
AR - denarius, 20mm, 3.33g
Rome, AD 134-138
Head, laureate, r.
Romulus, bare-headed, in military cloak, walking tip-toed r., holding transverse spear in r. hand and with l. hand trophy over l. shoulder
RIC II, 266; C.1316; BMC 711
nice VF

The depiction shows Romulus with the spolia opima, he has won from the Sabine king Acron whom he has killed when he conquered the city of Caenina.

This mythological episode is chronologically directly attached to the Rape of the Sabines. I refer to the relating article in this thread. Titus Livius (Ab urbe condita 1.10) writes:
"The feelings of the abducted maidens were now pretty completely appeased, but not so those of their parents. They went about in mourning garb, and tried by their tearful complaints to rouse their countrymen to action. Nor did they confine their remonstrances to their own cities; they flocked from all sides to Titus Tatius, the king of the Sabines, and sent formal deputations to him, for his was the most influential name in those parts. The people of Caenina, Crustumerium, and Antemnae were the greatest sufferers; they thought Tatius and his Sabines were too slow in moving, so these three cities prepared to make war conjointly. Such, however, were the impatience and anger of the Caeninensians that even the Crustuminians and Antemnates did not display enough energy for them, so the men of Caenina made an attack upon Roma territory on their own account. Whilst they were scattered far and wide, pillaging and destroying, Romulus came upon them with an army, and after a brief encounter taught them that anger is futile without strength. He put them to a hasty flight, and following them up, killed their king and despoiled his body; then after slaying their leader took their city at the first assault. He was no less anxious to display his achievements than he had been great in performing them, so, after leading his victorious army home, he mounted to the Capitol with the spoils of his dead foe borne before him on a frame constructed for the purpose. He hung them there on an oak, which the shepherds looked upon as a sacred tree, and at the same time marked out the site for the temple of Jupiter, and addressing the god by a new title, uttered the following invocation: 'Jupiter Feretrius! these arms taken from a king, I,Romulus a king and conqueror, bring to thee, and on this domain, whose bounds I have in will and purpose traced, I dedicate a temple to receive the spolia opima which posterity following my example shall bear hither, taken from the kings and generals of our foes slain in battle.'
Such was the origin of the first temple dedicated in Rome. And the gods decreed that though its founder did not utter idle words in declaring that posterity would thither bear their spoils, still the splendour of that offering should not be dimmed by the number of those who have rivalled his achievement. For after so many years have elapsed and so many wars been waged, only twice have the [/i]spolia opima[/i] been offered. So seldom has Fortune granted that glory to men."

Like Trajan Hadrian too has often emphesized traditional values, perhaps to establish a good relation to the Senate. The selection of Romulus as coin depiction points rather at his role as founder of the city than at the first king of Rome. Important seems to be his deification which strengthens the Imperial Cult. But actually an equation with Numa would have been more adaequate. His juridiction and his humanization would much better match the deeds of Numa, also his stress on the ancient religion. ut this equation could not be successful because Hadrian was not counted among the 'good rulers'. The equation with Numa was transferred thereafter to Antoninus Pius.

The figure of Romulus could be recognized decisively first on coin depictions of Hadrian. He is walking with a remarkable trippig step (tip-toeing). This step is characteristic for the Mars type with which Romulus is sharing attitude and armament. With this depiction he appears until 3rd century AD. First he occurs on a wall painting in Pompeji. There he forms the counterpart to the escape of Aeneas from Troy. These two figures therafter were found in the exedras of the Augustus Forum and as decoration of statues of the Divus Augustus Temple. According to that this depiction of Romulus seems to be known since the 1st century BC. Probably it has been equalized to the Mars type. The tip-toeing step is known less for warlike figures but adequate for the victorious Romulus. Later on both types, Mars and Romulus, merged and on the VIRTVS AVGVSTI types they are no longer distinguishable, which could be intended from the beginning.

Spolia opima:
Spolia opima (Lat. = 'glorious spoils') in the time of the Roman Republic was the term for the armour which was removed from a conquered enemy leader by the Roman leader in a single combat by his own hands, which afterwards was consecrated in the temple of Jupiter Feretrius. In the Roman history succeeded only Romulus against Acron, Aulus Cornelius Cossus against Lars Tolumnius and Marcus Claudius Marcellus against Viridomarus (referring to Plutarch). The claim of Marcus Licinius Crassus (grandson of the famous triumvir) after his victory over the leader of the Bastarni in 29 BC to consecrate too the spolia opima was denied by Augustus, because he was not the commander-in-chief but only a general of Augustus.
BTW Feretrius means such as 'he who carries away (namely the spoils of war)'.

I have added the pic of the denarius of P. Cornelius Marcellinus, Crawford 439/1; Sydenham 1147 from 50 BC (from CoinArchives). It reminds on the capture of Syracuse by his ancestor M. Claudius Marcellus in 121 BC. It shows the head of Claudius Marcellus with a triskeles (symbol of Sicily) behind and on the rev. Marcellus, togate, carrying the trophy to the temple of Jupiter Feretrius.

Then I have added a pic of the French painter Jean-Baptiste Dominique Ingres (1780-1867), The Triumph of Romulus over Acron, pen, brown ink, watercolor over pencil on paper, after AD 1812, now in the Louvre/Paris.

Titus Livius, Ab urbe condita (English Translation by. Rev. Canon Roberts)
Michael Krumme, Römische Sagen in der antiken Münzprägung, 1995
Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon,
Der kleine Pauly

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on October 28, 2007, 02:25:38 pm
Byzas - founder of Byzanz

The coin:
Thracia, Byzantium, Severus Alexander, AD 222-235
AE 25, 7.68g
Bust, draped and cuirassed, laureate, r.
rev. BYZAZ
Head of Byzas, bearded, helmeted, r
F+/about VF, dark-green patina

The bearded, helmeted bust of the mythological founder Byzas so far was known only on the pseudo-autonomous coinage from Byzantium. Schönert-Geiss, Münzprägung von Byzantium, vol.II, p.20: "The Byzas-series, which contains 66 ex. with 23 obv. and 37 rev. dies, could be dated exactly, since the same magistrates are named on their reverses as on portrait coins of the emperors. They fall into 5 issues
AD 128-135
c. AD 175
c. AD 176
AD 202-205
On this coin the head of Byzas appears for the first time as a rev. type, on a coin of Sev. Alex. The obv. die of this coin was already known, linked to 4 rev. types under the magistrate Fronto with the legend EPI FRONTWNOC BVZANTIWN, Schönert-Geiss V218, Kat.-Nr. 1761-1767, pl. 103
(accordingt to Curtis Clay)

There are two different myths of Byzas which are often mixed together. The first version is found at Stephanos Byzantinos, a Greek laguage teacher (c. AD 500), and Diodoros Sikolos, a Greek historian who lived c.60 BC in Alexandria, in his Bibliothecae historicae liber 49. The other version we know from Petrus Gyllius who on order of King Franz I of France traveled through Greece, Asia and Africa in order to describe these regions and their countries. His work is found in De topographia Constantinopoleos and De Bosporo Thracio which were published AD 1561, after his death AD 1555.

In Greek mythology, Byzas was a son of Poseidon and Keroessa. Zeus once fell in love with Io, the daughter of Inachos, King of Argos. Zeus temporarily transformed his mistress into a heifer, white with golden horns, in order to protect her from the wrath of his wife Hera. In her wanderings Io crossed the Bosporos, giving the strait its name (bovs-phoros, which is Greek for cow-ford). After reassuming her original form, she gave birth to a girl, Keroessa.
Keroessa later bore a son to Poseidon, elder brother of Zeus and lord of the ocean.
This son was Byzas the Megarian who later became the founder of Byzantium and also named Golden Horn (Greek Chrysokeras) after his mother. Some sources say that Byzas was brought up by the naiad Byzia and married Phidaleia, daughter of King Barbyzos (Steph. Byz. in Byzantion; Diod. Sic. IV 49).

According to the other version, a Greek legend, Byzas was a Greek colonist (reported by some to be a leader or even a king) from the Doric colony of Megara in Greece, son of King Nisos. He has consulted the oracle of Apollo at Delphi and the oracle instructed Byzas to settle opposite from the "Land of the Blind". Leading a group of Megarian colonists, Byzas found a location opposite Chalcedon, where the Bosporos and the Golden Horn meet and flow into the Sea of Marmara. He determined the Chalcedonians must have been blind not to recognize the advantages the land on the European side of the Bosporos had over the Asiatic side, and in 667 BC founded Byzantium on the European side, thus completing the oracle's quest (Gyllis Topogr. Constantinop. lib I).

Neolithic records proof that the shores of the Bosporos were settled already very early. Already for the Greek this strait was of essential importance. Here the ships coasted which supplied Athens and other poleis with grain from the todays Ukraina. To protect this strategic important place which was at the same time the key position of the land bridge between Europe and Asia and the sea way from the Aegeis to the Blacksea the first colony was founded around 685 BC by Megarian colonists at the Asiatic side of the Bosporos: Kalchedon. 17 years after the founding of Kalchedon a second founding by the Megarians, together with colonists from Argos and Corinth, occurred on the European side in an area already inhabited by Thracians. The Thracian name of this settlement, Byzantion, later was interpreted as the name of one of its mythological leaders, Byzas of Megara. Byzas itself is a frequent Thracian name.

The myths around Byzas are typical Greek colonisation myths, which we can find
all over the Greek world. The occupation of foreign and already inhabited countries was always described as if these countries were deserted. By the newly invented myths the connection to the mythological history of Greece was established and the whole undertaking was interpreted as divine mission.

Because of its favourable strategic location and its calm and safe harbour Byzantion soon became an important trading centre. In 513 BC the Persian King Darius I conquered the city. In AD 324 Constantine I the Great combined both parts of the Roman Empire and on May 11. AD 330 he named the new capital in a solemn ceremony Nova Roma (= New Rome). But more famous it became under the name Constantinopolis.

Especially under the emperor Justinian I (AD 527-AD 565), the last great East-Roman ruler, Constantinopolis acquired big glory and was finished gorgeously (Hagia Sophia). In the Middle Ages the city remained the centre of the Byzantinian Empire and for a long time it was the biggest and most wealthy city of Europe. In April AD 1204 the Crusaders conquered Constantinopolis. The city was sacked, numerous inhabitants killed and works of art of inestimable value irrevocably got lost. Reduced to about 100.000 inhabitants, stripped of its previous glory, the city was reconquered AD 1261 by the Byzantinian Empire under Michael VIII.

On April 5. AD 1453 the siege of Constantinopolis by the Ottoman army under sultan Mehmed II began and in the morning of May 29. the city was conquered. That defined the final end of the Roman Empire after more than 1200 years.

I have added a map of the geographical position of Constantinopolis.

Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon, 1770
Friedrich Prinz, Gründungsmythen und Sagenchronologie, 1979
Der kleine Pauly

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on November 13, 2007, 04:15:14 pm
Herophile - the Sibyl

Fore those who are interested, this theme belongs to the ambit of Apollo Smintheus.

The coin:
Troas, Gergis, quasi-autonomous, 400-241 BC
AE 9, 0.98g
obv. bust of the sibyl Herophile, looking facing, laureate, decorated wit two longish ear-pendant and a pearl-necklace
rev. female sphinx, winged, std. r.
      in r. field GER
SNG von Aulock 1513; BMC 2-4
rare, F+/about VF

There are two versions to explain the name Herophile:
a) It means 'priestress of the tribe'
b) It means 'friendly to Hera'
I tend to the first version, but I don't know wether it is really correct.

Herophile was the daughter of Apollo, or of Ketophagos and a Idaic nymph. According to Kerenyi she was the oldest of all sibyls. In any case she was one of the most famous. She lived at the time when Troy was destroyed and she was the priestress of the Smintheum, the sanctuary of Apollo Smintheus. There she had predicted the destruction of Troy. And that happened this way:

A short time before the birth of Paris his mother Hekabe (lat. Hecuba), the wife of Priamos, king of Troy, had a dream where she bore a log from which crawled numerous snakes. Priamos asked his son Aisakos, the seer, for the meaning of this dream, and Aisakos prophesied, that this child would be the doom of the whole country, and he begged Priamos to kill this child.

With a heavy heart Priamos announced that the child together with its mother should be killed. And he commanded to kill his sister Kilia and her son Munippos and buried them in the holy precinct of Tros. She has given birth to a son at the the same time. But Hekabe too gave birth to her son and although Herophile, priestress of  Apollo, insisted in killing at least the child, Priamos spared both lifes. Finally -  due to her entreatingly begs - Priamos charged the herdsman Agelaos with this order. Agelaos took the child, but having pity on him he marooned him at the Ida mountain. There he was found by a she-bear, which nursed him. When Agelaos after five days found him alive he was astonished about this miracle and took the child with him in a basket (hence the name 'Paris', later on he was named Alexandros) and brought him up with his wife. To Priamos he showed the tongue of a dog as proof of the murder. The rest of the story is well-known.

Herophile lived at Samos, Klaros, Delos and Delphi, and finally died in Troas. Therefore her tomb could be seen in the grove of Apllo Smintheus. Her cult seems to come from Hellenistic times. The people of Erythraia adopted Herophile as compatriot, passed her off as daughter of the herdsman Theodoros and the nymph from above and showed a cave on the Korykos mountain where she should be born (Pausanias Phok. c.12.p.630).

The sibyls
The word sibyl comes from the ancient Greek, meaning prophetess. The earlier oracular seeresses known as the sibyls of antiquity prophesied at certain holy sites, probably all of pre-Indo-European origin, under the divine influence of a , originally one of the chthonic earth-goddesses. Later in antiquity, sibyls wandered from place to place. Homer seems to have been unaware of a Sibyl. The first Greek writer, so far as we know, who mentions a sibyl is Heraclit, in the 5th century BC. Sibyls are not identified by a personal name, but by names that refer to the location of their temenos, or shrine. In Pausanias the first sibyl mentioned was the Sibyl of Delphi. The second Sibyl, referred to by Pausanias, was named "Herophile", and seems to have been based ultimately in Samos Island, but visited other shrines too, but Delphi had its own sibyl. We see that here is still much ambiguity. The reason is that the sibyls at first were not stationary. So their names and their stories were often mixed.

Even the number of sibyls is not clear. Frazier writes, that historical there were only two of them at the beginning, the Sibyl of Erythraea and the Sibyl of Samos who lived some time later. The first ancient writer to distinguish several Sibyls was Heraclides Ponticus, 4th century BC, who named at least three Sibyls, the Phrygian Sibyl, the Erythraean Sibyl and the Hellespontine Sibyl, where the last one should be our Herophile. Later on their number increased to nine and even ten, when the Romans finally added a Etruscan Sibyl. According to Lacantius who cited Varro these were the ten Sibyls:

[1] The Persian Sibyl was said to preside over the Apollo Oracle; though her location remained vague enough so that she might be called the "Babylonian Sibyl". She is said to have foretold the exploits of Alexander the Great.
[2] The so-called Libyan Sibyl was identified with prophetic priestess presiding over the ancient Zeus Amun Oracle at the Siwa Oasia. This oracle is well-known by the visit of Alexander after his conquest of Egypt. She is called Lamia too.
[3] The Sibyl at Delphi is commonly known as the Pythia, though her name was also Herophile. She was the Pythian priestess of Python, an archaic chthonic serpent. Later, Sibyl or Pythia became a title given to whichever priestess manned the oracle at the time. The Sibyl sat on a tripod over a cleft in the Sibylline Rock, gaining her often puzzling predictions from it. She sang her predictions, which she received from Gaia, in an ecstatic swoon; her utterings were interpreted by attendant priests during classical times, and rendered into of notoriously difficult interpretation. Modern scholars dismiss the archaic propensity for visions and sometimes attempt to account for the Pythia's swoon with toxic methane or ethylene hydrocarbon vapors (Scientific American, October 2003).
[4] The Cimmerian Sibyl. Gnaeus Naevius names the Cimmerian Sibyl in his books of the Punic War  and Piso in his annals. The Sibyl's son Evander founded in Rome the shrine of Pan, the lupercal.
[5]  The Erythraean Sibyl was sited at Erythrae, a town in Ionia opposite Chios. Apollodoros of Erythrae affirms the Erythraean Sibyl to have been his own countrywoman and to have predicted the Trojan War and prophesised to the Greeks who were moving against Troy both that Troy would be destroyed and that Homer would write falsehoods. The word acrostic was first applied to the prophecies of the Erythraean Sibyl, which were written on leaves and arranged so that the initial letters of the leaves always formed a word.
[6] The Samian Sibyl's site was at the Isle of Samos.
[7] The Cumaean Sibyl. She was most concerned by the Romans. Her site was a cave near Cumae in the neighborhood of Naples. She was consulted by Aeneas before his descent to the lower world. It was she who sold to Tarquinius Superbus, the last king of Rome, the original Sibylline Books, which then were hold by the viri quindecim. The Sibylline Books are not the same as the Sibylline Oracles. The Roman Sibylline Books were quite different in character from the preserved Sibylline Oracles, which typically predict disasters rather than prescribe solutions. The books contained lists of rites and procedures to avoid calamities. Christians were especially impressed with the Cumaean Sibyl too, for in Virgil's Fourth Eclogue she foretells the coming of a savior, a flattering reference to the poet's patron, Augustus, whom Christians nevertheless identified as Jesus.
[8] The Hellespontine, or Trojan Sibyl presided over the Apollo Oracle at  Dardania in Asia Minor. She was born in the village of Marpessos near the small town of Gergis, during the lifetimes of Solon and Kyros the Great. Marpessus was formerly within the boundaries of the Troas. The Sibylline Book at Gergis was attributed to the Hellespontine Sibyl and was preserved in the temple of Apollo at Gergis. Thence it passed to Erythrae, where it became famous. The coins of Gergis depict her portrait.
[9] The Phrygian Sibyl appears to be a doublet of the Hellespontine Sibyl.
[10] The Tiburtine Sibyl was added to the classical sibyls by the Romans. Her site was Tibur (today Tivoli), an ancient Etruscan city. The myth tells that Augustus has consulted the sibyl and has asked her whether he should be worshiped as a god. Whether the sibyl in question was the Etruscan Sibyl of Tibur or the Cumaean Sibyl is not always clear. An apocalyptic pseudo-prophecy exists, attributed to the Tiburtine Sibyl, written ca AD 380, but with revisions and interpolations added at later dates. It purports to prophesy the arrival of the Christian emperor, Constantine, and then will arise a king of the Greeks whose name is Constans. He will be king of the Romans and the Greeks. But this is only a vaticinium ex eventu, spoken after the fact. But I think this is true for all prediction which fulfil.

I have added a pic of the famous Sibyl of Cumae of Michelangelo. She is found in the Sistine Chapel (AD 1508-1512) in Rome. Here Michelangelo has immortalized five of the sibyls.

Der kleine Pauly
Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon
Robert von Ranke-Graves, Griechische Mythologie
Karl Kerenyi, Griechische Sagen

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on November 23, 2007, 03:16:40 pm

Roman Republic, M. Plaetorius Cestianus, gens Plaetoria
AR - Denarius, 18.52mm, 3.86g
         Rome, 67 BC
obv. Draped bust of a winged goddess, r., wearing crested helmet, lotus-blossom and
        grain-ears on her forehead, bow and quiver over r. shoulder, cornucopiae below
        behind CESTIANVS, before s:c
rev. Eagle with spread wings stg. on thunderbolt r., head l.
       in ex. M PLAE, then TORIVS F AED CVR
Ref.: Crawford 409/1; Sydenham 809; BMCRR 3596; Plaetoria 4
VF, slightly toned
ex. M&M AG Auktion 38, Basel 6./7.12.1968, lot 181 (coll. August Voirol)

The goddess depicted on the obv. of this coin is often called Vacuna, but in error. Vacuna was a Sabinean goddess identical to the Roman Victoria. She had an ancient sanctuary (Vacunae Nemis) near Horace's villa at Tibur, todays Tivoli, and another at Rome. The Romans however derived the name from Va- cuus, and said that she was a divinity to whom the country people offered sacrifices when the labours of the field were over, that is, when they were at leisure, vacui. (Schol. ad Horat. Epist. i. 10. 49 ; Ov. Fast. vi. 307 ; Plin. H. N. iii. 17.) From the Scholiast on Horace, we also learn that some identified her with Diana, Ceres, Venus, or Minerva. Her festivities, the Vacunalia, occured in December.

Today her name etymologically is derivated rom *vacu- (= lacus, i.e. lake, with change of l>v, like Umbrian 'vaper' = Lat. lapis, i.e. stone), and so her name means 'dea del lago', i.e. goddess of the lake. Her Sabinean cult centre probably was situated at the
sulphureous springs of Aquae Cutiliae (Evans: The cults of the Sabine Territory, 1939).

The traditional identification of the female bust as Vacuna is impossible, writes Crawford, citing the work of J.P. Morel, MEFR 1962, 25-29. An identification as Isis, according to the work of A. Alföldi, SM 1954, 30-31, is perhaps correct. In short, the identification of the obverse type is uncertain, as the female has attributes of Isis, Minerva, Apollo, Diana, and Victory. So it is a typical Polythea!

Der Kleine Pauly
Smith, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (online)
Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on December 05, 2007, 01:34:50 pm
The voting pebble of Athena

My Christmas gift for the Forum's members!

The coin:
Pamphylia, Side, Valerian II, Caesar Ad 256-258, son of Gallienus
AE 30, 18.04g
Bust, draped and cuirassed, bare-headed, r.; beneath eagle, standing r.,  with opened wings and head r.
c/m E in circular incus (Howgego 805)
Athena (Sidetes), helmeted and wearing narrow peplos, stg. facing, head l., holding palmbranch over l. shoulder and dropping voting pebble with r. hand into amphora with two handles l. beside her; r. beside her a branch with a pomegranate.
ref.: cf. SNG Pfälzer Privatsammlungen 882 (Gallienus); probably unpublished
F/about VF, rough obv., rev. with slight strike weakness and distinct circular traces of the ancient smoothing process.
The E of the c/m should probably devaluate the coin from 10 units to 5 units.
Coins from Side often show pomegranates because 'side' in Pamphylian means 'pomegranate'.

When you search for information for the motive 'Athena with voting pebble' you unevitably come across the myth of Orestes who became the slayer of his mother Klytaimnestra. To understand the problems I have to give a short review of the cursed House of the Atrides.

The story starts with Tantalos who - to test the wisdom of the gods - slaughters his son Pelops and served him as meal for the gods. No one touched it except Demeter who was deep in thoughts about her daughter Persephone. She ate a piece of his shoulder which was replaced by ebony when Pelops was brought to life again by Zeus. Tantalos was banished to the Tartaros to his eternal penalty.

Pelops himself was a bad boy too. When he went to Elis as suitor of Hippodameia, daughter of King Oinomaos, he convinced Myrtilos, a son of Hermes, who was the stablemaster of Oinomaos, to manipulate Oinomaos' chariot so that it broke in the racing and Pelops won Hippodameia. But instead to give Myrtilos the arranged pay he pushed him from a rock into the sea and killed him. Hermes swore to take revenge on his family. Pelops married Hippodameia and named his new home country Peleponnesos (Pelop's island).

Atreus was the son of Pelops. Together with his brother Thyestes he killed his second brother Chrysippos. Because of this murder both are banished by Pelops and they went to Argos. There Atreus deceived the goddess Artemis of a golden lamb. But because his wife Aerope has a love affair with his brother Thyestes this golden lamb secretly got to Thyestes. When the Mykenians wanted to choose one of them to their king Atreus proposed as candidate who could show a golden lamb. But this was surprisingly for him Thyestes. But Zeus in anger about this fraud gave the throne of Mykene to Atreus. After that he gains knowledge of the adultery of his wife and he decided to take revenge on his brother Thyestes. Under the pretext to make his peace with him he invited Thyestes, slaughtered his sons (this seems to be a popular practice at the Atrides!) and served them to him. Having eaten the meat Atreus showed the cut heads of his sons to Thyestes and chased him away. Later Atreus married Pelopeia, daughter of Thyestes. She at this time was pregnant by her father and gave birth to Aigisthos. When Aigistos grew up Atreus send off him to kill his
hateful brother Thyestes. But Thyestes recognized his son Aigisthos and he took revenge on Atreus.

Agamemnon was the son of Atreus and Aerope and brother of Menelaos. After the murder of Atreus Thyestes became king of Mykenai. Agamemnon and Menelaos were saved from Thyestes by their nurse. When they grew up Tyndareos helped them to recover the throne of Mykenai. Agamemnon married Klytaimnestra, the daughter of Tyndareos after having killed her first husband, a son of Thyestes, and her newborne babe. Menelaos married Helena, the other daughter of Tyndareos. Agamemnon had three children with Klytaimnestra: Elektra, Orestes and Iphigenia. When Agamemnon was elected leader of the Greek for the war against Troy the Greek armada couldn't dcross over to Asia Minor because of a dead calm. The seer Kalchas announced that first Artemis has to be appeased by sacrificing Iphigenia. Using a cunning - the supposed engagement with Herakles - Iphigenia was attracted to the camp of the Greeks with intent to be sacrificed on the altar. In the last moment she was saved by Artemis who abducted her and swapped her with a hind.

After the conquest of Troy Agamemnon returned to Mykenai with his lover Kassandra. There Klytaimnestra has lived all the years together with Aigisthos. When Agamemnon took a bath - dirty from his long his long voyage - he was slayed by Aigisthos and Klytaimnestra because as well what he has done to her and Iphigenia. After this deed Aigisthos was in great fear at Orestes because he was afraid of his blood vengeance. But this was just what Apollo has urged Orestes to. He should take revenge for the murder of his father Agamemnon. Using a stealth Orestes and his companion Pylades reached the castle of Aigisthos. They were disguised and brought an urn with Orestes' ashes to Aigisthos. In the same night they slayed Aigisthos and Orestes - with great concerns - killed his mother Klytaimnestra.

After the murder of his mother mother Orestes was chased by the Erinyes, the goddesses of revenge, who didn't leave him in peace day and night. Today we would call them 'pricks of conscience'. Orestes fled to Delphi to the temple of Apollo who has commanded the matricide. He was expiated by Apollo but this external expiation was not enough. Furthermore he was pressed hard by the Erinyes.

Now Athena came into play. She challenged Orestes to go to Athens and to deliver himself up to a court. The Athenians claimed that Athena should pass the sentence. But Athena denied that and transferred this task to the Athenians themselfs. She installed a court of jury members from the citizens of Athens. This court - named Areopag after the place of assembly - should exist for all times. It consisted of an even number of men. The judgement was passed by throwing white and black pebbles into an urn. In the case of a tie Athena would throw a white pebble - so she announced before the voting - into the urn. That means in the case of a tie the accused person was free. The reverse motive of the above coin originates from the time when Orestes has delivered himself up to the jury men of Athens. Athena dropped her voting pebble into the urn. With it Orestes was absolved. After that Athena succeeded in convincing the Erinyes of the blessing of this new legal order. So the Erinyes, the goddesses of revenge, changed to Eumenides, the well meaning goddesses.

In Euripides' Iphigenia a part of the Erinyes could be satisfied not until Orestes brought the palladion, the wooden statue of Artemis, from the Taurian country to Attica freeing his sister Ipgigenia too. According to the myth Orestes has ruled over Mykenai a long time until he died high aged by the bite of a snake.

The Atrides became the theme of dramatists from ancient times until today. The fate of Orestes first was mentioned by Homer in his 'Odyssee'. The most famous plays are the tragedies from Aischylos, Sophokles and Euripides. But even Jean Paul Sartre has written 1942 his drame 'Les Mouches' about Orestes. The interpretation and the perception of the bloody deeds differ from author to author. Here my view based mostly on Aischylos. He has arranged the mythological stuff in his trilogy 'Oresteia', consisting of the plays 'Agamemnon', 'The Choephores' and 'The Eumenides', which have been first performed in 458 BC.

Which superior meaning has the scene in Athens and why Athena drops a white pebble in the voting urn? Apollo has urged Orestes to perform the matricide to revenge the murder of his father. We see Apollo here still as typical exponent of the archaic blood vengeance. Athena in contrast at Aischylos is the goddess who introduces an official rational and secular jurisdiction. With the myth of Orestes and the Erinyes we are at the beginning of a cultural turning point, as Aischylos is seeing it. Its not only the fate of Orestes which matters Aischylos, but he raises the problem to a general level of the history of mankind. It is a question of his right of self-determination, his freedom and his independence from the control of the gods. An archaic barbaric era is removed by a new human one. It appears curious that the Erinyes pursued mercilessly the matricide Orestes but didn't care about Klytaimnestra the slayer of her husband. This can be understand only from chthonic ideas. The son is connected with his mother by his blood. But this is not true for Klytaimnestra and his husband. Apollo has a very different view on human relationships which go far beyond blood bond because they base on the free will like the marriage. While the Erinyes are pre-hellenic goddesses Apollo is an olympic god. So already with Apollo begins the removal of archaic morals but first Athena introduces the new human social order. And only this saves the peace of the polis. Therefore we see Athena on the coin without her spear and shield but with a palmbranch over her shoulder.

So the reverse of this coin points to an inportant fundament of each state and human community. Without organized law a human society is not possible. That matches the depiction of several other coins where Athena is shown as Boule (Council of the City). Athena is identified as Boule. No surprise that we find these depictions mainly in Asia Minor. Hereby the connection with the Greek motherland becomes particularly clear. And to ascribe the political structures to the mythological  greek prehistory gives each city an exceptional significance.

I have found another interesting suggestion for the voting pebble of Athena by Kirchhoff 1874. He writes that in ancient times at a trial on the Areopag the king too was present but he was not allowed to vote. He had to drop his wreath, sign of his majesty, and became a normal citizen, if he want to drop his pebble in the urn. The myth of the voting pebble of Athena - where even a goddess was voting - gave him the voting right, so to speak mythological justified.

I have added a pic of the Areopag. It is a rocky hill beneath the Acropolis. Its name means 'hill of Ares'. Here - according to the myth - has been judged over Ares after he has killed Halirrhotios. Halirrhotios has raped a daughter of Ares. Poseidon, father of the killed Halirrhotios, accused Ares for murder. It is said that on one rock the accuser was sitting and on the other rock the defender. But Ares got a non guilty because there couldn't not be found a witness. This was the first trial on the Areopag. The second was the case against Orestes. We see that this description differs from that by Aischylos. The pic is from
Hamburger, Käthe, Von Sophokles zu Sartre, Griechische Dramenfiguren antik und modern, 1962
Kirchhoff, Johann Wilhelm Adolf, Zur Frage vom Stimmstein der Athena, Berlin 1875
in: Monatsberichte der Königl. Preuss. Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin, 1874, S.105-115
Kerenyi, Karl, Prometheus, Die menschliche Existenz in griechischer Deutung, 1959
Karl Kerenyi, Griechische Mythologie
Der Kleine Pauly

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Arminius on December 26, 2007, 02:45:44 am
The second labour of Hercules, the Lernaean Hydra

In Greek mythology, the Lernaean Hydra was an ancient nameless serpent-like chthonic water beast that possessed numerous heads— the poets mention more heads than the vase-painters could paint— and poisonous breath. The Hydra of Lerna was killed by Hercules as one of his Twelve Labours. Its lair was the lake of Lerna in the Argolid, though archaeology has borne out the myth that the sacred site was older even than the Mycenaean city of Argos, for Lerna was the site of the myth of the Danaids. Beneath the waters was an entrance to the Underworld, and the Hydra was its guardian.
The Hydra was the offspring of Typhon and Echidna, noisome offspring of the earth goddess, Gaia. It was said to be the sibling of the Nemean Lion, the Chimaera and Cerberus.

The second labour of Hercules: Upon reaching the swamp near Lake Lerna, where the Hydra dwelt, Hercules covered his mouth and nose with a cloth to protect himself from the poisonous fumes and fired flaming arrows into its lair, the spring of Amymone, to draw it out. He then confronted it, wielding a harvesting sickle in some early vase-paintings; Ruck and Staples have pointed out that the chthonic creature's reaction was botanical: upon cutting off each of its heads he found that two grew back, an expression of the hopelessness of such a struggle for any but the hero, Hercules.
Realising that he could not defeat the Hydra in this way, Hercules called on his nephew Iolaus for help. His nephew then came upon the idea (possibly inspired by Athena) of using a burning firebrand to scorch the neck stumps after decapitation, and handed him the blazing brand. Hercules cut off each head and Iolaus burned the open stump leaving the hydra dead; its one immortal head Hercules placed under a great rock on the sacred way between Lerna and Elaius, and dipped his arrows in the Hydra's poisonous blood, and so his second task was complete. The alternative to this is that after cutting off one head he dipped his sword in it and used its venom to burn each head so it couldn't grow back.
Hercules later used an arrow dipped in the Hydra's poisonous blood to kill the centaur Nessus; and Nessus's tainted blood applied to the Tunic of Nessus.
When Eurystheus, the agent of ancient Hera who was assigning to Hercules The Twelve Labours, found out that it was Hercules' nephew who had handed him the firebrand, he declared that the labour had not been completed alone and as a result did not count towards the ten labours set for him. The mythic element is an equivocating attempt to resolve the submerged conflict between an ancient ten Labours and a more recent twelve.
Near Argos, the former presence of a large freshwater lagoon, named Lake Lerna, has been deduced from subsurface deposits. The lake was separated from the open sea by a beach barrier. It originated when the postglacial sea level rise reached its culmination point and extended over a diameter of 4.7 km in the Early Bronze Age. Increased soil erosion then caused a rapid silting, but remnants of Lake Lerna persisted until the last century. Anthropological studies have shown how the inhabitants of this coastal marsh have suffered from malaria in the past. It may be that the story of the legendary fight between Herakles and the Lernaean Hydra reflects the struggle of the Lanai people as they tried to change the inhospitable environment by draining the lake. (Eberhard Zangger: "Prehistoric Coastal Environments in Greece: The Vanished Landscapes of Dimini Bay and Lake Lerna", Journal of Field Archaeology 18 (1991) 1--15)

Modern geological techniques such as core drilling have identified the site of the vanished sacred Lake Lerna, which was a freshwater lagoon, separated by barrier dunes from the Aegean. In the Early Bronze Age Lake Lerna had an estimated diameter of 4.7 km. Deforestation increased the rate of silt deposits and the lake became a malarial marsh, of which the last remnants were drained in the nineteenth century.

Tarsos in Cilicia, Caracalla, 211-217 AD.,
Æ32 (32-33 mm / 16,17 g),
Obv.: [AVT KAI M AVP CЄV]HPOC ANTΩN[ЄINOC CЄB] / Π - Π (across field), laureate head of Caracalla left.
Rev.: Herakles and the Lernaean hydra: ..ANH - CЄ.. / ЄK (uncertain legend around and in lower field) /  TAPCOV (in exergue), Herakles standing left, nude, holding lion's skin on left arm and raising club far over his right shoulder, about to beat to death the Hydra.
SNG Levante - ; SNG Levante Suppl. - ; SNG France - ; SNG von Aulock - ; R. Bräuer, "Die Heraklestaten auf antiken Münzen," ZfN 28 (1910), pl. 2, 12 ; Voegtli 2q ; Cornell 116 .

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on December 29, 2007, 06:04:25 pm
The Garden of the Hesperides

Matching the article of Arminius I will tell something about another labour of Herakles: Herakles and the apple of the Hesperides.

I was on search of a coin showing the apple of Hesperides already for a long time. But mostly it is only Herakles who is depicted holding apples in his hand. Now I found this coin from Tarsos which is showing the trree with the snake too. Now we have the whole scenario. In fact only the Hesperides are missing!

The coin:
Cilicia, Tarsos, Gordian III, AD 238-244
AE 35
       Bust, draped and cuirassed, seen from behind, radiate, r.
       in field l. and r. P - P
      Herakles, bearded(?), nude, stg. facing, head l., resting with r. hand on his club, holding
      over l. arm the lion-skin and in the outstretched l. hand five apples.; l. beside him a tree
      with twigs, entwined by a nake.
      in the upper r. field A / G, in the lower l. field M / K
Ref.: cf. SNG Copenhagen 383
very rare, good F/about VF, trace of ancient smoothing process on rev.

The golden apples were a gift of Gaia for Hera when she married Zeus. They had the nature to give youth and eternal life. Hera was very pleased and planted them in her own divine garden. The Hesperides, daughters of the Night, were assigned to guard them. But the Hesperides, known for their sweet voices, marauded the tree and gave its fruits away. It is said f.i. that they gave apples to Hippomenes so that he could win the run against Atalante. Therefore Hera placed the dracon Ladon in her garden who entwined the tree. His order was to guard the tree against the Hesperides!

Because Eurystheus didn't accept Herakles fight against the Hydra because Ioalos had helped him, he gave Herakles another task: He should bring him the apples of the Hesperides.This was the eleventh labour in the classical kanon of his labours. The problem was that no one knew where to find the garden of the Hesperides! It was told that he was located in the high north in the land of the Hyperboraeans, or at the western horn near the Ethiopian Hesperiai. But the usual opinion was that the garden was situated far in the west. That matched the name Hesperides which means 'girls of the evening', a explicit hint to the west.

On his quest for the apples Herakles came to Illyria and the river Po. He had a fight against Kyknos, a son of Ares, until Zeus stopped the fight. The region around the Po was ruled by the sea-god Nereus. Nymphs pointed him to the sleeping Nereus and Herakles forced him to reveal where he could find the apples and how he could get them. Although Nereus took different shapes and curled around like Proteus Herakles won the fight and got all informations he needed.

Another myth (Aischylos) knows that Herakles was told the secret by Prometheus. He, a Titan like his brother Atlas, was forged to a rock of the Caucasus montains, and each day Zeus sent an eagle to eat from his liver which grew again each night. Herakles freed Prometheus and gratefully Pometheus gave Herakles the needed information and the hint not to take the apples by himself but to ask Atlas to get them for him.

Atlas was punished by the gods to carry the sphere of heaven on his shoulders. When Herakles came to Atlas he took the sphere for him and Atlas went to the garden and got the apples. Some say that Herakles has shot Ladon before. Coming back with the apples Atlas denied to take the sphere again. But Herakles fooled him. Declaring himself agreed, he ask Atlas to take the sphere for a short moment, because he wanted to set a pad on his shoulder. When Atlas has taken the sphere again Herakles walked away with the apples laughing.

Over the time the mythology changed. In the oldest versions Herakles got the apples from the Hesperides himself. Then it was said that Ladon, the guardian of the tree, fell asleep by the song of the Hesperides. The last versions said that Ladon was killed by Herakles' arrow. The story became - so to speak - more brute. Thereby Ladon, son of Typhon and Echidna (or Keto and Phorkys), was not a horrible monster but one of the wise snakes which spoke many languages and could understand them. After Ladon's death he was set by Hera gratefully to the sky as constellation Draco.

Another myth tells that the Egyptian king Busiris - attracted by the beauty of the Hesperides - sent a ship to rape them. When his assistants has raped the Hesperides they celebrated their deed at the beach. In this moment Herakles came by and freed the Hesperides. Bringing them back to their father Atlas(!) Atlas gratefully gave him the apples and teached him astrology too because he was a famous astrologer (Diodor. Sic. I. IV. c.27, p.162). Here Atlas is not the bloody idiot as he is depicted otherwise.

It is said that Herakles visited the garden of the Hesperides once before when he was on the quest for the hind of Keryneia. There is an ancient vase painting showing the hind standing under the tree with the golden apples guarded by two Hesperides. But Herakles has took the way back because no one was allowed to left the garden. In this sense the garden was like the underworld (Kerenyi).

It is told too (Apollonius) that the Argonauts visited the garden of the Hesperides on their voyage to the Golden Fleece. The came one day after Herakles has taken the apples and they met the Hesperides crying. Their sorrow was so great that they transformed in front of the heroes into trees: a black poplar, an elm tree and a willow tree. But later they could transform themselves back!

According to Hesiod the Hesperides were the daughters of the Night (Nyx), according to others daughters of Phorkys or Atlas or Hesperos. 'Beyond the Okeanos' they kept their golden apples and the fruit-trees of the garden of gods. The apples were symbols of eternal youth, or love and fertility. Gaia had let them sprout as a marriage gift for Hera and Zeus.
Originally this magic garden seems to be the theater of the hieros gamos, the holy marriage. There are similarities with the garden Eden, the Paradise, with its magic tree and the snake, which are leaping to the eye.

However the location of the garden was shifting to the west more and more together with the growing geographical knowledge of the Greeks and their growing view of the world. At first it was at Berenike on a peninsula of the gulf of Syrte in Libya, then on the slopes of the Atlas mountains, finally on a mythical island in the Atlantic ocean.

The number of Hesperides varies from three over four to even eleven on vase paintings. Hesiod knew three, named Aigle, Erytheia and Hesperthusa. The last name was divided by Apollodoros in Hesperia and Arethusa and so making four. Herakles' adventure with the Hesperides appears on pictures not before the century C, in literature not before the century BC. In the first tales Herakles was picking the apples by his own motive, not until later it became a charge of Eurystheus.

In Baroque the 'Garden of the Hesperides' was the name of many elaborately arranged exotic gardens especially with citron or orange trees. Probably the mythical apples has been citrons or quinces too because in the times of that myths apples were small, hard and inedible. Famous 'Gardens of the Hesperides' could be found in Nuremberg or Bamberg and other cities..

I have added a detail of the famous painting of the Attic painter Meidias. It is found on a red-figured Hydria from about 420-410 BC now in the British Museum. The painting shows the Hesperides and the tree with the golden apples, here together with the magician Medea with her box with magic herbs.

Der kleine Pauly
Robert von Ranke-Graves, Griechische Mythologie
Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologischs Lexikon
Karl Kerenyi, Die Mythologie der Griechen

Other threads dealing with the garden of the Hesperides are
- An apple of immortality:
- Interesting Deultum of Gordian:

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on December 29, 2007, 06:09:28 pm
The Cult of Dionysos in Nysa-Scythopolis

The coin:
Samaria, Nysa-Scythopolis, Gordian III, AD 238-244
AE 25, 13.2g
struck AD 240 (year 304)
       Bust, draped, laureate, r.
rev. NVC - C - KVQ IER ACV
      Dionysos, nude, nebris waving behind, tripping forward, head l., holding thyrsos in raised
      r. hand like reaching back for a throw, his l. hand laying on the head of a small figur,
      which is kneeling before him; behind him the panther l., head turned r.
      in r. field palm-branch, beneat date D - T (year 304 of Pompeian era)
ref. Spijkerman 206, 59; SNG ANS 1054 var. (has bunch of grapes in field); BMC 12
Rare, about VF
Nysa is todays Bet-Shean in Israel. The seller is from this very city!

I have purchased this coin because I suggested that there could be something interesting behind the reverse depiction which was not clear at the first view. And I was right! The informations are not sure because the scientific dispute is not not closed. But I think they are plausible at least. Here are the results of my research:

Depiction and interpretation:
Dionysos' association with the city of Nysa-Scythopolis apparently originated from the Hellenistic period, and is connected to the city's re-foundation by the Ptolemies, who claimed to be descendants of Herakles and Dionysos. The cult of Donysos played a central role during the Ptolemaic period , reaching its climax under Ptolemy IV (222-204 BC).
It seems that the cult of Dionysos at Nysa-Scythopolis was also founded on the legend which identified the city as the burial place of Nysa, Dionysos' nurse. According to Greek mythology Nysa is also the name of the area where Dionysopolis grew up.

Dionysos' appearance , like the myths about him, changed through the ages. At first he was depicted as an elderly, bearded person, while later on he appears more often as a young naked god with long flowing locks.

Under Commodus, Nysa-Scythopolis minted coins with a wide range of Dionysiac themes. The earliest of these is a medal struck under Marcus Aurelius showing the head of young Commodus on the obverse. The medaillon was most probably issued to commemorate the voyage of Marcus Aurelius and his son Commodus to the east in AD 175/176.

Rachel Barkays describes the coin as follows
It shows Dionysos naked but with a chlamys flying behind him, he may also be wearing a panther's skin. He is shown here in a violent scene, advancing to right, holding in his right hand a short tyrsus pointing down towards the head of a small figure, in his left hand is the forelock of the small figure, which is spreading its hand and trying to escape. On the left is a panther attacking a small figure. The same scene appears on an unpublished medal minted under Septimius Severus.

Another violent scene resembling the one on the medal is represented on coins of Elagabal and Gordian III, where Dionysos is swinging a thyrsus; the pine-cone can sometimes be seen clearly at the top of the thyrsus, touching the head of the small figure. In coins issued under Gordian III this small figure seems to be a herma. The panther seems to be running with its head turned backwards. These descriptions of Dionysos may be connected with the violent aspects of the Dionysiac cult. They are associated with the image of Dionysos as a god who hurts people while in a state of exstasy, under the influence of wine. Hill described the scene
as "An unexplained episode of Dionysiac legend...where the god seems to be threatening a small primitive idol with his thyrsos (which looks, however, more like a spear)." On the other hand , Eckhel identified the small figure as Priapus, while according to Seyrig [it may be a corybant, or a Scyth, who is dancing in front of the young Dionysos]

In the city of Nysa-Scythopolis we find the richest descriptions of Dionysopolis and depictions of episodes from the cycle of his life on city-coins. Nysa-Scythopolis was indoubtedly an important center of the cult of Donysos, a fact which is also reflected in the archaelogical finds from the excavations there. The cult of Dionysos in Nysa-Scythopolis is not indicated in the literary sources, and we do not know from them that the city claimed any special status as a result of its connection with the tradition linking it to the history of Dionysos. Thus the coins of Nysa-Scythopolis are the main source of our knowledge about the role played by the cult of Dionysos in the history of the city.

One may, however, - according to Haim Gitler - interpret the scene in an entirely different way. It very probably illustrates a Dionysiac procession related to the festival of the Anthesteria.

The Anthesteria, the Blossom Festival, were celebrated in the early spring in Athena and many Ionian towns. On the second day, which fell on the twelfth of the month of Anthesterion (February/March), new wine was ceremonially blessed before Dionysos and throughout the city the day was celebrated by drinking from special jugs of a peculiar shape known as choes. This day, the most important of the festival, was called Choes, after these squat jugs with a trefoil mouth.

Many of the choes dating to the fifth and fourth century BC were decorated with scenes of the different phases of mirth and play during the festival. One was a ceremony of initiation, parastasis, when three-year old children were admitted to the religious community. This was the first time in their lives that the children smelled and tasted wine, and for this purpose specially designed miniature choes were produced. Festal tables were placed in the sanctuary of Dionysos where the children received a choice of dainties and toys before joining the public Dionysiac procession. By the end of the ceremony the children had become a part of the civic community. On the basis of the above description the following interpretation is suggested:

Dionysos is half-covered by the nebris, a skin of a panther, hanging from his l. shoulder. Flying behind him is one of the panther's paws and its tail; in front there is probably another paw. The boy on Dionysos' right holds a choes in his outstretched left hand and a rattle in his right hand. To the left of Dionysos , another boy with bent knees carries a small panther. This identification seems certain since a small panther also appears on the medaillon struck under Septimius Severus.

It seems therefore preferable to regard the detailed representation on the medaillons of Commodus and Septimius Severus, as well as on the coins of Elagabal and Gordian III, as illustrations of parts of a Dionysiac procession at the Anthesteria. Most elements in these scenes have their parallels on fifth-fourth century BC Attic choes, which were used by children at the festival of the Anthesteria. Although the Nysa-Skythopolis medaillons and coins were produced approximately six centuries later, there is a remarkable resemblance of representations on the coins of the Syrian city and the Attic choes. Especially noteworthy is the similarity in the postures of the children's bodies and their handling of the choes.

Meshorer believed that the increase in the depictions of Dionysos on coins of some Palestinian cities during Commodus' reign reflects the introduction of a new syncretistic cult of Dionysos. The similarities between the representions on the coins od Nysa-Scythopolis and the much earlier depictions of the Anthesteria on the choes, however, would indicate that the ceremony derives from the much older tradition. Unfortunately, there is neither epigraphic nor literary evidence of such a festival in Nysa-Scythopolis.It is interesting that up to the reign of Commodus, there were only one type featuring Dionysos on coins of the city. During the next 65 years, until the city stopped minting coins in 240/1 AD, no less than seven different coin types from Nysa-Scythopolis show Dionysiac scenes. It is difficult to say what prompted them but we may safely assume that the city was one of the most important centers of Dionysiac worship in the region. This is no surprise, after all, the city was named after Dionysos' nurse Nysa who, according to a popular tradition, was buried at Beth-Shean (Plinius, Hist.nat.V,18,74).

I have added a pic of a choes of the Oinokles painter (c. 475-450) showing an interesting episode which could be seen at the vinous Anthesteria. Who could explain what is depicted on the choes?

The second picture shows todays Bet-Shean with its Tell.

[1] Der kleine Pauly
[3] Barkay, Rachel "The Dionysiac Mythology on Coins of Nysa-Scythopolis (Beth Shean) in the Roman Period", Proceedings of the XIth International Numismatic Congress I, Louvain-la Neuve 1993, pp. 371-375.
[4] Haim Gitler, New aspects concerning the Dionysos cult in Nysa-Scythopolis, SNR 70, 1991, 23-28 (Schweizerische Numismatische Rundschau, ISSN 0035-4163)

For more informations of the Anthesteria you can look at Apollonius Sophistes:
or with another suggestion:

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on January 05, 2008, 04:34:33 pm
Eshmun- the Phoenician Healer God

I want to share once again a coin whose mythology originates from the eastern region. It is known by most of you (at least should!) that the number of deities of the Middle East exceeds the number of Greek gods by far. But often they are local deities whose names or meanings sometimes are unknown to us, because they change from one city to the next. This is not the case with this god. And he is connected to the Greek mythology what we have seen at other gods too.

The coin:
Phoenicia, Berytos, Elagabal, AD 218-222
AE 23, 10.72g
Bust, draped and cuirassed, seen from behind, laureate, r.
rev. COL IV - L - AVG FE[L] / [BER]
Eshmoun, naked with chlamys behind, stg. frontal, head r., holding wreath(?)
in raised r. hand, between two coiled snakes
ref. BMC 216; Lindgren II, 120, 2270; SNG Copenhagen 120 (same rev. die)
very rare, VF, brown surfaces
ex CNG Electronic Auction 179

It is said that Eshmun was a young man from Beryts who loved to hunt. The goddess Astarte fell in love with him, but to escape her advances he mutilated himself and died. Not to be outdone, Astarte brought him back to life by the warmth of her body, and changed him into a god (Photius). It is also said that the village of Qabr Shmoun, near Beirut, still preserves the memory of the young god's tomb. Known primarily as a god of healing, Eshmun's death and resurrection also gave him the role of a fertility god who dies and is reborn annually.

As God Eshmun was equated with Asklepios the Greek God of Health. Therefore we see him as Eshmun-Asklepios together with snakes which stand for the healing power of nature.

Eshmun was a god of healing of the northwestern Semitics and the tutelary of Sidon. He was was known at least from the Iron Age period at Sidon and was worshipped also in Tyre, Berytos, Cyprus, Sardinia, and in Carthage, where the site of Eshmun's temple is now occupied by the chapel of Saint Louis. So Eshmun is one of the many gods of the Phoenician pantheon.
According to Sanchuniathon, Sydyk 'Just', first fathered seven sons equated with the Greek Kabeiroi or Dioskuroii, no mother named, and then afterwards fathered an eighth son by one of the seven Titanides or Artemides. The name Eshmun appears to mean 'the Eighth'.

Pausanias (7.23.7–8) quotes a Sidonian as saying that the Phoenicians claim Apollo as the father of Asklepios, as do the Greeks, but unlike them do not make his mother a mortal woman. the Sidonian then continued with an allegory which explained that Apollo represented the sun, whose changing path imparts to the air its healthiness which is to be understood as Asklepios. This allegory seems likely a late invention. Also Apollo is usually equated with the Phoenician plague god Resheph. This might be a variant version of Eshmun's parentage, or Apollo might also be equated with Sadyk, Sadyk might be equated with Resheph.

The temple of Eshmun is found 1km from Sidon on the Bostrenus River, the modern River Awwali in a lush valley of citrus groves. Building was begun at the end of the 6th centura BC during the reign of Eshmunazar II, and later additions were made up into the Roman period. It was excavated by Maurice Dunand in 1963-1978. It's the only Phoenician site in Lebanon where is left more than the foundation walls. The site of his temple must have been chosen because of the nearby water source which was used in the healing rituals. It was the custom to offer statues to the god that bore the names of those who came for healing. The fact that most of these votive pieces depict children suggests that Eshmoun may have been regarded as the pediatrician of the times. Many of these votive offerings were found during the excavation.

Also found near the Sidon temple was a gold plaque of Eshmun and the goddess Hygieia, "Health," showing Eshmun holding a staff in his right hand around which a serpent is entwined. My coin from Berytos shows Eshmun together with two snakes. A similar depiction is found on a rare denarius of Geta where Asklepos-Eshmun is seen standing between two snakes in a temple. Wether this is the temple from Sidon I don't know. Other coins from Melitta (todays Malta) show the head of Eshmun, sometimes winged.

I have added
(1) a pic of Geta's denarius
(2) a pic of the Eshmun temple near Sidon as it can seen today.


Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on January 10, 2008, 04:19:35 pm
The pre-Islamic goddess Al-Lat

Here I want to present an interesting interpretation of this coin:

Arabia, Philippopolis, Philipp I., AD 244-249
AE 30, 17.30g
        Bust, draped and cuirassed, laureate, r.
       Roma(?),  in long clothes, helmeted, std. l., holding spear in l. hand and eagle with
       two small figures in outstretched r. hand; shield aside
       in field l. and r. S - C
ref. Spijkerman 3
rare, EF
The meaning of the two figures is unknown. Because it seems to be a dynastic issue they could be Philip's father and Philip himself(?).

About this coin:
In addition to promoting his immediate family, Philip I also lavished honours upon his deceased father, Julius Marinus, whom he deified. Philips family hailed from a somewhat obscure town in Arabia Trachonitis (the modern village of Shahba, Syria) situated about 60 miles east of the Sea of Galilee and 25 miles north of Bostra, the capital of Roman Arabia. Philip took full advantage of his new position as emperor to honour his hometown, which he elevated to a Roman colonia, and renamed Philippopolis.

Beyond these honorary upgrades, Philip made capital improvements in his hometown. He built a temple for the worship of his now-deified father, and had numerous mosaics, a theatre, baths and temples constructed. The ruins of these survive today, and it is likely that most – if not all – were completed under Philips watch. Since the town was not on a major road or trade route, its prosperity and fame eventually faded.

The coinage of Philippopolis was an isolated event, as no coins had been struck there before Philip's reign, and none were produced afterward. Since no die links between this city coinage and any other was documented in Konrad Krafts monumental 1972 study of provincial die links, it is possible the coins were actually produced in Philippopolis, rather than at a larger regional mint. A further peculiarity is that even though Philippopolis was a Roman colonia, its coin inscriptions (except the formulaic SC) are rendered in Greek

The reverses depict a seated goddess and a standing goddess. Though the standing goddess still merits her identification as Roma, the seated goddess is perhaps better identified as Allat based upon her similarity to statues found at Palmyra and Suweida. Allat was a remarkably old fertility/mother goddess representing the earth. Her worship was important to agriculture, and she belonged to the trinity of desert goddesses, the other two being al-Uzza, the morning-star goddess, and Manat, the goddess of fate and time (from Numismatica Ars Classica).

Allat was equated to Athena and worshipped especially by the military personnel. So evidence suggests that the figure on the reverse is rather Athena/Allat than Roma. This would match the fact that in the temple of Allat at Palmyra a statue of Athena has been found.

Al-Lat was a pre-Islamic Arabian goddess who was one of the three chief goddesses of Mecca. She is one of three goddesses that the pre-Islamic Meccans referred to as "The Daughters of God".
In the Koran, she is mentioned along with al-Uzza and Manat in Sura 53:19-23.
According to Bob Trubshaw, Allat was a triple goddess of the moon, similar to Demeter. She had three aspects, each corresponding to a different phase of the moon: Kore, the crescent or maiden; al-Uzza, the full moon or mother; and Manat, the waning moon or wise woman. The phase of al-Uzza was worshipped at the Kaaba and served by seven priests called 'Beni Shaybah' (sons of the Old Woman). Worshippers circled the stone seven times, once for each of the ancient seven planets, or like Ishtar who travelled through seven gates of the underworld. to get to her sister Ereshkigal, named Allatu too. Allatu is suggested an older name of Allat.

Her name occurs in early Safaitic graffiti (Safaitic han-'Ilat "the Goddess") and she was worshipped by the Nabateans of Petra and the people of Hatra, who equated her with the Greek Athena and the Roman Minerva. According to Wellhausen, the famous Islamist, they believed Allat was the mother of Hubal (and hence the mother-in-law of Manat).
The Greek historian Herodotus, writing in the 5th century BC, considers her the equivalent of Aphrodite:"The Assyrians call Aphrodite Mylitta, the Arabians Alilat, and the Persians Mitra" (Histories I:131). According to Herodotus, the ancient Arabians believed in only two gods: "They believe in no other gods except Dionysos and the Heavenly Aphrodite; and they say that they wear their hair as Dionysus does his, cutting it round the head and shaving the temples. They call Dionysos, Orotalt; and Aphrodite, Alilat." (Histories III:38).

Acoording to Wellhausen, names containing Allat were frequently met in the Palmyrian region, where f.e the son of Odenathus and Zenobia was Vab-allatus. Comparison of names results in hints that in later times (but pre-Islamic too) the name al-Lat merged in Allah. In contradiction to the theory of merging the contemporary discussion about the early times of Islam debates wether al-Lat could be one of the daughters of Allah. But this contradicts the monotheism of the Islam. Remarkable nevertheless is the spelling of both names. By the lonely addition of two dots over the last letter of 'Allah' the 'h' becomes a 't', and we have 'Allat'.

According to the 'Book of Idols (Kitab al-Asnam)' by Hisham b. al-Kalbi, the pre-Islamic Arabs believed Allat resided in the Kaaba and also had an idol inside the sanctuary: Her custody was in the hands of the Banu-Attab ibn-Malik of the Thaqif, who had built an edifice over her. The Quraysh, as well as all the Arabs, were wont to venerate Allat. They also used to name their children after her, calling them Zayd-Allat and Taym-Allat. Allat continued to be venerated until the Thaqif embraced Islam, when the Apostle of God dispatched al-Mughirah ibn-Shubah, who destroyed her and burnt her temple to the ground.

The Quraysh was the dominant tribe of Mecca upon the appearance of the religion of Islam. It was the tribe to which the Prophet Mohammed belonged, as well as the tribe that led the initial opposition to his message.

Originally we have some different version of the Koran, as we have from the Gospels
as well. The definite version was compiled by the Caliph Osman in the 7th century AD. Is it possible that the original Koran contained verses which were eliminated because they were against the orthodox belief? We know of the famous folk memory that not only the Archangel Gabriel but Satan too has supplied the Prophet with some verses. By these verses the three pagan goddesses al-Lat, al-Uzza and Manat were called 'high-flying cranes', and seen as a kind of mediators between men and God. Because these local deities of Mecca in the first time were tolerated by the Prophet, the people of Mecca followed his appeal to prostrate before God.

When later the Archangel Gabriel informed the Prophet that these verses came from Satan they were eliminated. The legend of these verses - being the background of Salman Rushdies disputed novel of AD 1988 - is dicussed controversially until today. Most of the Muslim scholars deny this story as being fictional. But some western Islamists tend to accept it as true. It would be the evidence that Mohammed has convinced the people of Mecca of the magnanimity of Allah by flatteries for their three goddesses (from 'Der Spiegel', Nr.52, 22.12.07, 'Der Koran')

I have added the pic of the statue of Athena from the temple of Allat at Palmyra, and the pic of a plate showing Allat sitting on a camel.

- 'Der Koran', in ''Der Spiegel', Nr.52, 22.12.07
- Wellhausen, Julius: Reste arabischen Heidentums, DeGruyter Verlag. Berlin, 
   Leipzig. 2. Ausgabe 1927.
- Salman Rushdie, Die Satanischen Verse
- Das Nabatäische Pantheon

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on January 17, 2008, 10:37:01 am
Aeneas escapes from Troy

Naturally the myth of Aeneas' flight from the burning Troy belongs to this thread. But I had to wait a long time for a proper coin for this theme. Because I didn't want to take the well-known
denarius of Caesar. Now I'm happy to add this phantastic coin to my collection.

Troas Ilion, pseudo-autonomous, c.79-96 (time of the Flavians)
AE - (Orichalcum-) Semis, 6.86g, 19mm
obv. Bust of Athena, wearing warlike clothes with Corinthian helmet, aegis on her chest,
       spear over r. shoulder, before that a snake twisting upwords (from the aegis?)
       ILI beneath, all in circle of dots
rev. Aineias, bearded, bare-headed, in short military cloak and boots, advancing r., leading
      his son Askanios, in short chiton, looking upwards to him, with r. hand, and carrying his
      father Anchises, bearded, head veiled, looking forward, in his l. arm
      in dotted circle
ref.: Bellinger T129; von Fritze 28; RPC II, 895; SNG Copenhagen 368; SNG von Aulock 154; BMC 20
Rare, VF, natural Orichalcum surface, slight roughness
ex Künker Auction 133, lot 8140 (descibes the snake as twining around the spear!)

On this coin:
A bust of Athena...appears as the obverse type of a bronze wholly civic in character, the reverse showing the flight of Aeneas with no reference to an emperor at all. It belongs, therefore, to the class...whre it may be supposed that the profit of striking was left entirely to the city. Von Fritze assigns these pseudo-autonomous pieces, the first since Augustus, to the Flavian period on grounds of style. This seems right; I would only remark that it is likelier that Titus or Domitian should have made the new experiment than that Vespasian should have allowed a civic semis to be issued in competition with his own coins of that denomination. I should prefer, therefore, to attribute them to his sons.

The device of Aeneas carrying Anchises appeared first on a sixth century tetradrachm of Aenea in Macedonia and is said to be "often portrayed on archaic Greek monuments," but obviously such remote examples are very little likely to have influenced the mint under Augustus. A much more plausible ancestor is the denarius struck in the East by Julius Caesar about 48 BC. The attitude ofd the figures is the same, though the Palladium is not visible on our bronze. It is not impossible that a specimen had come into the hands of a die-sinker who recognized its appropriateness to the city and to Augustus whose adoption into the Julian gens gave him a right to claim Aeneas as an ancestor. (Bellinger, Troy)

The city of Ilium was founded by Augustus at the place of the legendary Troy. Aineias is Lat. Aeneas.

Anchises was king of Dardania in the Troas, son of Kapys and Themiste (daughter of Ilion), brother of Laokoon, father of Hipodameia and Aineias, who was the son of aphrodite. Anchises was famous because of his beauty, so that Zeus has made Aphrodite to fall in love with him. When Anchises once shepherds his cattle on the mountains of Ida - in those times this was common even for kings! - Aphrodite as Kythereia appears in the shape of a beautiful
Phrygian shepherdess. As result of this love affair Aphrodite gave birth to Aineias, but forbade Anchises to talk about it, because he was a mortal. For a long time Anchises kept the secret. But finally when he was drunken he violated the interdiction and boasted with his love affair among his companions. In anger Zeus threw his thunderbolt to kill him. But Aphrodite - still in love with him - deflected it so that he only became lamed (or blind referring to others). Because of this love theme the myth of Anchises and Aphrodite belongs to the ambit of the mythology of the 'Great Mother' of Asia Minor.

Another known myth of Anchises tells that he clandestinely has stolen six fillies from the horses which Zeus has given to Laomedon for the raped Ganymed. Two of these warhorses Anchises later gave to Aineias for his chariot.

Aphrodite, his mother, begged her father Zeus, to provide immortality to Aineas. When Zeus agreeded the rivergod Numicius washed all of his mortal parts away, and Aphrodite by feeding him with nectar and ambrosia made him a god, who later was worshipped under the name Indiges (Vergil, Aeneis). As commander of the Dardanians he came to Troy to assist the Trojans against the Greek. He was urged by Apollo to challenge Achilles in single combat. Aeneas was very close to die but Poseidon rescued him explaining to the other gods: "Even Zeus might be angry if Achilles killed Aeneas, who after all is destined to survive and to save the House of Dardanos from extinction... Priam's line has fallen out of favour with Zeus, and now Aeneas shall be King of Troy and shall be followed by his children's children in the time to come." (Homer, Ilias 20, 300). He was wounded by Diomedes, and rescued by his mother, Aphrodite. Diomedes attacked her and both were saved when Apollo spirited them to his temple in Pergamus, and returned Aeneas to the battle when he'd recovered. Besides Hektor he was the most famous heroe of the Trojans.

There are some different versions of his flight from Troy. One says that the Greeks have allowed the free Trojans to leave the burning city of Troy, and to take away their most important things. Aineias took the Palladium. Recognizing his piety the Greeks allowed to take a second thing. Now Aineias took his old blind father on his shoulders. That moved the Greeks so much that they finally allowed him to take his entire family.

Another version tells that the spirit of the deceased heroe Hektor has warned him of the fall of Troy, so that he could escape from the burning city at the right time, carrying his blind father Anchises on his back and holding his little son Askanios with his hand, whereas his wife Kreusa (a daughter of the Trojan king Priamos) was slain by the Greeks

After his flight from Troy he became the leader of the surviving Trojans. First they sailed to Thrace where Aineias founded the city of Aineia. Then the Trojans made their way west to resettle in Italy. There they intermarried with the local inhabitants and founded the town of Lavinium, and thereby became the nucleus of the future Roman people. One of the descendants of Aeneas  son Ascanius (known now as Iulus) was Rhea Silvia. Impregnated by the god Mars, she gave birth to the twins, Romulus and Remus. Exposed by their great-uncle, Amulius, the twins were suckled by a she-wolf, but they were eventually rescued. Romulus later founded the city of Rome, and consequently the image of the she-wolf and the twins became the symbol of that city. The mythological depictions on this coin reinforce the importance of Ilium, not only as the seedbed of the future Roman people, but also as the mother city of the future caput mundi. (CNG)

Homer didn't know a son of Aineias. So he is a figure of the post-Homerian tradition. He appears as son of Priamos(!) at Apollodor, in the epic Kyklos as son of Aineias and Eurydike.
First at Vergil and Livius he is the son of Aeneas and Kreus. After the fall of Troy he ruled for a while over the Daskylites at the Propontis until he came as successor of his father to the mountains of Ida or to Skepsis. There he discarded his original name Euryleon. His Roman name is Ilus or Iulus. Together with his father Aeneas he came to Italy and after the death (or Ascension!) of his father he became his successor in Latium and so the ancestor of the gens Julia. He founded Alba Longa (Vergil, Aeneis). Caesar as Julian ascribed himself to Iulus and then by Aeneas to Venus, the Roman Aphrodite. The first Roman depiction of the flight of Aeneas with Anchises and Askanios is therefore to be found on the famous denarius of Caesar, Crawford 458.

Here I Have a list of coins showing this scene:
(1) Aineia, semi-autonomous, Moushmov 6245
(2) Caesar, Denar, 47/6 BC., Crawford 458
(3) Octavian, Aureus, Crawford 494
(4) Augustus, Segesta/Sicily, 2 types: head of Augustus, head of Segesta
(5) Ilion, semi-autonomous, time of Flavians, Bellinger T129
(6) Hadrian, Semis, Ilion, Bellinger T134
(7) Marcus Aurelius, Ilion, Belinger T148
(8) Faustina, Skepsis
(9) Commodus(?), midst of AD 180, Patrae, BMC 44
(10) Commodus, Corinthe
(11) Mamaea, Skepsis, BMC 38

Homer, Ilias
Homeric Hymns to Aphrodite
Vergil, Aeneis
Benjamin Hederich, Gründliche griechische Mythologie
Der Kleine Pauly
Bellinger, Troy the Coins

I have added
(1) a pic of the tetradrachm from Aineia, and
(2) the pic of a black-figured storage jar with Aeneas and Anchises, attributed to the Leagros Group, Athens, about 510 BC, now in the Getty Villa in Malibu.

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on February 02, 2008, 10:54:08 am
Pyramus and Thisbe

Sometimes when you search for the mythological background of a coin you get other results than expected. This happened to me here. But first the coin:

Cilicia, Hierapolis-Kastabala, 2nd-1st century BC
AE22, 5.33g
obv. Head of city-goddess (Tyche), draped and veiled, wearing mural crown, r.
       The river-god Pyramos, swimming in waves r., l. arm outstretched and holding eagle in
       r. hand
BMC 3; SNG Copenhagen 144; SNG Levante 1569; SNG von Aulock 5571; SNG
        France 2217; SNG BN Paris 2212-13
F+, brown patina with earthen highlights

Pyramus and Thisbe were Babylonian lovers. They lived in two adjacent houses, were acquainted with each other since their childhood and had been fallen in love. Their fathers had forbidden the marriage. But their love they couldn't forbid. The joint wall between their houses had an old crack. There they often stand on each side and confessed their love. When their longing grew oversized, they decided to cheat their guardians, leave the house in the darkness and meet outside the city at the tomb of Ninus under a mulberry. Thisbe was the first who arrived at the appointed place. When she waited for Pyramus a lioness - having killed cattle before - came to the nearby well to satisfy her thirst. Full of fear Thisbe fled into the tomb loosing the garment of her back. Before returning in the wood the lioness teared to tatters the garment with bloody mouth. When Pyramus reached the place a bit later he saw the traces of the lioness and the bloody frazzled garment. Thinking that Thisbe was gorged by the beast he - complaining und full of mourning - took his sword and transfixed himself. The blood from his wound sprang high and colored the mulberry - which were white before - red until now. When Thisbe left the grave and returned to the agreed place she was doubtful because of the red fruits of the mulberry but then found her dying lover. In despair she pressed his body against her, moaned and tore her hair. Then - for being united with her lover at least by her death - she threw herself in the sword of Pyramus which still was warm by his blood.

Note: King Ninus of Assyria was the consort of Semiramis, who erected after his death
a big tomb for him.

Even though the story of Pyramus and Thisbe was passed down by Ovid it is actually not a Roman myth. It is a sentimental romance of Hellenistic origin and played in Babylon. About the connection with the Cilician river Pyramos we will hear later! First this story was told by Hyginus in Fabulae 242, but much more beautiful later by Ovid in his Metamorphoses (Met. 4), yes, it is suggested as one of his most beautiful stories, not because of its thrill but because of its many poetic details. In ancient times Pyramus and Thisbe was the paradigm of an unhappy love affair. In the late antiquity the story was condemned by Christianism, especially by Augustinus, because of its emphasis of erotic passion, a verdict which has influenced its later processing. Then it was used by Shakespeare as plot for 'Romeo and Julia' and then once more as subplot in 'A Midsommer Night's Dream'. So today Romeo and Julia has replaced Pyramus and Thisbe.

The Cilician river:
The river Pyramos, today Ceyhan Nehri, is the most east of the three mainstreams of Cilicia (the other two are the Kydnos and the Saros). He arises in Katania and opens at the Gulf of Issos (today Iskenderun) into the Mediterranean. Because of his strong sedimentation the Pyramos has changed his sometimes navigable lower course very often. So the site of the city of Mallos which was located in ancient times at the left side of the Pyramos today is located on the right side. Because the core country of Cilicia was an important transit way for the traffic from Asia Minor to Syria the Cilician rivers had played during the times often as water barrier. Therefore they were mentioned very often by ancient writers (Pauly).

And now we come back to the question: What's the story of Pyramus and Thisbe got to do with the Cilician river? And the answer is: Nothing! Really nothing! It is only the accidental coincidence of their names. But it is interesting that others too have fallen for the identity of names. Please look at the following mosaic!

History of art:
This mosaic has been found in the House of Dionysos in Paphos on Cypris. It is of special
interest because it demonstrates a rare and significant error. Obviously the mosaic describes a scene of Pyramus and Thisbe, the moment of their fateful meeting, which finally ended in their double suicide. The problem with this mosaic is that rather than showing the Pyramos who committed suicide when he thought Thisbe had been eaten by a great cat (a leopard in this mosaic), the artist put in the river god Pyramos with his seaweed hair and horn of plenty. The mosaic artist probably did not know the story and was just working from a book of standard themes — and chose the wrong Pyramos to draw!

The theme of Pyramus and Thisbe was picked up by many artist since Renaissance. I want to mention Hans Baldung Grien (1484-1545), Albrecht Altdorfer (1480-1538), Lucas Cranach (1472-1553), Nicolas Poussin (1593-1665), Gaspard Poussin (1615-1675),  Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), Rembrandt (1606-1669) and John William Waterhouse (1849-1917)

I have choosed the painting 'Thisbe' by John William Waterhouse (1849-1917), which doesn't show the usual suicide scene but Thisbe standing at the wall to speek with Pyramus.

Ovid, Metamorphoses
Der Kleine Pauly

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on February 26, 2008, 04:09:36 pm
The Genius

Especially at the times of the tetrarchs we find series of coins showing Genius on the reverse in the shape of Genius Populi Romani, Genius Augusti, Genius Imperatori or Genius Militum. So I think I should tell something about this curious deity. But first two coins.

1st coin:
Maximinus II Daia, AD 309-313
AE - Follis (AE 2), 23mm, 4.80g
London, 1st officina, AD 310-312
       Bust, cuirassed, laureate, r.
       Youthful Genius, wearing mural crown, nude except himation over l. shoulder and hips,
       stg. l., holding cornucopiae in l. arm and patera in outstretched r. hand.
       in r. field: star
       in ex. PLN
RIC VI, London 209(b); C.58
The mural crown here looks more like a rampart!

2nd coin:
Maximinus II. Daia, AD 309-313
AE - Follis (AE 2), 21.1mm, 5.05g
       Alexandria, 1st officina, AD 312/13
       Laureate head r.
       Genius, nude, chlamys over l. shoulder, wearing modius, stg. facing, head l., holding
       cornucopiae in l. arm and in outstretched r. hand bearded head of Serapis wearing
       in l. field one upon the other: star / N / palmbranch
       in r. field A
       in ex. ALE
RIC VI, Alexandria 160(b); C.29
VF, nice sandpatina

The name comes probably from Lat. gignere, because this deity was assigned to each human when he was conceived or he was taken under his protection (Varro), or he has created us himself or has been created together with us (Apuleius).

It's clear, that the Romans tried to integrate the Genius into their mythology. His parents should have been Juppiter and Gaea, who has born him, after Juppiter has created him when he was asleep. Others suggest that he was a son of the gods and the father of men. In any case all suggest that the Genii - there are many of them! - take a middle position between the gods and men. As soon as a human being was born one or two Genii were assigned to him, a white good one and a black bad one. The good one gives him all of his good thoughts, the bad one the contrary. Which ever is the stronger one he is the one who forms the character of the man. Genii always appear at males. At women there were the Junones. The Genii stayed at their person until his death when they gave him to the gods. According to others each man has only one Genius. The Genius handed down his man to the court and blamed him if he was lying or praised him when he kept the truth. According to the Genius the judgement was given to him because the Genius knew all of his secret thoughts. Even families, cities and countries had these guardian spirits. The Genius of Rome had a golden statue in the VIII regio. 

Everyone gave honour to his own Genius, especially at his birthday when he gave offerings to him but only flowers, wine and incense, because it was not allowed to kill any animal on this day. A vow done by the Genius of the emperor was the most steadfast oath as if it was done by Juppiter himself. Some suggested that the Genius was identical with the Animus, others that he actually was the mind of men. But because also mountains, swamps, lakes, fountains, valleys and forests had their own Genius it could be concluded that he actually was a fictive entity invented only to put the humans in fear and to prevent them from vice (Hederich).

The Genius is the 'power' which is inherent in man, not only becoming manifest in his virility but signifying extensively his whole personality. The Genius is neither 'soul' nor 'life'. It's particular to each one and ceased with his death. It is a kind of active principle which could be found too in collectives like troop units, councils and so on. It is assigned too to localities like provinces or cities. Power and prestige of the pater familias explain that the domestics worshipped his Genius and swore by him. The oath by the Genius of the emperor became common in private and public fields. False oath was a crime against the emperor. The concept of the Genius Augusti was the possibility to assign divine attributs to the emperor without making him a god directly which was frowned especially in the western part of the Empire!

The need for protection resulted in the idea of the Genius as protection spirit, but it was never clear wether he was immanent to men or has his own existence. In later times these ideas were mixed with the conception of the soul which could be found in grave inscriptions. The conception of the Genius as sum of the personality expanded to the idea of the Genius of a god: Genius Iovi. This required the conception of a full personalized deity.   
Meaningful is the Genius Populi Romani which is not only the Roman interpretation of the Greek City Tyche. On October 9 the festival of the Genius Publicus was celebrated. The later snake shape was an amalgamation with the well-known incarnation and soul conception. The Genius indeed was linked to a person but not identical with him. Life arises 'by appearing of the Genius', who then obtained it continually. We can see that the ancient world had difficulties with the interpretation of the Genius. But worshipping of the Genius was alive until the beginning of Christianism.

Der Kleine Pauly
Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon
John Melville Jones, A Dictionary of Ancient Roman coins

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on March 16, 2008, 04:06:25 pm
The Genius Cucullatus and Christophorus

We have talked about the Genius Cucullatus already on the Forum and in this Thread too, in connection with Asklepios and his companion Telesphoros. Here are two links: (Asklepios, Telesphoros), and
Recently I have found something which puts him in a greater context and suggests connections to Christophorus.
The Egyptian God of Death was the dog-headed Anubis. He accompanied the deads to the realm of the dead and therefore was equated by the Greeks to Hermes Psychopomos, the attendant of the souls and syncretizied in Hellenism with Anubis to Hermanubis.

About AD 450 in Chalcedon/Asia minor began the worshipping of an otherwise unknown martyr named Christophorus. Christophorus is Greek and means 'Bearer of Christus' (BTW There are other Christus bearers too: the pregnant Maria, Maria with Jesus in her arms, Joseph of Arimathea or Simeon). The eastern legend reports that he originally was a man-eating Kynekephalos (= dog-headed), who got his human shape and his voice not before his baptism. Then he became a Christian missionary and has preached on Samos and in Lycia. God has confirmed him by growing leaves and fruits from his walking-staff. He had to suffer many tortures and died finally by decapitation.

The eastern church until today knows depictions of Christophorus as dog-headed saint. The western church mitigated his beastlike appearance to a giant shape and reinterprets the term canineus (= dog-like) as cananeus (= from Kana, where Goliath is originated too), and let him tender his services to the mightiest ruler of the world. On the quest for this ruler he met a boy who asked him for bearing him over the river. But the boy on top of the giant's shoulders became heavier and heavier, until he nearly breaks down, and then unveiled himself as Christus, the mightiest ruler of the world. Hence his name Christophorus. From this time on he served Christus.

He is the most often depicted of all saints in the Christian Church. Very early a small manikin in the shape of a monk and wearing a hood appeared on pictures of Christophoros, sometimes a small dog too (which could be in the western church a silent reminiscence to the dog-headed ancestral saint). He is seen as the holy Cucuphates (or Cucufas, Cucufat, Cugat and so on). He came about AD 300 together with St.Felix from Gerona in North-Africa to Barcelona, was according to the legend under Diocletian first untouched burnt, then drown and died finally by decapitation. AD 845 abbot Fulrad took his head to St.Denis in Paris. AD 1079 his bones were detected in San Cugat del Valles.

Now already at the Phoenicians was known the depiction of a hooded manikin holding a light (candle, lamp or lantern), who is described without a name as archetyp by C.G.Jung. In the same way he is found on Greek depictions in the ambit of Asklepios. The Romans called him 'Genius cucullus' (from cucullus = hood). His function has seemed to be to lead deceased with his light to the netherworld in the case that the healing powers of Asklepios have failed.

In the 6th century occured a sound shift: a 'L' between two vocals became a 'F' (like 'coiffeur', which belongs to 'colerare', and who was originally a hair dyer). So 'Genius Cucullatus' became Cucufatus/Cucuphatus, and was mixed with the weak reminiscence of the martyr from Barcelona. On the other side the same syncretizing scholars must have still a distinct idea of the old function of the Anubic dog-headed soul attendant of the Christus bearer and of the hooded Phoenico-Greek soul guide of the ambit of Asklepios, so that they conclude from the guide and bearer function on one hand,  and from the similarities of their martyrdoms on the other hand, the togetherness of these two figures. So they motivated - in unknown text interpretation - artists to depict Christophorus and Cucuphatus together.

Because according to the 'Legenda aurea' Christophorus is symbolizing life and baptism and thus the bright features of the water, on the other hand Cucuphatus the gloomy and sad aspects of life and death, guiding the deceased by his lamp, he is often depicted together with other water figures, mermaids f.e. From such different ancient threads the character of these saints is composed. 

So it is understandable that pope Paul VI reforming the calendar of saints has discarded Christophorus from the list. Not understandable is on the other hand that Cucuphatus who has in no way a more reliable existence was left on the official list.

I want to add that Cucuphatus as well as cuculla belongs to an enigmatic indo-european ancient root to which the Irish heroe Cuchullain must be put too. The ancient root cel- seems to have the meaning 'dark, hidden' (related to the German 'ver-hehlen', 'Hel', 'Hölle'), which suggested for the otherwise not interpretable Cuchullain the origin from a cave, and so the connection to chthonic deities (BTW Cuchullain is derived from Irish 'cuchul' = hood, and: the words derived from cel- are meaning in Irish 'being hidden' and 'being dead' too!)

I have added
(1) The pic of Yurukova Deultum 86 with Telesphorus on the rev.
(2) a pic of the Cucullati of Housesteads
(3) a pic of Cucuphatus (with unknown origin)
(4) a pic of the 'St.Christophorus' of Dierick Bouts (1467-1468)

Hanswilhelm Haefs, Handbuch des nutzlosen Wissens, Band 2
Gabriele Haefs, Christophorus und Cucuphatus - Zwei sonderbare Heilige (so far unpublished)
Legenda Aurea

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Cleisthenes on April 17, 2008, 01:40:35 am
Here is a recent purchase from FORVM.  The reverse depicts a centaur. 

Bronze antoninianus, RIC 163, RSC 72, choice EF, Rome mint, 3.716g, 21.6mm, 180o, 268 A.D.; Obverse: GALLIENVS AVG, radiate head right; Reverse: APOLLINI CONS AVG, centaur walking right drawing bow, Z in exergue; struck on a full and round flan, rare this nice. Commemorates vows to Apollo invoking his protection against the revolt of Aureolus. Ex FORVM.

Jochen, I'm not sure if the reverse devise is "Cheiron, the wise kentaur" (the thread indexed below).  Might it be? :)


Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on May 09, 2008, 02:47:37 pm

This is the Greek goddess Hestia, not the Roman Vesta! Even if they have strong connections!

We find Hestia only rarely on coins. That is true for fine arts and vase painting too and is a striking contrast to the importance of this goddess for the every day life in ancient times. Here I have 2 types both provided by Pick with a question mark. On both coins Hestia is depicted holding a long torch but in the other hand she does not hold grain-ears like Demeter but a patera.

Moesia inferior, Nikopolis ad Istrum, Septimius Severus, AD 193-211
AE 16, 2.8g
        Head, laureate, r.
       Female figure with long garment [and veil], stg. l., holding patera in r. hand and
       resting on torch with l. hand (Hestia?)
ref.: AMNG I/1, 1352 (like the ex. from Bukarest)

Moesia inferior, Nikopolis ad Istrum, Diadumenian, AD 217-218
AE 26, 14.19g
struck under the consulare legate Marcus Claudius Agrippa
        Bare head r.
       Female figure in long garment and mantle, stg. l., patera in extended r. hand and
       resting with l. hand on long torch (Hestia?)
ref.: AMNG I/1, 1794 (2 ex., Paris and Sofia), pl.XIV, 20 (rev. same die)
rare, about VF, nice glossy patina
Note: Paris Mionnet p.2, 161, 608 (misunderstanding the torch!)

Hestia, the goddess of the hearth, or rather the fire burning on the hearth, was regarded as one of the twelve great gods, and accordingly as a daughter of Kronos and Rhea. According to the common tradition, she was the first-born daughter of Rhea, and was therefore the first of the children that was swallowed by Kronos (Hes. Theog. 453). She was, like Artemis and Athena, a maiden divinity, and when Apollo and Poseidon sued for her hand, she swore by the head of Zeus to remain a virgin for ever (Hom. Hymn. in Ven.), and in this character it was that her sacrifices consisted of cows which were only one year old. Once at a festivity of the gods the lubricious god Priapos tried to rape the sleeping Hestia. By the braying of an ass she was awakened and could escape. In a rage Priapos slew the ass. The connection between Hestia and Apollo and Poseidon, which is thus alluded to in the legend, appears also in the temple of Delphi, where the three divinities were worshipped in common, and Hestia and Poseidon appeared together also at Olympia (Paus. v. 26. § 26). As the hearth was looked upon as the sacred centre of domestic life, so Hestia was the goddess of domestic life and the giver of all domestic happiness and blessings, and as such she was believed to dwell in the inner part of every house, and to have invented the art of building houses (Diod. v. 68). In this respect she appears often together with Hermes, who was likewise a deus penetralöis, as protecting the works of man. As the hearth of a house is at the same time the altar on which sacrifices are offered to the domestic gods (hestiouchoi or ephestioi), Hestia was looked upon as presiding at all sacrifices, and, as the goddess of the sacred fire of the altar, she had a share in the sacrifices in all the temples of the gods. Hence when sacrifices were offered, she was invoked first, and the first part of the sacrifice was offered to her. Solemn oaths were sworn by the goddess of the hearth, and the hearth itself was the sacred asylum where suppliants implored the protection of the inhabitants of the house. A town or city is only an extended family, and therefore had likewise its sacred hearth, the symbol of an harmonious community of citizens and of a common worship.
This public hearth usually existed in the prytaneion of a town, where the goddess had her especial sanctuary (thalamos), under the name of Prutanitis, with a statue and the sacred hearth. There the prytanes offered sacrifices to her, on entering upon their office, and there, as at a private hearth, Hestia protected the suppliants. As this public hearth was the sacred asylon in every town, the state usually received its guests and foreign ambassadors there, and the prytanes had to act the part of hosts. When a colony was sent out, the emigrants took the fire which was to burn on the hearth of their new home from that of the mother town. If ever the fire of her hearth became extinct, it was not allowed to be lighted again with ordinary fire, but either by fire produced by friction, or by burning glasses drawing fire from the sun. The mystical speculations of later times proceeded from tile simple ideas of the ancients, and assumed a sacred hearth not only in the centre of the earth, but even in that of the universe, and confounded Hestia in various ways with other divinities, such as Kybele, Gaia, Demeter, Persephone, and Artemis.
There were but few special temples of Hestia in Greece, as in reality every prytaneion was a sanctuary of the goddess, and as a portion of the sacrifices, to whatever divinity they were offered, belonged to her. There was, however, a separate temple of Hestia at Hermione, though it contained no image of her, but only an altar (Paus. ii. 35. § 2.). Her sacrifices consisted of the primitiae of fruit, water, oil, wine, and cows of one year old.

Etymologically 'Hestia' has the same origin as 'Vesta', a fact which was denied for a longer time but today is advocated by scholars not at least in reference to the following facts:  In the cult of the deificated hearth on one side the moment of the holy center which Hestia at the Delphic omphalos moves in the  proximity of Gaia and constitutes the religious basic idea of the domestic sphere of law and shelter, deserves attention; and on the other side, regarding the Scythian goddess Tabiti, the never extincted, purifying, life-giving fire which implies the virginity of the Vestalis as the phallic symbolism of the hearth. The significance of both moments places the pre-Scythian Tabiti as 'Queen' and 'Great Goddess' to Zeus Papaios; the Greek mythology counts Hestia as daughter of Kronos and eternal maiden sister of Zeus among the primal gods and concedes her a continous place in heaven, ancient traditional honours and the primacy of sacrificing. The projection of the domestic hearth cult on the national budget preserves Hestia a place in the prytaneion, so in Olympia or Milet, and in the bouleuterion. This fixes her firmly to the vowing and cursing practice and declares her position under the theoi histores of the oath of ephebes of Acharnai.

History of art:
According to her immaculate and chaste character her artistical depiction could bear nothing but the expression of rigorous morality. She was usually depicted seated or standing calmly with serious facial expression and always completely dressed. Altogether there have been only few statues of Hestia in ancient times; the most famous was the statue of Skopas. Safely proofed statues of Hestia were not found yet.  Hestia usually is referred to the 'Hestia Giustiniani' in the Museo Torlani in Rome, a female garment statue of  severe style, from the time of the pediment figures of the temple of Zeus from Olympia and closely related to them in its form.
The added pic is the photo of a plaster cast of the statue found in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

Hestia is not frequently depicted in vase paintings, but on the exterior of this Attic red figure kylix of the archaic period (500 BC) representing Herakles entering Olympus, she is part of the company of gods who welcome the hero. Hestia is seated, veiled, and has her arm around Amphitrite, a daughter of Okeanos who became the wife of Poseidon; to their right is Hermes; to their left is one of the Horai (from the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Preussischer Kulturbesitz: Antikensammlung)

(1) Der kleine Pauly
(2) Meyers Enzyklopädisches Lexikon
(3)  Smith, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.
Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on May 09, 2008, 02:51:18 pm

Clear, after an article about Hestia should be another about Vesta!
But at first two coins:

(1) Gaius Caligula, AD 37 - 41
      AE - As, 11.34g, 30mm
      Rome 37/38
               bare head l.
      rev. VESTA
             Vesta, draped and veiled, diademed, std. l. on throne,
             holding patera in r. hand and long sceptre in l. hand
             between big S - C
      RIC I, 38; C.27; BMC 46
      nearly EF

(2) Lucilla, killed AD 182, wife of Lucius Verus, daughter of Marcus Aurelius, sister
      of Commodus
     AR - Denar, 3.29g, 17mm
             bust, draped and diademed, r.
      rev. VES - TA
             Vesta, in long garment and veiled, standing l., holding simpulum in r. hand       
             over girlanded and burning altar l., and palladium in l. arm.
      RIC III, 788; C.92
      about EF

Vesta is the Roman goddess of hearth fire. She is one of the oldest Roman deities probably of Sabinian origin and her cult goes back to the 7th century BC. As her parents are suggested Saturn and Ops but sometimes she is the daughter of Saturn too. A real mythology of the Roman  Vesta is not known in contrast to the Greek Hestia. The tradition says that her cult was introduced by Numa Pompilius. The cult of Vesta, an important official cult of the Roman state, was in the hands of six Vestal Virgins, a special female priesthood. Their main duty was to keep the holy fire which burnt in the Atrium Vestae of the round temple (a reminiscent of the ancient Roman houses?) on the Forum Romanum as the symbolic hearth of Rome. If the fire was extinguished it would have grave consequences for the Romans. Also inside the temple, to which only the six Vestal Virgins had access, were kept the objects that Aeneas was said to have brought with him on his flight from Troy. This included the Palladium and the images of the Penates. Vesta was represented by the fire. On each New Year's Day the fire was taken from the Vesta temple and brought to the individual houses. Vesta was suggested too as inventor of houses. The Vestals were not allowed to take water from the pipes but they had to take the water from the well of the nymph Juturna beside the temple. The Vestal Virgins were obligated for thirty years of chastity. Therefore they were highly venerated.

The first of the Vestal Virgins is said to be Rhea Silvia, mother of Romulus and Remus. Being pregnant against the interdiction she pretends to be raped by Mars. What happened to her we don't know for sure, it is suggested that she was thrown into the river Tiber. Lateron the Vestals were buried live in a subterranean chamber at the Porta Collina as punishment for this delict..

There was no cult statue in the temple, but Augustus had a statue placed on an altar in his house on the Palatine Hill in 12 BC. There is a famous small round temple in Rome vis-a-vis the beautiful small church St.Maria in Cosmedin (with the Bocca della Verita!) which is called temple of Vesta too, but in error. Actually that was a temple of Heracles Victor.

The main festval of Vesta were the Vestalia on June 7. AD 394 her cult was forbidden by Theodosius I.

Vesta originally was probably a Sabinian goddess whose name we don't know (Varro, Dion. Hal.). In spite of the equality of her name with the Geeek Hestia and her similar funktion there is no connection between them not etymological nor factual (Pauly). Besides her function as goddess of hearth she was equated to Terra. A Vesta of the individual house - like the Penates - didn't exist. But connected with them she was obviously, and so with Diana, Janus and Vulcanus. At the end of her festival on June 9. the penus Vestae of her temple was opened and the stercus brought to the Clivus Capitolinus and thrown in the Tiber.That seem to be the perishable remains of the supply: horse blood, ashes of calves and bean straw. The Vesta temple was tabu. Only once the Pontifex maximus has saved the palladium from the burning temple. It was located at the Forum Romanum but outside of the Palatine pomerium. So the eternal fire must have burnt outside of the temple because at each New Year's Day the fire was taken from the temple to the houses.

The Vestals were taken as children by the Pontifex Maximus, called Amata, and had to satisfy some special  qualifications. As Vestals they were highly adored. When they met on the street lictores with fasces, the fasces had to be dropped. They stood outside of the normal law.

If you read about Vesta you inevitably come across Pales. Pales was an ancient Italic goddess of flocks and shepherds. The festival called Parilia was celebrated in her honour at Rome and in the country on the 21st of April. In this festival Pales was invoked to grant protection and increase to flocks and herds; the shepherds entreated forgiveness for any unintentional profanation of holy places of which their flocks might have been guilty, and leaped three times across bonfires of hay and straw (Ovid, Fasti iv. 731-805). The Parilia was not only a herdsmen's festival, but was regarded as the birthday celebration of Rome, which was supposed to have been founded on the same day.

Pales plays only a very subordinate part in the religion of Rome, even the sex of the divinity being uncertain. A male Pales was sometimes spoken of, corresponding in some respects to Pan; whereas the female Pales was associated with Vesta and Anna Perenna. Because Pales in Latin could be plural too sometimes it was spoken of two Pales, a male and a female. So there were another festival to Pales, apparently dedicated "to the two Pales" (Palibus duobus, being held on July 7. Marcus Atilius Regulus built a temple to Pales in Rome following his victory over the Salentini in 267 BC. It is generally thought to have been located on the Palatine Hill, but, being a victory monument, it may have been located on the route of the triumphal procession, either on the Campus Martius or the Aventine Hill. It can taken for sure that there is a connection between Pales and Palatine.

I have added two pics:
(1) The pic of the remains of the temple of Vesta on the Forum Romanum.
(2) The pic of a gypsiumstone statue of Vesta from the Staatliche Museen Berlin. Vesta is accompanied by the donkey-god Pales, a symbol of creative labor and fertility throughout the ancient world. The serpent represents Vesta's generative function, while her scepter and headdress signify her rank. Pales here is depicted as donkey, because the donkey was sacred to Vesta. According to the myth a donkey has saved Vesta of the rape by a satyr. But this story seems to be an adoption from the myths around the Greek Hestia.

Der kleine Pauly
John Melville Jones, A Dictionary of Ancient Roman Coins

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on June 04, 2008, 01:24:42 pm
Artemis with child

I have presented this strange coin once already in the thread 'Hermes and the infant Dionysos', but I think it deserves an own thread.

Thracia, Philippopolis, Julia Domna, died AD 217(?)
AE 25, 6.67g
Bust, draped, r., hair bound in broad chignon
Artemis, in short chiton with bare r. shoulder and wearing boots, stg. r., resting
with raised r. hand on inverted spear, holding in l. arm infant Dionysos, who
stretches his arm to her; on the r. side stag stg. r.
Varbanov (engl.) 1386 var. (is supposed to have IOVLIA DOMA CEB!); another ex. in Lanz 112, lot 642 (same dies, heavy worn)
very rare, VF, dark-green patina

The problem with this coin is the rev. depiction. There is no depiction of Artemis with a child in LIMC (hint of friend from the German Forum). Is it really Artemis and is it really Dionysos in her arms?

I want to share the informations which I got by my  inquiries and hope for some critical comments.

(1) Artemis as mother of Cupidus/Eros
It is obviously Artemis in her usual hunting clothes and with the stag, but there is no known myth in which Artemis is connected to the infant Dionysos. But I came across another myth where Artemis is not only connected to a child but is herself the virginal mother of this child! I don't know wether this can be the actual solution to the coin depiction, because this child is Cupido!

My source is Cicero, De Natura Deorum, lib. III, c. 58. He knows from three different Dianas and writes about their parents. There were three differents myths about Diana. According to the first one her parents were Jupiter and Proserpina, the second Diana had as parents Jupiter and Latona,  and the third one Upis and Glauce.
And Cicero knows from three Cupidos too. The first Cupido was the child of the first Mercurius and the first Diana, the second Cupido the child of the second Mercurius and the second Venus and the third one from Mars and the third Venus.
And Bingo! Here we have a child of the virginal goddess! And Diana and Cupido would be a nice counterpart to Julia Domna! Naturally the objection are the missing wings of the infant. But on the other side which attributions argue for Dionysos?

(2) Artemis/Bendis as mother of Orpheus
The friend of the German Forum has pointed me to the Thracian Artemis, the goddess Bendis. She was equated with Artemis, Hekate and Persephone. Her name is according to Kretschmer coming from idg. bhendh- = 'to tie', interpreted as Zygia. But her iconography doubtless shows her character as a hunting goddess: her epitheton dologchos is enlightened by a Bithynian coin from Nikomedes I, on which she is depicted with double spear and a dagger. She was connected with the god Deoptes who possibly could be a relative of the Thracian rider-god Heros, to whom Bendis has had a special relation too. He was suggested to stand besides Bendis as Asklepios on the relief of Piraeus. The cult of Bendis was introduced in Athens 430 BC by its Thracian inhabitants and assisted by the polis because of poltical reasons as could be seen on the stone fragments from Munychia. Her sanctum and  the festival of Bendideia on 20th of the month Thorgelion with procession and torch relay was supervised by a collegium of Thracian orgeones. This official protection of this foreign cult with its supposed orgiastic imprint calls up the echo in the Attic comedy (Strab. 10, 247).

There was the conception too that the Thracian rider-god Heros was the virginally born son of Bendis. Here we have already the conception which later in the Christianism playes such an important role. And then Orpheus himself, the famous singer and mythical king of the Rhodopian mountains, was suggested to be a son of Bendis!

Philippopolis was located in the centre of Thrace and surely the cult of Bendis was known. If the figure depicted on this strange coin would be Bendis, the Thracian Artemis, then the missing bow and the missing arrows are easily understandable. Her attribute was the spear!

And Orpheus we know from several coins of Philippopolis. Philippopolis was - so to speak - te city of Orpheus! Bendis/Artemis and her virginally born son Orpheus would be a nice solution of this strange reverse.

I personally would go with this second suggestion!

Der Kleine Pauly
Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon
Cicero, De Natura Deorum, Reclam (dtsch./lat.)

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest: Nymph Nysa and the Dionysos child
Post by: Arminius on August 24, 2008, 03:46:22 pm
Cassandreia in Macedonia, Philip I., 244-249 AD.,
Æ Dupondius(?) (21-22 mm / 6,54 g),
Obv.: IMP C M IVL PHIL[IPPS] , radiate head of Philip right.
Rev.: COLΩN CA CA-SS-[ANDR(IAS?)] , the nymph Nysa, wearing kalathos, chlamys and chiton, standing left, looking right to the Dionysos child on her left arm, holding in left hand cornucopiae, little Dionysos extending its hand towards bunch of grapes, that Nysa is holding up in her right hand; the cornucopia is containing a long fruit between two poppies.
Gaebler, AMNG III, p. 55, no. 18 (rev.: plate XIII, 13) (1 specimen, Wien) ; Mionnet Suppl. 3, 58, 379 ; Imhoof-Blumer monn. gr. 68, 35 ; cf. Moushmov 6337 .

Cassandreia was founded 316-315 BC. by Cassander on the site of the Potidaea on the Greek Chalkidike peninsula.
Cassandreia / Cassandra (Greek: Κασσάνδρα Kassandra, modern transliteration: Kassandra) was one of the most important cities in Ancient Macedonia founded by and named after Cassander in 316 BC located near the site of the earlier Ancient Greek city of Potidaea. Potidaea had been destroyed by Philip II. (of Macedonia). The territory comprised the areas of Olynthus and Mekyberna to the northeast, Bottiaea to the northwest and the small Isthmus of Pallene (now Kassandra) to the east. At the end of the Roman Republic, a Roman colony was settled around 43 BC by the order of Brutus, by the proconsul Q. Hortensius Hortatus. The official colonial name was Colonia Iulia Augusta Cassandrensis. The colony enjoyed ius Italicum. It is mentioned in Pliny the Elder's encyclopaedia (IV, 36) and in its inscriptions.

The modern settlement of Kassandra (Kassandreia) is south of the ancient site south of the present-day canal. The ancient site of Cassandreia is not excavated. The peninsula of Kassandra lies to the south. This was the westermost of the three peninsulas of Chalkidike, the middle one being the Sithone/Torone peninsula and the eastermost Mount Athos. Its southernmost point is near Paliouri which is also the prefecture's southernmost point, the promontories includes the Kassandreia to the west and the Kanistro to the east. Except for Kanastraio, none of these capes marks the extremities of the peninsula except for the eastern part.
The canal on the norther side of Nea Potidaia to the north divides the peninsula from the rest of Chalkidiki.The peninsula of Kassandra features picturesque villages, beautiful green nature filled with grasslands and forests, beaches and tourist attractions.

No coins of Cassandreia are known until after the time of Augustus, when the city received a Roman colony, and struck bronze coins with Latin legends between the reigns of Claudius and Philippus.

Compared to the history of the site and coins of the ancient city of Cassandreia the story of infant god Dionysos and nymph Nysa is rather complicated:

According to the common tradition, Dionysos was the son of Zeus and Semele, the daughter of Cadmus of Thebes; whereas others describe him as a son of Zeus by Demeter, Io, Dione, or Arge. Diodorus further mentions a tradition, according to which he was a son of Ammon and Amaltheia and that Ammon, from fear of Rhea, carried the child to a cave in the neighbourhood of mount Nysa, in a lonely island formed by the river Triton. Ammon there entrusted the child to Nysa, the daughter of Aristaeus, and Athena likewise undertook to protect the boy.
After the birth of Dionysus, Zeus entrusted him to Hermes, or, according to others, to Persephone or Rhea, who took the child to Ino and Athamas at Orchomenos, and persuaded them to bring him up as a girl. Hera was now urged on by her jealousy to throw Ino and Athamas into a state of madness, and Zeus, in order to save his child, changed him into a ram, and carried him to the nymphs of mount Nysa, who brought him up in a cave, and were afterwards rewarded for it by Zeus, by being placed as Hyades among the stars.
The traditions about the education of Dionysos, as well as about the personages who undertook it, differ as much as those about his parentage and birthplace. Besides the nymphs of mount Nysa in Thrace, the muses, Lydae, Bassarae, Macetae, Mimallones, the nymph Nysa and the nymphs Philia, Coronis, and Cleis, in Naxos, whither the child Dionysus was said to have been carried by Zeus, are named as the beings to whom the care of his infancy was entrusted.
On mount Nysa, Bromie and Bacche too are called his nurses.
Mount Nysa, from which the god was believed to have derived his name, was not only in Thrace and Libya, but mountains of the same name are found in different parts of the ancient world where he was worshipped, and where he was believed to have introduced the cultivation of the vine. Hermes, however, is mixed up with most of the stories about the infancy of Dionysos, and he was often represented in works of art, in connexion with the infant god.

with the help of Gaebler, wikipedia and h**p://

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: archivum on August 25, 2008, 01:32:07 pm
Especially with her kalathos (or perhaps mural crown?), looks like Tyche Euposia to me . . .

Earlier coins of this type from Cassandreia (RPC online) unsurprisingly show Nysa without kalathos.

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on August 25, 2008, 02:16:17 pm
Here is another thread:

Indeed, a nymph with a kalathos, is that possible at all?

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: slokind on August 25, 2008, 02:28:31 pm
Well, also to consider: Euposia is an epithet, modifying Tyche.  The ones from Nicopolis have the rudder of their standard standard Tyche.  Nymphs, I agree, do not usually have a kalathos.  But Jochen's new coin is even later than the 'middle Severans'.  I'd hate to have to vouch, if this is a single issue, for the orthodoxy of the imagery.  I'll go see if Gaebler discusses it.  The question is, have we grounds for saying where the engraver got the image?  Pat L.

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on September 23, 2008, 02:01:30 pm
Dionysos and Ariadne

Most of you know Ariadne from Ariadne's famous thread which was used by Theseus to get out the labyrinth of the Minotauros. But as we already know of Greek myths the whole story is much more complicated and profound as it seems to be at the first view. But first the coin. Sadly it is very worn. To strees the details I have lightened it a bit.

Lydia, Maionia, Septimius Severus, AD 193-211
AE 35, 22.57g
obv. AV [KAI] L CE - P CEVHR[OC] PE[R - TIN]
      Bust, draped and cuirassed, laureate, r.
       Dionysos, in long garment, holding thyrsos in l. arm, leanig r. on a biga, which is
       drawn by two centaurs; the one behind seems to hold a torch, the one before 
       looking back to Dionysos holds probably a flute, above him another torch.
       in ex. [MAIONWN]
F+, slightly porous surfaces
BMC 43, pl. XIV.7 (only rev., same die); Lanz 32, April 1985, 633 (same dies)
Thanks to Curtis Clay for the correct attribution!

So obviously the figure in the biga is Dionysos and not Ariadne, which was my first suggestion. But the torches are - as we know - wedding attributes. So it is well possible that the coin shows Dionysos on his way to his marriage with Ariadne. And that would be a good reason for this article about Ariadne!

Ariadne was the daughter of Minos, king of Crete, and Pasiphae, daughter of Helios and half-sister of Minotauros. When Theseus came to Crete - together with the Athenians who annually had to be feed to the Minotauros - Ariadne fell in love with him. When they met clandestinely she gave Theseus a ball of wool which she once has received from the ingenious Daidalos. He should fix the end of the thread to the entrance of the labyrinth, then let run the thread with himself so that he - after having killed the Minotauros - by coiling up the thread again could get out of the labyrinth. Herself he should take to Athens to marry her there. Theseus was able to kill the beast and to get out of the labyrinth. But when on their voyage back they passed the island of Dias - or Naxos as others say - Artemis has retained her, or Dionysos - because of her beauty fallen in love with her - has abducted her. It's reported too that Dionysos has appeared Theseus in a dream and has threatened him with all evil if he didn't leave Ariadne to him. For fear Theseus has left the island. And Dionysos has abducted Ariadne in this night to the mountain Arios. Deep in sorrow about losing Ariadne Theseus forgot to take back the black sails from his ship when he reached Athens, wherefore his father Aigaios threw himself from the rocks into the sea, which hereafter was called the Aegean Sea.

Some count Ariadne among the godless persons because she has killed her half-brother and her sons. Some are telling too that Theseus has left her furtively when she was asleep, because he suggested that he was blamed in Athens if he came back with Ariadne. Recognizing that she has been left Ariadne hung herself. But referring to others Dionysos has found her on the beach sleeping and half-nude and fell in love with her instantly. We know several ancient paintings which show this discovery and the following marriage. Dionysos should have 6 children by her: Oenopion, Thoas, Staphylos, Latramis, Euanthes and Tauropolis. Dionysos has loved her so much that after her death her crown was placed to the stars. This crown Hephaistos has once forged for Aphrodite who has dedicated it to Ariadne.

It is told too that Ariadne was marooned on Naxos by some boatsmen, where she is said to have married Onaros, a Dionysos priest. They too want to proof that Theseus was not guilty and has not left her with intent because later Deukalion, son of Minos, has given him his daughter as wife. But Ariadne was said too to be pregnant by Theseus and because she has made a spectacle of herself was abondened on Kypros where she died in childbirth. When Theseus came back he was so sad about her death that he erected two statues in honour of her, one from silver, the other from ore.

Originally Ariadne ws a Minoic goddess of vegetation and probably identical with the labyrinthoio potnia, who was worshipped by ritual dances. Already Homer mentions her dance-floor created by Daidalos. Her name is the Cretic form of Ariagne (= 'most holy'). She was called on Crete Aridela too (=  'most bright'). Both are surnames which conceal her actual name. On Kypros she was worshiped as Aphrodite Ariadne. Her connection to Dionysos is Cretic heritage, her sepulchre in Argos was located in the temple of the Cretic Dionysos (Paus. 2, 20, 4). She is known by Hesiod as wife of Dionysos. But her relations to Theseus are known already to Odysseus. She let abduct herself by Theseus from Crete and died soon after on Dia (a small island near Knossos, usually equated with Naxos) 'due to the testimonyof Dionysos', probably as punishment for her unfaithfullness.

The story of the wool-thread which the king's daughter gave to a stranger so that he could get out of the labyrinth is a classic fairy-tale. Often this myth is traced to the maze of corridors in the ruinous palace of Knossos. Referring to Epimenides Ariadne has given to Theseus a radiate crown whose light has saved him; that would match the tradition that the fight against Minotauros occured in a cave. This radiate crown was a wedding gift of Dionysos and was put later as corona borealis to the sky.

The fact that Theseus left Ariadne on Naxos was not traced from the beginning to her unfaithfullness. Pausanias mentions depictions where Ariadne was raped by Dionysos. But the lonesome and sleeping Ariadne was a favourite motive in the Hellenistic and Roman literature and fine arts: Catull 64, 50ff, Ovid her. 10, so her transfer to the sky. Plutarch mentions the differentiation between an older Ariadne, wife of Dionysos, and a younger one who was abducted by Theseus. But actually the changing between joy and sorrow reflects the nature of the deity of vegatation. It could be too a process of the history of religion, the replacement of one cult by another. Main location of the Ariadne cult was Naxos, beside it Athens (the joyful festival of the Oschophorias with some mourning customs), Delos (crane dance of Theseus; he has brought an ancient image of Aphrodite to Delos given to him by Ariadne), Amathos on Kypros (a festival with very strange customs, f.e. couvade, as remembrance of Theseus' landing on the island with the pregnant Ariadne who died here in childbirth). In Italy she was worshipped as Libera, wife of Liber.

History of art:
From Hellenistic times we know several depictions of the Ariadne theme. The most favourable was the finding of the sleeping Ariadne by Dionysos. This depiction is found on wall-paintings, mosaics and intaglios. There are intaglios too with depictions of the marriage. A picture shows Dionysos leaning back on a chariot, besides him Ariadne, both wreathed with vine leaves and ivy. The chariot is drawn by two centaurs, one playing a lyre, the other two flutes. Between them and Dionysos Eros is flying. In front of the chariot are walking a bacchant with thyrsos, a bachante with timbal, a faun with two flutes and a satyr with kantharos.
Another wonderful picture shows Dionysos and Ariadne sitting in a chariot, pulled by centaurs and with a glorious entourage. On top of the procession are walking persons of both gender, playing on flutes and cymbals. Then an elephant wreathed as sacrificial animal and suggesting the conquest of India. behind Silen riding on an ass. They are accompagnied by fauns, satyrs, and nymphs holding thyrsoi, grapes, vine branches and drinking vessels. This motive is often used on sarkophages. As Holy Marriage it symbolizes the unification of the human and the divine, a consolatory suggestion.

This theme was adopted again by Renaissance artists. We have paintings f.e. from Annibale Caracci and Tizian. We find Ariadne too on paintings of Giorgio de Chirico, f.e. 'La Statua Silenziosa', 1913.

I have added
(1) the picture of a black-figured neck-amphora, showing Ariadne and Dionysos on a kline, from about 510-500 BC
(2) A detail from Caracci's ceiling fresco 'The Triumph of Bacchus and Ariadne' in the Palazzo Farnese in Rome from AD 1597-1600.

Catull, Carmina 64, 50-201
Ovid, Metamorphoses 8, 169-182
Der kleine Pauly
Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon
Karl Kerenyi, Die Mythologie der Griechen
Robert von Ranke-Graves, Griechische Mythologie

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: slokind on September 23, 2008, 02:41:33 pm
Re: Bacchus and Ariadne, trope for Marriage, often shown drawn by centaurs.  There are further illustrations on coins and, earlier, on vase-paintings, but sarcophagi are a favorite place for this conceit, that the mortal pair enjoyed a union blissful as that of Dionysos and Ariadne.  Here I post a sarcophagus and, much later, a cameo in the Louvre.
Evidently, as at the Centauromachy wrecking a respectable wedding on west pediment of Temple of Zeus at Olympia, centaurs stand for uncontrollable libido...
Pat L.
These go with Jochen's entry of 23 Sept 2008 on this subject, preceding the index.
Click images to zoom

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on October 14, 2008, 04:41:11 pm
The Samian Hera

We know Hera as spouse of Zeus whom she jealous pursuits because of his love-affairs.  Actually she appears a bit boring compared with most of the other gods on the Olymp. Wrong from the beginning!

Ionia, Samos, Antoninus Pius, AD 138-161
AE 19, 5.33g
Head, laureate, r.
rev. C[A]MIWN
Cult-statue of the Samian Hera in long garment and wearing polos, stg. r.,
holding in both hands staffs from small pellets.
BMC 239; Sear GIC 1417
good F

And here a second coin in this context as we will see:

Ionia, Samos, Geta as Caesar, AD 198-209
AE 16, 3.18g
obv. AV K - AI GETAC
        Head, r.
rev. CAM, and in ex. IWN
       Rivergod Imbrasos, wearing himation, nude to hips, leaning l., holding in r. hand
       reed and resting with l. elbow on cornucopiae and vase from which water flows l.
SNG Copenhagen 1744
about VF
In the marshes at the mouth of the river Imbrasos the Ionian colonists under Proklos are said to have found a wooden image of Hera which was caught in a willow brushwood. Therefore they built an altar beside this tree. From this altar the famous temple of Hera, the Heraion, originated. Imbrasos himself has a daughter Okyrrhoe by the Samian nymph Chesias (a hypostasis of the goddess Artemis). Okyrrhoe later was seduced by Apollo (Aelian, Hist.animal. 15.23).

According to Homer Hera is known as the highest goddess of the Olymp, the consort of Zeus. But this relatively colorless mythological representation is only one aspect of the goddess and does present the whole picture of her religious significance and her essence as a divine power in Greek belief. The Hera cult corresponds not to the spouse of Zeus and the Queen of the Olymp, but to a goddess who was worshipped long before her union with Zeus, that highest god of the migrating Greeks at the end of the 2nd Millenium B.C. Zeus, moreover, seems to have played no part in the Samian Hera cult, which had been in existence since the late Bronze Age.The more recent science of religion regards Hera as an old, originally pre-Hellenic nature and fertility goddess, indeed nothing short of the primordial goddess of the pre-Hellenic inhabitants of Greece. This original independence from the Olympian Zeus myth is also expressed later in Hera's autonomous cult. The ancient poet Alcaeus of Lesbos (7th/6th Century B.C.) still calls the goddess "genetrix of all things panthon genethla". Archaeological research further testifies, even more than poetic expressions such as this one, to the universal character of Hera during the early Greek period: the Heraia of Argos, Olympia and Samos belong among the oldest significant sanctuaries of the gods in ancient Greece. It has been convincingly observed that the broad, fertile plain, so characteristic of the great Hera sanctuary, expresses a fundamental trait of the goddess: her power over vegetation and fertility. Such an idea can be perceived amongst the older votive offerings of the Heraion. Here are to be found many ivory or clay representations of poppy heads and pomegranates, which were known as symbols of fertility because of their abundant seeds. Numerous votive offerings of clay oxen from earlier levels of the Samian sanctuary, just as the ox 'emblem' of later Samian coins, indicate a related sphere under the goddess's protection, namely ownership of herds and agricultural wealth.

Her name probably means something like 'Dame' or 'Lady'. She was the daughter of Kronos and Rhea and was born on the island of Samos or, according to others, at Argos. She was educated in Arcadia by Temenos, son of Pelasgos, and she was nursed by the Seasons
When Hera's twin Zeus has banished their father Kronos, he called her at Knossos on Crete, or possibly on the mountain Thornax in Argolis as other says which today is called Cuckoo mountain. Here he wooed her without success. But when he took the shape of a tousled cuckoo she took pity on him and warmed him tenderly at her bosom. But then he took his true shape and raped her, so that she - to escape the disgrace - was forced to mary him. All gods brought gifts. Mother Gaia gave her a tree with golden apples which after that was kept by the Hesperids in Hera's garden on the mountain Atlas. They celebrated the wedding night, which lastened 300 years, on the island of Samos.

Several locations are known where Hera was worshipped. One main focus was the Peloponnesos, especially Argos. One of her surnames at Homer was Argeia. Possibly she was an ancient palace goddess who lived on to the Mykenian time as Athena did in Sparta or Mykenae. But she is seen too as a kind of the great pre-olympic mediterranean Hera Pelasga.The other centre of her worship was the island of Samos. In any case she was a goddess of the women who defended the rights of women. Connected with Zeus in the hieros gamos she was the guardian of the marriage-law. To look upon her only as a fertility goddess does not seem correct. So she always appears as Zeus' spouse but never as mother of his children. In this context the myth fits where Zeus has hung Hera at her feet forcing her to swear by the river Styx that the birth of her son Hephaistos was parthogenetical. She is described in the Iliad as domineering, proud and jealous. Often she was at open strife with Zeus. During the Troyan War she was on the side of the Greek and she was the tutelary goddess of Jason during the Voyage of the Argonauts.

The Heraion:
Traces of the Hera-cult are known in Samos from the midst of the 2nd millenium BC. The centre of her cult was the chasteberry tree whose trunk still was found at the excavations beginning in 1911 AD. Under this tree Hera is said to be born.Here the annual spring festival was celebrated with the Holy Wedding and agons. Beside the stony altar of Hera already in the 8th century BC was built a 'hundred-footed' temple which was later enlarged by auxiliary buildings, altars, great halls with marble-columns and bathrooms. A giant temple, built in the 6th century BC was destroyed soon by fire and then replaced by a new giant temple probably under Polykrates after 321 BC. This temple never was completed. In the time of Strabon it was used as pinakotheca and seen as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. One of the columns on the southern front all the time stood upright as lonely sign of the sanctuary. Therefore this location was called 'Kolona'. This last temple probably was destroyed by the Heruls in the 60th of the 3rd century AD.

The cult in Samos:
There is known the age-old willow lygos (yes, there is some confusion with the kind of this tree!) in the sanctuary of Hera at Samos at the river Imbrasos. Pausanias, who has seen it yet green, names it the oldest of all he holy trees known to the Greeks. Under this tree Hera is said to be born and nursed. So it is undoubtful that the altar of the goddess must have stand under this tree. Because Pausanias mentions that the Argonauts have donated the sanctuary and have brought the image of Hera from Argos to Samos, this suggests a connection with another myth, where Admete, daughter of Eurystheus, escapes from Argos to Samos and here, due to the epiphany of Hera, consecrates her services to the goddess and becomes servant of the temple. In this story a willow too plays an important role, when the Argives - taking revenge for the escape of Admete - robbed the wooden image of the goddess which was guarded by Admete. When the Argives put the robbed image on their ship it became so heavy that it was impossible to sail away. So they put the image back on the beach and sacrifice expiation cakes. Then quickly they sail away. The people sent by the Samian to search for the image found it but suggested that it itself was gone to this place. They leaned it to the stem of a willow and braided it with long willow twigs completely so that it was invisible. Admete found it, detached it and brought it back to the temple where it was set on its frame (bathron) again and newly consecrated. From this time on this tonea called festival of the willow bed was annually celebrated on Samos. The entire procedure was repeated: each year the image of the goddess was brought to the beach and enfolded in willow twigs (as fascelites) just as if it became invisible again. After sacrificing it was bedded on a willow braiding bed and brought back to the temple. This is the reason for the great holiness of the willow on Samos. It is said that this rites were commended by the oracle of Apollon, because the inhabitants of Samos (the Carians) have bound the goddess with willow twigs. Therefore they have to wreath themselves with willow twigs and to lay on willow twigs at all festivals of Hera. Only the priests were allowed to wear laurel wreaths.

The cult image of the Samian Hera:
The Samian Hera is depicted as a woman who has on her head a crescent or a basket and a great blanket from the crescent to her feet, and under her feet a crescent again and resting with her hands on two staffs made off small round pellets (Spanhem. ad Callim. Hymn. in Dian. v.228). Her temple is said to be built by the Argonauts and the image of the goddess brought from Argos to Samos. The cult statue is said to be made by Smilis from Aegina, son of Eukleides and from the same time as Daidalos (Pausan. At first the image should have been only a wooden plank. This origin from Argos was always vehemently denied by the inhabitants of Samos!

Besides the two coins I have added he following:
(1) a pic of the Heraion of Samos as you can see it today with the famos column.
(2) a pic of the famous votive statue consecrated by Cheramyes

- Der Kleine Pauly
- Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon
- Robert von Ranke-Graves, Griechische Mythologie
- Bötticher/Bötticher, Der Baumkultus der Hellenen, 1856

Best regards

Title: Re: Coins of mythological interest
Post by: Jochen on October 14, 2008, 04:45:58 pm
Shamash - The Babylonian sun-god

In this thread we have already talked about several deities from the Middle East. Here I want to present another one, from whom most of you, I think, have never heard: The Babylonian sun-god Shamash.

The coin:
Syria, Seleukia and Pieria, Emesa, Macrinus, AD 217-218
AE - Billon-tetradrachm,, 13.17g
       laureate bust r.
      Eagle with opened wings, stg. frontal, head l., holding wreath in beak; between his legs   
      bust of Shamash, draped (and cuirassed), radiate, r.
      below beak H (for officina)
Prieur 987; Bellinger 199
about VF

Shamash is the common name of the sun-god in Babylonia and Assyria.  The Semitic name signifies something like 'bright, shiny'. The ancient Sumerians has called him Utu. The moon-god Sin (Nannar) was the son of the god Enlil. The sun-god Shamah in turn was the son of Sin. In the early morning he raised from the mountains in the East, rays emanating from his shoulders, went in his chariot dragged by fiery mules over the sky to the West, where he in the evening entered through the gates of West the Underworld. These gates opened to the Mt.Mashu (Gilgamesh, tabl.IX) and were guarded by scorpion-men, half scorpion, half man. Like the sun disperses the darkness and sees all, so Shamash brings evil and injustice to light. Shamash was the god of justice. He punished the bad and rewards the good.

Both in early and in late inscriptions Shamash is designated as the 'offspring of Sin (Nannar)', i.e. of the moon-god, and since, in an enumeration of the Babylonian pantheon. Shamash so to say belongs to a second generation of gods, or even to a third one (Aren't that similarities to the Greek gods?). Sin generally takes precedence of Shamash, it is in relationship, presumably, to the moon-god that the sun-god appears as the dependent power. Such a supposition would accord with the prominence acquired by the moon in the calendar and in astrological calculations, as well as with the fact that the moon-cult belongs to the nomadic and therefore earlier stage of civilization, whereas the sun-god rises to full importance only after the agricultural stage has been reached. The two chief centres of sun-worship in Babylonia were Sippara (Sippar), represented by the mounds at Abu Habba, and Larsa, represented by the modern Senkerah. At both places the chief sanctuary bore the name E-barra, meaning 'the shining house# - a direct allusion to the brilliancy of the sun-god.