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Author Topic: Beehive or Omphalos? Or egg?  (Read 18726 times)
Jochen
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« on: November 28, 2005, 03:24:59 pm »

Here I have a AE20 of Maximinus of Deultum. The reverse is attributed as beehive. For me it could be an Omphalos as well or an egg, which sometimes could be seen on an altar (as an orphic world-egg f.e.). Why should it be a beehive?

Any opinion highly welcomed!

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bpmurphy
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« Reply #1 on: November 28, 2005, 06:07:19 pm »

Yurokova called it a hive. I've seen it called called a shrine. The new SNG Bulgaria calls it a "fountain of 'Meta Sudans' type".

Whatever it is, it doesn't appear on coins from any other city that I'm aware of so it must have had some local importance that is now lost to us.

FYI its Yurokova 204 =  SNG Bulgaria 756-760.

Barry Murphy
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« Reply #2 on: November 29, 2005, 10:19:25 am »

While looking for something else I stumbled on this. It is the Baetyl of the Pergaean Artemis. What makes it particularly interesting is that according to Marvin Tameanko, the upper "egg" part of this monument or a similar one was apparently depicted on coins, sometimes within a temple. See (Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum Sammlung von Aulock. No. 4759 and Description des Medailles Antiques, Greques et Romaines, by Mionnet, vol.3, no. 93, page 463 as well as Marvin Tameanko's own book Monumental Coins, page 213.)

Alex.
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Jochen
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« Reply #3 on: November 29, 2005, 03:23:37 pm »

This I have found about the 'Meta Sudans':

During new excavations on the Place of the Collosseum close to the triumphal arch of Constantine some interesting fundaments were found. First the remains of a portico, which was part of Nero's Domus Aurea. The portico passed along an artificial lake, which later was exhausted and in which the Colosseum was built, and connected the palace on the Velia (where today the temple of Venus and Roma is standing) with the valley.

When after the death of Nero the Flavians had taken over the power in Rome, the largest part of the Domus Aurea was pulled down and the valley totally redesigned. Within the scope of these civil works a monumental fountain emerged, the Meta Sudans. This fountain had the shape of a huge cone (hence the name Meta Sudans = "sweating cone"). The height was 17m, its diameter at the base 7m. It stood in a round tank with a diameter of 16m. The original appearence of this fountain could be reconstructed from contemporary coins.

Source: http://www.roma-antiqua.de

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Steve Minnoch
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« Reply #4 on: November 29, 2005, 04:04:38 pm »

Jochen,

The Meta Sudans can be seen on the famous Colosseum sestertii or Titus, such as this one:
[BROKEN LINK REMOVED BY ADMIN]

As well as that there is a dupondius of Titus that has the Meta Sudans as it's main design.

Steve
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Jochen
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« Reply #5 on: November 29, 2005, 04:08:45 pm »

Here I have the opinion of 'Der kleine Pauly' about the interpretation of the so-called Omphalos as Baetyl:

Omphalos, = umbilicus, hump. Ovoid resp. beehive shaped stone mark of uncertain meaning, sometimes depicted with attributes of birds and covered with reticular basketwork. The best-known exemplar is the Delphic Omphalus, as oracle seat at first of Gaia, then belonging to Apollon; according to Ninion-Pinax represented also in the sanctuary of the Mother of Earth of Eleusis. The Delphic Omphalos today no more is regarded as meteoric object of the aniconic stone cult (Baetyl) but as prehellenic sacrifice mark of the earth-goddess as synthesis of Tymbos (= doomed tomb) and altar (for chthonic blood pouring). In contrast the imaginations of the Omphalos as an umbilicus of the earth are secondary. Attempts to integrate it into orientalic religious relations are questionable; connections to Aegaean, Near Eastern or Celtic stone entities, and interpretations in the context of fertility symbolism remains controversial.

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« Reply #6 on: November 29, 2005, 04:27:14 pm »

As far as I am aware all coins showing the Meta Sudans as their main type are fakes, the "Meta" being tooled out of an original standing figure, Spes, Peace, or similar.
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« Reply #7 on: November 30, 2005, 12:34:33 am »

I've never seen a beehive that shape! The classic 'beehive' shape is that of a skep, which is a western European type. Traditional hives in the Mediterranean area were log-shaped and used horizontally, while central and northern Europe tended to use log hives. I'm not sure what was used in the Deultum area; the evidence is a bit scanty.
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Jochen
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« Reply #8 on: November 30, 2005, 07:15:06 am »

Thanks, Robert! I think the attribution as beehive at least with your statement as expert in bees should be put to the heap of historical errors!

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Jochen
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« Reply #9 on: November 30, 2005, 05:17:40 pm »

Today I received an email with more pics of the Omphalos on coins. They all are from Deultum. You can see that the 'egg' is on top of a temple. But because that is static impossible it is not like the Baetyl of the Pergaean Artemis. I assume the 'egg' was inside the temple. The sender of the email suggested to interprete the 'egg' as vessel or jar!

Any opinions about that?

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Jochen
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« Reply #10 on: November 30, 2005, 05:22:57 pm »

And some more:
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Steve Minnoch
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« Reply #11 on: November 30, 2005, 05:47:32 pm »

On the coins in the last batch of pictures you put up it it looks like there is the front elevation of a temple on or in front of the base on which the object rests.

I wonder if the way to interpret this is as a sacred object of some description, with the temple it is actually housed in shown before it - obviously at a much reduced scale.

I apologise if I haven't explained that idea particularly well!

Steve
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slokind
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« Reply #12 on: November 30, 2005, 06:54:49 pm »

I am confident that Price & Trell would agree with Steve, and so do I, that we have here a cult object and where we have a temple in front of it that is because they want to show that it was provided with a temple-shrine but it wasn't the temple that was the object of worship.  The same thing happens with that snake altar at Pautalia.  The same thing (but with no temple building) happens with the cult-object Argaeus altar as well as the holy mountain itself at Caesarea Cappadocia (and we even have a representation of a mountain shrine from Minoan Crete, where they didn't have temples as the Egyptians and later Greeks knew them, but had trees and pillars and hilltop shrines).  What they had at Deultum, I do not know, but I bet it was a lot older than Deutum's being a Colonia (just as Medea and Palaimon, et al., at Corinth were a lot older).  Darn Jurukova's beehive!  Why should anyone be so literal-minded?  It's not the same as being real!  All Price & Trell do for Deultum is cite Jurukova.  Whether it's exactly a baetyl or not, I do not know, but I have seen that shape before, and now that this thread is in Numism, whenever I find it I'll post it.  I've been wracking my brain for days.  It certainly is either a sacred marker or a sacred stone and an object of cult.  This is an extremely valuable thread, IMHO.
Pat L.
P.S. So, in principle, we agree with Tameanko, too.  That kind of thing.
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« Reply #13 on: November 30, 2005, 07:34:19 pm »

They all are from Deultum. You can see that the 'egg' is on top of a temple. But because that is static impossible it is not like the Baetyl of the Pergaean Artemis.

Perhaps my post was unclear, according to Marvin Tameanko the Baetyl of the Pergaean Artemis was inside a temple (or at least within its precincts), the squares on the base are actually niches, where, it is believed, votive offerings were placed.

Alex.
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Jochen
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« Reply #14 on: December 01, 2005, 03:55:13 am »

Yes, Alex, I see I've misinterpreted your pic of the building!

When we are speaking about the Omphalos we should mention the Omphalos of Delphi too. It usally appears on silvercoins of the Seleucids. Here I have an example from Coinarchives. We see Apollon sitting on the Omphalos which in this case is covered with a reticular basketwork. Perhaps this is the source of calling the Omphalos a beehive? The question is wether this Omphalos has the same mythological origin as the 'egg' from Deultum. But both cult objects seem to be pre-hellenic as Pat says and 'der kleine Pauly' confirms, so much older than the immigration of the Greek tribes to Hellas and the Aegaeis.

But 'Der kleine Pauly' states that it should not be a baetyl. The source is found in 'K. Lehmann-Hartleben, A.7, 1931, 16.[4], 103'. But I have no access to this source.

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« Reply #15 on: December 01, 2005, 12:03:58 pm »

What a lovely Seleucid tet!  Jochen and I both were thinking the same.  Just last night I was thinking, should I after all write that the omphalos, or any heaven-born stone that is thought to mark the center of the world, is in its own right a baetyl.  Exactly.  But what is our own we tend to fail to think of anthropologically.  For example, most Christians do not relate the birth of the historical Buddha from the side of Maya very closely to the virgin birth of Jesus.  And, of course, one can guess what an Emesan thought of Delphi or a Delphinian of EmesaPat Lawrence  P.S. The omphalos is covered with reticularly knotted votive fillets, rather than basketry.
P.S.  LSJ Greek-English Lexicon is specific that a baetyl is a meteoric stone.  Who knows any description of the Delphi stone, what color it was, whether it came from heaven?  Who knows a further etymology of the word baitulos?*  Latin dictionaries and OED only give <gr betulus. 
* But in the Supplement to LSJ, a Semitic source for the word is suggested: baitulos as an epithet of Zeus, cf. Semitic bethel Dii Betúlô SEG 7, 341 (Dura iii AD).
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« Reply #16 on: December 02, 2005, 03:09:22 am »

I followed this thread too very attentively and hope to add something more later on, but first to the meaning and etymology of Greek baitylia: It is the Greek transcription of Punic bêt'êl - house of god. Those aniconic - not god statues, as often was thought, but representations of the presence of the god - are very common in Phoenician culture and in regions influenced by Phoenician culture as Sardinia and Sicilia, but also in the "Graeco-Phoenician" traders port and sanctuary of Cretan Kommos you will find aniconic "houses of god" (J.W. Shaw, American Journal of Archaeology 93, 1989 - by the way: this very important magazine is online now, but only down to 2002: http://www.ajaonline.org/ ). Maybe those common traders sanctuaries of the dark ages are the link between the eastern and the Greek baitylies, e.g. the Delphic or the Eleusinic omphalos. I'm not capable to believe in such romanticistic explanations like "pre-Hellenic" or "older than the immigration of Greek tribes".

Frank
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« Reply #17 on: December 02, 2005, 12:44:49 pm »

Yes, I have the AJA filling a whole wall (since 1955) right behind me, and Joe Shaw is an old friend and fellow student; also, most Americans know, from the local synagogues, that Beth El means house of god, so I didn't think it necessary to explain the lexicon.  I would not today invoke the ideas of Arthur Evans' generation, but I would hasten to assure you that, though some of them are fantasy ridden, they are not necessarily all wholly wrong.  But anticipating a response such as yours, I was careful what I wrote, and knowing that he has his opponents as well as his friends I did not mention Martin West.  There is, of course, a great deal of archaeological evidence for various aniconic cult objects all around the Mediterranean.  I didn't go into those because I am still looking for more specifically relevant comparanda for the specific shape, with the 'button' on top, of the object on the Deultum coin that is the subject of this thread.  I tend to doubt theories as of 'common traders sanctuaries', without further concrete and exact information, for just the same reasons as I doubt a lot of A. B. Cook, Arthur Evans, and J. G. Frazer: too general, too eager to explain everything.  But I do suspect that some of the widespread similarites, as of aniconic cult objects, were already very widespread before historic Greece (meaning from the 10th century onward), perhaps even before the best studied groups of NW Semites were in the places alluded to.  As for the century-old ideas, we do not want to 'throw out the baby with the bath-water'.  Analogously, IE linguistic studies have changed a great deal in the last century; we are no longer so fixated on the ash tree and the elm, so to speak (I have only casual reading knowledge of this, and I use the tree names only allusively).  Patricia Lawrence
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« Reply #18 on: December 02, 2005, 02:26:27 pm »

There is no further etymology of the Greek baitylia. I didn't have in mind to offend someone's reason with a superfluous explanation, but Europeans and especially Germans are not very deep into religious things to be able to expect them to know the meaning of Bethlehem. Sorry for that.
The only description of the Delphic omphalos in ancient literature I found until now is Pausanias 10,16,3, who just says that it is made of marble (lithos leukos). He possibly confuses it with the stone that was spat out by Kronos, which he mentions in 10,24,6 and which was libated with oil dayly and covered with raw wool on festivities. But there are certainly different approaches to that.
I think that some of the above mentioned coin representations of the Artemis of Perge are not too far away from the concerning object, eg SNG Aulock 4747 from Magydos (Pic 1). And sometimes it looks like the beehive-thing IN a shrine, as it might be intended to be expressed on the Deultum coins (Pic 2 from Perge, Auct. Schulten, Köln 21.10.1984, 444). But the extraordinary shape of the Deultum thing seems to appear on some Etruscan grave cippi. I have to look for pics.
Frank
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« Reply #19 on: December 02, 2005, 06:09:17 pm »

I am not saying one way or the other what is represented on the coin, but a lot of early beehives were overturned baskets or pots.  Here is a picture of a basket being used as a hive.
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Jochen
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« Reply #20 on: December 02, 2005, 06:20:26 pm »

Nice to see, Howard! From my youth I know that type of beehives too from Germany. The question is were the objects named 'beehives' after their shape or because there were relations to bees or certain attributes of bees?

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« Reply #21 on: December 02, 2005, 07:04:23 pm »

Howard and Jochen:  Yes, in fairly recent times in English-speaking lands we did have that kind of beehive (as apparently they had them in Thrace/Bulgaria).  My childhood Mother Goose rhymes book had one illstrated.  Though ready-made boxes are the rule today, to make one's own the farmer or his wife would do well to resort to basketry, I think.  Maybe daubed with some clay?  But I never believed that there would be one on a coin, irrespective of comparable shapes.
Frank: I never thought of Bethlehem!  I only thought how many synagogues are Beth El and, after all, in school one learns that 'alphabet' comes from aleph and beth (then gimel).  As a trained classicist, now over 70, I have had plenty of time to dabble in my colleagues' specialties, and my age entails my having read up on different generations' ideas.  That is all. And I was thinking that aniconic cult objects may be as old as elementary numina.  What is interesting is their survival, and that a naughty boy like Elagabalus could be so involved with one of them.  Also, my own specialty is early Greek art, 7th-century, which has entailed also the products that those 'Phoenicians' traded (some French scholars believe that Phoenicians were not really a distinct people, but only a Greek collective term for coastal Semitic-language traders; I don't know whether that idea is defensible).  Personally, if there is anything I 'worship', it is probably, say, string theory (though my math is not adequate to study it properly).
Yes, I was recalling Etruscan cippi, but I couldn't figure out how they fit this picture, and I haven't done any basic research on them.  I wondered whether suchlike are common in Anatolia--as indeed the Perge coins suggest.  It is good to see the actual images of the Perge coins; thank you.
Pat L.
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« Reply #22 on: December 03, 2005, 02:12:54 am »

That's the skep hive used in Western Europe. From what information there is, the ones used in the eastern Mediterranean would have been log-shaped pots about six inches in diameter, often piled up together. They're still used in Egypt, and pots found in Crete may well have been hives.
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« Reply #23 on: December 03, 2005, 02:34:35 am »

Here I post some pics of those log-shaped pots, 1. a pot, 2. a reconstruction of the actual use, whis is very pretty. They are from J.E. Jones, Hives and honey of Hymettos. Beekeeping in Ancient Greece, in: Archaeology 29 (1976) 80-91. He writes, that those pot hives were not so esteemed in antiquity as the baskets, indeed daubed with clay and straw. Vergil, Georgica 4,33 f.: "Ipsa (the bee-hive) autem seu corticibus tibi suta cavatis / seu lento fuerint alvaria vimine texta ..." From all those informations about bee-keeping we learn, I think, that the Deultum thing is no bee-hive.
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« Reply #24 on: December 03, 2005, 05:37:10 am »

That looks pretty typical, and the walls with niches in them,used to keep the weather off the hives, are still found all over Britain today. They're known as bee boles.
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