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Jochen
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« 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
obv. ANTONINV - S PIVS AV
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)
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« Reply #1 on: January 12, 2006, 05:00:03 pm »

(continued)

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, http://www.mala.bc.ca/~johnstoi/homer/iliad1.htm )

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 http://www.forumancientcoins.com/board/index.php?topic=22524.msg149938#msg149938

Lit.:
Der kleine Pauly
Homer, Ilias
Ovid, Metamorphosen

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

Best regards
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« Reply #2 on: January 12, 2006, 05:27:15 pm »

Apollo Sauroktonos - The Lizardkiller

Nikopolis ad Istrum/Moesia inferior, Geta 198-202
Ae 25, 11.38mm
obv. L CEPTIMI GETAC KAICAR
       bust draped, bare head r.
rev. [YP AVR G]A[LL]OC NIKOPOLITWN PROC ICTRON
      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)
Rare

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 http://www.forumancientcoins.com/board/index.php?topic=21050.0

Best regards

The statue is the copy from the Musei Vaticani.
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« Reply #3 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
obv. IMP C LIC VALERIANVS PI FE AVG (lat.)
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 http://www.forumancientcoins.com/board/index.php?topic=22423.msg150311#msg150311

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

Best regards
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« Reply #4 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
obv. AVT KM OPEL CEV MAKREINOC KM OPE ANTWNEINOC
       confronted busts of Macrinus, draped and laureate, l., and Diadumenian, bare-
       headed, r.
rev. VP PONTIANOV MAR - KIANOPOLEITWN (AR ligate)
       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
VF
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 http://www.forumancientcoins.com/board/index.php?topic=21181.msg141126#msg141126

Lit.:
Der kleine Pauly
Hederich, Gründliches Mythologisches Lexikon

Thanks to Patricia Lawrence

Best regards
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« Reply #5 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
obv. AVT.K.G.IOV.OVH.MAXIMEINOC
        P- P in li und re Feld.
        bust, draped and cuirassed, radiate, r.
rev.  TARCOV THC MHTROPOLEW
        Apollo Lykeios, nude, lauresate, standing facing, holdind a dead wolfe in each
        hand.
       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 http://www.forumancientcoins.com/board/index.php?topic=22373.0

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

Thanks to Curtis Clay and Patricia Lawrence!

Best regards
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« Reply #6 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
obv: AVT KAIC - ANTWNEINOC AVR
bust laureate, r..
rev: EPI KVEINTOV B ARX A MAIONIWN
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)
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« Reply #7 on: January 13, 2006, 12:37:06 pm »

(continued)

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.

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

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« Reply #8 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
Av.: KAI CEP CEVHPOC
       bust, laureate, r.
Rv.. VPA POL AVCPIKOC NIKOPOLI PROC
       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.

Mythology:
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.  

Background:
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)
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« Reply #9 on: January 13, 2006, 03:46:13 pm »

(continued)

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.

Source:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, USA (http://www.cdc.gov)

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

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« Reply #10 on: January 13, 2006, 05:17:40 pm »

These posts are excellent!
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« Reply #11 on: January 13, 2006, 05:27:29 pm »

Thanks, Ecoli! There are some more to come!

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« Reply #12 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
obv. AVT KM ANT GORDIANOC AL CEB / TRANKVLLIN
       Confronted busts of Gordian III, draped and laureate, r., and Tranquillina, draped
       and diademed, l.
rev. MECAM - BRIANWN
       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.

Background:
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.
http://www.crete.tournet.gr/Ideon_Andron_H_hle-si-1120-de.jsp

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

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« Reply #13 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
obv. AVK PLK GALLIHN / OC
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 http://www.forumancientcoins.com/board/index.php?topic=23945.msg158698#msg158698

Sources:
Der kleine Pauly
http://demo.interred.de
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pergamon_Altar

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« Reply #14 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
obv. IERA CYNKLHTOC
        youthful bust of the Senate, draped, r.
rev. CMYR G NE - EP PWLLI / ANOV
       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.
F+

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
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« Reply #15 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
obv. AVT M AVR - ANTWNEINOC
        bust, draped and cuirassed, radiate, r.
rev. VP NOBIOV ROVFOV NIKOPOLITWN / PROC ICTR / ON
       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:
http://www.forumancientcoins.com/board/index.php?topic=20649.msg137218#msg137218
http://www.forumancientcoins.com/board/index.php?topic=18252.msg121643#msg121643

Sources:
Ovid, Metamorphosen
Der kleine Pauly
Hederich, Gründliches Mythologisches Lexikon

Thanks to Pat Lawrence for the coin!

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« Reply #16 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
obv. M OP DIADVMENIANOC KAI
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

Mythology:
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.

Background:
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.
 
Lit.:
Der kleine Pauly
Wikipedia
Online Lexikon
Donald Harden, The Phoenicians 1980

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« Reply #17 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
obv. IMP CAESAR - M AV ANTONINVS
       Büste, drapiert und cürassiert, belorbeert, n.r.
rev. AVR PIA - SID - COL MET
      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

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« Reply #18 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
obv. AYT K M AYPH - ANTWNEINOC
       bust, draped and cuirassed, laureate, r.
rev. YP NOBIOY ROYFOY NIKOPOLITWN / PROC ICT
       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
       around
AMNG 1921
very rare, good VF, nice green patina

Background:
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.

Mythology:
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 http://www.ancientlibrary.com/smith-bio/

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

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« Reply #19 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
VF+/EF-

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:
http://www.forumancientcoins.com/board/index.php?topic=21015.0

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« Reply #20 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
obv. AVT(?) KM AVR CEV - ALEXANDROC AV
bust, draped and cuirassed, seen from behind, radiate, r.
rev. PERI - NTHIW - N / DIC NEWKO / RWN
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. 
 
Lit.:
Ovid, Metamorphosen
Der kleine Pauly
von Ranke-Graves, Greek Mythology

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« Reply #21 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.
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« Reply #22 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.

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« Reply #23 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
obv. IVLIA A - VGVSTA
bust, draped, r., hair in eight horizontal waves, coiled in a long bunch at the back of the head
rev. COL CAE - S ANTIOCH / S-R
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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« Reply #24 on: January 15, 2006, 01:51:02 pm »

Priapos

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
obv. AYT KOI TRAIAN DEK[IOC]
        bust draped, laureate, r.
rev. LANYAKHN / [W]N - EPI APOLL[WN?] - ETOY
       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!

Mythology:
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.

Background:
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.

Sources:
Karl Kerenyi, Die Mythologie der Griechen
Der kleine Pauly

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