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Author Topic: Coins of mythological interest  (Read 394213 times)
Jochen
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« Reply #225 on: September 25, 2007, 09:49:14 am »

I confess, that is my opinion too! But what's the matter with Molnar's suggestion that the rev. of this coin shows the astrological constellation 'Jupiter in Aries'?
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« Reply #226 on: September 25, 2007, 11:18:33 am »

I'm certainly willing to accept an astrological interpretation of the ram.  BMC p. lix: "The ram has been explained by K.O. Müller as a sign of the zodiac, indicating the period of the year at which the foundation of the city took place."

A star on coins, however, normally stands for the sun.  How does Molnar explain the coins of 55/6 AD with Tyche head on obv., same ram looking back rev., but above the ram either a star alone or a crescent conjoined with a star? (RPC 4286-7, cf. 4290-1)
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« Reply #227 on: September 25, 2007, 01:06:46 pm »

I've read Molnar's book, which I would say is absolutely full of holes, which I won't go into here; I don't want to dilute the Mythology thread. I'll just answer Curtis' question that he interprets the later coins as a symbol of Nero who was supposedly going to rise from the dead in the land of Palestine (although he's not dead yet). The star or crescent there are nothing but majestic symbols for the emperor.
Molnar is first and foremost an astrologer, not a credible astronomer, historian or researcher.
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« Reply #228 on: September 25, 2007, 04:41:02 pm »

There's no doubt that a star was associated with the messiah; Balaam's star prophecy in Numbers 24:17 (A star shall come out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall arise out of Israel) is used regularly in a Messianic context. A star shaped like a sword, which was evidently a comet, 'standing over the city' is one of the omens Josephus quotes in the runup tot he First Revolt. Matthew was a Jew who rejected the rebels completely, and wanted to say that his guy, born a generation earlier, was the messiah. So he puts the star in the sky to lead the wise men, and it ends up 'standing' (same peculiar phrase, though we can only speculate about the relationship between the two texts) over Bethlehem. He Believed Jesus was bringing in a thoroughly Jewish Kingdom of God, but with space for Gentiles. So he brings Gentiles to worship the baby, along with Jews. I've read several astrological explanations of the star, and found none of them convincing.

Numbers, of course, does not say that the messiah has to be a native Israelite, thus leaving a loophole for a Roman emperor to arise out of Palestine, and be dutifully hailed by Josephus as messiah. What are the ancient sources for the story of Nero redivivus?
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« Reply #229 on: September 25, 2007, 05:21:27 pm »

Molnar cites Sueton, Nero 40 and refers too to Dio Cassius, Roman History 63.27.2. After Nero's death several false "re-born" Neros occured in the East, probably because of the prophecy of astrologers (Tacitus, Histories II.8.1). There should be 'The Sibylline oracles' (which I personally don't know) collecting prophecies from the 2nd century BC to the 5th century AD, not related to the Roman Sibylline Books, where such prophecies about a re-born Nero are found. Nero was seen as Antichrist by Jews and Christians. The Revelation of Saint John seems to see Nero in this role too. The number of of the beast 666 could point to Nero. May be that Nero's astrologer, Balbillus, was the spirit behind these beliefs.

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« Reply #230 on: September 26, 2007, 01:06:27 am »

I'd forgotten about Suetonius' comments (it was rather late at night). The idea that 666 is intended as Nero redivivus is well-known, and won't go away. I'm not convinced though; there's a distinct lack of early Christian references to Nero's persecution (odd if they had such a dreadful memory of the guy!). The Jews didn't see anyone as Antichrist for obvious reasons; they're still waiting for the Messiah. I think the most we can say is that Nero was a popular ruler who died under somewhat mysterious circumstances, and some of his supporters probably didn't accept that he was dead; Suetonius reports a comparable state of affairs after Caligula's death, though it didn't last as long.
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« Reply #231 on: October 01, 2007, 02:35:38 pm »

Tellus

Hadrian, AD 117-138
AR - denarius, 18mm, 3.83g
        Rome, AD 134-138
obv. HADRIANVS - AVG COS III PP
       Bare head, r.
rev. T - ELLVS - STABIL
      Tellus standing facing, head left, wearing tunic to knees, right breast exposed, plow
        handle in right hand, rake upwards in left, two ears of grain in ground, r.
RIC II, 276; C.1427; BMC 738; Hill 528
VF/VF+
This type has been struck to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Hadrian's reign, praising the stabile world achieved by his wise rule.

Tellus, Lat. = earth (like Virtus feminin despite the masculine ending -us, difference between natural and grammatical genus!), was the goddess of the motherly earth and so very similar to the Greek Gaia. Her name was unexplained already in ancient times. It could be connected with 'terra', but Greek telao (supporting) or Lat. tollo (raising, accruing) was named as origin too. Diod. Sic.suggests that her original name was Titaea or Titia. In principle she was one of the primary goddesses. Varro calls here together with Jupiter the first and most important pair of gods.

But in Rome she was much younger. 268 BC Publius Sempronius devoted a temple to her in carinis, on the property of Sp. Cassis at the declivity of the noble regio IV of the Carinae, when during a battle against the Picentinians a earthquake occured. So the term TELLVS STABILITA is ambigous: It means on the one hand quite real the firm earth, untroubled by earthquakes, but - like on this coin - the world stabilized and quiet by the reign of the emperor too.

Because the earth is the source of all growth she was closely connected to Ceres, the goddess of fertility. So to honour her at the beginning of the winter sowings in January the feriae sementivae (sowing ceremonies) and on the country the paganalia were celebrated. To Tellus and to Ceres a pregnant sow was sacrificed. On April 15. with the participation of the Pontifices and the Vestal Virgins the Fordicias occured on the Capitoline Hill and in the 30 Curias and pregnant cows (fordae) were sacrificed to them. The ashes of the unborn calves was kept by the Vestal Virgins until the festival of the Palilias when it was used - mixed with the ash of the 'October Horse' - as agent for a ritual purification (suffimen).

The official Tellus cult was relative young and didn't reach to the times of the Roman kings.
It was not until the early Republic when the name of Tellus became known by the oath which was sworn by Roman commanders at the case of a devotio, the self-sacrificing for the army. The formula was 'Dis Manibus Tellurique' and with the word 'Tellurique' the earth was touched. The most famous devotio I think was by the consul Publius Decius Mus AD 340 during the 2nd war against the Latins. So it is understandable that Tellus occurs in burying rites and burying poems too as Terra Mater or Ceres Telluris. Telluric today is nearly synonymious with chthonic, meaning subterranean.
   
Terra Mater seems to be the translation of Greek Demeter, which probably means 'Ge-Mater'. Nevertheless always Tellus has kept its Roman character (which is true for other goddesses too, f.i. Juno or Minerva). Because of that it is not allowed to identify Tellus just with Gaia. A reason could be that Tellus symbolizes the 'home earth' and therefore was immunized against religious taking over from outside. The Roman author Vergil has called Italia Saturnia Tellus, the earth of the Golden Century. Therefore I want to restrict this contribution to the Roman Tellus and Gaia should be left eventually for another article.

History of Art:
In the first time there was no own depiction of Tellus although in the above mentioned Tellus temple a wall painting of Italia should have been. Not until the early Empire we can find personified depictions of Tellus. We know that especially Augustus went back to older mythological ideas. The most famous is the wall relief of the Terra Mater at the east-side of the Ara Pacis, the peace altar of Augustus on the Campus Martis. She is depicted as a mother, seated on a chair without arms and back, surrounded by children which probably should symbolize the seasons. She is too depicted on the famous cuirass of Augustus, laying on the ground, looking up to Saturn, a clear message for Saturnia Tellus, the beginning of a new Golden Century. 

This motive was admitted by a 2nd coin which I have taken from Coinarchives:
Julia Domna, AD 193-217
AR - denarius, 3.36g
        Rome, AD 207
obv. IVLIA AVGVSTA
       Bust, draped, r.
rev. FECVNDITAS
       Tellus, resting l., l. arm on urn and r. hand on globe; above her the
        personifications of the four seasons.
RIC 549; Hill, 850.

I have added a pic of the wall relief from the Ara Pacis.
 
Sources:
Wikipedia
http://www.imperiumromanum.com/religion/antikereligion/tellus_01.htm
Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon
The Kleine Pauly

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« Reply #232 on: October 01, 2007, 02:43:22 pm »

The myth of Tereus and Prokne

Coin:
Thracia, Bizya, Geta, AD 209-21
AE 26, 10.05g
obv. AVT KRA P - CEP GETAC C[?]
Bust, draped and cuirassed, seen from behind, laureate, r.
rev. BIZ - Y - HNWN
A banquet scene: Bearded man reclining on kline to left, resting with l. arm on pillow, touching with r. hand shoulder of a woman seated half-right at his feet, youth in short chiton standing left, his r. hand on opening of a high amphora, behind him a tree with armor hanging in twigs; on the right side forepart of horse to left, raising l. forefoot; beneath the kline a tripod(?), in the upper field  a shield.
Jurukova 63 (different obv. legend); Varbanov (engl.) 1491 var.
extremely rare, about VF(?), nice green patina

Mythology:
Sometimes it is suggested that the reverse shows a scene of the myth of Tereus, Prokne and Philomele. This interpretation is very questionable. I will talk about that in the second part of this article. But first the myth.

Tereus, a son of the war god Ares, was King of Thrace. Because he has helped King Pandion of Athens against the King of Thebens, Pandion gave him his daughter Prokre as wife. Prokne bore him a son, Itys. Prokne had a sister, Philomele. Once when Philomele want to visit her sister in Thrace, Tereus got her from Athens. Because of her beautiful voice he fall in love to her, his desire raised until he raped her. After this crime he cut out her tongue, so that she couldn't reveal it and hid her away in the forest. Back home he told Prokne that her sister Philomele has died. But the mute Philomele wove a tapestry depicting what had happened and that she was alive and could send this cloth to Prokne. Prokne pretended to celebrate Dionysos' festival and by raving around she found her sister. Seeing her bad state she decided to take terrible revenge. The most  terrible version comes from Ovid's Metamorphoses: Prokne slayed her son Ithys, cut him to pieces, boiled him and served him as meal for Tereus. When he asked for his son, she answered that he was already here, and then she threw the head of Ithys on the table. Tereus jumped up, pulled his sword and want to kill them. But Prokne and Philomele were transformed to birds, Prokne into a nightingale, and Philomele into a swallow, and could escape. Tereus himself was made to a hoopoe.

Background:
Originally Tereus was located at Daulis in Phokis, but he is found at Pagai in Megaris too. It was first Sophokles who has relocated his home to Thrace. His tragedy 'Tereus' from before 414 BC is lost. In Aristophanes' Birds Tereus calls all birds to a meeting. The myth originally seems to be an aitiological animal fairy tale which explains the voice of the birds. The swallow can't sing, the song of the nightingale sounds moanfully and reminds on 'Itu, itu' (= Itys). This myth has been taken by Ezra Pound for one of his Pisan Cantos (IV).

...
And by the curved, carved foot of the couch,
claw-foot and lion head, an old man seated
Speaking in the low drone...:
Itys!
Et ter flebiliter, Itys, Ityn!
And she went toward the window and cast her down,
"All the while, the while, swallows crying:
Ityn!
"It is Cabestan's heart in the dish."
"It is Cabestan's heart in the dish?
"No other taste shall change this."
And she went toward the window,
the slim white stone bar
Making a double arch;
Firm even fingers held to the firm pale stone;
Swung for a moment,
and the wind out of Rhodez
Caught in the full of her sleeve.
...the swallows crying:
'Tis! 'Tis! Ytis!


This is only a part of the Canto dealing with the inconceivableness of the beauty. The poem starts with the smouldering walls of Troy - consequences of the violent rape of the beauty. Here Philomele is transformed into a nightingale and Prokne into a swallow. Pound interweaves this old Greek myth with the Provencal myth of the cavalier Cabestan whose heart was served as meal to his beloved by his jealous wife. The name Itys melts subtly with Cabestan and forms 'Ityn'. Inimitable in English the answer of the swallows to the question:
"It is Cabestan's heart in the dish?"'
"...'Tis! 'Tis! 'Ytis!''

(following Eva Hesse, Ezra Pound - Dichtung und Prosa, 1959)

Objections:
In a coin description on CoinArchives CNG writes: "Possibly a local depiction of a myth involving the Bizyan king Tereus....The coin type allegorically depicts the moment when Tereus is served his son's corpse by his wife."
But the interpretation of the reverse depiction as scene of the myth of Tereus has no actual background. I couldn't find Bizya as home of Tereus. There is no figure we can name. We have no hint for Tereus, Ithys, or Prokne. We have the horse, the shield and the armour on the rev., which have no analogy in the myth.
Jurukova, Bizye, p.37, sees a grave monument with a so called Death Feast. But that doesn't match the armor and the shield!
Pick, Jahr. Arch. Inst. XIII, 145, calls it a banquet of a god and a goddess (Theoxenion).
Varbanov calls the male figure Dionysos.

I have attached the pic of a banquet-scene on a red- ad white-figured crater. I don't know the artist nor the age of this crater, but it matches the coin depiction astonishing closely! It is the same position of the figures on the kline, we have the attendants, the amphora, even the shields at the wall! And we have a tree-footed table aside. So I think the so-called tripod under the kline could be a table to!

Recapitulatory  we can say we have a banquet-scene, possibly with Dionysiac background, but that's all! Sadly!

History of Art:
In ancient times only rarely has been dealed with the myth of Tereus (list from www.perseus.tufts.edu):
We have a neck-amphora from the Diosphos painter, showing Tereus and Prokne, now in Naples.
We have a hydria fragment from the Altamura painter, showing Tereus with bird on head, pursuing Prokne, now in Taranto/Italy.
We have a cup fragment from the Magnoncourt painter, showing Prokne and Philomela with Itys, now in Basel.
We have high classical marble sculpture, showing a child leaning against his mother's leg (Prokne and Itys), in Athens,
and cup in Paris from Makron, showing besides others Prke and Philomela with Itys.

I have attached a pic of the Makron cup (the related myth part only) and the pic of the painting 'Tereus' from Peter-Paul Rubens, showing Tereus confronted with the head of his son Itys.

Sources:
Ovid, Metamorphoses VI, 438-674
Der kleine Pauly
Karl Kereny, Die Mythologie der Griechen
Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon
Robett von Ranke Graves, Griechische Mythologie
Wikipedia
www.perseus.tuft.edu

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« Reply #233 on: October 20, 2007, 03:42:06 pm »

Mars and Rhea Silva

The coin:
Antoninus Pius, AD 138-161
AE - As, 26.71mm, 11.65g
Rome, AD 140/144
obv. ANTONINVS - AVG PIVS PP
       head, laureate, r.
rev. T - R - POT - COS III
Mars, nude, chlamys over l. arm, helmeted, spear in r. hand and shield in l. hand, coming down from heaven to Rhea Silvia, sleeping at his feet, nude except a garment slid down to her hips, laying l. on rocks, r. arm over head, head resting on l. hand
in lower field SC
RIC III, 694; C.885; BMC 1370
Very rare, VF, dark, nearly black patina
Pedigree:
ex Küncker auction 133, Osnabrück 11./12. Oct. 2007, lot 8870

Mythology:
Prokras, descendant of Aeneas, was king of Alba Longa. When he deceased he left two sons, Numitor Silvius, the older, who was mild and well-tempered, and Amulius Silvius, the younger, who was brutal and power-hungry. Amulius kicked Numitor off the throne and exiled him. His son he let kill. His daughter Rhea Silva (or Silvia) he made a Vestal so that no descendant could threaten his reign. But when Mars first saw Rhea Silva he fell in love to her, seduced and raped her. She bore him a pair of twins. When Amulius heard that, he gave order to kill Rhea Silva and the twins. His servants should drown them in the river Tiber. But the servants had pity on the children and gave them to the Tiber in their cradle. The cradle was taken away by the water and finally was attached to the branches of a tree. Another version told that they were rescued by the god Tiberinus. When Mars heard of the ill fate of his children he sent a she-wolf to nurse them and wood-peckers which fed them with grains and seeds.

Once the herdsman Faustulus when he was in search of one of his goats came to the cave of the she-wolf and found the twins. He took them and gave them to his wife Acca Larentia to bring them up. They were named Remus and Romulus. But when the herdsman heard of the fate of Rhea Silva and her children he recognized that he has found the grandchildren of King Numitor. But for fear of Amulius he kept still. Remus and Romulus became tough youths and  together with their companions they ranged the woods. Often they had to defend her father's herds against wild animals and other herdsmen. On such an occasion Remus once was captured and brought to the aged King Numitor. When Faustulus and Romulus came to free Remus Numitor recognized his grandsons. The twins and their companions moved to Alba Longa, conquered the castle and killed King Amulius. Numitor was made king again. But the twins wouldn't rule in Alba Longa, but intend to found their own city. The rest ist well known!

Background:
There are several dfferent versions of this myth. The most important are from Plutarch (Vitae Parallelae, Romulus), who is based on Diokles of Peparethos, and from Dionysios of Halikarbassos. Possibly this myth - and so the myth of Aeneas too - first emerged by Greek influence to connect the Roman history to the brilliant history of Greece. By writing the Aeneid Vergil succeeded convincingly in this subject.
In one version Rhea Silva is said to be burned (the usual penalty for sinful vestals), in another version she has drown herself in the river Tiber. Referring to Dionysios of Halikarnassos her original name was Ilia and the name Rhea Silva she got when she became vestal virgin.

We know that under Antoninus Pius occurs a return to ancient Roman religion and mind (in distinction from Hadrian, whose character was stamped Greek.). So we find on his coins all themes of Roman mythology which ever were put on coins. Most of these coins had been struck between AD 140/144. The theory that they had been struck because of the 900-years anniversary celebration of the founding of Rome can't be proofed. This coinage more probably can be seen as a basic program for the principles of his further political activities. Often the depicted motives refer to events in Rome and Latum, which too stand in the center of Antoninus' social care.

Iconography:
This is the first depiction of this important founder myth on Roman coins. On sarcophages we find it 100 years earlier, f.i. on the columbarium of the Statilii on the Mons Esquilin. Here Mars with his usual stepping schema approaches his victim who bears a jar which she afraid let fall. This is an illustration of the version of Dionysios of Halikarnassos. A wall painting in Pompeji is closer to our coin depiction. In Nero's Domus Aureus finally we have assembled all obligatory elements, but laterally reversed. Here we find too persons which observe the events and on the r. side an unidentified temple. This specification of the area is not needed on coins because of their roundness.
The depicted topos - a deity is floating down to a human being - is known from other myths too. We find it in the myth of Endymion and Selene or when Ariadne is found by Dionysos. It is known since Hellenism. Because of the down floating figure of Mars the model for the depiction could probably not be a statue

I have added the pic of the painting 'Mars and Rhea Silvia' of Peter Paul Rubens.

Sources:
Plutarch, Vitae Parallelae
Der kleine Pauly
Michael Krumme, Römische Sagen in der antiken Münzprägung, 1995
Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon,
Wikipedia

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« Reply #234 on: October 27, 2007, 04:15:54 pm »

Faustulus and the twins

Roman republic, Sextus Pompeius Fostlus, gens Pompeia
AR - denarius, 20mm, 3.88g
Rome, 137 BC
obv. Head of Roma, wearing winged helmet, r.
X before, jug behind
rev. SEX.PO - F - OSTLV - S
She-wolfe, stg. r., head turned back, suckling the twins Remus und Romulus; behind tree with three woodpeckers, at left herdsman Faustulus, wearing short cloak and pointed hat, stg. with crossed legs bended r., with l. hand resting on staff, r. hand raised.
in ex. ROMA
Crawford 235/1c; Sydenham 461a; Pompeia 1a; BMC 927
attractive VF
Pedigree:
ex Kagin's Long Beach Sale, Feb. 1987, lot 4474

The rev. of ths coin shows the most important moment of the Roman founder myth: The discovering of the twins. The name Faustulus is not explained satisfyingly until now. Sometimes it is suggested that the familiy of the mintmaster claimed descent from Faustulus. But 'der kleine Pauly'  thinks tat this is not true but it is probably a hint to the depicted figure. The tomb of Faustulus was suggested to be on the Forum Romanum. Indeed the Lapis Niger (black stone) was seen as tomb of Romulus, but ths version contradicts the version of his Ascension. So the view developed that the tomb was built for Romulus but then his foster-father was buried within.

The location of the ancient lupercal (the cave of the she-wolf) is unknown. The Ficus Ruminalis (lat. 'ruma' = teat, it originally was sacred to the goddess Rumina) was shown at the comitium of the puteal of Attus Navius. There this augur should have replaced the fig-tree. But Livius tells us that the Ogulnii, aedils in 296 BC, have erected a statue of the she-wolf with the twins ad ficum ruminalem. But obviously there was no cave! First Augustus - as he writes in his res gestae - has established this cave at the Mons Palatinus. In January AD 2007 Italian archaeologists have found during restauration workings near the palace of Augustus a chamber which because of its wall paintings they suggest to be the Augustean lupercal. For a discussion about this find please look at this thread http://www.forumancientcoins.com/board/index.php?topic=41615.0

The festival of the Lupercalia, by the way, is older than the myth of the she-wolf and the twins. Lupercus was the name of an ancient god of the herdsmen and the Lupercalia so were the festival of herdsmen in honour of their guardian against wolves and other beasts. 'Lupa' too is Latin 'wolf' and 'prostitute'. This could be a random synonym. Probably the story of Acca Larentia, wife of Faustulus, who in a version of the myth should have been a prostitute herself, was invented afterwards because of this alikeness of names. So we have a version of the myth with the she-wolf and another version without. Mommsen says to this subject: "The founder myth is new and badly invented!"
For the story of Acca Larentia please look at the relating article in this thread!

I have added a pic of the place with the recently found cave at the Palatinus.

Sources:
Mommsen, Römische Geschichte
Der kleine Pauly
Michael Krumme, Römische Sagen in der antiken Münzprägung, 1995
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/01/070126-rome-palatine.html
 
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« Reply #235 on: October 27, 2007, 04:17:32 pm »

Romulus and the first triumph

Romulus has been depicted on coins not before Augustus. It was said that Augustus was flirting with the idea to take the name Romulus for himself. But as we know he has abstained it. Romulus indeed was the foundr of the city, but as first king definitely not an example for the Republic. Quite the opposite to it he was seen as tyrant and Cicero compared some of his adversaries like Sulla, Lepidus or Caesar with Romulus. At Horaz the mythological fratricide became the original guilt ('Erbschuld') which was responsible for the  misery of the Civil War. And that was the reason why Augustus quit the adoption of the name Romulus. It was not until the Flavians when Roman mythological themes occured on coins again.

The coin:
Hadrian, AD 117-138
AR - denarius, 20mm, 3.33g
Rome, AD 134-138
obv. HADRIANVS - AVG COS III PP
Head, laureate, r.
rev. ROMVLO - CONDITORI
Romulus, bare-headed, in military cloak, walking tip-toed r., holding transverse spear in r. hand and with l. hand trophy over l. shoulder
RIC II, 266; C.1316; BMC 711
nice VF

The depiction shows Romulus with the spolia opima, he has won from the Sabine king Acron whom he has killed when he conquered the city of Caenina.

Mythology:
This mythological episode is chronologically directly attached to the Rape of the Sabines. I refer to the relating article in this thread. Titus Livius (Ab urbe condita 1.10) writes:
"The feelings of the abducted maidens were now pretty completely appeased, but not so those of their parents. They went about in mourning garb, and tried by their tearful complaints to rouse their countrymen to action. Nor did they confine their remonstrances to their own cities; they flocked from all sides to Titus Tatius, the king of the Sabines, and sent formal deputations to him, for his was the most influential name in those parts. The people of Caenina, Crustumerium, and Antemnae were the greatest sufferers; they thought Tatius and his Sabines were too slow in moving, so these three cities prepared to make war conjointly. Such, however, were the impatience and anger of the Caeninensians that even the Crustuminians and Antemnates did not display enough energy for them, so the men of Caenina made an attack upon Roma territory on their own account. Whilst they were scattered far and wide, pillaging and destroying, Romulus came upon them with an army, and after a brief encounter taught them that anger is futile without strength. He put them to a hasty flight, and following them up, killed their king and despoiled his body; then after slaying their leader took their city at the first assault. He was no less anxious to display his achievements than he had been great in performing them, so, after leading his victorious army home, he mounted to the Capitol with the spoils of his dead foe borne before him on a frame constructed for the purpose. He hung them there on an oak, which the shepherds looked upon as a sacred tree, and at the same time marked out the site for the temple of Jupiter, and addressing the god by a new title, uttered the following invocation: 'Jupiter Feretrius! these arms taken from a king, I,Romulus a king and conqueror, bring to thee, and on this domain, whose bounds I have in will and purpose traced, I dedicate a temple to receive the spolia opima which posterity following my example shall bear hither, taken from the kings and generals of our foes slain in battle.'
Such was the origin of the first temple dedicated in Rome. And the gods decreed that though its founder did not utter idle words in declaring that posterity would thither bear their spoils, still the splendour of that offering should not be dimmed by the number of those who have rivalled his achievement. For after so many years have elapsed and so many wars been waged, only twice have the [/i]spolia opima[/i] been offered. So seldom has Fortune granted that glory to men."

Background:
Like Trajan Hadrian too has often emphesized traditional values, perhaps to establish a good relation to the Senate. The selection of Romulus as coin depiction points rather at his role as founder of the city than at the first king of Rome. Important seems to be his deification which strengthens the Imperial Cult. But actually an equation with Numa would have been more adaequate. His juridiction and his humanization would much better match the deeds of Numa, also his stress on the ancient religion. ut this equation could not be successful because Hadrian was not counted among the 'good rulers'. The equation with Numa was transferred thereafter to Antoninus Pius.

Iconography.
The figure of Romulus could be recognized decisively first on coin depictions of Hadrian. He is walking with a remarkable trippig step (tip-toeing). This step is characteristic for the Mars type with which Romulus is sharing attitude and armament. With this depiction he appears until 3rd century AD. First he occurs on a wall painting in Pompeji. There he forms the counterpart to the escape of Aeneas from Troy. These two figures therafter were found in the exedras of the Augustus Forum and as decoration of statues of the Divus Augustus Temple. According to that this depiction of Romulus seems to be known since the 1st century BC. Probably it has been equalized to the Mars type. The tip-toeing step is known less for warlike figures but adequate for the victorious Romulus. Later on both types, Mars and Romulus, merged and on the VIRTVS AVGVSTI types they are no longer distinguishable, which could be intended from the beginning.

Spolia opima:
Spolia opima (Lat. = 'glorious spoils') in the time of the Roman Republic was the term for the armour which was removed from a conquered enemy leader by the Roman leader in a single combat by his own hands, which afterwards was consecrated in the temple of Jupiter Feretrius. In the Roman history succeeded only Romulus against Acron, Aulus Cornelius Cossus against Lars Tolumnius and Marcus Claudius Marcellus against Viridomarus (referring to Plutarch). The claim of Marcus Licinius Crassus (grandson of the famous triumvir) after his victory over the leader of the Bastarni in 29 BC to consecrate too the spolia opima was denied by Augustus, because he was not the commander-in-chief but only a general of Augustus.
BTW Feretrius means such as 'he who carries away (namely the spoils of war)'.

I have added the pic of the denarius of P. Cornelius Marcellinus, Crawford 439/1; Sydenham 1147 from 50 BC (from CoinArchives). It reminds on the capture of Syracuse by his ancestor M. Claudius Marcellus in 121 BC. It shows the head of Claudius Marcellus with a triskeles (symbol of Sicily) behind and on the rev. Marcellus, togate, carrying the trophy to the temple of Jupiter Feretrius.

Then I have added a pic of the French painter Jean-Baptiste Dominique Ingres (1780-1867), The Triumph of Romulus over Acron, pen, brown ink, watercolor over pencil on paper, after AD 1812, now in the Louvre/Paris.

Sources:
Titus Livius, Ab urbe condita (English Translation by. Rev. Canon Roberts)
Michael Krumme, Römische Sagen in der antiken Münzprägung, 1995
Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon,
Der kleine Pauly
Wikipedia

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« Reply #236 on: October 28, 2007, 02:25:38 pm »

Byzas - founder of Byzanz

The coin:
Thracia, Byzantium, Severus Alexander, AD 222-235
AE 25, 7.68g
obv. AVT KM AVR CEV ALEZA[NDROC] AVG
Bust, draped and cuirassed, laureate, r.
rev. BYZAZ
Head of Byzas, bearded, helmeted, r
F+/about VF, dark-green patina

The bearded, helmeted bust of the mythological founder Byzas so far was known only on the pseudo-autonomous coinage from Byzantium. Schönert-Geiss, Münzprägung von Byzantium, vol.II, p.20: "The Byzas-series, which contains 66 ex. with 23 obv. and 37 rev. dies, could be dated exactly, since the same magistrates are named on their reverses as on portrait coins of the emperors. They fall into 5 issues
AD 128-135
AD164-169
c. AD 175
c. AD 176
AD 202-205
On this coin the head of Byzas appears for the first time as a rev. type, on a coin of Sev. Alex. The obv. die of this coin was already known, linked to 4 rev. types under the magistrate Fronto with the legend EPI FRONTWNOC BVZANTIWN, Schönert-Geiss V218, Kat.-Nr. 1761-1767, pl. 103
(accordingt to Curtis Clay)

Mythology:
There are two different myths of Byzas which are often mixed together. The first version is found at Stephanos Byzantinos, a Greek laguage teacher (c. AD 500), and Diodoros Sikolos, a Greek historian who lived c.60 BC in Alexandria, in his Bibliothecae historicae liber 49. The other version we know from Petrus Gyllius who on order of King Franz I of France traveled through Greece, Asia and Africa in order to describe these regions and their countries. His work is found in De topographia Constantinopoleos and De Bosporo Thracio which were published AD 1561, after his death AD 1555.

In Greek mythology, Byzas was a son of Poseidon and Keroessa. Zeus once fell in love with Io, the daughter of Inachos, King of Argos. Zeus temporarily transformed his mistress into a heifer, white with golden horns, in order to protect her from the wrath of his wife Hera. In her wanderings Io crossed the Bosporos, giving the strait its name (bovs-phoros, which is Greek for cow-ford). After reassuming her original form, she gave birth to a girl, Keroessa.
Keroessa later bore a son to Poseidon, elder brother of Zeus and lord of the ocean.
This son was Byzas the Megarian who later became the founder of Byzantium and also named Golden Horn (Greek Chrysokeras) after his mother. Some sources say that Byzas was brought up by the naiad Byzia and married Phidaleia, daughter of King Barbyzos (Steph. Byz. in Byzantion; Diod. Sic. IV 49).

According to the other version, a Greek legend, Byzas was a Greek colonist (reported by some to be a leader or even a king) from the Doric colony of Megara in Greece, son of King Nisos. He has consulted the oracle of Apollo at Delphi and the oracle instructed Byzas to settle opposite from the "Land of the Blind". Leading a group of Megarian colonists, Byzas found a location opposite Chalcedon, where the Bosporos and the Golden Horn meet and flow into the Sea of Marmara. He determined the Chalcedonians must have been blind not to recognize the advantages the land on the European side of the Bosporos had over the Asiatic side, and in 667 BC founded Byzantium on the European side, thus completing the oracle's quest (Gyllis Topogr. Constantinop. lib I).

Background:
Neolithic records proof that the shores of the Bosporos were settled already very early. Already for the Greek this strait was of essential importance. Here the ships coasted which supplied Athens and other poleis with grain from the todays Ukraina. To protect this strategic important place which was at the same time the key position of the land bridge between Europe and Asia and the sea way from the Aegeis to the Blacksea the first colony was founded around 685 BC by Megarian colonists at the Asiatic side of the Bosporos: Kalchedon. 17 years after the founding of Kalchedon a second founding by the Megarians, together with colonists from Argos and Corinth, occurred on the European side in an area already inhabited by Thracians. The Thracian name of this settlement, Byzantion, later was interpreted as the name of one of its mythological leaders, Byzas of Megara. Byzas itself is a frequent Thracian name.

The myths around Byzas are typical Greek colonisation myths, which we can find
all over the Greek world. The occupation of foreign and already inhabited countries was always described as if these countries were deserted. By the newly invented myths the connection to the mythological history of Greece was established and the whole undertaking was interpreted as divine mission.

Because of its favourable strategic location and its calm and safe harbour Byzantion soon became an important trading centre. In 513 BC the Persian King Darius I conquered the city. In AD 324 Constantine I the Great combined both parts of the Roman Empire and on May 11. AD 330 he named the new capital in a solemn ceremony Nova Roma (= New Rome). But more famous it became under the name Constantinopolis.

Especially under the emperor Justinian I (AD 527-AD 565), the last great East-Roman ruler, Constantinopolis acquired big glory and was finished gorgeously (Hagia Sophia). In the Middle Ages the city remained the centre of the Byzantinian Empire and for a long time it was the biggest and most wealthy city of Europe. In April AD 1204 the Crusaders conquered Constantinopolis. The city was sacked, numerous inhabitants killed and works of art of inestimable value irrevocably got lost. Reduced to about 100.000 inhabitants, stripped of its previous glory, the city was reconquered AD 1261 by the Byzantinian Empire under Michael VIII.

On April 5. AD 1453 the siege of Constantinopolis by the Ottoman army under sultan Mehmed II began and in the morning of May 29. the city was conquered. That defined the final end of the Roman Empire after more than 1200 years.

I have added a map of the geographical position of Constantinopolis.

Sources:
Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon, 1770
Friedrich Prinz, Gründungsmythen und Sagenchronologie, 1979
Der kleine Pauly
Wikipedia

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« Reply #237 on: November 13, 2007, 04:15:14 pm »

Herophile - the Sibyl

Fore those who are interested, this theme belongs to the ambit of Apollo Smintheus.

The coin:
Troas, Gergis, quasi-autonomous, 400-241 BC
AE 9, 0.98g
obv. bust of the sibyl Herophile, looking facing, laureate, decorated wit two longish ear-pendant and a pearl-necklace
rev. female sphinx, winged, std. r.
      in r. field GER
SNG von Aulock 1513; BMC 2-4
rare, F+/about VF

There are two versions to explain the name Herophile:
a) It means 'priestress of the tribe'
b) It means 'friendly to Hera'
I tend to the first version, but I don't know wether it is really correct.

Mythology:
Herophile was the daughter of Apollo, or of Ketophagos and a Idaic nymph. According to Kerenyi she was the oldest of all sibyls. In any case she was one of the most famous. She lived at the time when Troy was destroyed and she was the priestress of the Smintheum, the sanctuary of Apollo Smintheus. There she had predicted the destruction of Troy. And that happened this way:

A short time before the birth of Paris his mother Hekabe (lat. Hecuba), the wife of Priamos, king of Troy, had a dream where she bore a log from which crawled numerous snakes. Priamos asked his son Aisakos, the seer, for the meaning of this dream, and Aisakos prophesied, that this child would be the doom of the whole country, and he begged Priamos to kill this child.

With a heavy heart Priamos announced that the child together with its mother should be killed. And he commanded to kill his sister Kilia and her son Munippos and buried them in the holy precinct of Tros. She has given birth to a son at the the same time. But Hekabe too gave birth to her son and although Herophile, priestress of  Apollo, insisted in killing at least the child, Priamos spared both lifes. Finally -  due to her entreatingly begs - Priamos charged the herdsman Agelaos with this order. Agelaos took the child, but having pity on him he marooned him at the Ida mountain. There he was found by a she-bear, which nursed him. When Agelaos after five days found him alive he was astonished about this miracle and took the child with him in a basket (hence the name 'Paris', later on he was named Alexandros) and brought him up with his wife. To Priamos he showed the tongue of a dog as proof of the murder. The rest of the story is well-known.

Herophile lived at Samos, Klaros, Delos and Delphi, and finally died in Troas. Therefore her tomb could be seen in the grove of Apllo Smintheus. Her cult seems to come from Hellenistic times. The people of Erythraia adopted Herophile as compatriot, passed her off as daughter of the herdsman Theodoros and the nymph from above and showed a cave on the Korykos mountain where she should be born (Pausanias Phok. c.12.p.630).

The sibyls
The word sibyl comes from the ancient Greek, meaning prophetess. The earlier oracular seeresses known as the sibyls of antiquity prophesied at certain holy sites, probably all of pre-Indo-European origin, under the divine influence of a , originally one of the chthonic earth-goddesses. Later in antiquity, sibyls wandered from place to place. Homer seems to have been unaware of a Sibyl. The first Greek writer, so far as we know, who mentions a sibyl is Heraclit, in the 5th century BC. Sibyls are not identified by a personal name, but by names that refer to the location of their temenos, or shrine. In Pausanias the first sibyl mentioned was the Sibyl of Delphi. The second Sibyl, referred to by Pausanias, was named "Herophile", and seems to have been based ultimately in Samos Island, but visited other shrines too, but Delphi had its own sibyl. We see that here is still much ambiguity. The reason is that the sibyls at first were not stationary. So their names and their stories were often mixed.

Even the number of sibyls is not clear. Frazier writes, that historical there were only two of them at the beginning, the Sibyl of Erythraea and the Sibyl of Samos who lived some time later. The first ancient writer to distinguish several Sibyls was Heraclides Ponticus, 4th century BC, who named at least three Sibyls, the Phrygian Sibyl, the Erythraean Sibyl and the Hellespontine Sibyl, where the last one should be our Herophile. Later on their number increased to nine and even ten, when the Romans finally added a Etruscan Sibyl. According to Lacantius who cited Varro these were the ten Sibyls:

[1] The Persian Sibyl was said to preside over the Apollo Oracle; though her location remained vague enough so that she might be called the "Babylonian Sibyl". She is said to have foretold the exploits of Alexander the Great.
[2] The so-called Libyan Sibyl was identified with prophetic priestess presiding over the ancient Zeus Amun Oracle at the Siwa Oasia. This oracle is well-known by the visit of Alexander after his conquest of Egypt. She is called Lamia too.
[3] The Sibyl at Delphi is commonly known as the Pythia, though her name was also Herophile. She was the Pythian priestess of Python, an archaic chthonic serpent. Later, Sibyl or Pythia became a title given to whichever priestess manned the oracle at the time. The Sibyl sat on a tripod over a cleft in the Sibylline Rock, gaining her often puzzling predictions from it. She sang her predictions, which she received from Gaia, in an ecstatic swoon; her utterings were interpreted by attendant priests during classical times, and rendered into of notoriously difficult interpretation. Modern scholars dismiss the archaic propensity for visions and sometimes attempt to account for the Pythia's swoon with toxic methane or ethylene hydrocarbon vapors (Scientific American, October 2003).
[4] The Cimmerian Sibyl. Gnaeus Naevius names the Cimmerian Sibyl in his books of the Punic War  and Piso in his annals. The Sibyl's son Evander founded in Rome the shrine of Pan, the lupercal.
[5]  The Erythraean Sibyl was sited at Erythrae, a town in Ionia opposite Chios. Apollodoros of Erythrae affirms the Erythraean Sibyl to have been his own countrywoman and to have predicted the Trojan War and prophesised to the Greeks who were moving against Troy both that Troy would be destroyed and that Homer would write falsehoods. The word acrostic was first applied to the prophecies of the Erythraean Sibyl, which were written on leaves and arranged so that the initial letters of the leaves always formed a word.
[6] The Samian Sibyl's site was at the Isle of Samos.
[7] The Cumaean Sibyl. She was most concerned by the Romans. Her site was a cave near Cumae in the neighborhood of Naples. She was consulted by Aeneas before his descent to the lower world. It was she who sold to Tarquinius Superbus, the last king of Rome, the original Sibylline Books, which then were hold by the viri quindecim. The Sibylline Books are not the same as the Sibylline Oracles. The Roman Sibylline Books were quite different in character from the preserved Sibylline Oracles, which typically predict disasters rather than prescribe solutions. The books contained lists of rites and procedures to avoid calamities. Christians were especially impressed with the Cumaean Sibyl too, for in Virgil's Fourth Eclogue she foretells the coming of a savior, a flattering reference to the poet's patron, Augustus, whom Christians nevertheless identified as Jesus.
[8] The Hellespontine, or Trojan Sibyl presided over the Apollo Oracle at  Dardania in Asia Minor. She was born in the village of Marpessos near the small town of Gergis, during the lifetimes of Solon and Kyros the Great. Marpessus was formerly within the boundaries of the Troas. The Sibylline Book at Gergis was attributed to the Hellespontine Sibyl and was preserved in the temple of Apollo at Gergis. Thence it passed to Erythrae, where it became famous. The coins of Gergis depict her portrait.
[9] The Phrygian Sibyl appears to be a doublet of the Hellespontine Sibyl.
[10] The Tiburtine Sibyl was added to the classical sibyls by the Romans. Her site was Tibur (today Tivoli), an ancient Etruscan city. The myth tells that Augustus has consulted the sibyl and has asked her whether he should be worshiped as a god. Whether the sibyl in question was the Etruscan Sibyl of Tibur or the Cumaean Sibyl is not always clear. An apocalyptic pseudo-prophecy exists, attributed to the Tiburtine Sibyl, written ca AD 380, but with revisions and interpolations added at later dates. It purports to prophesy the arrival of the Christian emperor, Constantine, and then will arise a king of the Greeks whose name is Constans. He will be king of the Romans and the Greeks. But this is only a vaticinium ex eventu, spoken after the fact. But I think this is true for all prediction which fulfil.

I have added a pic of the famous Sibyl of Cumae of Michelangelo. She is found in the Sistine Chapel (AD 1508-1512) in Rome. Here Michelangelo has immortalized five of the sibyls.

Sources:
Der kleine Pauly
Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon
Robert von Ranke-Graves, Griechische Mythologie
Karl Kerenyi, Griechische Sagen
http://dark-legion.org/en/Sibyl
http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sibylle_%28Prophetin%29
http://www.weblexikon.de/Sibylle_(Prophetin).html

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« Reply #238 on: November 23, 2007, 03:16:40 pm »

Vacuna?

Roman Republic, M. Plaetorius Cestianus, gens Plaetoria
AR - Denarius, 18.52mm, 3.86g
         Rome, 67 BC
obv. Draped bust of a winged goddess, r., wearing crested helmet, lotus-blossom and
        grain-ears on her forehead, bow and quiver over r. shoulder, cornucopiae below
        chin.
        behind CESTIANVS, before s:c
rev. Eagle with spread wings stg. on thunderbolt r., head l.
       in ex. M PLAE, then TORIVS F AED CVR
Ref.: Crawford 409/1; Sydenham 809; BMCRR 3596; Plaetoria 4
VF, slightly toned
Pedigree:
ex. M&M AG Auktion 38, Basel 6./7.12.1968, lot 181 (coll. August Voirol)

The goddess depicted on the obv. of this coin is often called Vacuna, but in error. Vacuna was a Sabinean goddess identical to the Roman Victoria. She had an ancient sanctuary (Vacunae Nemis) near Horace's villa at Tibur, todays Tivoli, and another at Rome. The Romans however derived the name from Va- cuus, and said that she was a divinity to whom the country people offered sacrifices when the labours of the field were over, that is, when they were at leisure, vacui. (Schol. ad Horat. Epist. i. 10. 49 ; Ov. Fast. vi. 307 ; Plin. H. N. iii. 17.) From the Scholiast on Horace, we also learn that some identified her with Diana, Ceres, Venus, or Minerva. Her festivities, the Vacunalia, occured in December.

Today her name etymologically is derivated rom *vacu- (= lacus, i.e. lake, with change of l>v, like Umbrian 'vaper' = Lat. lapis, i.e. stone), and so her name means 'dea del lago', i.e. goddess of the lake. Her Sabinean cult centre probably was situated at the
sulphureous springs of Aquae Cutiliae (Evans: The cults of the Sabine Territory, 1939).

The traditional identification of the female bust as Vacuna is impossible, writes Crawford, citing the work of J.P. Morel, MEFR 1962, 25-29. An identification as Isis, according to the work of A. Alföldi, SM 1954, 30-31, is perhaps correct. In short, the identification of the obverse type is uncertain, as the female has attributes of Isis, Minerva, Apollo, Diana, and Victory. So it is a typical Polythea!

Sources:
Der Kleine Pauly
Smith, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (online)
Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon

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« Reply #239 on: December 05, 2007, 01:34:50 pm »

The voting pebble of Athena

My Christmas gift for the Forum's members!

The coin:
Pamphylia, Side, Valerian II, Caesar Ad 256-258, son of Gallienus
AE 30, 18.04g
obv. POV LIK KOR OVALERIANON KAI CEB
Bust, draped and cuirassed, bare-headed, r.; beneath eagle, standing r.,  with opened wings and head r.
c/m E in circular incus (Howgego 805)
rev. CIDHTWN - NEWKORWN
Athena (Sidetes), helmeted and wearing narrow peplos, stg. facing, head l., holding palmbranch over l. shoulder and dropping voting pebble with r. hand into amphora with two handles l. beside her; r. beside her a branch with a pomegranate.
ref.: cf. SNG Pfälzer Privatsammlungen 882 (Gallienus); probably unpublished
F/about VF, rough obv., rev. with slight strike weakness and distinct circular traces of the ancient smoothing process.
The E of the c/m should probably devaluate the coin from 10 units to 5 units.
Coins from Side often show pomegranates because 'side' in Pamphylian means 'pomegranate'.

Mythology:
When you search for information for the motive 'Athena with voting pebble' you unevitably come across the myth of Orestes who became the slayer of his mother Klytaimnestra. To understand the problems I have to give a short review of the cursed House of the Atrides.

The story starts with Tantalos who - to test the wisdom of the gods - slaughters his son Pelops and served him as meal for the gods. No one touched it except Demeter who was deep in thoughts about her daughter Persephone. She ate a piece of his shoulder which was replaced by ebony when Pelops was brought to life again by Zeus. Tantalos was banished to the Tartaros to his eternal penalty.

Pelops himself was a bad boy too. When he went to Elis as suitor of Hippodameia, daughter of King Oinomaos, he convinced Myrtilos, a son of Hermes, who was the stablemaster of Oinomaos, to manipulate Oinomaos' chariot so that it broke in the racing and Pelops won Hippodameia. But instead to give Myrtilos the arranged pay he pushed him from a rock into the sea and killed him. Hermes swore to take revenge on his family. Pelops married Hippodameia and named his new home country Peleponnesos (Pelop's island).

Atreus was the son of Pelops. Together with his brother Thyestes he killed his second brother Chrysippos. Because of this murder both are banished by Pelops and they went to Argos. There Atreus deceived the goddess Artemis of a golden lamb. But because his wife Aerope has a love affair with his brother Thyestes this golden lamb secretly got to Thyestes. When the Mykenians wanted to choose one of them to their king Atreus proposed as candidate who could show a golden lamb. But this was surprisingly for him Thyestes. But Zeus in anger about this fraud gave the throne of Mykene to Atreus. After that he gains knowledge of the adultery of his wife and he decided to take revenge on his brother Thyestes. Under the pretext to make his peace with him he invited Thyestes, slaughtered his sons (this seems to be a popular practice at the Atrides!) and served them to him. Having eaten the meat Atreus showed the cut heads of his sons to Thyestes and chased him away. Later Atreus married Pelopeia, daughter of Thyestes. She at this time was pregnant by her father and gave birth to Aigisthos. When Aigistos grew up Atreus send off him to kill his
hateful brother Thyestes. But Thyestes recognized his son Aigisthos and he took revenge on Atreus.

Agamemnon was the son of Atreus and Aerope and brother of Menelaos. After the murder of Atreus Thyestes became king of Mykenai. Agamemnon and Menelaos were saved from Thyestes by their nurse. When they grew up Tyndareos helped them to recover the throne of Mykenai. Agamemnon married Klytaimnestra, the daughter of Tyndareos after having killed her first husband, a son of Thyestes, and her newborne babe. Menelaos married Helena, the other daughter of Tyndareos. Agamemnon had three children with Klytaimnestra: Elektra, Orestes and Iphigenia. When Agamemnon was elected leader of the Greek for the war against Troy the Greek armada couldn't dcross over to Asia Minor because of a dead calm. The seer Kalchas announced that first Artemis has to be appeased by sacrificing Iphigenia. Using a cunning - the supposed engagement with Herakles - Iphigenia was attracted to the camp of the Greeks with intent to be sacrificed on the altar. In the last moment she was saved by Artemis who abducted her and swapped her with a hind.

After the conquest of Troy Agamemnon returned to Mykenai with his lover Kassandra. There Klytaimnestra has lived all the years together with Aigisthos. When Agamemnon took a bath - dirty from his long his long voyage - he was slayed by Aigisthos and Klytaimnestra because as well what he has done to her and Iphigenia. After this deed Aigisthos was in great fear at Orestes because he was afraid of his blood vengeance. But this was just what Apollo has urged Orestes to. He should take revenge for the murder of his father Agamemnon. Using a stealth Orestes and his companion Pylades reached the castle of Aigisthos. They were disguised and brought an urn with Orestes' ashes to Aigisthos. In the same night they slayed Aigisthos and Orestes - with great concerns - killed his mother Klytaimnestra.

After the murder of his mother mother Orestes was chased by the Erinyes, the goddesses of revenge, who didn't leave him in peace day and night. Today we would call them 'pricks of conscience'. Orestes fled to Delphi to the temple of Apollo who has commanded the matricide. He was expiated by Apollo but this external expiation was not enough. Furthermore he was pressed hard by the Erinyes.

Now Athena came into play. She challenged Orestes to go to Athens and to deliver himself up to a court. The Athenians claimed that Athena should pass the sentence. But Athena denied that and transferred this task to the Athenians themselfs. She installed a court of jury members from the citizens of Athens. This court - named Areopag after the place of assembly - should exist for all times. It consisted of an even number of men. The judgement was passed by throwing white and black pebbles into an urn. In the case of a tie Athena would throw a white pebble - so she announced before the voting - into the urn. That means in the case of a tie the accused person was free. The reverse motive of the above coin originates from the time when Orestes has delivered himself up to the jury men of Athens. Athena dropped her voting pebble into the urn. With it Orestes was absolved. After that Athena succeeded in convincing the Erinyes of the blessing of this new legal order. So the Erinyes, the goddesses of revenge, changed to Eumenides, the well meaning goddesses.

In Euripides' Iphigenia a part of the Erinyes could be satisfied not until Orestes brought the palladion, the wooden statue of Artemis, from the Taurian country to Attica freeing his sister Ipgigenia too. According to the myth Orestes has ruled over Mykenai a long time until he died high aged by the bite of a snake.

Background:
The Atrides became the theme of dramatists from ancient times until today. The fate of Orestes first was mentioned by Homer in his 'Odyssee'. The most famous plays are the tragedies from Aischylos, Sophokles and Euripides. But even Jean Paul Sartre has written 1942 his drame 'Les Mouches' about Orestes. The interpretation and the perception of the bloody deeds differ from author to author. Here my view based mostly on Aischylos. He has arranged the mythological stuff in his trilogy 'Oresteia', consisting of the plays 'Agamemnon', 'The Choephores' and 'The Eumenides', which have been first performed in 458 BC.

Which superior meaning has the scene in Athens and why Athena drops a white pebble in the voting urn? Apollo has urged Orestes to perform the matricide to revenge the murder of his father. We see Apollo here still as typical exponent of the archaic blood vengeance. Athena in contrast at Aischylos is the goddess who introduces an official rational and secular jurisdiction. With the myth of Orestes and the Erinyes we are at the beginning of a cultural turning point, as Aischylos is seeing it. Its not only the fate of Orestes which matters Aischylos, but he raises the problem to a general level of the history of mankind. It is a question of his right of self-determination, his freedom and his independence from the control of the gods. An archaic barbaric era is removed by a new human one. It appears curious that the Erinyes pursued mercilessly the matricide Orestes but didn't care about Klytaimnestra the slayer of her husband. This can be understand only from chthonic ideas. The son is connected with his mother by his blood. But this is not true for Klytaimnestra and his husband. Apollo has a very different view on human relationships which go far beyond blood bond because they base on the free will like the marriage. While the Erinyes are pre-hellenic goddesses Apollo is an olympic god. So already with Apollo begins the removal of archaic morals but first Athena introduces the new human social order. And only this saves the peace of the polis. Therefore we see Athena on the coin without her spear and shield but with a palmbranch over her shoulder.

So the reverse of this coin points to an inportant fundament of each state and human community. Without organized law a human society is not possible. That matches the depiction of several other coins where Athena is shown as Boule (Council of the City). Athena is identified as Boule. No surprise that we find these depictions mainly in Asia Minor. Hereby the connection with the Greek motherland becomes particularly clear. And to ascribe the political structures to the mythological  greek prehistory gives each city an exceptional significance.

I have found another interesting suggestion for the voting pebble of Athena by Kirchhoff 1874. He writes that in ancient times at a trial on the Areopag the king too was present but he was not allowed to vote. He had to drop his wreath, sign of his majesty, and became a normal citizen, if he want to drop his pebble in the urn. The myth of the voting pebble of Athena - where even a goddess was voting - gave him the voting right, so to speak mythological justified.

I have added a pic of the Areopag. It is a rocky hill beneath the Acropolis. Its name means 'hill of Ares'. Here - according to the myth - has been judged over Ares after he has killed Halirrhotios. Halirrhotios has raped a daughter of Ares. Poseidon, father of the killed Halirrhotios, accused Ares for murder. It is said that on one rock the accuser was sitting and on the other rock the defender. But Ares got a non guilty because there couldn't not be found a witness. This was the first trial on the Areopag. The second was the case against Orestes. We see that this description differs from that by Aischylos. The pic is from  http://www.aeria.phil.uni-erlangen.de/
   
Sourcess:
Hamburger, Käthe, Von Sophokles zu Sartre, Griechische Dramenfiguren antik und modern, 1962
Kirchhoff, Johann Wilhelm Adolf, Zur Frage vom Stimmstein der Athena, Berlin 1875
in: Monatsberichte der Königl. Preuss. Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin, 1874, S.105-115
Kerenyi, Karl, Prometheus, Die menschliche Existenz in griechischer Deutung, 1959
Karl Kerenyi, Griechische Mythologie
Der Kleine Pauly

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« Reply #240 on: December 26, 2007, 02:45:44 am »

The second labour of Hercules, the Lernaean Hydra

In Greek mythology, the Lernaean Hydra was an ancient nameless serpent-like chthonic water beast that possessed numerous heads— the poets mention more heads than the vase-painters could paint— and poisonous breath. The Hydra of Lerna was killed by Hercules as one of his Twelve Labours. Its lair was the lake of Lerna in the Argolid, though archaeology has borne out the myth that the sacred site was older even than the Mycenaean city of Argos, for Lerna was the site of the myth of the Danaids. Beneath the waters was an entrance to the Underworld, and the Hydra was its guardian.
The Hydra was the offspring of Typhon and Echidna, noisome offspring of the earth goddess, Gaia. It was said to be the sibling of the Nemean Lion, the Chimaera and Cerberus.

The second labour of Hercules: Upon reaching the swamp near Lake Lerna, where the Hydra dwelt, Hercules covered his mouth and nose with a cloth to protect himself from the poisonous fumes and fired flaming arrows into its lair, the spring of Amymone, to draw it out. He then confronted it, wielding a harvesting sickle in some early vase-paintings; Ruck and Staples have pointed out that the chthonic creature's reaction was botanical: upon cutting off each of its heads he found that two grew back, an expression of the hopelessness of such a struggle for any but the hero, Hercules.
Realising that he could not defeat the Hydra in this way, Hercules called on his nephew Iolaus for help. His nephew then came upon the idea (possibly inspired by Athena) of using a burning firebrand to scorch the neck stumps after decapitation, and handed him the blazing brand. Hercules cut off each head and Iolaus burned the open stump leaving the hydra dead; its one immortal head Hercules placed under a great rock on the sacred way between Lerna and Elaius, and dipped his arrows in the Hydra's poisonous blood, and so his second task was complete. The alternative to this is that after cutting off one head he dipped his sword in it and used its venom to burn each head so it couldn't grow back.
Hercules later used an arrow dipped in the Hydra's poisonous blood to kill the centaur Nessus; and Nessus's tainted blood applied to the Tunic of Nessus.
When Eurystheus, the agent of ancient Hera who was assigning to Hercules The Twelve Labours, found out that it was Hercules' nephew who had handed him the firebrand, he declared that the labour had not been completed alone and as a result did not count towards the ten labours set for him. The mythic element is an equivocating attempt to resolve the submerged conflict between an ancient ten Labours and a more recent twelve.
 
Near Argos, the former presence of a large freshwater lagoon, named Lake Lerna, has been deduced from subsurface deposits. The lake was separated from the open sea by a beach barrier. It originated when the postglacial sea level rise reached its culmination point and extended over a diameter of 4.7 km in the Early Bronze Age. Increased soil erosion then caused a rapid silting, but remnants of Lake Lerna persisted until the last century. Anthropological studies have shown how the inhabitants of this coastal marsh have suffered from malaria in the past. It may be that the story of the legendary fight between Herakles and the Lernaean Hydra reflects the struggle of the Lanai people as they tried to change the inhospitable environment by draining the lake. (Eberhard Zangger: "Prehistoric Coastal Environments in Greece: The Vanished Landscapes of Dimini Bay and Lake Lerna", Journal of Field Archaeology 18 (1991) 1--15)

Modern geological techniques such as core drilling have identified the site of the vanished sacred Lake Lerna, which was a freshwater lagoon, separated by barrier dunes from the Aegean. In the Early Bronze Age Lake Lerna had an estimated diameter of 4.7 km. Deforestation increased the rate of silt deposits and the lake became a malarial marsh, of which the last remnants were drained in the nineteenth century.

Tarsos in Cilicia, Caracalla, 211-217 AD.,
Æ32 (32-33 mm / 16,17 g),
Obv.: [AVT KAI M AVP CЄV]HPOC ANTΩN[ЄINOC CЄB] / Π - Π (across field), laureate head of Caracalla left.
Rev.: Herakles and the Lernaean hydra: ..ANH - CЄ.. / ЄK (uncertain legend around and in lower field) /  TAPCOV (in exergue), Herakles standing left, nude, holding lion's skin on left arm and raising club far over his right shoulder, about to beat to death the Hydra.
SNG Levante - ; SNG Levante Suppl. - ; SNG France - ; SNG von Aulock - ; R. Bräuer, "Die Heraklestaten auf antiken Münzen," ZfN 28 (1910), pl. 2, 12 ; Voegtli 2q ; Cornell 116 .

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« Reply #241 on: December 29, 2007, 06:04:25 pm »

The Garden of the Hesperides

Matching the article of Arminius I will tell something about another labour of Herakles: Herakles and the apple of the Hesperides.

I was on search of a coin showing the apple of Hesperides already for a long time. But mostly it is only Herakles who is depicted holding apples in his hand. Now I found this coin from Tarsos which is showing the trree with the snake too. Now we have the whole scenario. In fact only the Hesperides are missing!

The coin:
Cilicia, Tarsos, Gordian III, AD 238-244
AE 35
obv. AVT KAI M ANT GOR[DIANOC CEB]
       Bust, draped and cuirassed, seen from behind, radiate, r.
       in field l. and r. P - P
rev. TARCOV MHTROPOLEW
      Herakles, bearded(?), nude, stg. facing, head l., resting with r. hand on his club, holding
      over l. arm the lion-skin and in the outstretched l. hand five apples.; l. beside him a tree
      with twigs, entwined by a nake.
      in the upper r. field A / G, in the lower l. field M / K
Ref.: cf. SNG Copenhagen 383
very rare, good F/about VF, trace of ancient smoothing process on rev.

Mythology:
The golden apples were a gift of Gaia for Hera when she married Zeus. They had the nature to give youth and eternal life. Hera was very pleased and planted them in her own divine garden. The Hesperides, daughters of the Night, were assigned to guard them. But the Hesperides, known for their sweet voices, marauded the tree and gave its fruits away. It is said f.i. that they gave apples to Hippomenes so that he could win the run against Atalante. Therefore Hera placed the dracon Ladon in her garden who entwined the tree. His order was to guard the tree against the Hesperides!

Because Eurystheus didn't accept Herakles fight against the Hydra because Ioalos had helped him, he gave Herakles another task: He should bring him the apples of the Hesperides.This was the eleventh labour in the classical kanon of his labours. The problem was that no one knew where to find the garden of the Hesperides! It was told that he was located in the high north in the land of the Hyperboraeans, or at the western horn near the Ethiopian Hesperiai. But the usual opinion was that the garden was situated far in the west. That matched the name Hesperides which means 'girls of the evening', a explicit hint to the west.

On his quest for the apples Herakles came to Illyria and the river Po. He had a fight against Kyknos, a son of Ares, until Zeus stopped the fight. The region around the Po was ruled by the sea-god Nereus. Nymphs pointed him to the sleeping Nereus and Herakles forced him to reveal where he could find the apples and how he could get them. Although Nereus took different shapes and curled around like Proteus Herakles won the fight and got all informations he needed.

Another myth (Aischylos) knows that Herakles was told the secret by Prometheus. He, a Titan like his brother Atlas, was forged to a rock of the Caucasus montains, and each day Zeus sent an eagle to eat from his liver which grew again each night. Herakles freed Prometheus and gratefully Pometheus gave Herakles the needed information and the hint not to take the apples by himself but to ask Atlas to get them for him.

Atlas was punished by the gods to carry the sphere of heaven on his shoulders. When Herakles came to Atlas he took the sphere for him and Atlas went to the garden and got the apples. Some say that Herakles has shot Ladon before. Coming back with the apples Atlas denied to take the sphere again. But Herakles fooled him. Declaring himself agreed, he ask Atlas to take the sphere for a short moment, because he wanted to set a pad on his shoulder. When Atlas has taken the sphere again Herakles walked away with the apples laughing.

Over the time the mythology changed. In the oldest versions Herakles got the apples from the Hesperides himself. Then it was said that Ladon, the guardian of the tree, fell asleep by the song of the Hesperides. The last versions said that Ladon was killed by Herakles' arrow. The story became - so to speak - more brute. Thereby Ladon, son of Typhon and Echidna (or Keto and Phorkys), was not a horrible monster but one of the wise snakes which spoke many languages and could understand them. After Ladon's death he was set by Hera gratefully to the sky as constellation Draco.

Another myth tells that the Egyptian king Busiris - attracted by the beauty of the Hesperides - sent a ship to rape them. When his assistants has raped the Hesperides they celebrated their deed at the beach. In this moment Herakles came by and freed the Hesperides. Bringing them back to their father Atlas(!) Atlas gratefully gave him the apples and teached him astrology too because he was a famous astrologer (Diodor. Sic. I. IV. c.27, p.162). Here Atlas is not the bloody idiot as he is depicted otherwise.

It is said that Herakles visited the garden of the Hesperides once before when he was on the quest for the hind of Keryneia. There is an ancient vase painting showing the hind standing under the tree with the golden apples guarded by two Hesperides. But Herakles has took the way back because no one was allowed to left the garden. In this sense the garden was like the underworld (Kerenyi).

It is told too (Apollonius) that the Argonauts visited the garden of the Hesperides on their voyage to the Golden Fleece. The came one day after Herakles has taken the apples and they met the Hesperides crying. Their sorrow was so great that they transformed in front of the heroes into trees: a black poplar, an elm tree and a willow tree. But later they could transform themselves back!

Background:
According to Hesiod the Hesperides were the daughters of the Night (Nyx), according to others daughters of Phorkys or Atlas or Hesperos. 'Beyond the Okeanos' they kept their golden apples and the fruit-trees of the garden of gods. The apples were symbols of eternal youth, or love and fertility. Gaia had let them sprout as a marriage gift for Hera and Zeus.
Originally this magic garden seems to be the theater of the hieros gamos, the holy marriage. There are similarities with the garden Eden, the Paradise, with its magic tree and the snake, which are leaping to the eye.

However the location of the garden was shifting to the west more and more together with the growing geographical knowledge of the Greeks and their growing view of the world. At first it was at Berenike on a peninsula of the gulf of Syrte in Libya, then on the slopes of the Atlas mountains, finally on a mythical island in the Atlantic ocean.

The number of Hesperides varies from three over four to even eleven on vase paintings. Hesiod knew three, named Aigle, Erytheia and Hesperthusa. The last name was divided by Apollodoros in Hesperia and Arethusa and so making four. Herakles' adventure with the Hesperides appears on pictures not before the 6.th century C, in literature not before the 5.th century BC. In the first tales Herakles was picking the apples by his own motive, not until later it became a charge of Eurystheus.

In Baroque the 'Garden of the Hesperides' was the name of many elaborately arranged exotic gardens especially with citron or orange trees. Probably the mythical apples has been citrons or quinces too because in the times of that myths apples were small, hard and inedible. Famous 'Gardens of the Hesperides' could be found in Nuremberg or Bamberg and other cities..

I have added a detail of the famous painting of the Attic painter Meidias. It is found on a red-figured Hydria from about 420-410 BC now in the British Museum. The painting shows the Hesperides and the tree with the golden apples, here together with the magician Medea with her box with magic herbs.

Sources:
Der kleine Pauly
Robert von Ranke-Graves, Griechische Mythologie
Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologischs Lexikon
Karl Kerenyi, Die Mythologie der Griechen

Other threads dealing with the garden of the Hesperides are
- An apple of immortality: http://www.forumancientcoins.com/board/index.php?topic=29398.msg190749#msg190749
- Interesting Deultum of Gordian: http://www.forumancientcoins.com/board/index.php?topic=25677.0

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« Reply #242 on: December 29, 2007, 06:09:28 pm »

The Cult of Dionysos in Nysa-Scythopolis

The coin:
Samaria, Nysa-Scythopolis, Gordian III, AD 238-244
AE 25, 13.2g
struck AD 240 (year 304)
obv. [AVT KM ANT - GORDIANOC CE]
       Bust, draped, laureate, r.
rev. NVC - C - KVQ IER ACV
      Dionysos, nude, nebris waving behind, tripping forward, head l., holding thyrsos in raised
      r. hand like reaching back for a throw, his l. hand laying on the head of a small figur,
      which is kneeling before him; behind him the panther l., head turned r.
      in r. field palm-branch, beneat date D - T (year 304 of Pompeian era)
ref. Spijkerman 206, 59; SNG ANS 1054 var. (has bunch of grapes in field); BMC 12
Rare, about VF
Nysa is todays Bet-Shean in Israel. The seller is from this very city!

I have purchased this coin because I suggested that there could be something interesting behind the reverse depiction which was not clear at the first view. And I was right! The informations are not sure because the scientific dispute is not not closed. But I think they are plausible at least. Here are the results of my research:

Depiction and interpretation:
Dionysos' association with the city of Nysa-Scythopolis apparently originated from the Hellenistic period, and is connected to the city's re-foundation by the Ptolemies, who claimed to be descendants of Herakles and Dionysos. The cult of Donysos played a central role during the Ptolemaic period , reaching its climax under Ptolemy IV (222-204 BC).
 
It seems that the cult of Dionysos at Nysa-Scythopolis was also founded on the legend which identified the city as the burial place of Nysa, Dionysos' nurse. According to Greek mythology Nysa is also the name of the area where Dionysopolis grew up.

Dionysos' appearance , like the myths about him, changed through the ages. At first he was depicted as an elderly, bearded person, while later on he appears more often as a young naked god with long flowing locks.

Under Commodus, Nysa-Scythopolis minted coins with a wide range of Dionysiac themes. The earliest of these is a medal struck under Marcus Aurelius showing the head of young Commodus on the obverse. The medaillon was most probably issued to commemorate the voyage of Marcus Aurelius and his son Commodus to the east in AD 175/176.

Rachel Barkays describes the coin as follows
It shows Dionysos naked but with a chlamys flying behind him, he may also be wearing a panther's skin. He is shown here in a violent scene, advancing to right, holding in his right hand a short tyrsus pointing down towards the head of a small figure, in his left hand is the forelock of the small figure, which is spreading its hand and trying to escape. On the left is a panther attacking a small figure. The same scene appears on an unpublished medal minted under Septimius Severus.

Another violent scene resembling the one on the medal is represented on coins of Elagabal and Gordian III, where Dionysos is swinging a thyrsus; the pine-cone can sometimes be seen clearly at the top of the thyrsus, touching the head of the small figure. In coins issued under Gordian III this small figure seems to be a herma. The panther seems to be running with its head turned backwards. These descriptions of Dionysos may be connected with the violent aspects of the Dionysiac cult. They are associated with the image of Dionysos as a god who hurts people while in a state of exstasy, under the influence of wine. Hill described the scene
as "An unexplained episode of Dionysiac legend...where the god seems to be threatening a small primitive idol with his thyrsos (which looks, however, more like a spear)." On the other hand , Eckhel identified the small figure as Priapus, while according to Seyrig [it may be a corybant, or a Scyth, who is dancing in front of the young Dionysos]

In the city of Nysa-Scythopolis we find the richest descriptions of Dionysopolis and depictions of episodes from the cycle of his life on city-coins. Nysa-Scythopolis was indoubtedly an important center of the cult of Donysos, a fact which is also reflected in the archaelogical finds from the excavations there. The cult of Dionysos in Nysa-Scythopolis is not indicated in the literary sources, and we do not know from them that the city claimed any special status as a result of its connection with the tradition linking it to the history of Dionysos. Thus the coins of Nysa-Scythopolis are the main source of our knowledge about the role played by the cult of Dionysos in the history of the city.

One may, however, - according to Haim Gitler - interpret the scene in an entirely different way. It very probably illustrates a Dionysiac procession related to the festival of the Anthesteria.

The Anthesteria, the Blossom Festival, were celebrated in the early spring in Athena and many Ionian towns. On the second day, which fell on the twelfth of the month of Anthesterion (February/March), new wine was ceremonially blessed before Dionysos and throughout the city the day was celebrated by drinking from special jugs of a peculiar shape known as choes. This day, the most important of the festival, was called Choes, after these squat jugs with a trefoil mouth.

Many of the choes dating to the fifth and fourth century BC were decorated with scenes of the different phases of mirth and play during the festival. One was a ceremony of initiation, parastasis, when three-year old children were admitted to the religious community. This was the first time in their lives that the children smelled and tasted wine, and for this purpose specially designed miniature choes were produced. Festal tables were placed in the sanctuary of Dionysos where the children received a choice of dainties and toys before joining the public Dionysiac procession. By the end of the ceremony the children had become a part of the civic community. On the basis of the above description the following interpretation is suggested:

Dionysos is half-covered by the nebris, a skin of a panther, hanging from his l. shoulder. Flying behind him is one of the panther's paws and its tail; in front there is probably another paw. The boy on Dionysos' right holds a choes in his outstretched left hand and a rattle in his right hand. To the left of Dionysos , another boy with bent knees carries a small panther. This identification seems certain since a small panther also appears on the medaillon struck under Septimius Severus.

It seems therefore preferable to regard the detailed representation on the medaillons of Commodus and Septimius Severus, as well as on the coins of Elagabal and Gordian III, as illustrations of parts of a Dionysiac procession at the Anthesteria. Most elements in these scenes have their parallels on fifth-fourth century BC Attic choes, which were used by children at the festival of the Anthesteria. Although the Nysa-Skythopolis medaillons and coins were produced approximately six centuries later, there is a remarkable resemblance of representations on the coins of the Syrian city and the Attic choes. Especially noteworthy is the similarity in the postures of the children's bodies and their handling of the choes.

Meshorer believed that the increase in the depictions of Dionysos on coins of some Palestinian cities during Commodus' reign reflects the introduction of a new syncretistic cult of Dionysos. The similarities between the representions on the coins od Nysa-Scythopolis and the much earlier depictions of the Anthesteria on the choes, however, would indicate that the ceremony derives from the much older tradition. Unfortunately, there is neither epigraphic nor literary evidence of such a festival in Nysa-Scythopolis.It is interesting that up to the reign of Commodus, there were only one type featuring Dionysos on coins of the city. During the next 65 years, until the city stopped minting coins in 240/1 AD, no less than seven different coin types from Nysa-Scythopolis show Dionysiac scenes. It is difficult to say what prompted them but we may safely assume that the city was one of the most important centers of Dionysiac worship in the region. This is no surprise, after all, the city was named after Dionysos' nurse Nysa who, according to a popular tradition, was buried at Beth-Shean (Plinius, Hist.nat.V,18,74).

I have added a pic of a choes of the Oinokles painter (c. 475-450) showing an interesting episode which could be seen at the vinous Anthesteria. Who could explain what is depicted on the choes?

The second picture shows todays Bet-Shean with its Tell.

Sources:
[1] Der kleine Pauly
[2] http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Archaeology/Beitshean.html
[3] Barkay, Rachel "The Dionysiac Mythology on Coins of Nysa-Scythopolis (Beth Shean) in the Roman Period", Proceedings of the XIth International Numismatic Congress I, Louvain-la Neuve 1993, pp. 371-375.
[4] Haim Gitler, New aspects concerning the Dionysos cult in Nysa-Scythopolis, SNR 70, 1991, 23-28 (Schweizerische Numismatische Rundschau, ISSN 0035-4163)

For more informations of the Anthesteria you can look at Apollonius Sophistes:
http://www.cs.utk.edu/~mclennan/BA/JO-Anth.html
or with another suggestion:
http://homepage.univie.ac.at/elisabeth.trinkl/forum/forum0297/02choen.htm

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« Reply #243 on: January 05, 2008, 04:34:33 pm »

Eshmun- the Phoenician Healer God

I want to share once again a coin whose mythology originates from the eastern region. It is known by most of you (at least should!) that the number of deities of the Middle East exceeds the number of Greek gods by far. But often they are local deities whose names or meanings sometimes are unknown to us, because they change from one city to the next. This is not the case with this god. And he is connected to the Greek mythology what we have seen at other gods too.

The coin:
Phoenicia, Berytos, Elagabal, AD 218-222
AE 23, 10.72g
obv. IMP CAES M [AVR AN - TONINVS] AVG
Bust, draped and cuirassed, seen from behind, laureate, r.
rev. COL IV - L - AVG FE[L] / [BER]
Eshmoun, naked with chlamys behind, stg. frontal, head r., holding wreath(?)
in raised r. hand, between two coiled snakes
ref. BMC 216; Lindgren II, 120, 2270; SNG Copenhagen 120 (same rev. die)
very rare, VF, brown surfaces
Pedigree:
ex CNG Electronic Auction 179

Mythology:
It is said that Eshmun was a young man from Beryts who loved to hunt. The goddess Astarte fell in love with him, but to escape her advances he mutilated himself and died. Not to be outdone, Astarte brought him back to life by the warmth of her body, and changed him into a god (Photius). It is also said that the village of Qabr Shmoun, near Beirut, still preserves the memory of the young god's tomb. Known primarily as a god of healing, Eshmun's death and resurrection also gave him the role of a fertility god who dies and is reborn annually.

As God Eshmun was equated with Asklepios the Greek God of Health. Therefore we see him as Eshmun-Asklepios together with snakes which stand for the healing power of nature.

Background:
Eshmun was a god of healing of the northwestern Semitics and the tutelary of Sidon. He was was known at least from the Iron Age period at Sidon and was worshipped also in Tyre, Berytos, Cyprus, Sardinia, and in Carthage, where the site of Eshmun's temple is now occupied by the chapel of Saint Louis. So Eshmun is one of the many gods of the Phoenician pantheon.
 
According to Sanchuniathon, Sydyk 'Just', first fathered seven sons equated with the Greek Kabeiroi or Dioskuroii, no mother named, and then afterwards fathered an eighth son by one of the seven Titanides or Artemides. The name Eshmun appears to mean 'the Eighth'.

Pausanias (7.23.7–8) quotes a Sidonian as saying that the Phoenicians claim Apollo as the father of Asklepios, as do the Greeks, but unlike them do not make his mother a mortal woman. the Sidonian then continued with an allegory which explained that Apollo represented the sun, whose changing path imparts to the air its healthiness which is to be understood as Asklepios. This allegory seems likely a late invention. Also Apollo is usually equated with the Phoenician plague god Resheph. This might be a variant version of Eshmun's parentage, or Apollo might also be equated with Sadyk, Sadyk might be equated with Resheph.

The temple of Eshmun is found 1km from Sidon on the Bostrenus River, the modern River Awwali in a lush valley of citrus groves. Building was begun at the end of the 6th centura BC during the reign of Eshmunazar II, and later additions were made up into the Roman period. It was excavated by Maurice Dunand in 1963-1978. It's the only Phoenician site in Lebanon where is left more than the foundation walls. The site of his temple must have been chosen because of the nearby water source which was used in the healing rituals. It was the custom to offer statues to the god that bore the names of those who came for healing. The fact that most of these votive pieces depict children suggests that Eshmoun may have been regarded as the pediatrician of the times. Many of these votive offerings were found during the excavation.

Also found near the Sidon temple was a gold plaque of Eshmun and the goddess Hygieia, "Health," showing Eshmun holding a staff in his right hand around which a serpent is entwined. My coin from Berytos shows Eshmun together with two snakes. A similar depiction is found on a rare denarius of Geta where Asklepos-Eshmun is seen standing between two snakes in a temple. Wether this is the temple from Sidon I don't know. Other coins from Melitta (todays Malta) show the head of Eshmun, sometimes winged.

I have added
(1) a pic of Geta's denarius
(2) a pic of the Eshmun temple near Sidon as it can seen today.

Sources:
Wikipedia
www.ikamalebanon.com

Best regards
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« Reply #244 on: January 10, 2008, 04:19:35 pm »

The pre-Islamic goddess Al-Lat

Here I want to present an interesting interpretation of this coin:

Arabia, Philippopolis, Philipp I., AD 244-249
AE 30, 17.30g
obv. AVTOK KM IOVLI FILIPPOC CEB
        Bust, draped and cuirassed, laureate, r.
rev. FILIPPOLITWN  - KOLWNIAC
       Roma(?),  in long clothes, helmeted, std. l., holding spear in l. hand and eagle with
       two small figures in outstretched r. hand; shield aside
       in field l. and r. S - C
ref. Spijkerman 3
rare, EF
The meaning of the two figures is unknown. Because it seems to be a dynastic issue they could be Philip's father and Philip himself(?).

About this coin:
In addition to promoting his immediate family, Philip I also lavished honours upon his deceased father, Julius Marinus, whom he deified. Philips family hailed from a somewhat obscure town in Arabia Trachonitis (the modern village of Shahba, Syria) situated about 60 miles east of the Sea of Galilee and 25 miles north of Bostra, the capital of Roman Arabia. Philip took full advantage of his new position as emperor to honour his hometown, which he elevated to a Roman colonia, and renamed Philippopolis.

Beyond these honorary upgrades, Philip made capital improvements in his hometown. He built a temple for the worship of his now-deified father, and had numerous mosaics, a theatre, baths and temples constructed. The ruins of these survive today, and it is likely that most – if not all – were completed under Philips watch. Since the town was not on a major road or trade route, its prosperity and fame eventually faded.

The coinage of Philippopolis was an isolated event, as no coins had been struck there before Philip's reign, and none were produced afterward. Since no die links between this city coinage and any other was documented in Konrad Krafts monumental 1972 study of provincial die links, it is possible the coins were actually produced in Philippopolis, rather than at a larger regional mint. A further peculiarity is that even though Philippopolis was a Roman colonia, its coin inscriptions (except the formulaic SC) are rendered in Greek

The reverses depict a seated goddess and a standing goddess. Though the standing goddess still merits her identification as Roma, the seated goddess is perhaps better identified as Allat based upon her similarity to statues found at Palmyra and Suweida. Allat was a remarkably old fertility/mother goddess representing the earth. Her worship was important to agriculture, and she belonged to the trinity of desert goddesses, the other two being al-Uzza, the morning-star goddess, and Manat, the goddess of fate and time (from Numismatica Ars Classica).

Allat was equated to Athena and worshipped especially by the military personnel. So evidence suggests that the figure on the reverse is rather Athena/Allat than Roma. This would match the fact that in the temple of Allat at Palmyra a statue of Athena has been found.

Al-Lat:
Al-Lat was a pre-Islamic Arabian goddess who was one of the three chief goddesses of Mecca. She is one of three goddesses that the pre-Islamic Meccans referred to as "The Daughters of God".
In the Koran, she is mentioned along with al-Uzza and Manat in Sura 53:19-23.
According to Bob Trubshaw, Allat was a triple goddess of the moon, similar to Demeter. She had three aspects, each corresponding to a different phase of the moon: Kore, the crescent or maiden; al-Uzza, the full moon or mother; and Manat, the waning moon or wise woman. The phase of al-Uzza was worshipped at the Kaaba and served by seven priests called 'Beni Shaybah' (sons of the Old Woman). Worshippers circled the stone seven times, once for each of the ancient seven planets, or like Ishtar who travelled through seven gates of the underworld. to get to her sister Ereshkigal, named Allatu too. Allatu is suggested an older name of Allat.

Her name occurs in early Safaitic graffiti (Safaitic han-'Ilat "the Goddess") and she was worshipped by the Nabateans of Petra and the people of Hatra, who equated her with the Greek Athena and the Roman Minerva. According to Wellhausen, the famous Islamist, they believed Allat was the mother of Hubal (and hence the mother-in-law of Manat).
The Greek historian Herodotus, writing in the 5th century BC, considers her the equivalent of Aphrodite:"The Assyrians call Aphrodite Mylitta, the Arabians Alilat, and the Persians Mitra" (Histories I:131). According to Herodotus, the ancient Arabians believed in only two gods: "They believe in no other gods except Dionysos and the Heavenly Aphrodite; and they say that they wear their hair as Dionysus does his, cutting it round the head and shaving the temples. They call Dionysos, Orotalt; and Aphrodite, Alilat." (Histories III:38).

Acoording to Wellhausen, names containing Allat were frequently met in the Palmyrian region, where f.e the son of Odenathus and Zenobia was Vab-allatus. Comparison of names results in hints that in later times (but pre-Islamic too) the name al-Lat merged in Allah. In contradiction to the theory of merging the contemporary discussion about the early times of Islam debates wether al-Lat could be one of the daughters of Allah. But this contradicts the monotheism of the Islam. Remarkable nevertheless is the spelling of both names. By the lonely addition of two dots over the last letter of 'Allah' the 'h' becomes a 't', and we have 'Allat'.

According to the 'Book of Idols (Kitab al-Asnam)' by Hisham b. al-Kalbi, the pre-Islamic Arabs believed Allat resided in the Kaaba and also had an idol inside the sanctuary: Her custody was in the hands of the Banu-Attab ibn-Malik of the Thaqif, who had built an edifice over her. The Quraysh, as well as all the Arabs, were wont to venerate Allat. They also used to name their children after her, calling them Zayd-Allat and Taym-Allat. Allat continued to be venerated until the Thaqif embraced Islam, when the Apostle of God dispatched al-Mughirah ibn-Shubah, who destroyed her and burnt her temple to the ground.

The Quraysh was the dominant tribe of Mecca upon the appearance of the religion of Islam. It was the tribe to which the Prophet Mohammed belonged, as well as the tribe that led the initial opposition to his message.

Originally we have some different version of the Koran, as we have from the Gospels
as well. The definite version was compiled by the Caliph Osman in the 7th century AD. Is it possible that the original Koran contained verses which were eliminated because they were against the orthodox belief? We know of the famous folk memory that not only the Archangel Gabriel but Satan too has supplied the Prophet with some verses. By these verses the three pagan goddesses al-Lat, al-Uzza and Manat were called 'high-flying cranes', and seen as a kind of mediators between men and God. Because these local deities of Mecca in the first time were tolerated by the Prophet, the people of Mecca followed his appeal to prostrate before God.

When later the Archangel Gabriel informed the Prophet that these verses came from Satan they were eliminated. The legend of these verses - being the background of Salman Rushdies disputed novel of AD 1988 - is dicussed controversially until today. Most of the Muslim scholars deny this story as being fictional. But some western Islamists tend to accept it as true. It would be the evidence that Mohammed has convinced the people of Mecca of the magnanimity of Allah by flatteries for their three goddesses (from 'Der Spiegel', Nr.52, 22.12.07, 'Der Koran')

I have added the pic of the statue of Athena from the temple of Allat at Palmyra, and the pic of a plate showing Allat sitting on a camel.

Sources:
- 'Der Koran', in ''Der Spiegel', Nr.52, 22.12.07
- Wellhausen, Julius: Reste arabischen Heidentums, DeGruyter Verlag. Berlin
   Leipzig. 2. Ausgabe 1927.
- Salman Rushdie, Die Satanischen Verse
- http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altarabische_Gottheiten
- http://www.indigogroup.co.uk/edge/blston2.htm
- http://hindustan.org/forum/archive/index.php/t-2955.html
- http://www.nabataea.net/gods.html Das Nabatäische Pantheon
- http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Lat
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allat
- http://www.muslim.org/islam/allah.htm

Best regards
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« Reply #245 on: January 17, 2008, 10:37:01 am »

Aeneas escapes from Troy

Naturally the myth of Aeneas' flight from the burning Troy belongs to this thread. But I had to wait a long time for a proper coin for this theme. Because I didn't want to take the well-known
denarius of Caesar. Now I'm happy to add this phantastic coin to my collection.

Troas Ilion, pseudo-autonomous, c.79-96 (time of the Flavians)
AE - (Orichalcum-) Semis, 6.86g, 19mm
obv. Bust of Athena, wearing warlike clothes with Corinthian helmet, aegis on her chest,
       spear over r. shoulder, before that a snake twisting upwords (from the aegis?)
       ILI beneath, all in circle of dots
rev. Aineias, bearded, bare-headed, in short military cloak and boots, advancing r., leading
      his son Askanios, in short chiton, looking upwards to him, with r. hand, and carrying his
      father Anchises, bearded, head veiled, looking forward, in his l. arm
      in dotted circle
ref.: Bellinger T129; von Fritze 28; RPC II, 895; SNG Copenhagen 368; SNG von Aulock 154; BMC 20
Rare, VF, natural Orichalcum surface, slight roughness
Pedigree:
ex Künker Auction 133, lot 8140 (descibes the snake as twining around the spear!)

On this coin:
A bust of Athena...appears as the obverse type of a bronze wholly civic in character, the reverse showing the flight of Aeneas with no reference to an emperor at all. It belongs, therefore, to the class...whre it may be supposed that the profit of striking was left entirely to the city. Von Fritze assigns these pseudo-autonomous pieces, the first since Augustus, to the Flavian period on grounds of style. This seems right; I would only remark that it is likelier that Titus or Domitian should have made the new experiment than that Vespasian should have allowed a civic semis to be issued in competition with his own coins of that denomination. I should prefer, therefore, to attribute them to his sons.

The device of Aeneas carrying Anchises appeared first on a sixth century tetradrachm of Aenea in Macedonia and is said to be "often portrayed on archaic Greek monuments," but obviously such remote examples are very little likely to have influenced the mint under Augustus. A much more plausible ancestor is the denarius struck in the East by Julius Caesar about 48 BC. The attitude ofd the figures is the same, though the Palladium is not visible on our bronze. It is not impossible that a specimen had come into the hands of a die-sinker who recognized its appropriateness to the city and to Augustus whose adoption into the Julian gens gave him a right to claim Aeneas as an ancestor. (Bellinger, Troy)

The city of Ilium was founded by Augustus at the place of the legendary Troy. Aineias is Lat. Aeneas.

Anchises:
Anchises was king of Dardania in the Troas, son of Kapys and Themiste (daughter of Ilion), brother of Laokoon, father of Hipodameia and Aineias, who was the son of aphrodite. Anchises was famous because of his beauty, so that Zeus has made Aphrodite to fall in love with him. When Anchises once shepherds his cattle on the mountains of Ida - in those times this was common even for kings! - Aphrodite as Kythereia appears in the shape of a beautiful
Phrygian shepherdess. As result of this love affair Aphrodite gave birth to Aineias, but forbade Anchises to talk about it, because he was a mortal. For a long time Anchises kept the secret. But finally when he was drunken he violated the interdiction and boasted with his love affair among his companions. In anger Zeus threw his thunderbolt to kill him. But Aphrodite - still in love with him - deflected it so that he only became lamed (or blind referring to others). Because of this love theme the myth of Anchises and Aphrodite belongs to the ambit of the mythology of the 'Great Mother' of Asia Minor.

Another known myth of Anchises tells that he clandestinely has stolen six fillies from the horses which Zeus has given to Laomedon for the raped Ganymed. Two of these warhorses Anchises later gave to Aineias for his chariot.

Aineias:
Aphrodite, his mother, begged her father Zeus, to provide immortality to Aineas. When Zeus agreeded the rivergod Numicius washed all of his mortal parts away, and Aphrodite by feeding him with nectar and ambrosia made him a god, who later was worshipped under the name Indiges (Vergil, Aeneis). As commander of the Dardanians he came to Troy to assist the Trojans against the Greek. He was urged by Apollo to challenge Achilles in single combat. Aeneas was very close to die but Poseidon rescued him explaining to the other gods: "Even Zeus might be angry if Achilles killed Aeneas, who after all is destined to survive and to save the House of Dardanos from extinction... Priam's line has fallen out of favour with Zeus, and now Aeneas shall be King of Troy and shall be followed by his children's children in the time to come." (Homer, Ilias 20, 300). He was wounded by Diomedes, and rescued by his mother, Aphrodite. Diomedes attacked her and both were saved when Apollo spirited them to his temple in Pergamus, and returned Aeneas to the battle when he'd recovered. Besides Hektor he was the most famous heroe of the Trojans.

There are some different versions of his flight from Troy. One says that the Greeks have allowed the free Trojans to leave the burning city of Troy, and to take away their most important things. Aineias took the Palladium. Recognizing his piety the Greeks allowed to take a second thing. Now Aineias took his old blind father on his shoulders. That moved the Greeks so much that they finally allowed him to take his entire family.

Another version tells that the spirit of the deceased heroe Hektor has warned him of the fall of Troy, so that he could escape from the burning city at the right time, carrying his blind father Anchises on his back and holding his little son Askanios with his hand, whereas his wife Kreusa (a daughter of the Trojan king Priamos) was slain by the Greeks

After his flight from Troy he became the leader of the surviving Trojans. First they sailed to Thrace where Aineias founded the city of Aineia. Then the Trojans made their way west to resettle in Italy. There they intermarried with the local inhabitants and founded the town of Lavinium, and thereby became the nucleus of the future Roman people. One of the descendants of Aeneas  son Ascanius (known now as Iulus) was Rhea Silvia. Impregnated by the god Mars, she gave birth to the twins, Romulus and Remus. Exposed by their great-uncle, Amulius, the twins were suckled by a she-wolf, but they were eventually rescued. Romulus later founded the city of Rome, and consequently the image of the she-wolf and the twins became the symbol of that city. The mythological depictions on this coin reinforce the importance of Ilium, not only as the seedbed of the future Roman people, but also as the mother city of the future caput mundi. (CNG)

Askanios:
Homer didn't know a son of Aineias. So he is a figure of the post-Homerian tradition. He appears as son of Priamos(!) at Apollodor, in the epic Kyklos as son of Aineias and Eurydike.
First at Vergil and Livius he is the son of Aeneas and Kreus. After the fall of Troy he ruled for a while over the Daskylites at the Propontis until he came as successor of his father to the mountains of Ida or to Skepsis. There he discarded his original name Euryleon. His Roman name is Ilus or Iulus. Together with his father Aeneas he came to Italy and after the death (or Ascension!) of his father he became his successor in Latium and so the ancestor of the gens Julia. He founded Alba Longa (Vergil, Aeneis). Caesar as Julian ascribed himself to Iulus and then by Aeneas to Venus, the Roman Aphrodite. The first Roman depiction of the flight of Aeneas with Anchises and Askanios is therefore to be found on the famous denarius of Caesar, Crawford 458.

Here I Have a list of coins showing this scene:
(1) Aineia, semi-autonomous, Moushmov 6245
(2) Caesar, Denar, 47/6 BC., Crawford 458
(3) Octavian, Aureus, Crawford 494
(4) Augustus, Segesta/Sicily, 2 types: head of Augustus, head of Segesta
(5) Ilion, semi-autonomous, time of Flavians, Bellinger T129
(6) Hadrian, Semis, Ilion, Bellinger T134
(7) Marcus Aurelius, Ilion, Belinger T148
(8) Faustina, Skepsis
(9) Commodus(?), midst of AD 180, Patrae, BMC 44
(10) Commodus, Corinthe
(11) Mamaea, Skepsis, BMC 38

Sources:
Homer, Ilias
Homeric Hymns to Aphrodite
Vergil, Aeneis
http://vergil.classics.upenn.edu/comm2/legend/legend.html
Benjamin Hederich, Gründliche griechische Mythologie
Der Kleine Pauly
Bellinger, Troy the Coins
Wikipedia

I have added
(1) a pic of the tetradrachm from Aineia, and
(2) the pic of a black-figured storage jar with Aeneas and Anchises, attributed to the Leagros Group, Athens, about 510 BC, now in the Getty Villa in Malibu.

Best regards
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« Reply #246 on: February 02, 2008, 10:54:08 am »

Pyramus and Thisbe

Sometimes when you search for the mythological background of a coin you get other results than expected. This happened to me here. But first the coin:

Cilicia, Hierapolis-Kastabala, 2nd-1st century BC
AE22, 5.33g
obv. Head of city-goddess (Tyche), draped and veiled, wearing mural crown, r.
rev. IERO / POLITWN / TWN PROC TW / PYRAMW
       The river-god Pyramos, swimming in waves r., l. arm outstretched and holding eagle in
       r. hand
BMC 3; SNG Copenhagen 144; SNG Levante 1569; SNG von Aulock 5571; SNG
        France 2217; SNG BN Paris 2212-13
F+, brown patina with earthen highlights

Mythology:
Pyramus and Thisbe were Babylonian lovers. They lived in two adjacent houses, were acquainted with each other since their childhood and had been fallen in love. Their fathers had forbidden the marriage. But their love they couldn't forbid. The joint wall between their houses had an old crack. There they often stand on each side and confessed their love. When their longing grew oversized, they decided to cheat their guardians, leave the house in the darkness and meet outside the city at the tomb of Ninus under a mulberry. Thisbe was the first who arrived at the appointed place. When she waited for Pyramus a lioness - having killed cattle before - came to the nearby well to satisfy her thirst. Full of fear Thisbe fled into the tomb loosing the garment of her back. Before returning in the wood the lioness teared to tatters the garment with bloody mouth. When Pyramus reached the place a bit later he saw the traces of the lioness and the bloody frazzled garment. Thinking that Thisbe was gorged by the beast he - complaining und full of mourning - took his sword and transfixed himself. The blood from his wound sprang high and colored the mulberry - which were white before - red until now. When Thisbe left the grave and returned to the agreed place she was doubtful because of the red fruits of the mulberry but then found her dying lover. In despair she pressed his body against her, moaned and tore her hair. Then - for being united with her lover at least by her death - she threw herself in the sword of Pyramus which still was warm by his blood.

Note: King Ninus of Assyria was the consort of Semiramis, who erected after his death
a big tomb for him.

Background:
Even though the story of Pyramus and Thisbe was passed down by Ovid it is actually not a Roman myth. It is a sentimental romance of Hellenistic origin and played in Babylon. About the connection with the Cilician river Pyramos we will hear later! First this story was told by Hyginus in Fabulae 242, but much more beautiful later by Ovid in his Metamorphoses (Met. 4), yes, it is suggested as one of his most beautiful stories, not because of its thrill but because of its many poetic details. In ancient times Pyramus and Thisbe was the paradigm of an unhappy love affair. In the late antiquity the story was condemned by Christianism, especially by Augustinus, because of its emphasis of erotic passion, a verdict which has influenced its later processing. Then it was used by Shakespeare as plot for 'Romeo and Julia' and then once more as subplot in 'A Midsommer Night's Dream'. So today Romeo and Julia has replaced Pyramus and Thisbe.

The Cilician river:
The river Pyramos, today Ceyhan Nehri, is the most east of the three mainstreams of Cilicia (the other two are the Kydnos and the Saros). He arises in Katania and opens at the Gulf of Issos (today Iskenderun) into the Mediterranean. Because of his strong sedimentation the Pyramos has changed his sometimes navigable lower course very often. So the site of the city of Mallos which was located in ancient times at the left side of the Pyramos today is located on the right side. Because the core country of Cilicia was an important transit way for the traffic from Asia Minor to Syria the Cilician rivers had played during the times often as water barrier. Therefore they were mentioned very often by ancient writers (Pauly).

And now we come back to the question: What's the story of Pyramus and Thisbe got to do with the Cilician river? And the answer is: Nothing! Really nothing! It is only the accidental coincidence of their names. But it is interesting that others too have fallen for the identity of names. Please look at the following mosaic!

History of art:
This mosaic has been found in the House of Dionysos in Paphos on Cypris. It is of special
interest because it demonstrates a rare and significant error. Obviously the mosaic describes a scene of Pyramus and Thisbe, the moment of their fateful meeting, which finally ended in their double suicide. The problem with this mosaic is that rather than showing the Pyramos who committed suicide when he thought Thisbe had been eaten by a great cat (a leopard in this mosaic), the artist put in the river god Pyramos with his seaweed hair and horn of plenty. The mosaic artist probably did not know the story and was just working from a book of standard themes — and chose the wrong Pyramos to draw!

The theme of Pyramus and Thisbe was picked up by many artist since Renaissance. I want to mention Hans Baldung Grien (1484-1545), Albrecht Altdorfer (1480-1538), Lucas Cranach (1472-1553), Nicolas Poussin (1593-1665), Gaspard Poussin (1615-1675),  Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), Rembrandt (1606-1669) and John William Waterhouse (1849-1917)

I have choosed the painting 'Thisbe' by John William Waterhouse (1849-1917), which doesn't show the usual suicide scene but Thisbe standing at the wall to speek with Pyramus.

Sources.
Ovid, Metamorphoses
http://www.romanum.de/main.php?show=uebersetzungen/ovid/metamor/pyramus.html
Der Kleine Pauly

Best regards
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« Reply #247 on: February 26, 2008, 04:09:36 pm »

The Genius

Especially at the times of the tetrarchs we find series of coins showing Genius on the reverse in the shape of Genius Populi Romani, Genius Augusti, Genius Imperatori or Genius Militum. So I think I should tell something about this curious deity. But first two coins.

1st coin:
Maximinus II Daia, AD 309-313
AE - Follis (AE 2), 23mm, 4.80g
London, 1st officina, AD 310-312
obv. IMP MAXIMINVS PF AVG
       Bust, cuirassed, laureate, r.
rev.  GENIO - POP ROM
       Youthful Genius, wearing mural crown, nude except himation over l. shoulder and hips,
       stg. l., holding cornucopiae in l. arm and patera in outstretched r. hand.
       in r. field: star
       in ex. PLN
RIC VI, London 209(b); C.58
EF
The mural crown here looks more like a rampart!

2nd coin:
Maximinus II. Daia, AD 309-313
AE - Follis (AE 2), 21.1mm, 5.05g
       Alexandria, 1st officina, AD 312/13
obv. IMP C GAL VAL MAXIMINVS PF AVG
       Laureate head r.
rev. GENIO - AVGVSTI
       Genius, nude, chlamys over l. shoulder, wearing modius, stg. facing, head l., holding
       cornucopiae in l. arm and in outstretched r. hand bearded head of Serapis wearing
       modius.
       in l. field one upon the other: star / N / palmbranch
       in r. field A
       in ex. ALE
RIC VI, Alexandria 160(b); C.29
VF, nice sandpatina

Mythology:
The name comes probably from Lat. gignere, because this deity was assigned to each human when he was conceived or he was taken under his protection (Varro), or he has created us himself or has been created together with us (Apuleius).

It's clear, that the Romans tried to integrate the Genius into their mythology. His parents should have been Juppiter and Gaea, who has born him, after Juppiter has created him when he was asleep. Others suggest that he was a son of the gods and the father of men. In any case all suggest that the Genii - there are many of them! - take a middle position between the gods and men. As soon as a human being was born one or two Genii were assigned to him, a white good one and a black bad one. The good one gives him all of his good thoughts, the bad one the contrary. Which ever is the stronger one he is the one who forms the character of the man. Genii always appear at males. At women there were the Junones. The Genii stayed at their person until his death when they gave him to the gods. According to others each man has only one Genius. The Genius handed down his man to the court and blamed him if he was lying or praised him when he kept the truth. According to the Genius the judgement was given to him because the Genius knew all of his secret thoughts. Even families, cities and countries had these guardian spirits. The Genius of Rome had a golden statue in the VIII regio. 

Everyone gave honour to his own Genius, especially at his birthday when he gave offerings to him but only flowers, wine and incense, because it was not allowed to kill any animal on this day. A vow done by the Genius of the emperor was the most steadfast oath as if it was done by Juppiter himself. Some suggested that the Genius was identical with the Animus, others that he actually was the mind of men. But because also mountains, swamps, lakes, fountains, valleys and forests had their own Genius it could be concluded that he actually was a fictive entity invented only to put the humans in fear and to prevent them from vice (Hederich).

Background:
The Genius is the 'power' which is inherent in man, not only becoming manifest in his virility but signifying extensively his whole personality. The Genius is neither 'soul' nor 'life'. It's particular to each one and ceased with his death. It is a kind of active principle which could be found too in collectives like troop units, councils and so on. It is assigned too to localities like provinces or cities. Power and prestige of the pater familias explain that the domestics worshipped his Genius and swore by him. The oath by the Genius of the emperor became common in private and public fields. False oath was a crime against the emperor. The concept of the Genius Augusti was the possibility to assign divine attributs to the emperor without making him a god directly which was frowned especially in the western part of the Empire!

The need for protection resulted in the idea of the Genius as protection spirit, but it was never clear wether he was immanent to men or has his own existence. In later times these ideas were mixed with the conception of the soul which could be found in grave inscriptions. The conception of the Genius as sum of the personality expanded to the idea of the Genius of a god: Genius Iovi. This required the conception of a full personalized deity.   
 
Meaningful is the Genius Populi Romani which is not only the Roman interpretation of the Greek City Tyche. On October 9 the festival of the Genius Publicus was celebrated. The later snake shape was an amalgamation with the well-known incarnation and soul conception. The Genius indeed was linked to a person but not identical with him. Life arises 'by appearing of the Genius', who then obtained it continually. We can see that the ancient world had difficulties with the interpretation of the Genius. But worshipping of the Genius was alive until the beginning of Christianism.

Sources:
Der Kleine Pauly
Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon
John Melville Jones, A Dictionary of Ancient Roman coins
Wikipedia

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« Reply #248 on: March 16, 2008, 04:06:25 pm »

The Genius Cucullatus and Christophorus

We have talked about the Genius Cucullatus already on the Forum and in this Thread too, in connection with Asklepios and his companion Telesphoros. Here are two links: http://www.forumancientcoins.com/board/index.php?topic=25089.25 (Asklepios, Telesphoros), and http://www.forumancientcoins.com/board/index.php?topic=13493.msg92245#msg92245
 
Recently I have found something which puts him in a greater context and suggests connections to Christophorus.
 
The Egyptian God of Death was the dog-headed Anubis. He accompanied the deads to the realm of the dead and therefore was equated by the Greeks to Hermes Psychopomos, the attendant of the souls and syncretizied in Hellenism with Anubis to Hermanubis.

About AD 450 in Chalcedon/Asia minor began the worshipping of an otherwise unknown martyr named Christophorus. Christophorus is Greek and means 'Bearer of Christus' (BTW There are other Christus bearers too: the pregnant Maria, Maria with Jesus in her arms, Joseph of Arimathea or Simeon). The eastern legend reports that he originally was a man-eating Kynekephalos (= dog-headed), who got his human shape and his voice not before his baptism. Then he became a Christian missionary and has preached on Samos and in Lycia. God has confirmed him by growing leaves and fruits from his walking-staff. He had to suffer many tortures and died finally by decapitation.

The eastern church until today knows depictions of Christophorus as dog-headed saint. The western church mitigated his beastlike appearance to a giant shape and reinterprets the term canineus (= dog-like) as cananeus (= from Kana, where Goliath is originated too), and let him tender his services to the mightiest ruler of the world. On the quest for this ruler he met a boy who asked him for bearing him over the river. But the boy on top of the giant's shoulders became heavier and heavier, until he nearly breaks down, and then unveiled himself as Christus, the mightiest ruler of the world. Hence his name Christophorus. From this time on he served Christus.

He is the most often depicted of all saints in the Christian Church. Very early a small manikin in the shape of a monk and wearing a hood appeared on pictures of Christophoros, sometimes a small dog too (which could be in the western church a silent reminiscence to the dog-headed ancestral saint). He is seen as the holy Cucuphates (or Cucufas, Cucufat, Cugat and so on). He came about AD 300 together with St.Felix from Gerona in North-Africa to Barcelona, was according to the legend under Diocletian first untouched burnt, then drown and died finally by decapitation. AD 845 abbot Fulrad took his head to St.Denis in Paris. AD 1079 his bones were detected in San Cugat del Valles.

Now already at the Phoenicians was known the depiction of a hooded manikin holding a light (candle, lamp or lantern), who is described without a name as archetyp by C.G.Jung. In the same way he is found on Greek depictions in the ambit of Asklepios. The Romans called him 'Genius cucullus' (from cucullus = hood). His function has seemed to be to lead deceased with his light to the netherworld in the case that the healing powers of Asklepios have failed.

In the 6th century occured a sound shift: a 'L' between two vocals became a 'F' (like 'coiffeur', which belongs to 'colerare', and who was originally a hair dyer). So 'Genius Cucullatus' became Cucufatus/Cucuphatus, and was mixed with the weak reminiscence of the martyr from Barcelona. On the other side the same syncretizing scholars must have still a distinct idea of the old function of the Anubic dog-headed soul attendant of the Christus bearer and of the hooded Phoenico-Greek soul guide of the ambit of Asklepios, so that they conclude from the guide and bearer function on one hand,  and from the similarities of their martyrdoms on the other hand, the togetherness of these two figures. So they motivated - in unknown text interpretation - artists to depict Christophorus and Cucuphatus together.

Because according to the 'Legenda aurea' Christophorus is symbolizing life and baptism and thus the bright features of the water, on the other hand Cucuphatus the gloomy and sad aspects of life and death, guiding the deceased by his lamp, he is often depicted together with other water figures, mermaids f.e. From such different ancient threads the character of these saints is composed. 

So it is understandable that pope Paul VI reforming the calendar of saints has discarded Christophorus from the list. Not understandable is on the other hand that Cucuphatus who has in no way a more reliable existence was left on the official list.

I want to add that Cucuphatus as well as cuculla belongs to an enigmatic indo-european ancient root to which the Irish heroe Cuchullain must be put too. The ancient root cel- seems to have the meaning 'dark, hidden' (related to the German 'ver-hehlen', 'Hel', 'Hölle'), which suggested for the otherwise not interpretable Cuchullain the origin from a cave, and so the connection to chthonic deities (BTW Cuchullain is derived from Irish 'cuchul' = hood, and: the words derived from cel- are meaning in Irish 'being hidden' and 'being dead' too!)

I have added
(1) The pic of Yurukova Deultum 86 with Telesphorus on the rev.
(2) a pic of the Cucullati of Housesteads
(3) a pic of Cucuphatus (with unknown origin)
(4) a pic of the 'St.Christophorus' of Dierick Bouts (1467-1468)

Sources:
Hanswilhelm Haefs, Handbuch des nutzlosen Wissens, Band 2
Gabriele Haefs, Christophorus und Cucuphatus - Zwei sonderbare Heilige (so far unpublished)
Legenda Aurea
http://www.heiligenlexikon.de/BiographienC/Christophorus.htm
http://www.celtnet.org.uk/gods_c/cucullatus.html

Best regards
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« Reply #249 on: April 17, 2008, 01:40:35 am »

Here is a recent purchase from FORVM.  The reverse depicts a centaur

Bronze antoninianus, RIC 163, RSC 72, choice EF, Rome mint, 3.716g, 21.6mm, 180o, 268 A.D.; Obverse: GALLIENVS AVG, radiate head right; Reverse: APOLLINI CONS AVG, centaur walking right drawing bow, Z in exergue; struck on a full and round flan, rare this nice. Commemorates vows to Apollo invoking his protection against the revolt of Aureolus. Ex FORVM.


Jochen, I'm not sure if the reverse devise is "Cheiron, the wise kentaur" (the thread indexed below).  Might it be? Smiley

Jim
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