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Tribunus Plebis Perpetuus
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« Reply #375 on: December 01, 2011, 11:06:19 am »


Janus is the guardian of public gates and gateways which are called ianus too (but not the private ones! For the private ones Portunus was responsible.) Ianus was too the god of all beginnings and was mentioned in prayers first of all. How the connection between beginning and transition could have come about is unclear. The most famous of all was the Ianus Geminus. It was composed of 2 archways connected at its sides and stood on the northern side of the Forum and made up the gateway to the Argiletum and to the Quirinal hill. The annalist Piso at Varro reports that Numa has decided to close the archway only when there was peace in the entire empire. Until Augustus - who has closed it threetimes - we hear only of a short closing 235 BC after the First Punic War. But this war has ended already in 241 BC so that it is probably a confusion of T. Manlius T.f. Torquatus, cos. 235, with A. Manlius T.f. Torquatus, cos. 241. In his Monumentum Ancyranum (res gestae, 2, 42) Augustus records two closings where he has probably included the closing by Numa. This ritus seems to be very old but first Augustus has reinvented it because of political reasons. But there is the suggestion too that it was Augustus himself who first has introduced this tradition at all! Nero and Vespasian have closed the temple of Janus as well, where Nero has closed the temple after he has lost the campaign in Armenia against the Parthians. This closing is depicted on his coins.

The last emperor who has opened the temple of Janus - according to Eutrop - was Gordian III before going to war against the Parthians, where he suffered death.

The interpretation of the symbolic meaning of this rite is not consistent: Vergil (Aeneis) writes that war will be enclosed, Ovid (Fast.) and Horaz (Epist.) suggest peace will be retained. The myth tells: Here the Sabins were restrained by hot sulfuric springs (Ovid met. 14, 78 ff., and others). That there once were hot springs we hear from Varro too. Roscher thinks, that in event of war the temple was held open to ensure that the soldiers after a successful return could come home at any time and the city was not locked up to them.

Further cult sites connected to Janus:
In Rome was a further cult site, named Tigillum sororium: A bar across a street at the Mons Oppius was attached to two opposite houses. At the sides were located altars of Ianus Curiatus and Iuno Sororia. On 1st of october a sacrifice was offered at this place. H.J.Ross has explained that sororius belongs to sororiare 'to swell' (in particuliar of the mammae, the breasts) and Curiatius is connected to curia. It seems to be a case of transition ritus of puberty when the former important curiae accepted new members. The aetiological myth which connects the names with the struggle of Curatii and Horatius hasn't know that any longer. This myth tells of a yoke  under which Horatius has to go throughout daily because in rage he has killed his sister after his victory over the 3 Curatii. Juno is here the female genius (take a look at the article about Genius in this thread!)

On the Forum Holitorium near the theatre of Marcellus Janus has another temple which was vowed by C. Duilius during the sea battle of Mylae in 260 BC (Tac. Ann. 2, 49). Day of foundation was 17th of August. This temple was restaurated by Augustus and newly consecrated by Tiberius AD 17. The ancient calendars don't know of a feast of Janus, but the Agonium on 9th of January belongs to him. Unprovable and probably wrong is the claim - again and again repeated - that the rex sacrorum was an own priest for Janus and that sacrifices to Janus took place at all calends. Macrobius knows only of 12 altars.

Beside the Ianus Geminus the most known is the Ianus Quadrifons vowed by Domitian on the Forum Transitorium. This was a four-gate sanctuary with a four-faced statue, which was said to be from Falerii (If it was  actually true that this statue came from Falerii it was called Ianus only because of the 4 faces. Its actual meaning is unknown).

Another Ianus Quadrifons - partially preserved even today - stood on the Forum Boarium over the Cloaca maxima, a four-arched marble arch.  But this tetrapylon has nothing to do with Janus at all. The name is a misinterpretation from the time of Renaissance. Probably the entrances to the Forum formerly were formed by Ianus archs. Jordan therefore calls Ianus 'the patron of the marketplace'.
In Roman mythology Ianus stands rather isolated. In Greek mythology and in the  pantheon of Greek deities Ianus is unknown.

The double face, known alread from the old Republican as, can well be the adoption of the double-faced Hermes or Apollo. It is said that the bronze statue from the Ianus Geminus should have illustrated with its fingers the number 365. But that is fanciful, because it is the number of days of the solar year and not of the Numan year and could arise only after Ianus was connected to sun and year.

Ianus was not only a personification of entrance but a living numen, on whose workings the fate of humans was depending. Doors and thresholds were sacred. We recall why Romulus has killed his brother Remus. Doorposts have been anoint on weddings, the bride carried over the threshold. By the Ianus archs the Forum was treated as quasi equal to the private atrium (Roscher)

Etymologically Ianus is naturally related to ianua, = door. But the etymology of ianua is unexplained until today. Ciceros has suggested that there is a relation to ire, = to go.

Until 153 BC Ianuarius was the 11th month of the old Roman calendar.
Why the 11th month of the old year was called Ianuarius is unknown, even wether this month is named after this god at all!

The lack of knowledge has misled to far-reaching speculations: Ianus should have been a sky god and via Etruria a Syrian-Hittite god has taken influence. Originally he should have been a god of river-crossings. As god of begining he already in the later republic became creator and inventor. But more realistic is the conception that at the Ianiculum important Italian trade routes were crossing and all new and foreign goods came to Rome here, and that the Romans therefore ascribed all these things to Ianus. He was called pater in honour. But the term deus deorum is totally un-Roman.

Sadly we have no remains of the Roman temple of Janus. But we know the description of the temple of Duilius from Plinius: This temple was the most northern on the Forum Holitorium, the grain market. It was a peripteros without columns at its back. It was standing on a 26m long and 15m broad podium and had 6 columns of Ionic style. Still today we can see some columns and parts of the podium beside the church San Nicola in Carcere. But I must confess that this is not undisputed.

History of Art:
In Fine Arts Ianus was depicted only rarely. A column with the double-faced Ianus appears on the left side of Nicolas Poussin's "Dance of Live", about 1638, an assembly of various  allegories of time. In a similar connection Janus appears as figur with two heads, a youthful and a senile one, in the fresco "Triumph of History over Time" from Anton Raphael Mengs (1772-1773), Biblioteca Vaticana, Rome. Two paintings of Louis de Boullogne, 1681, and Charles Andre van Loo "Auguste faissant fermer le temple de Janus", about 1750, both in the Musee de Beaux-Arts in Amiens/France, have as subject the closing of the temple by Augustus. A more allegorical depiction of the same issue is shown on a painting of Peter Paul Rubens, 1635, today in the Hermitage/St. Petersburg.

I have added
[1] a pic of the remains of the temple of Janus of Duilius on the Forum Holitorium
[2] a pic of Rubens' paintings

[1] Augustus, Res gestae (Monumentum Ancyranum)
[2] Vergil, Aeneis
[3] Ovid, Fasti
[4] Ovid, Metamorphoses
[5] Horaz, Epistulae
[6] Tacitus, Annales

[1] Der Kleine Pauly
[2] Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon, 1770 (online  too)
[3] Wilhelm JHeinrich Roscher, Ausführliches Lexikon der griechischen und römischen  
      Mythologie, 1886 (online too)

[1] Wikipedia (Temple of Janus)

Best regards

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Tribunus Plebis Perpetuus
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« Reply #376 on: December 01, 2011, 11:13:21 am »

Excursion: 'The Mourning Penelope' - An Addentum to 'Tyche'

Recently I have found in a book of my schoolfellow Volker Sinn, Einführung in die klassische Archäologie, an interesting consideration about the depiction of the seated City Tyche, which I want to share.

In AD 1930 during excavations in Persepolis the Greek marble statue of a seated woman with crossed legs was found, supporting her head with the hand. It is only a seated torso but because of style examinations it is certain that the statue was created around 440-430 BC and comes from a studio on the Aegean Islands or the west-coast of Asia Minor. The depiction is known already from depictions of Penelope and Electra from c.470 BC. Today we know 7 copies in bronze and marble from the Roman Imperial Time. But this seems to be the original statue, at least one of them. It is knowwn under the name 'Mourning Penelope'.

This statue was found in the so-called Treasury of Dareios under a layer of debris with a height of some meters and was destroyed 330 BC. And that is remarkable! For usually the Greek have took back to Greece all works which were displaced by the Persians. That was true f.e. for the statue of the 'Tyrannocide' or the 'Apollo Philesios' of Didyme. And taht was true for all Persian booty. But not for our 'Mourning Penelope'! The conclusion must be that the 'Mourning Penelope' can't be booty!

And that leads us to the relation of the Greeks on the Aegean Islands and the west-coast of Asia minor to the Persians. The hostility of the Greeks against the Persians which we know from literary sources is the view of the continental Greeks especially the Athenians. In Asia minor it was very different. Here we had pro-Persian tendencies especially since under the Attic-Delic Sea League the obligatory dues increased and often the independence was lost. So it is understandable that many Greek cities - of course out of opportunity  too  -  turned toward the Persians.

What is the symbolic meaning of Elektra and Penelope in Greek mythology? Penelope as widow according to the ethical conceptions of the nobility society of the early Greek was obligated to remarriage. For 10 years she was exposed to the impudent bedgerings of the suitors who had spread in her palace. Only the hope for the return of Odysseus had make bearable this debasement. By her unbending morale she finally gained the victory over her tormentors. Elektra, daughter of king Agamemnon of Mykene and his wife Klytaimnestra was exposed to most evil humiliations after the murder of Agamamnon by Klytaimnestra and Aigisthos which she had to suffer many years hoping for the return of her brother Orestes and the future revenge. Only then her fate turned to good and by Pylades she returned to deserved emotional security. So we have 2 parallel fortunes which were regarded by the Greeks as symbols of unbended bearing against temptations and hostility. Elektra stands for sense of family, Penelope for loyalty and married love (Sinn). We can understand why their
depictions are so similar.

But their meaning can well be meant politically! First the Thebans used the figure of the invincible mythological women for their city. Then this motiv became the iconography of the City Goddess (Tyche) of several Greek cities. The most famous was the so-called Tyche of Antiocheia. It is imaginable that this image motif was used by Greek cities of Asia minor to symbolize their resistance against subordination under a foreign power. And this was for these cities Athens and the Attic-Delic Sea League! So it is well possible that a statue with the symbolism of Penelope was sent to Persepolis to emphasize a petition for Persian support against Athens. And then we understand why this statue was destroyed by the Greek troops of Alexander the Great in 330 BC. There was no hope for mercy!

I have added 2 pics:
[1] Statue of the 'Mourning Penelope' from the Iran National Museum in Teheran. This is the
     statue found in 1930 in Persepolis. The pic itself is from
[2] 'Mourning Penelope'. Roman copy from the Bodemuseum in Berlin. Pic from We see the obvious similarity to the type of the seated Tyche.

[1] Volker Sinn, Einführung in die Klassische Archäologie, Beck 2000

Best regards

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Tribunus Plebis Perpetuus
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« Reply #377 on: January 31, 2012, 03:06:40 pm »

Phrixos and Helle

The coin
Thessaly, Halos, 400-344 BC
AE 15 (Dichalkon?), 2.33g, 14.57mm, 315°
obv. Head of Zeus Laphystios, diademed, l.
rev. ALE - W[N]
      Phrixos, nude, with waving chlamys behind, on ram flying r., hanging on its horns; below  
      3 waves (outside this flan)
ref. Rogers 240 var.
rare, VF
Note: This type is known too with the depiction of Helle. But she is always draped (HN). On the coins I have seen Helle always std. side saddle. Phrixos and Helle are the main coin motives of Halos.

Father of Phrixos was Athamas, son of Aiolos. He was King in Orchomenos in Boiotia. With his wife Nephele he had 2 children, Phrixos and Helle. Later he devorced Nephele and married Ino, daughter of Kadmos. With Ino he had 2 children too, Learchos and Melikertes. Ino hated the children of Nephele and sent a drougth over the land (or has persuaded the women of the land to roast the seed to make the land infertile). To end this misery a herald was sent to the oracle of Delphi. Ino bribed the herald to falsify the oracle, so that now Phrixos and Helle should be sacrificed to end the drought.

Another variant is that Ino has fallen in love to her stepson Phrixos, but that he spurns her. Thus a great hate arose in Ino and she wished his death (Nat, Com. Mythol. lib.I.VI.c.9). She achieved that he should be sacrificed. That is the classical Potiphar motive.

Hyginus in his Fabulae tells that Phrixos has presented himself as sacrifice. Thus the malice of his stepmother has been detected although Dionysos has tried to protect her. Phrixos and Helle simulated a blinding and got lost in a wood.

Anyhow, their mother Nephele sent Chrysomele to them, a ram with golden fleece, with the order to bring them to Kolchis. This ram, a gift of Hermes, is said to have been a son of Poseidon and was able to speak.

Together with his sister Helle, who want to stay with him, Phrixos mounted the magic animal. When they were just over the sea between the Thracian Chersones and the Sigaian promontory, Helle fell down from the ram into the sea and drowned. According to her this part of the sea was called Hellespont, that means 'Sea of Helle'. Later Helle should have appeared as Sea Nymph to the Argonauts. She is said to have married Poseidon and has become a goddess.

Phrixos luckily arrived in Kolchis. There he sacrificed the ram -  according to some authors on behest of the ram - to Zeus Phrixios and donated the fleece to Aietes, king of Kolchis. He hung it at a tree of the grove of Ares and gave Phrixos his daughter Chalkiope as wife. Apollodor reports that first he has come to Dipsakos, son of Phyllis, where he has sacrificed the ram to Zeus Laphystios. The fleece later played an important role in the myth of the Argonauts. Zeus put the ram as Aries to the sky.

The later fate of Phrixos:
Diodoros Sikolos reports that Phrixos later has left  Kolchis and has returned back to Greece where he has taken the kingdom of his father Athamas. In contrast Hyginus tells that he was killed by Aietes who feared that he strove for the throne.

He is said to have several children with his wife Chalkiope whose names were reported variously: Argos, Phrontis, Melas and Kylindros, or Argos, Melas, Phrontis and Kytiloros, as well as Argos, Melas, Katis and Soros. Only those have left Kolchis and set off for Greece. But underway they were shipwrecked and could rescue themselves on the island of Areteias. There they were found by the Argonauts who took them as guides back to Kolchis (Apollonius).

The fate of Athamas:
Athamas and Ino were chased by Hera. Particulars can be found in the articles about Melikertes and about Ino-Leukothea in this Mythology Thread. Weighed down with blood guilt Athamas fled from Boiotia and came to Thessaly, where he founded the city of Halos and took Themisto, daughter of Hypseus, as his wife. This myth was worked up by Euripides to an intrigues play where by the intrigues of Ino he let kill the children of Themisto by her own mother. This play based on the oral tradition that Athamas from the beginning was king of Halos, situated in the 'Athamantic realms' of the southern Thessaly. According to this myth Athamas himself should have been sacrificed to Zeus and - referring to Herodot - was rescued by the arrival of his grand-child, son of Phrixos, from Kolchis, or - referring to Sophokles - by Herakles. Both plays are lost.

(1) Nephele, wife of Athamas, is not Nephele, who by Ixion became the mother of the
     Centaurs. Often they were confused, so by Kerenyi and Hederich.
(2) Nat. Com. Mythol. = Natalis Comitis Mythologiae. Natalis Conti (AD 1520-1582), a
     Venetian scientist, wrote a mythographical work of 10 volumes.
The first part of the myth plays in Orchomenos in Boiotia where Athamas was king. Here he tried to sacrifice Phrixos and Helle to Zeus Laphystios. Laphystios is the name of a mountain near Orchomenos. After his madness and the death of Ino and Melikertes (take a look at the referring articles in this thread!) he was ordered by the oracle of Delphi to go to Thessaly . where he founded the city of Halos. Halos was already mentioned by Homer as city in the Phthiotis, in the Athamantic plane at the river Othrys, situated at the western shore of the Pagasaian Gulf. Athamas took the veneration of Zeus Laphystios from Orchomenos to Halos, which then became the main centre of the cult of Zeus Laphystios. Zeus Laphystios was an old, dark storm and weather god with archaic rites connected probably to human sacrifices too. Laphystios is 'the Devourer' A sanctuary is mentioned already by Herodot 7, 192, but until now no inscriptions are found (Pauly).

The core of the myth is the aition of the Anamanthic custom. This custom consists in the tradition that in Halos always the oldest descendents of Athamas were sacrificed to Zeus Laphystios when they entered a particular building in the city. Here we find motives of archaic rites which consist in sacrificing the sacral king to preserve the fertility of the land (von Ranke-Graves),

The sacrifice of the ram then can be seen as replacing the human sacrifices by animal offerings. Zeus hated human sacrifices!

Helle is the eponym of the Hellespont. The marriage with Poseidon and the birth of several children are later inventions. At Val. Flaccus she appears to the Argonauts as sea goddes.

Halos meant something like barn flour or court, like in Delphi, where it is a praecinctus, a walled area. That would well match the founding myth. A connection with the Greek word for salt - suggested by Tilos - I can't see. Referring to Ranke-Graves Halos should come from Alos, the name of a female servant!

And again our friend Palaiphatos who - as always - is pouring rationalistic water in our mythological wine, bringing up the following objections:
The ram must have been faster than a ship! And the ram must have carried not only two persons but food and drinking too. Then Phrixos has killed the ram ungratefully, who has just rescued him. He has donated the fleece to Aietes as dowry. Has he held his daughter for so worthless? To mask this incredibility it was said that the fleece was of gold.
Here is the truth:
Krios (Greek = ram) was the administrator of king Athamas of Phthia. When Krios heard that Athamas' 2nd wife intrigued against Phrixos, son of Athamas, he decided to save him. He got a ship, loaded it with valuables, between them a statue, which has been made of gold after Kios (Greek = fleece), mother of Merops and daughter of Helios. Then Phrixos and Helle started to Kolchis. At this voyage Helle became ill and died. But Phrixos came to the river Phasis settled there and married the daughter of Aietes, king of Kolchis. The gold statue he donated as dowry. After the death of Athamas Jason sailed with his ship Argo to Kolchis to get the gold statue of Kios.

The Order of the Golden Fleece:
When we talk about the Golden Fleece the order of the Golden Fleece should be mentioned. This order was founded in AD 1430 by Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, to celebrate his marriage with Isabella of Portugal. The task of this knight's order is the protection of the Church. His sign is the picture of a ram fleece hanging on a chain from the neck. Today we have two lines of the order: The Bourbonic in Spain and the Habsburg in Austria. Famous Grand Masters beside the Burgundic and Spain kings were the Habsburg emperors of the German Empire. Known names are the German emperor Wilhelm II and his uncle Edward VIII from England, Otto von Habsburg and Juan Carlos, the recent king of Spain.

BTW There is another explanation too. There the order goes back to the miracle of Gideon in the Book of Judges in the Old Testament.

History of Art:
The flight of the siblings and the fall of Helle were popular themes in ancient art. Strangely they later were only depicted rarely..
On an amphora from the 3rd quarter of the 5th century BC, today in the National Museum in Naples, Phrixos is chased by Ino with a double axe in her raised hand.
A Melic relief from the middle of the 5th century BC and an Apulic bowl, both from the Antikensammlung in Berlin, show Phrixos high above the sea at the flank of the ram, clasping at horns and fleece. This is very similar to the depiction on the coin.
It could be found too on a pelike (kind of an amphora) as Attic red-figured painting of the Phrixos-Painter, c. 450-400 BC, today in the National Museum Athens.
In Berlin stands the Phrixos-Krater, an Apulic volute krater, c. 340 BC., ascribed to the Dareios-Painter. The obv. shows the scene where the sacrifice of Phrixos and Helle is prepaired.
Both siblings on the ram are found on a krater from Paestum, middle of 4th century, National Museum Naples, and on a Pompejan wall painting, 1st century AD, Naples, National Museum, and on a mosaic in the Villa d'Este, Tivoli, from the 2nd century AD, where Phrixos stretches out his hand to rescue Helle, who sinks in the waves.

From the Early Modern Age I have found only a ceiling painting. It is from the studio of Pinturicchio and was made for the Palazzo of Pandolfo Petrucci in Siena, c.1590, now in the Metropolitan Museum, New York.

I have attached:
(1) a pic of the Phrixos-Krater with the sacrificing scene: In the lower centre, all signed with  
     their names, Phrixos is standing, crowning the ram with a wreath. Left beside stands Ino,  
     on his right side Athamas with raised sacrificial knife. Right beside him an aged scholar
     tells Helle, that not the ram but her brother Phrixos shall be sacrificed. Above a
     conference of gods is looking down. The 2nd from left is Nephele. At her right side
     Hermes apparently tells her that her children will be rescued.
(2) the pic of the Attic pelike of the Phrixos-Painter from the National Museum Athens.
(3) the pic of the Pompejan wall painting from the 1st century AD

(1) Herodot
(2) Apollodor, Bibliotheka
(3) Apollonius Rhodios, Die Argonautensage
(4) Pausanias, Reisen durch Griechenland
(5) Euripides: Phrixos
(6) Ovid, Metamorphosen
(7) Palaiphatos, Unglaubliche Geschichte (griech./deutsch), Reclam 2002

Secondary Literature:
(1) Karl Kerenyi, Die Mythologie der Griechen, Band II: Die Heroen-Geschichten, dtv 1966
(2) Wilhelm Heinrich Roscher, Ausführliches Lexikon der griechischen und römischen
     Mythologie (auch online)
(3) Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mytologisches Lexikon, Leipzig 1770 (Facsimile)
     (auch online)
(4) Robert von Ranke-Graves, Griechische Mythologie, rororo 2003
(5) Who is who in der Mythologie?
(6) Der Kleine Pauly
(7) Aghion/Barbillon/Lissarrague, Reclams Lexikon der antiken Götter und Heroen in der
(8) Udo Reinhardt, Der Antike Mythos

Online Sources:
(1) Wikipedia

Best regards

Will be continued with an excursion about the Dardanelles!

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Tribunus Plebis Perpetuus
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« Reply #378 on: April 05, 2012, 01:22:05 pm »

Excursion: The Dardanelles

As connection between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea the Dardanelles played an important role already in ancient times. They were the most important transport route for the grain from the present Ukraine of which Greece was dependent. The strait has a length of 65km and connects the Aegean with the Sea of Marmara. The narrowest location at Canakkale has a width of only 1.3km. They are named after the mythic king Dardanos who founded the city of Dardanos in the Troas. Unfortunately they have a very strong surface current from the Sea of Marmara to the Aegean, so that an opportune wind is needed to sail against it. As long as the sailors had not learned to cruise the ships had to wait for the needed winds in the harbour. That adds to the great economical and strategic importance of Troy which in ancient times had an important harbour. Cruising, that means sailing against the wind, has been invented only later. So the Portuguese caravels could sail 'close to the wind', but cruising in the proper sense they couldn't.
The Dardanelles were too an important connection between Europe and Asia. In the 2nd Persian war Xerxes with his huge army crossed the Dardanelles in 480 BC on 2 bridges of boats from Abydos to Sestos. This transgression was denominated by Aischylos in his 'Persians' as sacrilege and was seen as reason that the gods intervened on the side of the Greeks against Xerxes.

150 years later, in 334 BC, the 35000 men of Alexander's army crossed the Dardanelles in reversed direction from Sestos to Abydos. Alexander himself crossed separately from Elaios to Ilion. That was the beginning of the conquest of the Persian Empire and the Hellenisation of the world.

It should be mentioned that in 278/277 BC the Galatians (Gauls) crossed the Dardanelles and thereby devastated the cities at the coast.

But all these events were overshadowed by the Battle of the Dardanelles, one of the greatest butcheries of WWI, only comparable with Verdun or the Somme. The idea came from Churchill, at that time First Lord of the Admiralty. After the armies in the West have come to a deadlock he want to try to lever out the Central Powers from the South. His aim was the conquest of Istanbul and the cutoff of the Ottoman Empire. This done the Allies could sent reinforcements to Russia which was in great difficulties. At least Bulgaria would enter the war on the side of the Entente. But this operation became one of the greatest desasters of WWI by the disability and incompetence of its military commanders. Altogether losts of half a million soldiers had to be complained. As result Bulgaria enters the Central Powers and Russia collapsed. Churchill had to pack his bags and go.

The course of events:
1st phase: The attack on Gallipoli began in February 1915 with strong naval forces of British and French warships which cannonaded the Turkish artillery emplacements. But returning they were running in a Turkish minefield and several of the 18 battleships sank or were heavily damaged.

2nd phase: After that the commanders decided to do it with land forces. In April 1915 a great invading army of British, French and Indian troops and especially troops from Australia and New-Zealand was sent to the Dardanelles to conquer the peninsula of Gallipoli and then march aginst Istanbul. They landed at several places of the peninsula but had not taken into account the persistent resistance of the Turks with their moveable guns. They were led by Kemal Pascha, later under the name Atatürk founder of the modern, secular Turkey. He was advised by the German chief of staff Liman von Sanders. They succeeded in occupying the heights of the coastal mountains in time and despite high losses they could hold them until end of the campaign. Thus the allied troops were pinned down more or less on the beaches. Because the strait was mined by the Turks the breakthrough with naval forces was impossible. In January 1916 after 10 month of fight the Allies abandonned the battle and evacuated the rest of the troops.

In this time something like a Australian national feeling emerged. Strangely Liman von Sanders is not embedded in the national memory of the Germans. Surely his Jewish roots are playing a role. But Atatürk too had no interest to diminish his own merits.

I have added
(1) a map of the Dardanelles with the Turkish minefields
(2) a pic of the allied naval forces
(3) a photo showing how the campaign of the Allies stiffened in the same way as the war at
    the Western front
(4) a photo of Liman von Sanders

(1) John Keegan, The First World War, Hutchinson/Random House 1998
(2) Geoffrey Regan, Military Blunders, Carlton Book Ltd. 2001 (highly recommended)


Best regards

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« Reply #379 on: April 05, 2012, 03:29:14 pm »

The standing lake-god of Savatra

This coin I have bought because of its strange figure on the rev. The result of my research I want to share. (Moved from Roman Provincial Coins)

Lycaonia, Savatra, Antoninus Pius, AD 138-161
AE 28, 9.57g
       Head, laureate, r.
       Bearded water-god, nude, stg. frontal, head l., holding in lowered r. hand grain-ears and
       resting with raised l. hand on long reed; on his r. side a 2nd smaller plant, on his l. side
       a fish l.
ref. SNG von Aulock 5406; Aulock Lykaonien 166; SNG Copenhagen 16; SNG France 2330;
      Rec.Gen. 4797
rare, F+/about VF, green-brown patina

The rev. is really peculiar: We see a bearded male figure looking a bit like Zeus, but with the attributes of a river-god. And he is standing not reclining as usually river-gods do. Who is this deity?

Savatra, near the recent Yaghli-Baiyat, was located north-east of Iconium in the heart of Asia Minor. In the known literature it appears as Soatra (so at Strabo), Sautra, Sauatra, Savatra, Sabatra or Sabatka. We know very little about this city, already demonstrated by its many different names. It is mentioned by Strabo, Ptolemaios and Hierokles. And it is listed in the Tabula Peutingeriana too. So it was located at a Roman street, namely that leading from Laodikeia via Hyde to Koropissos. Beginning with Trajan and until Philip I Savatra issued own coins (HN). For some time it was the seat of a bishop: AD 381 Aristophanes, who was present at the 1st Oecumenical Council in Constantinopolis, and AD 451 Eustathius.

The most outstanding feature of Savatra was its water shortage. For that it was famous (Strabo). A small village which is seen today at its old place is Suvermez which should mean 'no water'. It is a desert-like region. The poor rivers get lost in several country lakes of which the Tatta Lake (today Dusgköl), a salt-lake, is the largest. He is so salty that it was reported that an object thrown in the lake was covered with salt crystals in a moment. Whenever a bird touches the water with its wings the salt was attached to the wings and the bird must sink because of the weight.

Because of his attributes the depicted figure is surely a water-god. But because the region at Savatra was waterless, he can't be a river-god but is probably a deity of one of the salt lakes in the neighbourhood (Hill, BM). Hill suggested the Tatta Lake and he stressed the fact that the figure is standing and doesn't recline as a river-god usually does. Even if the Tatta Lake is about 70km distant of Savatra it is such an impressive phenomenon that the appearance of its tutelary deity on a coin of Savatra is understandable without difficulties - if  the district of Savatra would has reached to its shore. But that seems to be not the case. Hoewever there is an alternative: the salt-lake near Obroklu, which probably was dependent on Savatra (Ramsay). Because usually only that is depicted on coins which is situated on the territory of the city it is probably not the Tatta Lake which is meant by the figure on the rev., but the smaller lake near Obroklu.

(1) Ludwig Georgii, Alte Geographie (by
(2) H. S. Cronin, First Report of a Journey in Pisidia, Lycaonia, and Pamphylia, 1902
(3) Wikipedia

Best regards

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« Reply #380 on: June 29, 2012, 02:28:34 pm »

BTW I have a 2nd edition of my book 'Münzen und antike Mythologie - Eine Reise in ein fernes Land' to sell. Interested members of the FORVM can send me a PN.


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« Reply #381 on: August 02, 2012, 04:44:07 am »

Zeus Olybrios

This beautiful coin lay for quite some time like lead in my collection.

Cilicia, Anazarbos, Commodus, AD 177-192
AE 26, 12.84g, 225°
struck AD 180/81 (year 199)
       Bust, draped and cuirassed, laureate, r.
rev.:ANAZAPBE - ΩN ETOVC ΘQΠ (= 199)
      Bust of Zeus Olybrios, diademed, with necklace, facing, head r.
ref. SNG Levante Supp. 325 (this coin); SNG Paris 2041 var. (legend, year)
rare, VF, dark green patina, obv. slightly rough
ex CNG electronic auction 134, 2006, lot 156

Anazarbos pros Pyramo, today Anavarza, is a location in Cilicia, situated ad the middle Pyramos, named after a near-by mountain, the sacred mountain of Zarbos, a 220m high offset of the Tauros mountains. Augustus raised Anazarbos to a city and renamed it to Kaisareia pros Anazarbo. In its importance it came close to Tarsos, but has been destroyed in 6th cent. by an earthquake. Justinian rebuilt it as Justinianopolis and it served as a Byzantine border fortess. Today excavations take place under guidance of the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut.

Olybris or Olybrios was the city-god and patron of Anazarbos, probably its founder too. Zeus Olybrios occurs in an inscription on a narrow marble stele of the Esquiline hill in Rome as Cilician god. In an inscription of Ankara he is named Zeus Olybris. In Latin inscriptions he is called Jupiter Olybraeus. They are found in the region of Syria and Palestine, where he was brought probably by Roman soldiers.

The dedicatory inscription (C.I.L. 2823) found on the Esquiline hill in Rome reads as follows:
ΔΙΙ ΟΛΥΒΡΙ[Ω] ΤΟΥ ΚΙΛΙΚΩΝ ΕΘΝΟΥΣ ΤΗΣ Λ(ΑΜΠΡΟΤΑΤΗΣ)  Μ(ΗΤΡΟΠΟΛΕΩΣ) ΑΝΑΖΑΡΒΕΩΝ ΑΥΡ(ΗΛΙΟΣ) ΜΑΡΚΟΣ ΣΤΑΤΩΡ ΕΥΧΗΣ ΧΑΡΙΝ Translated "To Zeus Olybrios of the ethnos of the Cilicians  (and) the most magnificent metropolis of Anazarbos (by) Aurelius Marcus, stator (usher), because of a vow (dedicated)". Here Olybrios is named not only as a Cilician god but as the god of the Cilicians, His name - according to Roscher - is connected with Olymbros.

Olymbros is mentioned by Stephanus Byzantius. He reports Olymbros was one of the elder Titansd, son og Gaia and Uranos, brother of Adanos, founder of Adana in Cilicia, brother of Ostasos, Sandes, Kronos, Iapetos and Rhea.

Dio Prus. 33 (II.p.1.Dind.) says, that the Titans were the actual patron gods of Cilicia. Therefore Olybrios is the patron of the entire Cilician people and Anazarbos was the special location of his worship (Domaszewski).

Both are Cilician gods. Both are founder of cities. Now the Greek mythology has adopted these gods. Referring to Imhoof-Blumer Kronos appears on coins of Mallos already in the 4th century BC. That means that the equalization of Cilician and Greek gods already in these times was common and that the Greeks have created this genealogy when they met foreign peoples.

And it goes on: Salmasius already has supposed Olympos for Olymbros, which M. Mayer, Giganten und Titanen 55, 11 has granted. It is true that the Cilician surname Olybri(os) of Zeus is evident by inscriptions. But it is well possible that Olymbros is the same as the Cretan teacher of Zeus. And he is known in Greek mythology under the name Olympos too!
It is common consensus that Zeus is called "the Olympian" because he is the father of the Olympian gods who pursued their carefree live on the top of the Olympos mountain. But surprisingly there are other opinions too:

The mythology narrates of an Olymps (I), a Cretan or son of Kres, whom Kronos has given to Zeus as his teacher and educator. He raised him and instructed him about religion. But when Zeus suspected him of urging the Gigants against his leadership and trying to push him off the throne he has slain him with his thunderbolt. After that Zeus has bitterly regret his deed, and because it was impossible to reanimate Olympos he at least has given him his own name and has written his name even on his grave, just as if the grave of Olympos was the grave of Zeus himself (Ptolem. Nov. Hist.; Prol. Hephaest.I.II p.311).

A second Olympos (II) is in his fatherly role very similar to the first one: Diodorus Siculus tells of reports of the Libyans and of Greek writers, especially Dionysios of Milet, that Dionysos has enthroned the young Zeus as king in Egypt. Because of his youth he has committed him to Olympos. Olympos was a wise man and teached him sciences and raised him to the highest virtues. From this teacher Zeus himself has got the surname Olympos (Diod.Sic.I.III.c.73).

We started from Olybrios or Olybris, the city-god and founder of Anazarbos who then appears as god of all Cilicians. According to Roscher his name is connected to Olymbros who in Greek mythology is one of the elder Titans. That matches Dio of Prusa after whom Cilicia was the country of the Titans. Olymbros is regarded as Cretan educator of Zeus. But the teacher of Zeus is known too as Olympos. And so the arc is joining!
To round up this article I want to point to an interesting find: Near the vilalge of Areni in Armenia a small altar of the 2nd century AD was found with a Greek inscription of 6 lines. There is named the ΓΗ ΜΗΤΕΡ ΟΛΥΒΡΙΣ ΘΕΑ ΔΕΣΠΟΙΝΑ (Ge Mother Olybris Goddess and Mistress)Herrin). This altar was endowed by a Roman legionary (Vinogradov). Not only the localization is interesting but even more that here a female deity is called Olybris. It is a further evidence that Olybris stands for the whole Cilician people!

(1) Claudius Salmasius, French Claude de Saumaise (* 15. April 1588 in 
     Semur-en-Auxois; † 3. September 1653 in Spa), a French classical scholar and
(2) Stephanus Byzantius, grammar in Constantinopolis in 6th century AD, wrote a
     geographical dictionary, Ethnika, which are present as epitome, compiled by Hermolaus
(3) Diodorus Siculus, Greek Historian from the 1st century AD, his work Bibliotheca historica 
     is a world history in 40 volumes, from which only 14 have survived.
(4) Dion von Prusa (Chrysostomos), greek orator and philosopher from the 1st century AD
(5) Ptolemaios Hephaistionis (Chennos), son of the mythographer Hephaistion of
     Alexandria, Greek historian, 2nd half of 1st century AD. By Hederich cited:
     Historia nova ad varium eruditionem. His reliability is discussed.
(6) Hephaestion of Thebes, during the reign of Theodosius, wrote 3 volumes about astrology,
     1st volume with prolegomena, used by Salmasius (Saumaise)

History of Art:
Depictions of Zeus Olybrios are not recorded. We only find him on coins. So I have added
(1) a pic of the coin Anazarbos, Trajan, Ziegler 977 ff. The rev. with the head of Zeus
     Olybrios shows in the background the rocks of the sacred mountain of Zarbos and above
     the acropolis of Anazarbos with 2 buildings. The right one is possibly the temple of Zeus
(2) a pic of the triumphal arch from Anazarbos, which later served as south gate. In the
     background the Arnenian mountain fortress.

(1) Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca historica
(2) Stephanus Byzantius, Ethnica, 24.19
(3) Ptolem. Nov. Hist.
(4) Prol. Hephaest.I.II p.311
(5) Dio von Prusa

Secondary literature
(1) Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Wörterbuch (online  too]
(2) Wilhelm H. Roscher, Ausführliches Lexikon der griechischen und römischen
     Mythologie (online too)
(3) William Smith, A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology.
(4) Der Kleine Pauly
(5) Alfred Domaszewski, Zeus Olybrios, in Numismatische Zeitschrift 44 (1911), pp.9-12
(6) Benjamin Isaac, Dedications to Zeus Olybris, in: Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und
     Epigraphik 117 (1997), pp.126–128 (auch online)
(7) Vinogradov, J.G., The Goddess Ge Meter Olybris. A New Epigraphic Evidence from
     Armenia, in East and West Y. 1992, vol. 42, No. 1, pp.13-26

(1) Wikipedia

Best regards

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Anyone have change for a hemidrachm?

« Reply #382 on: August 02, 2012, 06:59:49 am »


Have you added any of this to Numiswiki?  If not, you should.

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« Reply #383 on: September 13, 2012, 08:04:44 am »

Philoctetes - the Story of a Lonely and Tortured

The Coin:

Thessaly, Lamia, in the name of the Malienses, 400-344 BC
AE 14, 2.19g, 14.34mm, 195°
obv. Head of Athena r., wearing Corinthian helmet and necklace
rev. MALIEWN (in l. field from bottom to top)
      Philoctetes, nude, with sidestep stg. r., shooting his bow; before him, a bird falling on
      the ground below; before him his quiver
ref. SNG Copenhagen 87; Rogers 384, fig. 197; SNG Evelpidis 1540; Moustaka 41;  
      Georgioiu, mint 16; BCD Thessaly II, 125; Lindgren II, 1397
 rare, F+, blackgreen patina with lighter appositions

Note: Lamia was the eastern city of the Malienses in the Phthiotis in Thessaly. The city was situated at the foot of the mountains at the northern end of the plain which is traversed by the river Sperchios (Wikipedia). Today it is Zeitun or Zeituni. Strangely the Kleiner Pauly writes Lamis which I didn't found anywhere elese. Maybe a typo? The eponym of Lamia was Lamos or Lamios, the son of Herakles and Omphale, probably the attempt to trace back the two princely houses to Herakles.

As usual there are several different mythologies for Philoctetes too which even sometimes are contradictory. I will point to them at various places.

His name litterally means something like "someone who loves property". Probably this should express that he was the owner of large herds of cattle.

Philoctetes was the son of king Poias of Meliboia in Thessaly, son of Thaumakos, and his wife Demonassa (Hygin. Fab. 102). It is reported that he was one of the Argonauts when they  were sailing to Kolchis on search for the Golden Fleece. Later on he became one of the closest compagnions of Herakles and was his armour-bearer.
Philoktetes and the Apotheosis (Ascension to Heaven) of Herakles
When once Deianeira, wife of Herakles, was jealous he gave Herakles the shirt of the Kentaur Nessos, in the belief that it contains a spell of love and thus Herakles' love to her would wake up again. But the shirt was soaked with the poisonous blood of the Kentaur. When Herakles put on the shirt he was tortured by endless pain and the toxic shirt burnt into his skin. Because nothing was able to help him, he decided to die. He let bring himself on top of the mountain Oita where Hyllos, his favourite, piled up a big pyre. But there was nobody to set fire to the heap. Finely Philoctetes (others say Poias, his father, or Iolaos, compagnion of Herakles) brought himself to undertake this last friendly turn. Gratefully Herakles handed over to him his bow and the poisoned arrows which were dipped into the blood of the Hydra. Philoctetes had to swear the solemn oath never to reveal the place of his death to nobody (Diodor. Sic.). Then under lightning and thunder Herakles was translated to the Olympos(Apollor. Bibliotheka II, 128-167). There is a beautiful picture on an Attic amphora where Herakles, now young again, enters the chariot of Athena, to be driven to heaven.

It is told too, that Philoctes travelled to Sparta where he courted Helena. At this time he must have been somewhat older. When Helena decided to marry Menelaos, king of Mycenae, all other freer had taken a solemn oath to guard Helena forever. This was done on the advice of Odysseus to prevent the freer from struggle. This oath was the reason that Menalos asked Philoctetes to sail to Troy with the Achaean when Helena has run off with Paris  

Philoktetes on Lemnos:
When the Achaeans sailed against Troy Philoctetes led the warriors of Magnesia in Thessaly on seven ships to Troy (Ilias III, 71). Actually Lamia didn't belong to the 4 cities which were mentioned by Homer, but it was close nearby. When they stopped on the way to Troy at the Island of Chryse (referring to others at the Island of Tenedos) to sacrifice at the altar of Apollo Smintheus, which was said to be erected by Iason, leader of the Argonauts, Philoctetes has been bitten on the foot by a snake. The wound wouldn't heal, began to fester  and stunk terribly. Moreover his cries of pain were so loud that they were disturbing the Greeks when they want to sacrifice or to pray. Odysseus began to fear for the fighting morale of the Greeks and persuaded them to abandon Philoctetes on the island of Lemnos. His warriors were committed to Medon.

Why Philoctetes has been bitten? There are different explanations:
(1) The snake was sent by Hera who want to punish him because he has helped her deadly
     enemy Herakles on the pyre.
(2) He has been punished because he has broken the solemn oath never to reveal the
     location of Herakles' death. One version reports that he has done that without speaking
     but only by a movement of his foot. Therefore he has been bitten on his foot.

On Lemnos he lived for 10 years in lonelyness and misery, like Robinson Crusoe but without a Friday. He retired to a cave and lived on birds which he shooted down with his arrows. This too is the theme depicted on the reverse of my coin.

Referring to others he was not alone but was alimented by Phimachos, a herdsman of king Aktor. (Hygin. Fab.). In any case all are agreed that he led a miserable life on Lemnos. And one should not forget, that all the years he was horribly tortured by the incurable wound on his foot! Understandably enough he developed a big grudge against the Greeks, yes, he hated  and cursed them.

In the meantime the Greeks have besieged Troy for 10 years without being able to conquer it. After the death of the Great Ajas and after Paris has killed Achilles the Greeks were discouraged and the opinion grew to abandon the siege. But then they succeeded in capturing Helenos, a son of king Priamos and brother of Kassandra. Helenos like his sister was gifted with visionary abilities too and after some torture by the Greeks he betrayed that the Greeks could capture Troy only if they would perform 3 requirements:
(1) Neoptolemos, the son of Achilles, has to come to Troy
(2) In the possession of Troy was the Palladion, a wooden statue of Athena. Owning this
     statue Troy was unvincible.
(3) Troy could be conquered only with the bow and arrows of Philoctetes.

To bring Neoptolemos to Troy was easy. To steal the Palladion Odysseus and Diomedes slunk to Troy one night and brought it into the Greek camp. To get Philoctetes and his bow was considerable more difficult. Agamemnon sent Odysseus and Diomedes (or Neoptolemos, so Sophokles) to Lemnos to persuade Philoctetes to come to Troy. Here too we have several differnt versions which differ by the behaviour of Philoctetes:
(1) They succeeded in persuading Philoctetes to forget his grudge against the Greek and to  
     help his brothers in this situation of heavy distress. This question of conscience is the  
     main theme of the great ancient tragedies.
(2) Odysseus and Diomedes stole bow and arrows when Philoctetes was sleeping in his
In any case finely we find him in front of Troy and he was cured by the Greek physician Machaos (or his brother Podaleirios, both sons of Asklepios). Then in a duel he killed Paris with his arrows, and revenged the death of Achilles. The end is well known: Troy was taken.

The further fate of Philoctetes:
It is told that Philoctetes after his return from Troy was expelled from his hometown Meliboia by insurgents and went to Italy where he founded the city of Petilia in Calabria and the city of Krimissa near Kroton. He there established the Bruttii. The bow of Heracles he devoted to Apollo and hung it up in the temple of Apollo in Krimissa. It is said that he died in a regional war against the Pelleni  and was interred at the river Sybaris. There he should have been worshipped as a god (Vergil).

The myth of Philoctetes seems to be Pre-Homeric. He is mentioned by Homer only briefly in his Iliad in the Catalogue of Ships (Hom. Il. 2, 494-759), and in his Odyssee (3, 190) it is reported that he returned home.

The great Greek tragedians took up the theme. Aischylos, Euripides and Sophokles have written tragedies. The story is told too by Vergil, Pindar, Seneca, Quintilian and Ovid. Sadly the works of Aischylos and Euripides are lost. But Dion of Prusa (orat. 52) has compiled the content of these works and compared with Sophokles which we have completely. So at least we know their intentions. More in the excursion about Sophokles' Philoktetes which will be the next article,

Hederich is holding the bad fate of Philoctetes for a just punishment because he has broken the solemn oath which he had sworn to Herakles. An oath has to be kept even to the dead.

Referring to F. Marx (1904) Philoktetes was at home on Lemnos, and because his fate has similarities with that of Hephaistos - both were expelled and then incorporated into the community again - he suggested that he is a hypostasis of Hephaistos who too is originated from Lemnos.

L. Rademacher sees the bite of the snake and the abandonment as a punishment for invading at the Nymph Chryse and suggests in connection with the name Φιλο - κτητης an old treasure seeker myth.

It is remarkanble that in the present the ancient Philoctetes subject is used for the overcoming of the posttraumatic syndrom of American soldiers, e.g. of returnees from the Iraq or from Afghanistan. Look at Bryan Doerries The Philoctetes Project (New York 2005 und 2008).

History of Art:
Known is an epigram of Glaukos of Nikopolis who celebrates the pic of the Greek painter Parrhasios (about 400 BC) showing Philoctetes. The pic is lost but a silver cup from the Augustan time (now in Copenhagen) seems to be an echo. It shows Philoctetes seated on a rock, the wounded foot extended, and looking at Odysseus who is seated in front of him.
We know an Attic Vase in the Louvre and one in the Metropolitan Museum in New York:
(1) Detail of an Attic red-figured stamnos of Hermonax (c.460 BC), today in the  
     Louvre/Paris: The wounded Philoktetes abandoned by the Greeks
     Note: A stamnos was a big-bellied vase similar to an amphora, A short neck and 2
     horizontal handles. It served for the storage of wine and oil. Created probably in Lakonia
     or Etruria. Typical with lid. Known too as Pelike
(2) Attic red.figured squat Lekythos, c.420 BC, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York:
     Philoktetes at Lemnos
     Note: A lekythos was an ancient Greek vase for the storage of e.g. olove oil. The squat
     lekythos usually has a height not over 20cm, has a domed belly and a plane base.

The motive of Herakles' Apotheosis naturally was suitabele for depictions on graves. In the museum of Carnuntum (Lower Austria) we find a grave relief from the 2nd century AD:  The dying Herakles on the pyre presents his bow to his friend Philoktetes. At his right side Athena is waiting to lead him to heaven (Wikipedia).

In the modern era the theme was taken up again. A short selection:
(1) Painting of J. Barry (1770; Bologna, PN)
(2) Nikolaj Abraham Abildgaard (1743-1809), Philoctetes, 1775, Statens Museum for
     Kunst, Copenhagen: Philoctetes with tortured face kneeling r., holding his hurting foot.
(3) Germain-Jean Drouais (1763-1788), Philoctète dans l'île de Lemnos, 1788, Oil on
     canvas, Chartres, Musée des Beaux-Arts: Philoctetes with face distorted with pain seating
     in his cave, fanning with a big wing cooling to his hurting foot.
(4) Guillaume Guillon-Lethiere (1760-1832), Philoctetes on the Island of Lemnos
     (1798, Louvre/Paris): Philoctetes with bow and quiver over back with tortured face
     climbing on rock chasing birds. This picture I have chosen because it shows the same
     motive as on my coin
(5) P.-P. Proudhon (1807; Ponce, Mus.)
(6) und finally a plaster sculpture of A. v. Hildebrands (1886; Florenz, S. Francesco)

I have added:
(1) the detail from the stamnos from the Louvre
(2) a pic of the lekythos from the Metropolitan Museum of Art
(3) a pic of the grave relief from Carnuntum,
(4) a pic of the painting of  Guillaume Guillon-Lethiere

(1) Homer, Ilias 2, 716-725
(2) Homer, Odyssee 3, 190; 8, 219
(3) Hyginus, Fabulae
(4) Apollodor, Bibliotheke, Epitome 3, 14-27, 5, 8, 6, 15b
(5) Sophokles, Philoktetes, 1999 Insel
     (translated by Wolfgang Schadewaldt)
(6) Ovid, Metamorphosen, 13, 46-55

Secondary literature:
(1) Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon, 1770 (online too)
(2) Wilhelm Heinrich Roscher, Ausführliches Lexikon der griechischen und römischen
     Mythologie, Teubner 1897-1902 (online too)
(3) Der Kleine Pauly
(4) Karl Kerenyi, Mythology of the Greek Vol. II
(5) Robert von Ranke-Graves, Greek Mythology
(6) Aghion/Barbillon/Lissarrague, Lexikon der antiken Götter und Heroen in de Kunst,  
     Reclam 2000

Best regards

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« Reply #384 on: October 28, 2012, 11:25:39 am »

Midas (and Mida)

The coin

Pisidia, Kremna, Caracalla, AD 198-217
AE 19, 4.97g, 18.72mm, 0°
obv. IM - P C M AV - R ANT PF AV
       Bust, draped and cuirassed, laureate, r.
rev. COL.CREM. - MID.DEAE (from upper right)
      Goddess Mida in the kind of Kybele enthroned l., holding patera in extended r. hand
ref. Lindgren&Kovacs 1292 (this coin); obv. from same die as asiaminorcoins #4590
VF, dark green patina
expansion of the legend: COLONIA CREMNENSIVM MIDAE DEAE
Note: This type is known for Marcus Aurelius and Geta too.

The earliest mention of Midas dates back to Herodot and is a myth from northern Greece. Here in Macedonia below the mountain of Bermios Silen has been captured, at the Inna fountain, and here grew the famous sixty-leaf wild roses which were famed in the entire ancient world for their incomparable fragrance.

But already Herodot has confused this local Macedonian myth with the Phrygean kings by calling Midas the son of Gordios and Kybele. So the capture of Silen was later relocated to Asia Minor. But originally it is a Macedonian tradition, which took place at the tribe of the Brigean, a name which sounds like Phrygians in Asia minor. And there is a not so well known king Midas in northern Greece, who is said to be slain by Karanos when he conquered Edessa (Justin. 7, 1).

In any case all these mythologies are later relocated to Asia Minor. King Midas has captured Silen probably to get his wisdom. This should have happened among others near Ankyra. About that theme I have written an en detail article about Silen and Dionysos in this thread which I highly recommend. The best-known story is told by Ovid in his Metamorphoses: When Silen has stayed 6 days and nights at king Midas he brought him back to his father Dionysos. Dionysos was highly pleased and promised him to grant a wish. In his blindness Midas wished that all that he touched became gold. When he wanted to eat he recognized his mistake. Tortured by hunger and thurst  he invoked Dionysos for help. The god had mercy on him and told him to take a bath in the Paktolos river. So Midas was saved. The Paktolos however became the most gold-rich river in Asia Minor.

This myth is an allusion to the legendary wealth of Midas. Already in the manger a miracle has happened: Ants - known in ancient times for their miracles - have put grains of wheat in his mouth. This was seen as prophecy for his later wealth (so e.g. Cicero, De divin. 1, 36).

There is another myth too which makes Midas look miserably. Weary of his treasures Midas fled into the woods to serve only Pan. In doing so he came to the Tmolos mountain at the moment where Pan and Apollo were holding a singing contest and the mountain god was the arbitrator. When he proclaimed Apollo as winner Midas contradicted emphatically. Enraged Apollo gave him ass's ears to indicate his foolishness. Since then king Midas used a Tiara to hide them. Only his hair cutter knew his disformity but was condemned to silence. But because he couldn't keep this secret he dug a pit, shouted "king Midas has ass's ears!", and closed the pit. But nearby reed has realized all and moved by the wind the secret of the king has been whispered all over the world.

We have to ask why king Midas became such a ridiculous figure. That could not be originally because Midas was the name of several Phrygian kings. Take a look for the article about Gordios, founder of Gordion, in this thread. Roscher gives as explanation that the long ears were a congenital deformity of the Phrygian kings. Something similar we know from the Merowingian kings with their Ichthyosis. In that way the myth is to see aitiologically. More archaically would be the version in Myth. Vat. 3, 10, 7, where Midas not accidentally came along at the song contest, but has been raised to arbitrator which better corresponds to his rank as king. The entire myth is reminiscent of the tragedy of Marsyas and seems to be Alexandrinian. It is said that Midas has introduced playing flutes at funerals, indeed should have invented the cross flute. He is said to have died by committing suicide by drinking the blood of a bull, when the Kimmerians invaded his kingdom.

Let us bring together what we knew of Midas: The ass's ears are relicts of a theriomorphic formation, similar to the pointed ears of the Silens. Relevant is his life in woods and meadows. Relations to fountains are known too. Xenophon (Anab. 1, 2, 13) mentions a Midas well, also Pausanias and Plutarch, and the bath in the Paktolos river would match that exactly. So we have to see Midas as benedictory nature deity (Roscher). He was the owner of the lush rose gardens of Edessa and he lived at the Inna fountain. The myth of the whispering reed is only a fairytail-like embellishment.

It is said that Midas had have a son named Lityerses. He asked guests for mowing contests and then have whipped the losers, until he was defeated by a stronger opponent, probably Herakles. This was the theme of Euripides' "Theristai (The Reapers)", a lost satyr drama. A similar play is known by Sositheos from Alexandreia Troas. In this play he cut off the head of the loser and threw him in a sheaf in the river Maiandros. This myth seems to have originated from the song of reapers sung at work.

Another son of Midas should have been Anchouros. Once when Phrygia was ravaged by an awful flood an oracle declared that the flood would stop not earlier until the most precious has been thrown into the crevice which has opened near Kelainai (the later Apameia). When all gold and silver has shown up as useless, Anchouros himself jumped into the gorge and the flood stopped (Plutarch).

Midas is an ancient deity of the Brigeans in northern Greece just like of the Phrygians in Asia Minor. He is the origin of the name of a Macedonian ruling dynasty and of the names of Phrygian kings. The Brigeans (= Phrygians) will have brought along their Midas when they came to northern Greece. There they became acquaintance with the Macedonian Silens and Satyrs and assimilated Midas with them. This old and more original Midas then faded away at the Greeks (Roscher) and made place for the Phrygian kings which were famous at the Greeks too. Midas was known by the Assyrians as "Mita of Mushki".

Relicts of the old northern Greek names can be realized in the names of 2 heroines: Midea, a Boeotian and an Argivian, both eponyms of 2 cities called Medeia. But that was not mentioned by the Greeks (Roscher).  

And now to my coin:
The rev. is MID.DEAE, MIDAE DEAE, dedicated to goddess Mida! The explanation we find in the so-called Tomb of Midas in Midas Sehri, the City of Midas. Midas Sehri was beside the capital Gordion the most important city in Phrygia. In Sehri the English explorer William Martin Leake has found the monumental rock facade in AD 1800 and because of its Phrygian inscriptions referred to as Tomb of Midas. Ramsay started his exploration in 1881. This facade is the 16m high and 16.40m wide front of a building with a cult niche in the centre on the ground. In this niche once the statue of Kybele was standing. A acroterion of concentric circles decorates the flat pediment. The facade is decorated with a geometrical ornament, and the frame of the facade with a continuous decor of 4 deepened rhombuses which surround a quadrat. The door in the rock has a double frame. On the facade are inscriptions and graffiti (

Such facades are a Phrygian speciality and can be found frequently in the vicinity. A further Tomb of Midas, a tumulus, was unearthed in Gordion. It was ascribed to Gordios, father of the historic king Midas.

However there was no room found in Midas Sehri which could serve as sepulchre. So it is rather a cult site of Kybele. And the inscription does not name Midas but Mida, an epistasis of Kybele!

Mida, more exactly Mιδα θεος, was an oath deity of the people wich was governed by king Midas, taken by some for his mother. Plutarch calls her in correct Phrygian  Mιδα μητερ, and equated her as "Mother of Midas" with one of the "Mothers of Dionysos", namely Gynaikeia, Arretos and the Roman Bona Dea. He reports that in her cult the women carry on with other women like in the Orphic Mysteries. Referring to Hygin. (Fab.191) Midas has the dea mater as mother,  according to Fab. 274 the  Phrygian Kybele. Naturally is meant always the old mythological figure which is flowed together with the historic king only in error.

So this mother goddess of the ass-eared, theriomorphic mountain and silvan god is
none other as the great mountain goddess ο-Ρειη, Ιδαιη (from ιδη = wooded mountains), and the female practices, as suggested by Plutarch's mention on occasion of the infamous scandal at the festival of Bona Dea, were obcene.

A. Dieterich, 1894, wants to equate Mida as nominative with Mise and Misme, but concerning the linguistic relations of these names besides the possibility of original equality leaves open rightly the alternative that this Mιδα θεος (Mida now as genitive) actually is only the mother goddess of the Midas cult. And really, this being counts in the text from which Hesychios got his Lemma, as "Goddess of Midas" (Roscher).

History of Art:
I have attached
(1) a pic of the Midas Facade in Midas Sehri
(2) a pic of the Phrygian inscription on this facade (for those who have sufficient
      control of the Phrygian language)
(3) a pic of the Kybele statue of Agoracritus, a scholar of Phidias, which by the
     proliferation of the Kybele cult became the widest spread depiction of Kybele. The
     statue shows Kybele humanized but still enthroned, one hand on a accompanying
     lion the other holding the tympanon. This statue is by the style Hellenistic, but its  
     origin is Latium, mid of the 3rd century AD, today in the Museo Archeologico
     Nazionale in Naples.
(4) a pic of the painting "Midas and Bacchus",  about AD 1624, from Nicolas Poussin
      (1594-1665), today in the Pinakothek in Munich. We see the Phrygian king Midas,
      who leads Silen back to Bacchus and will be rewarded.

(1) Herodot, Histories
(2) Xenophon, Anabasis
(3) Plutarch, Parallel lifes
(4) Ovid, Metamorphoses
(5) Cicero, De natura deorum
(6) Hesychios of Alexandria (Grammarian), Alexandrini Lexicon (online too)

Secondary literature
(1) Der Kleine Pauly
(2) Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon (online too)
(3) Wilhelm Heinrich Roscher, Ausführliches Lexikon der griechischen und römischen
(4) Gemoll, Griechisch-Deutsches Schul- und Handwörterbuch
(5) Dietrich Berndt, Midasstadt, von Zabern 2002

online sources

Best regards

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« Reply #385 on: October 28, 2012, 11:28:22 am »

Athena Itonia

The coin
Greece, Thessalian League, 196 - 27 BC
AR - Stater, 5.79g, 24.83mm, 0°
       struck under the magistrates (strategoi) Polyxenos and Eukolos, c.44 - 40 BC
obv. Head of Zeus of Dodona wreathed with oak leaves, r.
rev. l. ΘΕΣΣΑ (from bottom), r. ΛΩΝ (from top)
      Athena Itonia stg. r., helmeted, in long girded double chiton and palla, aegis on breast,
      holding with l. hand shield horizontally upwards and in raised r. hand spear ready for  
      above the spear [Π]ΟΛV - ΞΕΝ[ΟV]
      in ex. ΕVΚΟΛΟ[Σ]
      without mintmark
ref. SNG Copenhagen 291; BMC Thessaly p. 2, 21; BCD 878.1
about VF, slightly toned
Note: It is remarkable that the name of Polyxenos stands in genitive case, but the name of Eukolos in nominative case. It is suggested that Polyxenos was the strategos, the higher magistrate, whereas Eukolos, may be a tamias, was responsible for the coinage. But that is not undisputed (Nicholas V. Sekunda).

Thessaly is situated in the north of Greece and built by a fertil plain, which is enclosed by mountains which are crossed by very few passes. It is drained by the Peneios river and its tributaries. It was famous for its abundances of horses and its cavalry which took part in Alexander's campaign against the Persians. Among the Romans Thessaly was infamous for its wizards and witches (take a look at Apuleius and his "Golden Ass", or Goethe "Faust II")

The new Thessalian League, which has issued our coin, was founded in 196 BC when the Romans has defeated Philipp V of Makedonia in the 2nd Makedonian War and Thessaly became "free". Metropolis and seat of the synhedrion (council) was Larissa in the Pelasgiotis. The other tetrarchies were Hestiaiotis, Thessaliotis and Phthiotis. At the head of the League stands an archon. The Thessalian League has existed until 146 BC, when Thessaly became a part of the Roman province Macedonia. But there is no evidence, that the League was liquidated by the Romans. Hoard findings prove, that the Thessalian League has issued coins hereafter until the 1st century BC, probably until c.30 BC (Klose).

Athena Itonia was (besides  Zeus Eleutherios) the main deity of the Thessalians and appears often on their coins. She was worshipped in several sanctuaries. The most important temple was located in Iton in the Phthiotis. It is reported that king Pyrrhos after his victory over Antigonos and his Gallic mercenaries here has hung up the shields of the killed Gauls and has dedicared them to Athena Itonia. Here festivals were celebrated in her name, called "Itonia", and regarding to Catull it was called incola Itoni. The Itonia actually were Panthessalian games and were celebrated in all Thessalian cities in the month called Itonia by the Thessalians.

The sacral importance of this sanctuary turns out by this example too: When at war in Thessaly once the Boiotians were put to flight by the Spartans and some of them fled into the temple of Itonia. Agesilaos, king of the Spartans, badly wounded himself, thereupon spared the suppliants (Pausan. 3, 9, 13).

At the war of the Phokians against the Thessalians the parole given by the Thessalian military leaders was "Athena Itonia" (Pausan. 10, 1, 10).

Unfortunately we don't know the exact location of this temple. Iton, situated between Pherai and Larissa, is regarded as age-old and was mentioned already by Homer (Il. 2. 696). In this way Athena Itonia would be Athena of Iton.

From Thessaly her cult spread out to Boiotia where she was the main war goddess, but according to Bakchylides the goddess of art and poetry too. She was worshipped in the sanctuary of the Boiotian League in Koroneia. Here the Pamboiotia were celebrated, the pan-Boiotian games. This temple is not excavated until today - except for a trial dig. It was erected by Itonos, the eponym (name giver) of Iton. It is said that Athena has got her epithet from this Itonos (Schol. Apollon. ad I.I.v.551). Her cult appears too in Akesine, Amorgos and in Athens.

The cult of Athena Itonia is connected in some mystical manner with the god of the lower world. Strabo calls him Hades, which by few is supposed to be a misreading for Ares. But because Pausanias calls him Zeus the reading as Hades seems to be correct. Hades to confuse with Zeus is possible, but not with Ares. At least the cult of Athena Itonia had a primitive character. But because she was a goddess, who fostered the growths of the earth, she had some affinity to the Chthonic deities (Lewis Richard Farnell 1896). At Homer (Ilias, 5, 845) Athena puts on the cap of Hades when she was in fight with Ares, probably a cap made from dog fur, and the poet calls her Alalkomenes. The age-old Alalkomenic sanctuary was close to the Itonic. In Athens her statue remarkably does not stand together with Zeus, Hera and Apollo, but next to Hades and Poseidon. In this context the consideration of Furtwängler (Meisterwerke, p. 114) is of interest. See below under "History of Art".

Usually Zeus is seen as father of Athena. But there is another mythology too where her father is Itonos, a mythical first king of Thessaly in Iton. He was the son of Amphiktyon and begot with Melanippe, a nymph, Boiotos, who gave the Boiotians their name. He had also two daughters, Athena and Iodama. Iodama got by Zeus Thebe, who later married Ogygios by which Thebens is called Ogygia. When Iodama once was at a weapon game with her sister Athena they came into conflict with each other out of jealousy, and Athena killed her sister.

According to a Boiotian myth Iodama was a priestress of Athena in the temple of Koroneia. Once when she entered the temple at night, the goddess appeared to her in person with the gorgoneion on her breast. Immediately she was turned to stone. Since that time she had an altar in this temple and a fire has to be made everyday and a woman is crying threetimes in Boiotian language: "Iodama lives and demands fire!" (Pausan. 9.34.1)

Historically Iodama originally was the local deity of Koroneia who then was replaced by Athena (Kleiner Pauly).

The myth of Iodama has many parallels with the myth of Pallas. Pallas was the daughter of Triton. Her death was caused indirectly by Athena when both practized weapon games together. At Apollodoros Pallas is a kind of stepsister of Athena. Both have been raised by Triton, father of Pallas. After her - unintended - death Athena took in honor of her the epithet Pallas. This close sisterly relation between a goddess and a mortal is exceptional. There is nothing similar found between gods and heroes nor for any other goddess (Kerenyi).

This duality is typical for Athena. Often it consists only in the number of two maidenservants of the goddess. 2 maidens were sent from Lokris to Troy as atonement for the crime which Aias had committed against the Palladium.The Trojan men, meanwhile, waited and lay in ambush, and spying the maidens killed them, burned their corpses on the wood of barren trees - a feature which characterizes the dealing with sacrifices to Deities (presumably the Goddess) of the underworld (Kerenyi)

If the Lokrian maiden would have reached the temple of Athena they would have become her priestresses. They had to keep the temple cleaned up, went about barefooted and were allowed to do this only at night. Moreover, they were allowed neither to step in front of the Goddess nor to leave the temple. The sacrifice of at least one virgin is credible. In Laodikeia in Syria, Athena is originally supposed to have received the sacrifice of one virgin each year, later one doe.

This example shows the importance of human sacrifices for Pallas Athena, at least in archaic times. Probably they belonged to initiation rites, when young boys - and maidens, too, as brides - were taken into patriarchal organizations. The victims were chosen as representatives of a group of young people. The shaving of the hair has a similar meaning. Two representatives sacrificed their lifes, all the other only their hair. It could be that the hair sacrifice was the transition of the barbaric-archaic human sacrifices to more civilized rites.

One of the methods of slaying transmitted to us is turning the victim into stone. Athena Itonia, who turned the eternally living, fire-desiring Iodama into stone, is the Goddess of Alalcomena, the neighboring town to Koroneia, and as Alalcomenai she is a Pallas figure.

The wish of Iodama to have fire - asked in the name of Athena - shows also the difference between this Goddess and Hestia: The fire does not glow eternally on the altar of Iodama but must be rekindled daily, just as is naturally the case with a coal pan, an eschara. The sanctuary lay on the river Koralios or Kuralios, presumably so named because the Goddess received the hair offerings of boys and girls there; for this characteristic she bore the epithet Koria or Koresia (Kerenyi)

Iodama (and in another context Aglauros), the sacrified, slain, annihilated - but nevertheless living - represents the one aspect of the Goddess that stands over against the other aspect: Pallas Athena. Both poles in their opposition belong inseparably together. "It is not merely that a martial and a maternal existence are bound together and opposed to each other, but a defensive virginity, keeping at bay hostile aggression by the menace of death, and a virginity that falls victim to attack and death, whereby conception and motherhood come into being." (Kerenyi)

History of Art:
The cult statue of Athena Itonia (and of Zeus Eleutherios too) in Koroneia, a bronze statue, was created by Agorakritos (Pausan. IX 34, 1). Agorakritos, sculptor from Paros, was a scholar of Phidias. His main work is seen in the statue of Nemesis in Rhamnos, which was held in antiquity a long time for the work of Phidias  himself.
Furtwängler (Meisterwerke p. 113 ff.) wants to have recognize a copy of Athena Itonia of this artist in the statue of Pallas Albani with the fur cap. But this is not generally accepted. So until today no statues or other depictions of Athena Itona are found. We are dependent on the depictions of the coins.

I have added
(1) a pic of the restaurated statue of Athena with the fur cap from the Villa Albani in Rome
     (Pallas Albani). This statue is seen by few as copy of the Athena Itonia of Agorakritos
(2) a pic of the Thessalian plain (Wikipedia)

(1) Homer, Ilias
(2) Pausanias, Voyages
(3) Stephanos Byzantios
(4) Scholiast ad Apoll. Rhod.
(5) Scholiast ad Lykophr.
(6) Strabo, Geographica
(7) Catull, Epithalamion

Secondary literature:
(1) Wilhelm Heinrich Roscher, Ausführliches Lexikon der griechischen und römischen
     Mythologie, 1884 (online too)
(2) Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches Mythologisches Wörterbuch, 1770 (online too)
(3) William Smith, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology,
     1870 (online too)
(4) Adolf Furtwängler, Meisterwerke der griechischen Plastik: Kunstgeschichtliche
     Untersuchungen, Leipzig 1893 (online at
(5) Lewis Richard Farnell, The Cults of the Greek States, Oxford 1896 (online at
(6) Der Kleine Pauly, 1979
(7) Karl Kerenyi,  Die Mythologie der Griechen I, dtv 1966
(8) Karl Kerenyi, Die Jungfrau und Mutter der griechischen Religion, eine Studie über Pallas
     Athene, Rhein Verlag 1952
(9) Denver Graninger: Cult and Koinon in Hellenistic Thessaly, Leiden/Boston/Tokyo: Brill
     Academic Publishers 2011
(10) Dietrich O. A. Klose, “Zur Chronologie der thessalischen Koinonprägungen im 2. und 1.
      Jh. v.Chr.: Ein weiterer Schatzfund aus Südthessalien,” in Ulrike Peter, Stephanos
      nomismatikos: Edith Schönert-Geiss zum 65. Geburtstag, Berlin 1998
(11) Nicholas V.Sekunda, The Kylloi and Eubiotoi of Hypata during the Imperial Period, in:
       Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 118 (1997) 207-226 (online)

Online sources:
(2) (Article of the RE)

Best regards

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« Reply #386 on: December 17, 2012, 03:00:53 pm »

I miss my friend Cleisthenes. Anyone who does know about him?


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« Reply #387 on: December 29, 2012, 01:26:50 pm »

Herakles and Kerberos

In imperial times Herakleia Pontika has issued several coins showing the works of Herakles. Among them this ex. with a remarkable beautiful rev.

The Coin:
Bithynia, Herakleia Pontika, Septimius Severus, AD 193-211
AE 30, 17.23g, 30.09mm, 195°
obv. .AV - T. - K.L.CEP. - CEVHROC P
        Bust, draped and cuirassed, seen from behind, laureate, r.
       Herakles, nude, holding lion's skin and his club over l. arm, stg. with sidestep r., head l.,
       holding with r. hand three-headed Kerberos at rope who is std. at his feet r. looking up to
ref. SNG von Aulock 378 (obv. same die, rev. different type; for rev. look at Makrinos #379);
      not in SNG Copenhagen, Tübingen, SNG Lewis, Rec. Gen.
extremely rare, about VF, some roughness on obv.
ex lanznumismatik, E-Bay, 2008(?)
ex coll.  Andreas Kohn

Herakleia Pontika, the recent Eregli/Turkey, was found in 6th century BC by Greeks from Megara and Tanagra. The city developed to an important trading and cultural center at the
southern Black Sea coast. It was said that in its neighbourhood one of the entrances to the Hades could be found, the very entrance which Herakles has used to capture the three-headed Kerberos.

According to the usual canon the story of the capture of Kerberos was the 12th one, the last and the most difficult labour of Herakles. It seems that Erystheus by this challenge has tried to get rid of Herakles for ever.

To prepare for this work Herakles went to Eleusis where he wants to be initiated into the Eleisinian Mysteries. This was possible only for Athenians. So Herakles was adopted by a certain Pylios to become an Athenian. Herakles was inaugurated by Musaios, son of Orpheus, after purification from the killing of some Kentaurs. But Eumolpios denied his initiation into the greater Eleusinian Mysteries. Instead he founded the Lesser Eleusinian Mysteries so that Herakles could be initiated.

So prepared and purificated Herakles climbed down to the Underworld at the Spartan Tainaron. He was led by Athena and Hermes. Charon, frightened by his gloomy glance, brought him over the river Styx. As punishment for that Charon was laid by Hades in chains for one year. When Herakles entered the other riverside all souls fled, except Medusa and Meleager. When Herakles saw Medusa he brandished his sword but Hermes stopped him and teached him that all souls of the deceased are only empty images and couldn't be wounded. But with Meleager's soul the hero talked friendly and received greetings for his beloved sister Deianeira. Herakles offered to marry her.

Near the gates of Hades he beheld his friends Theseus and Peirithoos. Both were fixed to gruesome benches. Herakles succeeded in tearing off Theseus, but Pereithoos he has to leave behind because the ground below his feet began to shake.

Next he met Askalaphos who once has revealed that Persephone has eaten from the pomegranates, the reason because she couldn't leave the Hades (see the article about the abduction of Persephone in this thread!). Herakles shifted from his chest the stone which was put there by Demeter in despair about the loss of her daughter. Then Herakles fell into the herds of Pluto and slaughtered one of his cattle to calm down the souls with the gift of warm blood. But the herdsman Menoitos didn't allow that and challenged Herakles for a wrestling match. Herakles clutched around his body and broke some of his ribs. In this moment Persephone came out of her palace, welcomed Herakles like a friend and asked him to spare Menoitos' life.

When Herakles demanded from Hades Kerberos, Hades answered, that he could take Kerberos if he overcome him without his weapons. So Herakles only with his lion's skin went to capture the  beast. He found him chained to the gates of the river Acheron and grasped his throat. Kerberos tried to hit him with his snake tail, but Herakles was defended by his lion's skin. When Kerberos was almost suffocated he surrendered.

With the help of Athena he crossed the river Styx again and came back to surface at Troizen. He went to Mykenai and shows the dog to Erystheus. Now the king saw that it was impossible to get rid of Herakles and dismissed him. Herakles brought the dog back to Hades.

Some additional notes:
It is reported that Herakles was allowed to descend to the Hades not before he has performed an Eleusinian purification ritual because of his killing of some Centaurs. It was Eumolpos, the founder of the Greater Eleusinian Mysteries (or Musaios, son of Orpheus), who has helped him by founding the so-called Lesser Eleusinian Mysteris. But today this initiation is suggested as an Orphic addition, and does not belong to the original mythology.
In contrast the rescue of Theseus is an integral part of Herakles' descent into hell. It is reported that Herakles succeeds in tearing off Theseus from the bench where he was magically bound. The magic was so strong that parts of his hip remains at the bench. Therefore all of his offsprings were born with small hips.

In this article I want to concentrate more on Kerberos. Sadly we have no consistent conception of Kerberos. I will come back to this matter.
(will be continued)

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« Reply #388 on: December 29, 2012, 01:29:44 pm »

(1) History:
The first time Kerberos appears is in Homer's Odyssee. There he is without a special name called only "dog of Hades". The name "Kerberos" we find first in Hesiod's Theogony. There he was already the guardian of the Underworld. His parents were Typhaon and Echidna, the snake-shaped monster, mother of many other monsters like the Lernaean Hydra, the two-headed dog Orthos of Geryon, the Chimaira or the Sphinx.

(2) Etymology:
There are found several different explanations for his name: The name should be composed of kreas = meat andboros = devourer. Wikipedia says that "Kerberos" means "daimon of the pit". But I think the great doyen Wilamowitz is right who regards the name as onomatopoetic: The name is imitating the ferocious growling of the dog.

(3) Appearance:
The most striking of his shape are the three heads. But just this feature has been established only in the course of years. At Hesiod he has had initially 50 heads, later only one! Pindar writes of 100 heads, and so does Horaz. Sometimes it is said that his fur exists of 100 snakes and he should had have a snake-tail with head which has bitten Herakles. These all are poetical inventions.The description with the 3 heads (triceps, triformis), we are familiar with, is originated from the Greek tragic poets and from Apollodor (2nd cent. BC). We recognize a strange relationship to the triform Hekate who as companions has dogs too!
The connection with snakes can be ascribed to their sepulcral-chthonic character (sepulcral = belonging to the funeral culture)

Already Roscher has stated that the number of heads, generally the entire appearance of the Kerberos, isn't originated from the old popular belief but is literary decoration. On early Corinthian depictions he mostly has one head, on Attic vases he appears mostly dicephalic (with 2 heads).

(4) Tasks:
Initially Kerberos was a companion of Hades, similar to the eagle as companion of Zeus (Aischylos Prom. 1002 calls the eagle "winged dog of Zeus"; look at the dogs of Hekate!). "Dog" in archaic times occurs too in the meaning "servant". The statue of Hades Borghese shows Kerberos peacefully clung to the legs of Hades. Actually Hades as chthonic deity should have snakes as companions. We know of old depictions of Kerberos where he is entwined by snakes which were not joined to him. The honey cake mentioned below is rather an offering for snakes. Here we see an archaic residual of the original conception. Hekataios of Milet says that at the Tanairon, an entrance to Hades, an horrible snake has dwelled which was called "Dog of Hades", because the bitten victim immediately had to die by its poison. This snake was brought to Erystheus by Herakles (Paus. III, 25.3). This story does match most likely the old popular belief. We see, that the Kerberos, as we know him, was not established in the popular belief, and that poets could arrange him in that shape which serves best their interests. The poet looks for effects even if they sometimes are not quite lucky. A tail-wagging hound of hell is a bit "tasteless" (Roscher).
Then from the companion of Hades he developed to the guardian of the underworld. It is said that he has welcomed each visitor more or less friendly, but then has left him no more off the Hades. By terrific growling, loud barking and even biting he has pushed him back. It was said too that he has ripped and devoured him! Dante has set Kerberos into the 3rd circle of the Inferno because of his voracity (Comedia Divina, Canto VI).

5. Outsmarting Kerberos:
But we have some examples where he has been outsmarted. Orpheus succeeded by his chanting when he tried to bring back his wife Eurydike. The sweetness of his singing lulled Kerberos and he fell asleep. Psyche and Aeneas succeeded by feeding him with honey cakes which Kerberos was passionated about. These actually rather an offering for chthonic snakes! Hermes succeeded by his kerykeion or by water from Lethe, the underworld river of oblivion.
In Christian-Byzantine times further visits of Hades are described:
Mazari ("flourishing" c. AD 1415) has written a satire novel: Mazari's Journey to Hades, or, Interviews with dead men about certain officials of the imperial court.
Then the "Timarion": a Pseudo-Lukian satirical dialogue, where Timarion, the protagonist of the novel, is abducted to the Hades where he met Christians who are a sect among others (author perhaps Michael Psellus, 11th cenrury AD).
I want to mention that similar dogs are found in the Indian Vedas and Upanishads too.  But there is no mythological connection to our Kerberos at all.

Doorways to Hades:
In Greek mythology we find several doorways to the underworld, which not only are mythological places but geographical localities. The best-known are
(1) at the Cape Tainaron (Matapan), the most south point of the Peloponnesos
(2) near Hermione (Ermioni) on the southern Peloponnesos
(3) near the city of Herakleia (today Eregli) at the southern coast of the Black Sea and
(4) at the Avernian Lake near the ancient Greek city of Cumae near Naples.

According to a report in the German magazine "Spiegel" no. 3/1964, p.80/81, the doorway to the underworld was found at the Avernian crater lake by the archaeologists  Dr.Paget and Jones, two NATO navy personnel. They have entered the doorway and climbed down to the river Styx, where they have photographed the river. "The most spectacular archaeological discovery of the 20th century!" The doorway consists of volcanic caves which were passed off by priests as entrance to Hades (Official bulletin No. 201 of the NATO Headquarter).

Generally Tainaron is named as place of Herakles' descent to hell. But all reports agree that Herakles has used a different way when he came back.
Reemerging from hell:
Several locations are cited for Herakles' reemerging from hell. That's probably because these cities wished to be connected to the labours of Herakles which was seen as special honour (von Ranke-Graves).
(1) Often Troizen is mentioned, at the sanctuary of Artemis Soteira (Pausanias, Apollodor)
(2) then the chthonic area of Hermione where the way to Hades is said to be so short that
     there was no need to give Charon a coin for the passage. This place was seen by the
     great Wilamowitz as the most original!
(3) According to a Boiotian myth the area of the Laphystian Zeus on the mountain
     Laphystios. Here in ancient times was located the statue of Herakles Charops, of
     "Herakles with the glossy eyes" (Pausanias, Ovid)
(4) the Thesprotian Hades region at the river Acheron (most probably euhemeristic).
(5) then Tainaron again.
(6) Especially remarkable is the localization of the reemerging place to Herakleia Pontika
     (today Eregli). Here at the Acherusian Cape (today Cape Baba) an arm of the underworld
     river Acheron is said to come to the surface. Hence the linguistic relation to the Acheron
     and the Acherousian Lake of the Epirotic Thesprotis, which in ancient times was regarded
     as River of the Dead. In a gorge a cave was located leading deep into the inner of the
     earth, called by the inhabitants "Grotto of Hades" and identified as the place where
     Herakles has come back from the underworld with Kerberos. According to Apollonios of
     Rhodos (Argonautika II, 726-749) this place was visited by the Argonaus. Xenophon too
     has visited it 355 BC on his way back to Greece.and was shown the site on the
     Acherousian peninsula where Herakles has entered the Hades. The Acherousian Caves
     were shown still today. They are signposted as "Cehennemagzi Magaralari" and a touristic
     attraction. Here the Byzantine Christians have held Eucharistic celebrations and today
     sometimes concerts take place.

About the selection of Herakleia Pontika as exit from the Hades there is an aitiological myth:
When Kerberos was fetched from the underworld he has sprayed snorting with rage his slobber, and where it dropped down to the ground helmet flower was sprouting, Akoniton (Lat. Aconitum), which appears in large numbers around Herakleia Pontika (Strab. XII 3, 7; Plin. nat. XXVI, 4). The botanical name cames from the cave of Akonai near Mariandyne at the Black Sea coast, or the mountain of Akonitos. Ovid in his Metamorphoses confirms this report, but relocates the work of Herakles to the northern coast of the Black Sea by narrating that Medea has brought Aconitum ab oris Scythicis (Ov. met. VII 406-413).  Aconitum is the most poisonous plant in Europe. It contains Aconitin, an alkaloid and one of the strongest plant toxins at all, stronger than strychnine. Already 3-6mg can kill an adult man. It was used by Thessalian witches as flying ointment. Because it makes hands and feet unfeeling they had the impression of flying. The plant was called Hekateis too because it should have been Hekate who has used it first (Ranke-Graves).

When Erystheus beheld Kerberos brought to the upperworld he fled in a pithos (a kind of a big barrel) as he did before when he saw the Erymanthian boar. It is told that Herakles has brought back the dog to the Hades. According to a myth in the  Oxyrhynchus Papyri the dog has escaped at a fountain near Mykenai, which since then is called Eleutheron Hydor, "Water of Freedom". Or near Argos where the Kynadra spring is named after him (kynos = Hund).

At the end the rationalist Palaiphatos has the word again, who has an entirely different view:
Near the city of Trikarenos Geryon has his herds of cattle and two dogs, Orthos and Kerberos, called the Trikarenian dogs. This later was misunderstood as tree-headed. When Herakles led away the cattle of Geryon he killed Orthos. But Kerberos was following the herd. This dog Molottos, a man from Mykenai, demanded from Erystheus. When Erystheus refused he persuaded one of the herdsmen to bring the dog to a cave near the Spartan Tainaron. Erystheus thereupon commanded Herakles to bring back the dog. After a long quest over the whole Peloponnesos Herakles found the cave, climbed down and brought back the dog. But the people said "Herakles has climbed down to the Hades and brought back the dog."
While fulfilling his works Herakles has obtained threetimes immortality: Of course the successful return from Hades is the overcoming of death. But the initiation into the Eleusinian Mysteries too has promised an happy afterlife; the same was said by the oracle of Delphi for the completion of his labours. The same motiv with the same success we find by drinking from Hera's breast and the quest for the apple of the Hesperids. And we remember of Herakles' Ascension to heaven on the pyre.

The descent into hell as overcoming the death we know in Christianity as Harrowing of Hell (Gospel of Thomas). In Middle Ages Herakles was seen as prefiguration of Christ himself, a promise, which then was fulfilled by Christ. Overcoming Kerberos correspondends to overcoming Satan, and like Christ Herakles has two natures: a human and a devine. He appears in the early Christian paintings in the Catacombs as hero, who by his labours and hardship has won the heaven. He is depicted wearing a nimbus. This too a sign of the continuation of antiquity! But not only Herakles and Christ have overcome the death, but a victorious resurrection we know too from Dionysos, Mithras and Osiris.
History of Art:
In antiquity we have a vast number of Herakles representations on bowls and vases, and especially on sarcophagi as expression of hope for immortality. The first depiction of the 12 labours of Herakles we find on the metopes of the Temple of Zeus in Olympia, completed 456 BC.

In Renaissance his labours are shown e.g. by G. Vasari on the ceiling of the Hercules Room
in the Palazzo Vecchio in Firence. In the Palazzo Farnese in Rom we find a grisaille of Annibale Caracci with Kerberos. Ruben's "Herakles and Kerberos" hangs in the Prado in Madrid. Dante's Commedia Divina was illustrated by Gustav Dore, 1823-1883. There is a picture showing Vergil in front of Kerberos. The drawings of Dore are connected so closely to the Commedia Divina, that today, after 150 years, they define our view.

(1) Homer, Odyssee
(2) Hesiod, Theogony
(3) Apollonius von Rhodos, Argonautika
(4) Strabo, Geographika
(5) Vergil, Aeneis
(6) Ovid, Metamorphoses
(7) Plinius, Historia naturalis
(8) Palaiphatos, Unglaubliche Geschichten
(9) Dante, Comedia Divina

Secondary Literature:
(1) W. H. Roscher, Ausführliches Lexikon der griechischen und römischen Mythologie, 1894  
     (online too)
(2) Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon, 1770 (online too)
(3) Der Kleine Pauly
(4) Robert von Ranke-Graves, Griechische Mythologie, 1960
(5) Karl Kerenyi, Die Mythologie der Griechen, 1966
(6) Aghion/Barbillon/Lissarrague, Lexikon der antiken Götter und Heroen in der Kunst, 2000
(7) Maurice Bloomfield, The History of an Idea, Chicago 1905 (auch online)

Online Sources:

I have added:
(1) the pic of a black-figured hydria from Caere/Etruria, c. 525 BD, ascribed to the Eagle
     Painter, today in the Louvre/Paris. It shows Herakles with Kerberos, who already has
     snakes, in front of Erystheus, who is hidden in his pithos.
(2) the pic of a black-figured Attic Hydria, c 530-520 BC, ascribed to the Karithaios Painter,
     today in the Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio, USA.
     This picture is from Baumeister's "Denkmäler des klassischen Alterthums": Herakles with
     raised club leads Kerberos out of the Hades with a chain, drawn through the jaw of one of
     the heads. He is about to lead Kerberos through the gateway indicated by an Ionic pillar.
     On his right Persephone is standing who has come out of her palace and seems to refuse
     him the abduction (sometimes interpreted as greeting). Herakles, turned right, seems to
     threaten the goddess, whereas Hermes at his left hold his protecting or restraining arm
     over him. Athena with averted face is ready to drive away with her protege. She stands
     before 4 horses tied to her chariot. The eagle on her shield promises a successful
     outcome of the undertaking.
(3) the pic from Gustave Dore's illustration of the Commedia Divina.

Best regards

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« Reply #389 on: December 29, 2012, 01:43:07 pm »

Dear friends of the Mythology Thread!

The last contribution will be the last one for a longer period because of the lack of appropriate coins.

A happy new year, but above all content and health!


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« Reply #390 on: March 31, 2013, 01:11:09 pm »

El/Kronos of Byblos

Each new coin is always a new adventure. Every time a new universe opens up. You can see this here.

The Coin:
Phoenicia, Byblos, 1st century BC
AE 22, 8.44g, 22.16mm, 315°
obv. Bust of City Goddess (Tyche), draped and veiled, wearing mural crown, r.
rev. El/Kronos, nude, stg. frontal, head (with feathern?) l., with 3 pairs of wings, 2 of them
      spread, the last one lowered, holding sceptre in extended r. hand
ref. BMC 97, 13; SNG Copenhagen 135
rare, F, nearly black patina
ex M&M, Basel, 14.2.1972
Note: This rev. is known too from coins of Antiochos IV Epiphanes (Houghton 696), of Alexander I Balas (Lindgren 1811) and Augustus (RPC 4526). On these coins the rev. legend consists of the ethnicon BYBΛIΩN and the issue year, e.g. on an Augustus coin LΛ (year 30 of the Pompeian city era). I think on my coin a similar rev. legend was present.
Byblos, today Jabal in Lebanon, somewhat north of Beirut, is one of the competitors for the title "oldest continuously inhabited city of the world" (another is Jericho). Referring to Phoenician tradition it was founded by El/Kronos, who surrounded it with walls. Even the ancient Phoenicians regarded Byblos as age-old city. Its origins are unknown, but scientists date it back to 5000 BC. The name Byblos, as Phoenicia too, would have been not understood by the ancient people. Since the city was called Gubla and later Gebal and the region at the coast was called Canaan. The recent names Byblos and Phoenicia are Greek from the time from about 1200 BC. Phoenicia because of the purple, Byblos because of the trade with papyrus. Today we understand under Canaan the land in the south-western Syrian region, identical with the recent Palestine. Phoenicia is situated north of it and is the name of a narrow strip of land at the eastern Mediterranean coast. Today Byblos belongs to the World Cultural Heritage.

In inscriptions from Byblos we habve found texts in an old scripture, which is undeciphered until today, the Byblian (not Biblical!) or Proto-Byblian, sometimes called Archaeo-Aegean too. It has some similarity with the scripture on the Diskos of Phaistos. Relations between Byblos and Crete are known.

The figure depicted on the reverse of my coin is often called Kronos. But we see that this deity has 3 pairs of wings. With that ist is surely not a Greek deity. The correct denomination is Phoenician Kronos, and that is El! And El belongs to the Phoenician pantheon. This coin leads us to an interesting intersection of Greek mythology with oriental religion and we will discover a significant cultural-religious turning point. As usually we start with mythology. It is based upon Philon of Byblos, who cites the pre-Trojan Phoenician historian Sanchuniathon. All has passed on to us by Eusebios of Caesarea.

In Byblos were ruling Eliun or Hypsistos and his wife Beruth. Their children were Epigeios or Autochthonos, who was later called Uranos, and Ge, after whom  heaven and earth were named. When Eliun died Uranos took the rulership, and with his sister Ge he begot Elos (El), Baitylos, Dagon and Atlas. But Elos was nobody else than Kronos. When he grow up he revolted against his father Uranos and with the help of Hermes Trismegistos (Thot) he defeated him and made himself king. The secondary wife of Uranos, being pregnant, he gave Dagon as wife, and she gave birth to Demaros. Kronos founded Byblos, the first city in Phoenicia. His brother Atlas he eliminated by sinking him in the deepest earth on the advice of Hermes Trismegistos.

Uranos who has fled, sent out his daughters Astarte, Rhea and Dione, to kill Kronos. But Kronos could capture them and made them his wifes. Astarte bore him the 7 Titanides  and the sons Pothos and Eros, Rhea bore him 7 sons and Dione daughters. Sydyk with one of the Titanides begot Asklepios. Pontos, another son of Kronos, became father of Sidon, the father of Poseidon and inventor of the hymnody. When Kronos has ruled already 32 years, he succeeded in capturing his father Uranos. With a sickle, made by Thot, he emasculated him. Whereupon his soul vanished and his blood poured out into the neighbouring wells and rivers which turned red. The location of this deed is shown still today.

After that Kronos gave his rulership to Astarte, Zeus Demaros and Adodos. From a visiting tour over her countries Astarte brought a stone which was fallen from heaven and whose whorship she introduced on the holy island of Tyros. After ships were invented by the Cabirs Kronos visited the entire inhabited world and gave his daughter Athena the rulership over Attica.

When once a dangerous plague threatened the land Kronos sacrificed his favourite son to Uranos. He introduced the circumcision. Another son, Muth (Pluto), whom he had by Rhea, he deified after his death. Dione he gave Byblos, Poseidon and the Cabirs received Berytos where the Cabirs brought the body of the devinely whorshipped Pontos, and Taautos (Thot), a son of Misor and inventor of writing, received the rulership over Egypt.

the source of our knowledge of the Canaanite religion previous was only the Old Testament where its faith appears but in a very unfavourable light as manifestation of highest degeneracy and immorality. The worst sort of all gods was the storm god Ba'al Hadad. He was fighted by the Israelites at its most fierce, because he threatened their national god Jahwe most badly.

But when in 1929 and in the years hereafter in Ras Shamra, the ancient Ugarit in Northern Syria, the famous tablets with mythological texts were found and the Ugaritic script was deciphered, our knowledge has changed decisively. The found texts have shown, that El was the name of the highest god of the Ugaritic pantheon, father of a big family of gods. This raises the question of wether the Ugaritic El can be identical with the El of the Israelites.

Yahweh was called El too, and that was not only an apellative with the meaning "god", but a name too, in particular the name of the highest god. El has revealed himself to Abraham who originally came from Ur in Mesopotamia, and he has led Abraham to Canaan, where he was whorshipped not only by Abraham and his family but from the Canaanites too.
But in the Ugaritic pantheon not only the family  of El appears, but the family of the young and vigorous storm god Ba'al Hadad too, and his  father Dagan and his sister 'Anat. The Ugaritic mythology describes in detail the hardest conflicts between these two families of gods. The wife of the Ugaritic El was Asherat. In the Old Testament she is found strange enough in connection with the cult of Ba'al.

The texts found in Ras Shamra can be dated to the 1st half of the 14th century BC. But the described myths naturally can be much older, eventually they are from the transition from the 3rd to the 2nd millenium (W.F.Albright).

The revolutionary discoveries from Ugarit now have eliminated all doubts about the belief that the "Phoenician History" of Sanchuniathon is actually of age-old Canaanitic origin. This was long denied by scientists and Sanchuniathon was hold for a figure of pure phantasy.  
The genealogy of gods which we have learned by Sanchuniathon shows great similarity with the theogony of Hesiod. It was said that Sanchuniathon has copied from Hesiod. Now we see that the "Phoenician History" of Sanchuniathon is much more similar to the Ugaritic texts than to the Greek mythology. That is true for the names of the gods and their characteristics. It is proved too by the findings by the excavations of the kingly archive of Hattusa, the ancient metropolis of the Hittites (E.O.Forrer), which according to Güterbock go back to Hurrian originals. Here we find the corresponding fightings of gods too with the castration of the older gods by the young storm god.

The origin of this mythology seems to be Sumer where the Hurrian have taken them over and distributed everywhere on their way. On their way to India even the Indo-Arians have taken along the castration myth. The Greek may have heard from it by the mediation of the Phoenicians.

(Will be continued)

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« Reply #391 on: March 31, 2013, 01:15:03 pm »


(1) Etymology
The name of El, or 'ilu, meaning "god", occurs in all Semitic languages. The root is probably 'wl with the meaning "strength, power". Arabic it is developed to ilah and with article to allah, Hebrew eloh. At the Hebrews el appears often in personal names, e.g. Gabri-el, Micha-el, Samu-el, Isra-el or Isma-el and so on. In the Old Testament happens the fusion with the national god Yahweh, who is called often El too. Later very often named Elohim, pluralis majestatis of El, or as abstractum.

(2) Depiction of El
Winged gods we find already at the Sumerians. Whereas El from the late Bronze Age in Ugarit is without wings, he is depicted in the later Phoenician art and in Hellenistic times with wings. The coins of the Seleucids beginning with Antiochos IV Epiphanes have the winged El. Sanchuniathon describes El as follows: " He has 4 eyes, 2 in front and 2 behind, from which 2 are closed during sleep. On his shoulders are 4 wings, 2 flying and 2 resting. This symbol shows that he is awake during sleep and resting when he flies."

But his virility is mentioned too. In a poem is reported that 2 women once spotted the nude El walking along the beach. They were charmed by the size of his member and the end was that they bore him a son. This attribute of El you can see well on the attached scetch.

From this source the wings of the Seraphim can be originated. They are described having 6 wings: Each of them has six wings. With two of them they cover their face, with two they cover their feet, and with two they were flying. (Jes. 6, 2-39) I don't want to claim the descent of the Seraphim from El/Kronos. But the Seraphim prove, that winged deities were not unknown to the ancient Hebrews. Even Yahweh himself is sometimes described as winged in the Old Testament and we know pictures where Yahweh with wings is riding on a Cherub (look at the attached pic of a stamp seal. Wether this is meant only metaphorical, can well be doubted. Actually these are reminiscents of the archaic image of the El from the time of 1200-600 BC.

(3) Importance of El
In the Canaanite pantheon El was the most powerful god. He seems to have had such great and comprehensive powers, that only rarely one  risked to look at him closer or to anthromorphize him. Only in some texts of Ugarit he is like Zeus characterized as untrue husband (Wikipedia).

El/Il always is a divine being, or the divine itself, but not a personal name. In a concrete sense as the lord of a special location, it is the north-Semitic Ba'al. But El/Il is always abstract, the devine as such. He stands above all gods, he is well-recognized, but scarcely worshipped. We don't know a cult for El/Il nor any temple. A similar role played Allah for Mohammed (Roscher).  

El, in contrast to Ba'al, is not attached to a locality, e.g. a mountain or tribe features. Thus he is especially qualified for the assimilation of universalistic perceptions of a High God. We don't know of a Proto-Semitic monotheism in the Old Testament, but we have indications of a Pre-Mosaic henotheistic El religion of the Israelitic Patriarchs (Pauly). In the mythology of Ugarit he is the father of gods building a family, the head of a polytheistic pantheon. He has features of a benevolent, wise, sometimes unpredictabel too, deus senex. The fusion of Yahweh with the Canaanite main deity has taken some of the asperity from the Israelitic Yahweh and in contrast added the features of El as king of gods and creative demiurgos(Pauly).

In Hellenism El is interpreted as Kronos (interpretatio graeca), because of his depiiction as old wise man with gray hairs and oldest god of all, father of all other gods. This was the role of El too.

(4) The Conflict between El and Ba'al
A central role in the Ugaritic mythology plays the struggle between the family of El and the family of Ba'al, where at the end El is defeated and has to retire as elder statesman. The end of this fight happens on Mount Saphon (= mons Kasios), the seat of the gods. About this fight we hear nothing in Sanchuniathon's "Phoenician History". Here El is to the end the highest god of the pantheon. The explanation is easy: The fight between El and Ba'al reflects a historical-cultural conflict which happens after Sanchuniathon. El was the old god of the Canaanites. Ba'al Hadad was brought to Canaan by the Amorites, first to the north with its fertile plains, at last to the mountainous south. And hence we come to the Israelites.

(5) El = Yahweh
The Israelites settling farther south were worshipping further the Canaanite El. In fact El was defeated and Ba'al took over his reign, but El has not disappeared, but as god of Abraham and his family he became the god of the Israelites. The hostility between the Israelites and the Canaanites is reflected by the conflict of the Israelitic god Yahweh with Ba'al and his priests. Or: Such as Ba'al previous has fight for the hegemony against El so now the fight of Ba'al rages against the Israelitic god. Reasonable because the Israelites penetrated the fertile Canaan and settled there. That couldn't not be peaceful. The Old Testament is full of the most bloody battles. El was taken by the Isrelites and was then changed by Moses and his legislation into Yahweh. That can explain too such strange phenomena like the replacements in names like El-jakim to Jejo-jakim.

Originally the Israelites were desert nomads. When they came to Canaan they brought along their god Yahweh = El. But at this time in Canaan the cult of Ba'al-Hadad has already widespread. As god of fertility, rain and weather he does meet much besser the needs of the agriculture practizing Canaanites than Yahweh which the Israelites have met in the desert. So it happened that the Israelites often assimilated the local cults of Ba'al and his bulls. Thereby they were in great danger to loose their national identity which depends on the belief in Yahweh. Therefore severe conflicts arose especially during the time of the Judges against the proliferation of these cults. They began to isolate their belief increasingly from the Canaanitic. In this time Yahweh became a jealous god. On the Mount Carmel a competition was hold between Elijah and Ba'al priests who of their gods was the actual rain god, and Yahweh was the winner. In this time the Israelitic monotheism may have been developed too..

The rivalry between these two beliefs existed until the reign of king David, who remitted rigid laws for the cult of Yahweh. Nevertheless he took Phoenician craftsmen sent by king Hiram of Tyros to erect the famous temple in Jerusalem. May be because they venerated with El a god close to Yahweh? After the death of Salomon the empire desintegrated into the two small states of Israel in the north and Judah in the south.

By the economical expansion of the Phoenician trade the cult of Ba'al Hadad, who in Tyros was named Melqart, spread widely. The northern Israel came in close neighborhood to Tyros and when the Phoenician princess Jezebel married Ahab, king of Israel, the cult of Ba'al and Asherah was taken over. And despite the revolt of Jehu aginst the royal house of Ahab the cult of Ba'al and Asherah stayed relevant deities in Israel until the Babylonian captivity.

In the southern empire of Judah the Phoenician cult of Ba'al was introduced by the political marriage of Atalja with the Jewish vasal king. When Atalja entered the throne of David a temple for Ba'al was erected even in Jerusalem. Despite the reaction of the highpriest Jojada, who let put Atalja to death, the cult of Ba'al survived in Judah, and we hear of king Manasseh that he erected altars for Ba'al even in the courts of the Yahweh temples! Although king Josiah, probably under the influence of the prophet Jeremiah, purified the temples of Yahweh and destroyed the Ba'al cults in his kingdom, after his death they flourished again and this remains until the Babylonian captivity.

The further story belongs lesser to mythology but rather to history of religion.

Our authors:

Eusebios of Caesarea:
born in Caesarea c.260-265, died. c.339-340, was episcopos of Caesarea since 313. He
worked on the literary remains of Origines and leant towards Areios (Arianismus). He was a close counselor of Constantine I, but voted on the Council of Nikaia AD 325  for the homo-usian confession of faith, because it was the wish of Constantine. Later he defended Areios and demanded the expulsion of Athanasios. He wrote a number of important religious works. For this article I name only the Praeparatio Evangelica where he cited Philon of Byblos. He wrote an apology of Origines, some works against Marcellus of Ankyra or against Porphyrios, the Neoplatonist. He was highly estimated by Constantine, is regarded as father of the church historiography and is counted to the Church Fathers.
Philon of Byblos (= Herennios Philon):
born c.64 BC in Byblos, died c.141 AD, was a Phoenician historian at the time of Hadrian, known particularly from the Suda. About his life we know very few.  His most important work is a history of Phoenicia, where he claims that he has translated the "Phoenician History" of Sanchuniathon from the Phoenician to the Greek. His decription is euhemeristic, i.e. he explains the gods as ancient, important humans. He tried to reduce the Greek culture to the ancient Phoenician culture. Roscher called this "ridicolous". He wrote a big work about Hadrian of which only the title is known and 30 volumes "On Cities and their Citizens" of which only fragments are known.

was a pre-Trojan Phoenician historian from Berytos and lived probably in the 9th century BC. It is said that he has received his knowledge about the Phoenician religion from a priest named Hierombolos and has it written down in a 8 or 9 volume work named "Phoenician History", which is cited by Philon von Byblos.But known are only remains at Eusebios of Caesarea. His work, which partially shall copied from columns in Byblos, contains a cosmogony, a zoogony and reports about replacing generations of gods (Pauly). Formerly he was hold for a mythological figure, invented by Philon von Byblos himself and named after the Phoenician god Sanchon. But today the scientists think that he is a historical figure. Prof. Forbes from Edinburgh could prove that the texts of Sanchuniathon doubtless are related to the texts of Ugarit which were found since 1929 in Ras Shamra (Ugarit), of which the most ancient are written in Akkadian.

(1) The Old Testament
     (especially  'Genesis' und 'Exodus')

Secondary Literature:
(1) Der Kleine Pauly
(2) Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon,  (online too)
(3) Heinrich Wilhelm Roscher, Ausführliches Lexikon der griechischen und römischen  
     Mythologie (online too), Leipzig 1884-1937
(4) Otto Eissfeldt, El im ugaritischen Pantheon, Berlin, 1951
(5) W.F.Albright, Specimens of Late Ugaritic Prose, 1958
(6) Ulf Oldenburg, The Conflict between El and Ba'al in Canaanite Religion, Leiden 1969
(7) Finkelstein/Silberman, Keine Posaunen vor Jericho, Beck München 2003
(8) E.O.Forrer, Eine Geschichte des Götterkönigtums aus dem Hatti-Reiche, 1936
(9) Stephen Herbert Langdon. Mythology of All the Races, Semitic. Vol. 5. Boston.
     Archaeological Institute of America, 1931
(10) Forbes, Peter Barr Reid, "Philon of Byblos", New York, Oxford University Press,  
(11) H.G.Güterbock, 'Kumarbi, Mythen vom churritischen Kronos aus den hethitischen
       Fragmenten zusammengestellt, übersetzt und erklärt, 1946
(12) Wolfgang Röllig, Die Religion Altsyriens, Darmstadt 1973 (auch online)
(13) Martin Klingbeil, Yahweh Fghting From Heaven: God as Warrior and as God of Heaven in
       the Hebrew Psalter and Ancient Near Eastern Iconography, Göttingen 1999
(14) Hans-Joachim Hoeft, Münzen und antike Mythologie, Eigenverlag 2011

Online Sources:
(1) Wikipedia
     (Stefan Lauber)
     (Walter Reinhold Warttig Mattfeld y de la Torre, M. A. Ed.)

To round up this subject I recommend the following articles in this thread:
- Astarte, or Ba'alat Gebul, the Lady of Byblos
- Baetyl, the sacred stone
- Zeus Kasios
- Kronos - Father of Gods
- Asteria - the Star Goddess
- Atargatis or Dea Syria, the Great Syrian Goddess
- Melqart - Herakles
- Eshmun - The Phoinician Healer God
- Die pre-Islamic goddess Al-Lat
- Shamash - The Babylonian sun-god
- Hadad - Jupiter Heliopolitanus
- Saturn - the old Roman God of Agriculture
Attached Pics:
(1) As written above there was no temple for El. Not even in Byblos. Therefore I have attached
     a pic of the temple of Ba'alat Gebul from Byblos, whose last version is from 4 century BC.
(2) A pic of Mt. Saphon seen from Ugarit. This mountain was hold as seat of the gods, first of
     El. after his defeat as seat of Ba'al, who here was named after this mountain Ba'al Sapan
(3) Fig. 82. Depiction of the coin of Antiochos IV Epiphanes. Sanchuniathon describes the
     deity so: "He has 4 eyes, 2 in front and 2 behind, from which 2 are closed during sleep. On
     his shoulders are 4 wings, 2 flying and 2 resting. This symbol shows that he is awake
     during sleep and resting when he flies. (Langdon)"
(4) MCV-118S. A stamp seal with a depiction which is identified by scientists as winged
     Yahweh on a Cherub, acompanied by a winged goddess, Asherah, flying over a Holy tree
     (Martin Klingbeil, 1999)

Best regards

* Tempel der Ba'alat Gebal.jpg (45.54 KB, 640x480 - viewed 4 times.)

* ugarit_mount_saphon.jpg (42.07 KB, 600x398 - viewed 255 times.)

* El_Kronos_Fig.82.JPG (39.88 KB, 254x233 - viewed 254 times.)

* MVC-118S.jpg (30.72 KB, 441x369 - viewed 254 times.)

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« Reply #392 on: May 27, 2013, 03:34:24 pm »

Dear friends of the Mythology Thread!

Now I have put the new articles to a book, adding some new articles. It has 80 pages and is full of historical, cultural and other informations which should be of interest for educated collectors. Hardcover, full colour. The price depends on the number of copies.  I hope to hold the price at €32.- The book is in German. Please feel free to ask for a copy (without any obligation!).


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« Reply #393 on: May 27, 2013, 06:00:16 pm »

Glad to hear that you've accomplished this.  Is the book in German or English? 
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« Reply #394 on: May 28, 2013, 08:20:43 am »

The book is in German. My English articles which I have posted here are sadly of bad style. If I only could find somebody who can translate my German articles into English!

Best regards

« Reply #395 on: May 29, 2013, 02:03:35 pm »

Hi Jochen, my most sincere congratulations for your wonderful work on mythology in Numismatics!

I want to bring to your attention an issue of Mamertines, probably celebrating their conquer of the Adranon area in Sicily.

SICILY, The Mamertinoi. Circa 278-264 BC. Æ Unit (19mm, 5.46 g).
ADRANOU; Helmeted head of Adranon left / Dog standing right; F above, in exergue MAMERTINWN.
CNS 20; SNG ANS 418; SNG Morcom 630.

Adranon was a Sicilian local deity, which was later assimilated to Ares by the Greeks.
The ancient author Aelian (De Natura Animalium, XI 20; Nymphodor) reports that Nymphodor in the III century b.C. wrote about the temple of Adranon, in the Sicilian town of the same name.

Adranon was the local God of war, and his  cult was also linked to the consumption of wine, as confirmed by the archaeological evidences in the area.
Nymphodor wrote, "The temple is inhabited by thousands of dogs... These animals during the day joyfully welcome the visitors going to shrines, and this without making any distinction between foreigners and locals. Their behavior is different during the night, when they accompany with great kindness those already drunk... However they devour those that in drunkenness commit crimes."

Those dogs still exist in Sicily. The breed is called "Cirneco dell'Etna."

Bye Smiley

* 1.JPG (34.74 KB, 506x250 - viewed 43 times.)

* 2.JPG (43.09 KB, 351x283 - viewed 46 times.)
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« Reply #396 on: May 30, 2013, 11:19:04 am »

Never heard before. Thanks for your contribution.


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« Reply #397 on: May 11, 2014, 02:47:02 pm »


I have seen on that my mythology book is located in

- Bavarian State Library, München
- Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, Frankfurt
- Bibliotheque nationale de France, Paris

and available in
- Thomas J.Watson Library, Metropoliton Museum of Art,  New York
- Princeton University Library, Princeton
- Library of University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

and 1 copy was acquired by Basil C. Demetriadi (BCD), Athens

I think I can be proud!


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« Reply #398 on: May 12, 2014, 11:21:25 am »

You should be proud Jochen! It is a wonderful book and the supplement equally so. Thank you so very much!!


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« Reply #399 on: May 12, 2014, 11:39:32 am »

Yes, indeed! VERY proud!
A splendid contribution, Jochen!

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