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Tribunus Plebis Perpetuus
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« Reply #425 on: February 26, 2019, 01:19:08 pm »

Astakos and the founder myth of Nikomedeia

The Coin:
Bithynia, Nikomedeia, Severus Alexander, AD 222-235
AE 20, 4.26g, 20.24mm, 30°
        Bust, draped and cuirassed, seen from behind, laureate, r.
        Astakos, nude to hips, stg. r., looking back, with l. foot stg. on prow, in l. hand
        holding long sceptre and with r. hand pointing back
ref.: Rec. Gen. p. 557, 319, pl. XCVI, 24
about VF, black green patina

Astakos, eponym of the city, is depicted in the typical position of a city founder who prompted his companions to follow him.

According to Stephanos of Byzanz and Arrian Astakos was the son of Poseidon and the nymph Olbia. In a speech on occasion of the severe destruction of the city by an earthquake 358 BC Libanios tells, that the first city founders has sacrified to the gods at the wrong place. But an eagle and a snake have pointed them to the correct place where they then have built the city. This myth reminds strongly of the 2nd founder myth of Alexandreia Troas depicted on coins where an eagle is carrying the head of a bull.

According to Memnon of Herakleia Astakos was a descendant of the Spartoi (= the Sowed), the ancestors of the Thebans who have grown from the dragon teeth which Kadmos has sown. Astakos was father of Ismaros, Amphidikos, Leades and Melanippos who became famous when they defend their home city against the Seven against Thebens. He is said to have found the city of Astakos in Bithynia (Roscher).

Nonnos wites in his Dionysiaka that at the Gulf of Astakos the first battle was fighted between the army of Dionysos and the Indians. Dionysos has won the battle because he changed the water of the sea into wine and so have made the Indians drunken.
The nymph Olbia is said to have found a city named Olbia too, not the Sarmatian Olbia but an Olbia in the neighbourhood of Nikomedeia. Wether this was an independent city or only the surname or an earlier name of another Bithynian city is discussed. The assumption that it could be Astakos is close but there is no ancient evidence (Pauly).

In ancient times Astakos was known for its lobsters which must have lived in huge numbers in the shallow watersides. αστακος (Astakos) is the Greek name for the lobster. So there is some evidence that the founder myth of Astakos was invented according to the occurence of the lobsters. In this way it is an aetiological myth.

Astakos, the City:
Astakos was situated at the Gulf of the same name (today Gulf of Izmit) of the Propontis (today Sea of Marmara) whereby the exact location is not known until today. Therefore the position of Astacus on the attached map is questionable.

Astakos was founded 712/11 BC by colonists from Megara. It was member of the Delian League. After the settlement of Athenian colonists it lost its independence. Under Doidalses Astakos first came under Bithynian supremacy (about 405 BC). Zipoites (356-281 BC), son of the dynast Bas, was the first king of Bithynia. He tried to conquer Astakos but without success. To enlarge his territory he fought among others against strategists of Lysimachos and defeated him finally in the Battle of Kurupedion (281 BC) where Lysimachos lost his live. With this battle the Wars of the Diadochi ended and the Hellenistic world of states was established. During his war against Zipoites 281 Lysimachos had destroyed  Astakos. Some time later Zipoites died and his son Nikomedes I followed him to the throne. In 264 BC he founded the city of Nikomedeia that he called αντικρυ Αστακου (= ancient Astakos) and resettled the inhabitants of the ancient city to the new founded Nikomedeia. After the death of king Nikomedes IV 74 BC Bithynia came by will to the Roman Empire.

I have attached a map of ancient Bithynia (Source: summagallicana,it)

(1) Nonnos, Dionysiaka
(2) Stephanos of Byzanz, Ethnika
(3) Libanios, Orationes
(4) Arrian, Die Fragmente der griechischen Historiker (FGrHist)
(5) Memnon, Die Fragmente der griechischen Historiker (FGrHist)

(1) Der Kleine Pauly
(2) Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon (auch online)
(3) Wilhelm Heinrich Roscher, Ausführliches Lexikon der griechischen und
      römischen Mythologie (auch online)
(4) Wikipedia

Thanks to Frank Dapsul for important references.

Best regards

Steve P
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« Reply #426 on: March 01, 2019, 04:48:08 pm »

Wow, this is amazingly extensive work! ... Jochen, this seems to be a very cool way to spend your coin-time (I'm glad to see that you're enjoying your hobby)

Thanks for all of your info/research (you rock)

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Tribunus Plebis Perpetuus
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« Reply #427 on: March 04, 2019, 11:20:48 am »

Thank you, Steve, for your encouraging words!


Tribunus Plebis Perpetuus
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« Reply #428 on: March 04, 2019, 11:33:33 am »

Dione and the Oracle of Dodona

Recently I could add this coin to my collection. Here I want to share the results of my research.

The Coin:
Epeiros, Ambrakia, 238-168 BC
AE 18, 4.97g
obv. Head of Dione, veiled and laureate, r.
rev. A - M / B - R
       Obelisk of Apollo Agyieus, pointed, on two-stepped base, all in laurel wreath
ref. SNG Cop 23; SNG München 525; SNG Evelpidis 1770; BMC Thessaly p. 94, 5 
rare, F+, dark green patina, corrosion
Apollo Agyieus (Greek αγυιευς = guardian of the ways) was the the protector of ways and public places. He was worshipped as baetylic, pointed obelisk, that often was placed before house entrances, but never in a temple. The statue was maintained by priestesses (agyatides) and decorated with ribbons and laurel wreaths. These columns were found too on the stages of Greek plays. That Apollo was worshipped as aniconic stone column is known already from the Hittites where such a column was found at the entrance of a temple in Bogazköy with the inscription "apulunas" (= Apollo). In Kolophon we have the baetylic Apollo Klarios.

With Dione we are deep in the oldest Greek mythology. Etymologically like Zeus too originated from Greek διος (= divine), she was at first not an own goddess, but as "the divine" rather the female form of Zeus. When the later Greek mythology developed she was removed by Hera. Her ancient position being equal with Zeus she has kept only in Dodona.
According to Hesiod she was the daughter of Okeanos and Tethys, an Oceanid. She belonged to the most noble godesses. In the Homeric Hymns for Apollo it is told, that she together with Themis, Rhea and Amphitrite has supported Leto on Delos during the birth of Apollo.

By Zeus she had a daughter, the love goddess Aphrodite, who is called sometimes Dione to, so by Ovid (Fastes). In his Ilias Homer tells us that Aphrodite once fled into the bosom of her mother when she was wounded by Diomedes. Yes, at these times it was possible that mortals could hirt deities! Dione consoled her that she was not the only one and prophesized Diomedes an unlucky return.

In his "History of Phoenicia" Sanchuniathon, who has lived before the Trojan War, tells that Dione was the daughter of Uranos and Gaia and such the sister of Kronos/El. He has given Byblos to her. The real identity of this Dione remains unclear. It is possible that Sanchuniathon has meant the Phoenician goddess Ba'alat Gebal. But the ancestry from Uranos and Gaia, heaven and earth, was taken by the Orphics in their theology.

In Pergmon was found a bronze tablet from the 3rd century AD where Dione, Phoebe and Nyche were named as healer goddesses, probably used als magic device. In Homer's Ilias Dione tells her daughter Aphrodite that she once has healed Plutos the god of Underworld using the plant Paionia, when he was wounded in a struggle by Herakles. In the same way she has healed Ares who was wounded by Diomedes. Because she has supported too Leto at the birth of Apollo she was regarded here as healer goddess and midwife.

Dione can't be thought without Dodona. And this is the reason that coins with the depiction of Dione could be found only in Epeiros. Dodona in Epeiros was the oldest oracle in Greece and one of the biggest, after Delphi the second one. Already about 800 BC a sanctuary of Zeus has been located there. And here Zeus Naios and Dione Naia together were worshipped. Naios just is Greek = dweller and this name is evidence of the old age of this sanctuary. Pyrrhos I later has introduced games called Naia.

The priestesses of her sanctuary were called doves, birds sacred to Aphrodite. In later times they became as Dodonean Nymphs who should have suckled Zeus the nurses of Dionysos. And so we can find Dione too on vase pictures with Bacchanalian scenes.

In the centre of the oracle stood the famous oak of Dodona. The oak spoke by the murmur of its leaves and the curring of its doves. This then was interpreted by the priestesses. The visitors wrote their questions on tablets of lead and throw them in a jug. Therefore many of them are preserved and can be read in the museum of Ioannina. Until now c.4000 of these tablets were found, an inavaluable look into the ancient oracle practice. In 2012 however many of them lay still unevaluated in the Antikensammlung of the museums in Berlin.

The Dodonian Oak has played too a role in the myth of the Argonauts. When the ship Argo was built with the aid of Athena wood of the oak was mounted into the prow. It should warn the Argonauts against dangers by its power of forecasting (Apollonius of Rhodos). In AD 392 the oak was logged by Christian zealots who - as we all know - are responsible for an immense number of destroyed ancient artworks.

The mythological founder of Anbrakia was Ambrax, son of Thesprotos (after him this region is called Thesprotia), but according to Dionysos of Halicarnassos he was the son of Dexamenos, son of Herakles. Ovid in his Metamorphoses tells us that he has ruled as king at the time when Aeneas on his flight from Troy came to Epeiros. In this narration he calls the city "embattled in the struggle of the gods". That goes back to the following myth that we know from Antoninus Liberalis who has taken it from older sources: Apollo, Artemis and Herakles quarrelled about the control over the city. Because they couldn't find a solution they called Kragaleus, son of Dryops, a wise old man, who just pastured his herds. He awarded the city to Herakles whereupon Apollo in his rage turned him into a rock. The Ambriakotes have offered sacrifices to him always after the feast of Herakles.

In the 3rd century BC Pyrrhos I made Ambriaka the capital city of his kingdom of Epeiros. Pyrrhos I is known by his statement "Another such victory and we are lost!", that according to Plutarch he should have made after his victories involving heavy losses in his campaigns against the Romans in Lower Italy (Graeca Magna). Hence the phrase "Pyrrhic victory".

History of Art:
Dione is depicted on the east pediment of the Parthenon in Athens. Aphrodite is laying stretched out in the bosom of her mother Dione both infolded by in rich folds falling garments. Probably this depiction shows the scene were Dione consoles her daughter after she was wounded by Diomedes.
Furthermore Dione is found on the frieze of the Pergamon altar (Pergamonmuseum in Berlin), depicting the Gigantomachia. At the place where the north frieze continues the east frieze Aphrodite starts the series of deities. Because the frieze has to be seen continuous she is fighting beside her lover Ares. In the depicted moment she draws a spear out of a killed Giant. Beside her are fighting her mother Dione and her son Eros. Unfortunately only remnants of Dione are left.

I have added:
(1) a photo showing the sanctuary of Dodona, in the background the Tomaros
(2) a photo of the east pediment of the Parthenon
(3) a photo of the detail of the Pergamon altar
(4) a photo of the bronze tablet from Pergamon

(1) Hesiod, Theogony
(2) Homer, Ilias
(3) Homeric Hymns
(4) Apollodor, Gods and Heros of the Greeks
(5) Apollonios von Rhodos, Argonautika
(6) Ovid, Fastes
(7) Ovid, Metamorphoses
(Cool Plutarch, Vitae parallelae
(9) Cicero, De natura deorum
(10) Pausanias, Voyages

(1) Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches Lexikon der Mythologie, 1770 (online too)
(2) William Smith, A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology,
      1813-1893 (online too)
(3) Wilhelm Heinrich Roscher, Ausführliches Lexikon der griechischen und
      römischen Mythologie, 1884-1937 (online too)
(4) Barclay Head, Historia Numorum (HN), 1886 (online too)
(5) Richard Wünsch, Antikes Zaubergerät aus Pergamon, 1905 (google books)
(6) Karl Kerenyi, Die Götter- und Menschengeschichten, 1978
(7) Robert von Ranke-Graves, Greek Mythology
(Cool Der Kleine Pauly
(9) Wikipedia

Best regards

Tribunus Plebis Perpetuus
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Omnes vulnerant, ultima necat.

« Reply #429 on: March 04, 2019, 11:34:45 am »


These coins have been in my collection for a long time. Now I got myself up to write about them. Because she is an important deity this article will be more detailed.

1st Coin:
Cilicia, Korykos, Valerian I, AD 253-260
AE 32, 22.19g, 32.07mm, 135°
obv. AV K ΠO - ΛIK OVAΛEPIAN / OC (in field)
        Bust, draped and cuirassed, radiate, r.
rev. [KΩPV (in ex.) - KIΩ TΩ - N AV] NAV[AP]
        in upper field one below the other XI / C
        Decorated prize basket inscribed with ΘEMIA, with palm branch between
        kerykeion and aphlaston, stg. on a table with dolphin-shaped feet, below a bellied
        wine jug with handles and long neck, on the r. side Dionysos stg.l, nude,
        wreathed, with nebris around hips, resting with raised l. hand on ribboned thyrsos
        and holding in lowered r. hand bunch of wine grapes, at his feet l. the panther
        with raised r. paw std. l., looking r.
ref.: BMC 21; SNG Levante 820; SNG Copenhagen 123; SNG Paris 1123; SNG von
         Aulock 5686; Klose & Stumpf 259
about VF/VF

According to Edith Specht the pumpkin-shaped objects are not crowns nor urns, as one often reads, but prize baskets.

The Themian Games:
The presiding goddess of the Themian Games was Themis, the personification of right and order. Themia too means deposit, usually of money, and the Themian Games were exceptional because the prize for the winner was cash, and not like at the other games wreaths, wine, oil or celery.

From Side in Pamphylia are known a series of coins where a female deity is depicted throwing a pebble in an urn. This goddess is called not only Athena, but Athena-Themis or Themis-Athena too. So I have decided to add this coin to my article. This goddess differs from Athena by holding not a spear but a palm branch in her l. arm. In Anazarbos she is called Themis of the Koinonboulion. Koinoboulon was the assembly of the town councils (Gaebler).

2nd Coin:
Pamphylia, Side, Valerian II. as Caesar, son of Gallienus, AD 256-258
AE 30, 18.04g, 0°
        Bust, draped and cuirassed, bare-headed, r.; beneath eagle with open wings stg.
        r., head l.,; before chin c/m E in circular incus (Howgego 805)
       Themis-Athena, helmeted, in narrow peplos, stg. frontal, head l., palm branch
        over l. shoulder, throwing pebble in urn with 2 handles, r. beside her
        pomegranate on twig
ref. cf. SNG Pfälzer Privatsammlungen 882 (Gallienus); probably unpublished
F/about VF, a bit rough, rev. partially weakly, with distinct traces of smoothing process

The E of the c/m probably devaluates the coin from 10 units down do 5 units,
Coins of Sif´de regularly show a pomegranate. Cause: Side is Pamphylian the word for pomegranate and so became the symbol of the city.
It is not clear for what the goddess is voting. Gaebler assumes that it the voting after a competition. In each case it is an explicit democratic motive (Pat Lawrence).

The name Themis has the Greek root θη- as in τι-θη-μι (= to set, to prescribe). In this sense Themis is "who sets (laws)". The derivation from Phoenician them (= honest, fair) today is obsolete.

Her parents were Uranos and Gaia, heaven and earth, this evidence too of her great age. So she was older than Zeus and the other Olympean gods. As Titanide she was sister of Tethys, Rhea, Mnemosyne, Phoibe, Dione and Theia (Apollodor). And sister of Kronos. When Zeus wants to take she as wife she fled from him but was caught up at Ichnai in Makedonia, probably because she has left traces (ichnos)

She gave birth to Zeus the three Horae Eunomia, Dike and Eirene (just order, just retribution and peace) and the three Moira (goddesses of fate) Klotho, Lachesis and Atropos (Hesiod. Theog.). In a later mythology the Horai were at first the two seasons Thallo (flourishing, for springtime) and Karpo (maturing, harvesting, for summer). Later on Auxo (growing) joined in. It was told that these goddesses have dressed Aphrodite after her birth from sea foam. According to Herodot Themis was the mother of Prometheus too.

It is told that she as the first has introduced the art of fortune-telling, which is logical, because fortune-telling is only possible if the future is put in order and is unchangeably certain. She as the first has got the oracle of Delphi from her mother Gaia, in the first time together with Poseidon, until Apollo after he has killed Python has taken over the oracle. Another oracle existed in Kephisos in Boiotia which played a role in the myth of Deukalion and Pyrrha (see there). So she was able to warn Zeus and Poseidon against the marriage with Tethys foretelling that their sons would become greater than they were (Pindar).

Sometimes she can be regarded as Parhedros (guardian spirit) of Zeus: She advises him to wear the skin of the goat Amaltheia (Aigis) in the battles of the Gigantomachia and she helps him to find the Giants by pursuing their traces (ichnos).
She was involved in the education of the young Zeus, then together with Rhea, Dione and Amphitrite she helped Leto at the birth of Apollo and nourished him with nectar and ambrosia whereby he became immortal. She helped Aphrodite at the birth of Beroe (Nonnos, Dionysiaka). This is the reason that Themis often is seen as assistant of delivering women. Roman mythologists sometimes has identificated her with Carmenta, a Roman goddess, who originally was an assistant of delivering women and known too for her art of fotrune-telling. But some are assuming that this was told only because her connection to Zeus was morally indecent since she was the sister of Kronos, Zeus' father.

After Themis has prevented the marriage of Zeus and Poseidon with Tethys she advised them to give her up to the hero Peleus. As much as Tethys resisted finally she was defeated by Peleus. From this connection emerged Achilleus, the greatest but short living hero from Troy. At their wedding, told by Pindar, Eris threw among the goddesses Hera, Athena and Aphrodite a golden apple inscribed “For the most beautiful.”. To settle the dispute that's about to arise the goddesses choosed Paris and his judgement then triggered the Troyan War.

But actually the Troyan War has had a prehistory: Gaia, mother of Themis, has complained to her that she could no longer bear the burden of so many people. Then Themis advised Zeus to start a great war to help her mother. And so it came to the Trojan War, which did not only break out through the theft of Helena, as one thinks, but which Zeus and Themis had planned for a long time. This is told in detail in the Kypria, which describe the time before the Trojan War. Homer will have known them. That is why Raoul Schrott in his newly translated Iliad is also of the opinion that the invocation of the muse at the beginning of the epic means Themis: "Announce resentment, Themis, about Peleus' Son Achilles and his wrath"

Themis also plays an important role in the myth of the Great Deucal Flood. But I would like to deal with that in a separate excursus.

Themis is the personification of an abstract concept, a higher power that stands above the gods, undisturbed from primeval times, the embodiment of a sacred order. She comes from a time when it was not yet valid to say: "Nothing is more powerful than man" (Sophocles, Antigone). Without her holy order no society can exist. To this order basically belongs marriage and the inherent rule of nature in the interaction of the sexes, to which also belongs modesty (Pindar). Therefore their daughters, the Horai, immediately dressed Aphrodite when she ermerged from the sea. This includes the observance of oaths and treaties. She is the guardian of the right to hospitality and takes care of the protection of the needy. She even protects the murderer at her altar, if he is begging for blood atonement.

Themis takes care of the peace of God that reigns during the Olympic Games, something that no longer exists in our time. She is responsible for the correct functioning of an agon, and therefore we see her for example on the coins of Anazarbos, Tarsos or Side, as on the coin above. She is responsible for convening meetings, the Agora or the Koinoboulion.

Themis punishes the hybris. This is why the deed of Tantalus, who presents his son Pelops as food to the gods, including Themis, is so terrible. This challenges their heaviest revenge. And so she comes into close contact with Nemesis: If Themis is hurt, she will be avenged by Nemesis. Therefore both goddesses are worshipped together in Rhamnous.

Art of History:
Pausanias still knows the golden ivory statue from the Heraion in Olympia and the marble statue from Thebes. In Troizen even several Themides were worshipped! But only a colossal statue from Rhamnous in the north of Attica has survived, which today stands in the National Theatre in Athens.  There she was worshipped together with Nemesis, whereby later Nemesis came to the fore. The cult in Rhamnous was forbidden in 399 AD by a decree of the Eastern Roman emperor Arcadius, who ordered the destruction of the remaining "pagan" temples.
She is depicted on the frieze on the Pergamon Altar in Berlin, where sadly only parts of the chiton and the mantle can still be seen.

I have added
(1) a pic of the statue of Themis from Rhamnous, made by Chairestatos, 315 B.C., made of pentelic marble. She is missing the left hand in which she probably Held scales (from the Store norske leksikon, Lars Maehlum)
(2) a pic of the tondo on an attic red figure Kylix, which is attributed to the Kodros painter, ca. 430 BC, highly classical, today in the Antikensammlung Berlin. Depicted is the childless King Aigeus, to whom Themis is currently predicting the birth of a son. The goddess sits on the delphic tripod in the role of Pythia, the prophetess of this oracle. She holds a phiale in one hand and a laurel branch in the other.

(1) Hesiod, Theogony
(2) Apollodor, Bibliotheke
(3) Homer, Ilias
(4) Pindar, Odes
(5) Aischylos, Prometheus Bound
(6) Sophokles, Antigone
(7) Kypria
(8) Nonnos, Dionysiaka

(1) Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisxhes Lexikon, 1770 (online too)
(2) Wilhelm Heinrich Roscher, Ausführliches Lexikon der griechischen und
      römischen Mythologie, ab 1884 (online too)
(3) Karl Kerenyi, Die Götter- und Menschheitsgeschichten, dtv
(4) Robert von Ranke-Graves, Griechische Mythologie, rororo
(5) Der Kleine Pauly
(7) H. Gaebler, Die Losurne in der Agonistik, ZfN 39 (1929)
(8) Edith Specht, Kranz, Krone oder Korb für den Sieger, in "Zeitschrift für klassische
      Archäologie 14/III/2000
(9) Ilias. Neu übertragen von Raoul Schrott. Hanser, München 2008

Online Sources:
(2) Wikipedia

Best regards

Tribunus Plebis Perpetuus
Procurator Monetae
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Posts: 11527

Omnes vulnerant, ultima necat.

« Reply #430 on: March 18, 2019, 01:16:29 pm »

Excursus: Deukalion and Pyrrha

The mythology of Deukalion and Pyrrha is so comprehensive that I have decided to remove it from the article about Themis and summarize it in a separate excursus.

The legend of the Deucal Flood comes from the East, probably from Mesopotamia. There is the mighty Gilgamesh Epos, in which Utnapishtim is saved, and the story of Noah, described in the 1st book of Moses in the Bible. In Greece these flood legends had a rather small meaning and their traditions were so contradictory that finally three large floods were distinguished (Nonnos, Dionysiaka):

1. the flood of Ogygos
2. the Deucal flood, and
3. the flood of Dardanos

The fact that the Flood was caused by the eruption of the Santorini volcano (so-called Minoan eruption 3600 years ago) is not possible because the myths of the Flood are older. The new hypothesis that the Flood describes the breakthrough of the Mediterranean Sea through the Bosporus into the Black Sea is interesting, but is rejected by most scientists.

The human eras:
The Deucal flood is the middle one. In order to understand it, we must hear something about the history of mankind that Hesiod tells us. According to him, there were four human races who lived in four successive eras.

The first one was the Golden Age. It was under the rule of Kronos. People descended from the gods and lived like the gods themselves, without trouble or worries. It was a kind of Garden of Eden. Age and diseases were unknown to them. They died as if in sleep and then became good spirits, protecting the people.

The second race, the silver one, was created by the Olympians and was inferior to the golden one. Here people lived for a hundred years like small children with their mother, then for a short time they behaved like fools and madmen, did not honor the gods, and perished. But they are still revered by men as blessed.

Then Zeus created a third race: the bronze one. These people were strong and terrible. They built everything out of bronze, because iron did not yet exist. Their houses were made of bronze, their weapons and all their equipment. They fought against each other all the time and so wiped themselves out and came to Hades.

After they had perished by their own hands, a fourth human race came, the iron one, which still exists today. This people made everything out of iron and did not stop working, day and night, and fought against each other without end. The parents did not respect their children any more and the children did not respect their parents. There was no more hospitality and promises were broken at will. Also this race will end badly one day, Aidos (shame) and Nemesis will leave the people, so that mankind will perish defenceless. Dike (justice) had already retreated into the mountains, since the people no longer respected her. When things got worse, she will leave the earth and can be seen on the sky as virgin (Pindar).

The Deucal flood:
Zeus wanted to see for himself whether the people were really so bad and came to Lykaon, the king of Arcadia. Lykaon wanted to test the wisdom of the God and presented him the flesh of a killed, innocent guest. Thereupon Zeus destroyed his house with lightning and turned him into a wolf. And he decided to destroy all the people, not by fire, because it could have lit the heaven, but by a flood of water over Greece, so that all people and animals drowned. Except for two: Deukalion and Pyrrha.

Deukalion, son of Prometheus and Klymene, was king over the Phthiotis in Thessaly (Strabo) and had Pyrrha (the "redhead"), daughter of Epimetheus and Pandora, as his wife. These two were the most righteous and pious people on earth. Prometheus advised them to build a wooden box which Deukalion and Pyrrha entered. When the flood ended after 9 days, they landed at the Parnassos mountain (according to other tradition at Othrys). When Zeus saw the rescued, he ended the flood by making a deep hole in which the water ran off. This hole was still visible 1000 years later in the sanctuary of Olympia.

Deukalion came out of the ark and sacrificed to Zeus Phyxios. The latter sent him Hermes and granted him a wish. He asked for people, and in the sanctuary of Themis at the river Kephissos they were instructed by Themis to cover their heads and throw their mother's bones behind them. They realized that Themis had meant Mother Earth by this. So they threw stones behind them, and from the stones of Deukalion emerged men, from the stones of Pyrrha women. Therefore the new people were "a hard race, experienced in tribulation". The ancient Greeks thought that their word for people (λαοι) derived from stone (λαες), as we know today a so-called folk etymology.

Apollodor reports in his Bibliotheke that other people too who had saved themselves on mountains had survived: Megaros, Kerambos and the inhabitants of Parnassos, some of whom emigrated to Arkadia and there revived the terrible customs of Lykaon. So the flood had been of little use.

Deukalion, after his lucky rescue, built the first temple for Zeus in Athens and was buried there after his death (Pausanias). With Pyrrha he had five children, Protogeneia, Hellen, who became the progenitor of the Greeks (Hellenes), Graikos, Thyia and Orestheus, perhaps also Amphiktyon.

History of Art:
The representation of Deukalion and Pyrrha in antiquity is rare. I only found the mention of a stucco relief from Ostia around 120 AD. But in the Renaissance this theme was taken up. There are arrangements of this motive by Schiavone (1563, Galleria Nazionale in Parma), by Tintoretto (around 1541, Modena, GE; 1543/44, Padua, Mus. Civico) and later by Peter Paul Rubens (1636, Prado) and Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione (1655, Denver Art Museum), to name only the most important.

I have chosen
(1) the painting of Rubens and
(2) the painting of Castiglione.
(3) Interesting is also a marble sculpture "Pyrrha or the population" from 1773, which is today in the Louvre. It shows Pyrrha and the people created by her stone throws, here represented by children. It was commissioned by Abbot Terray, the last financial controller of Louis XV and short-term director of the king's buildings before Louis XVI's arrival. Population here is meant as activity, not in the sense of "total number of inhabitants", but of "to populate", as in the peupulation policy of Frederick the Great. This peupulation was an important instrument of population policy in absolutism.

(1) Hesiod, Theogony
(2) Apollodor, Bibliotheke
(3) Ovid, Metamorphoses
(4) Pausanias, Voyages
(5) Strabo

(1) Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon (online too)
(2) Wilhelm Heinrich Roscher, Ausführliches Lexikon der griechischen und römischen Mythologie (online too)
(3) Der Kleine Pauly
(4) Karl Kerenyi, Die Mythologie der Griechen
(5) Robert von Ranke-Graves, Griechische Mythologie
(6) Aghion/Barbillon/Lissarrague, Reclams Lexikon der antiken Götter und Heroen in der Kunst, 2000

Online Sources:
(1) Wikipedia

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« Reply #431 on: April 10, 2019, 06:31:44 am »

Apollo Lairbenos

Asia Minor is known as home of an infinite number of deities. Here I would like to tell something about the Phrygian Apollo Lairbenos.

1st coin:
Phrygia, Hierapolis, pseudo-autonomous, 2nd-3rd century A.D.
AE 24, 7.34g, 180°
        Bust of Apollo Lairbenos, draped and laureare, r.
       Roman she-wolf l., suckling he twins Remus and Romulus, above a star
ref. BMC 95 var.
about VF, dark green patina

The name means "holy city" and it is said to have been founded by Apollo. It was famous for its holy hot springs, whose gases were associated with Pluto, the underworld god. Hierapolis had an important Jewish community and is mentioned by Paul in his letters to the Colossians. Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The white sinter terraces of Pamukkale are world famous.

In 1889 Ramsay and Hogarth were the first to discover the ruins of a small temple near Badliner near Dionysopolis in Phrygia, dedicated to a native god identified with Apollo. According to the inscriptions found, he was also worshipped in Dionysopolis. in Hierapolis, Motella and Atyochorion. His name is not uniform. In Hierapolis he was called Lairbenos. In the inscriptions, however, also occur: Lairmenos, Larmenos, Larbenos, Leimenos and Luermenos. This epithet of the Asia Minor Apollo is not Greek. In former times some have derived it from Greek labrys (= double axe), others from Hittite labarnas (= "Lord"). But rather a toponym or an ethnicon underlies it. The name can come from the place name Lyrbe near the found inscriptions. It was probably the case that the pronunciation of this Phrygian sound could not be accurately reproduced in Greek. Ramsay assumes that he might have been similar to the German "ö".

In the inscriptions he is often called Apollon Lairbenos or Apollon Helios. Epiphanes (the shining one) and Megas (the great one) are also mentioned, all references to his solar character. He was worshipped together with the maternal goddess Leto, who had an extensive cult in the southern and western Asia minor. Ramsay saw him as her son. A coin from Hierapolis with the legend ΛΗΤΩΕΙΑ.ΠΥΘΙΑ shows that there must have been a common celebration in both honours. Ramsay writes that the couple Leto and Lairbenos Apollo had their equivalent in Kybele and Atys in northern Asia Minor. In the course of time it became a triad through the arrival of Artemis. The priests of their cult also called themselves "Priests of Asklepios Soter", which shows that he additionally had the qualities of a healer god and that he must have been closely related to the god Sozon (Roscher).

Inscriptions in the temple of Badliner show that slaves were released in his name if they placed themselves for some time or forever as hieroi in the service of the deity (as so-called hierodouls, temple servants). But there were also steles which spoke of terrible punishments for those who had sinned against him in the service of God. This could also have been malaria, which was endemic in this valley. As offences that had been punished, are described: A woman had slept with her husband although she was a hiera. A man had not let his wife go, although she was a hiera (actually understandable!). A man had eaten the meat of a goat, which was intended as a sacrificial animal. The purpose of these steles was to warn others.

A building connected to the Apollo-Lairbenos cult was excavated in Hierapolis in 1960. It stands above the Plutonion (an entrance to the underworld), which was a cave filled with poisonous gases, of which Pliny writes that only the priests of the Great Mother (the so-called Galli) could come out of it undamaged. With Great Mother (= Kybele) Leto is meant here with security, who was called also MHTHP LHTΩ. Somehow in this time many deities were mixed with each other
On coins Lairbenos is regularly depicted with a crown of rays, which proves his function as sun god. The twins suckled by a she-wolf on the reverse of the coin are deliberately not called Remus and Romulus by Roscher, because exposed children who are raised by an animal are also found in many other myths.

Lairbenos also occurs on a horse riding r., not only on steles, but also on coins:

2nd coin:
Phrygia, Hierapolis, pseudo-autonomous, 3rd century A.D.
AE 24, 8.16g, 0°
obv. BOVΛΗ
        Bust of Boule (= council), draped and laureate, r.
       Apollo Lairbenos trotting on horse r., with l. hand holding the reins, in r. hand
       holding double axe
ref. BMC 240, 77
F+, black-brown patina, flan crack at 7h, perforated at 6h

From Thyatira there are coins on which a figure rides on a horse and holds a double axe (labrys) over the shoulder. For a long time this figure was thought to be an Amazon. Gerhard then realized that it had to be a male deity, but thought it was Men. Only Pick realized that it was Apollo Tyrimnaios. Also here it concerns the Lydo-Phrygian sun god, who appears on the coins of many cities in Lydia and Phrygia in this representation. This god is also depicted on coins of Eumeneia in Phrygia, here standing frontally with a double axe and a raven:

3rd coin:
Phrygia, Eumeneia, Nero as Caesar, 50-54 A.D.
AE 20, 4.60g, 0°
issued under the Archiereus Julius Kleon
       Bust, draped, bareheaded, r.
rev. from right to left, always from top to bottom:
       Apollo Tyrimnaios, nude, chlamys over left shoulder, standing frontal, looking l.,
       holding double axe in left arm and in extended r. hand raven
ref. SNG Copenhagen 394; SNG by Aulock 3591; SNG Munich 207; RPC 3149;
       BMC 41
Rare, VF, black, shiny patina

Julius Kleon was together with his wife Bassa high priest of Asia.

Excursus: The double axe
The double axe (Greek labrys, Latin bipennis) served for craft purposes, but also as a weapon, in Homer's case, however, only for the opponents of the Achaeans, above all for the Amazons. It had its special meaning in the cult. Originally coming from the Near East and then in Asia Minor, especially in Caria, it was the attribute of numerous native gods until the latest time. In Crete it became one of the most important religious symbols. There only goddesses are represented with the labrys. This is seen partly as evidence of a matriarchy, but partly also as an indication of the male partner of the Great Goddess and as insignia of the priest king. Double axes were set up as cult symbols and consecration gifts, partly made of precious material, and carved into the supporting foundation stones of the Cretan palaces as divine protection. In Asia minor, besides Demeter and Kybele, many male deities also carry a labrys, e.g. Zeus as Labraundos, Men and Apollo, as here on the coin. This is often interpreted as a sign of the weather and thunderstorm god, but without sufficient reason.

On the Greek mainland the Labrys passes completely into the hands of male figures. Since the so-called geometrical time the Labrys appears as a sign of holiness, e.g. with Herakles, Theseus, Hephaistos etc. In Italy it plays, except in eastern cults, no big role. The axe in the Fasces bundle has nothing to do with the Labrys. The Kleiner Pauly thinks that the actual character and the ritual use of the labrys needs further clarification.

Unfortunately the esotericism of this device has taken over again. On the Internet you will find the most peculiar explanations, especially from so-called feminists.

I have attached:
(1) a picture of the Plutonion (Mach, Wikipedia)
(2) the picture of a stele with the riding Lairbenos (Wikipedia)

(1) W. M. Ramsay, Artemis-Leto and Apollo-Lairbenos, The Journal of Hellenic
      Studies, Vol. 10 (1889) (via
(2) Kevin M. Miller, Apollo Lairbenos, in Numen, Vol. 32, No. 1 (Jul., 1985) (via
(3) Wilhelm Heinrich Roscher, Ausführliches Lexikon der griechischen und
      römischen Mythologie, 1895
(4) Der Kleine Pauly
(5) Wikipedia

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« Reply #432 on: November 01, 2019, 12:44:37 pm »

Sauroktonos revisited

The most important type for Nikopolis ad Istrum is undoubtedly the Apollo Sauroktonos, the "lizard killer", an unique feature of Nikopolis. This type is also available from Philippopolis (but scarce and only later) and 1x from Prusa ad Olympum, but these are probably borrowed from Nikopolis (Pick in AMNG). Therefore it is assumed that Nikopolis possessed at least one copy of this famous statue of Praxiteles. Common to all is the representation of Apollo stg. r. with crossed legs and with his right hand outstretched on a tree stump on which a lizard crawls upwards. It is interesting that Apollo does not hold an arrow in his hand at the first 3 emperors. And even under Severus, where first Apollo appears with arrow, as many types also occur without arrow! An observation that astonished me early on, because it doesn't really fit the lizard killer.

The Apollo Sauroktonos has long been one of my favourite types in art history as well as in numismatics. During my occupation with it I have been able to clear up a rare type for Commodus and have been able to show that a type for Severus actually holds a branch at the hip.

Here are 2 examples of early coins from Nikopolis:

1st coin:
Antoninus Pius, AD 138-161
AE 20, 5.85g, 20.28mm, 180°
struck under governor M. Antonius Zenon, c. AD 145 (Pick)
          Bare head n.r.
          Apollo Sauroktonos, nude, with crossed legs standing r., with outstretched left  
          hand resting on tree stump on which a lizard is crawling upwards; right hand at
Ref:: a) AMNG I/1, 1225 var. (head laureate)
         b) Varbanov 2111 var. (= AMNG 1225)
         c) Hristova-Hoeft-Jekov (2018) No (this coin)
         d) RPC online temp no. 4328
Rare, almost SS, black patina

This is the earliest and most elegant representation of Apollo Sauroktonos on a coin, but without an arrow.

2nd coin:
Commodus, AD 177-192
AE 22, 6.83g, 22.15mm, 105°
          Bust, cuirassed, laureate, r.
          Apollo Sauroktonos, nude, with crossed legs standing r., with outstretched left  
          hand resting on tree stump on which a lizard is crawling upwards; right hand at
          hip holding an (olive) branch; left behind him on his bow and quiver
Ref:: a) not in AMNG
         b) not in Varbanov
         c) Hristova-Hoeft-Jekov (2018) No (this coin)
         d) cf. Gorny&Mosch, auction 212, lot 2321 corr. (Heavily tooled and then
             misinterpreted as Artemis!)
Extremely rare (R9, only 2 specimens known!), F+, dark green patina, corroded

Although corroded, this is a nice and interesting example of the coinage of Nikopolis at the time of Commodus!

The representations for Severus with the arrow in the raised hand do not correspond with the arm position of the traditional statues in the Louvre and the Vatican, nor with the bronze statue of Cleveland, which is claimed to be the original. All of them have the right arm at hip height! Here is the list of the 30 types known from Nikopolis so far:

Sauroktonos types from Nikopolis, after Hristova-Hoeft-Jekov (2018):
1. Antoninus Pius
--- 4 Hand at hip, without object
2. Marcus Aurelius
--- 1 Hand at hip, without object
3. Commodus
--- 1 Hand at hip, without object
--- 3 Hand at hip with branch
4. Severus
--- 2 Hand on chest / at hip, without object
--- 2 Hand raised, with arrow?
--- 1 Hand raised with a branch
--- 1 Hand at hip with branch
--- 3 Hand raised with arrow
5. Caracalla
--- 1 Hand hanging down with branch
--- 2-3 2 Hand raised with arrow
--- 1 Hand hanging down with branch
6. Plautilla
--- 1 Hand raised with arrow
7 Geta
--- 1 Hand raised with arrow
--- 1 Hand at hip, without object
8. Macrinus
--- 1 Hand raised with arrow
--- 1 Hand at hip with branch
--- 1 ???
9. Diadumenian
--- 1 Hand hanging down with branch
10. Elagabal
--- 1 Hand hanging down with branch
11th Gordian III
--- -

With the exception of Gordian III, all emperors have issued coins with the depiction of Apollo Sauroktonos, of the empresses only Plautilla. Altogether we have 30 types so far. They are arranged in the following 3 groups according to their arm position::

(1) right hand at hip:
      a. Hand without object 10
      b. with branch in hand 3
      c. with branch to tree stump 1
(2) right hand retracted at shoulder height
      a. with branch in hand 2
      b. with arrow in hand 8
(3) right hand hanging down
      a. with branch in hand 4
(4) unclear 2

Accordingly, all coin representations with raised arm (group 2) and also those with hanging arm down (group 3) are irregular, because they do not correspond with the preserved marble copies. If we omit these, only 14 types remain, not a single one of which shows an arrow. This corresponds well with the preserved marble statues and the bronze statue from Cleveland, which also have no arrow in their hands. The description with the arrow goes back only to Pliny the Elder, who writes: (Nat. Hist. 34, 70): "Fecit et puberem Apollinem subrepenti lacerate comminus sagitta insidiantem quem sauroctonon vocant" (= He also created a juvenile Apollo, which closely pursues a crawling lizard with an arrow; this one is called Sauroktonos, the lizard killer)

Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717-1768), the founder of scientific archaeology and art history, who was appointed overseer of Roman antiquities shortly afterwards (1763), identified the statue described by Pliny in 1756 as Apollo Sauroktonos in the copy belonging to the Borghese Collection at that time. It is now in the Louvre after Camillo Filippo Ludovico Borghese sold part of the famous collection to his brother-in-law Napoleon Bonaparte in 1807.

But if so many facts, especially the "evidence of the coins (Pat Lawrence)" as shown above, speak against an arrow, then one must also consider that Pliny may have been wrong. In particular, one should consider that the inhabitants of Nikopolis will have known this statue and could have compared it with the coin depictions!

The interpretation of this statue has always caused problems. That the lizard is an allusion to the Python is implausible. It would degrade, even make ridiculous, at best ironic the memorable fight of Apollo against the dragon. The lizard has always caused difficulties. I had already once published an article about the Sauroktonos (Coins and Ancient Mythology, 2011), describing the obvious contrast between the youthful, playful type of Apollo and the merciless murderer of an innocent little animal, a contrast characteristic of Apollo. But now there is a new interpretation that I do not want to withhold from you.

I became aware of them through the article "Apollo Sauroktonos: No Lizards Were killed in the Making of These Coins" by Roman Collector in CoinTalk of September 8, 2019, which goes back to Irving Lavin, "The Fable of Apollo Sauroktonos and the Beauty of Apollo Medicus", which recalls the important work of Renate Preisshofen, "Der Apollon Sauroktonos des Praxiteles, 2002. But if Apollo has no arrow in his hand and doesn't want to kill the lizard, what is it about?

Like snakes, lizards also skin themselves. The ancients believed that the "newborn" lizards were blind after moulting and would only regain their sight through the rays of the sun. And that is where Apollo comes into play. As sun god and as Apollo Medicus only he could renew the sight. Hyginus writes that Apollo, the father of Asklepius, was the first to practice ophthalmology. Apollo doesn't want to kill the lizard, but his bright sunbeams heal it and give it back its sight. And that is why the lizard does not seek a hiding place here, as it would normally do in this situation, but crawls upwards towards the sun. A representation that can even be found in St. Peter's in Rome.

And so Apollo here is not the merciless killer, but the charitable youth. So not Apollo Sauroktonos, the lizard killer, is depicted, but Apollo Medicus, the charitable healer. An interesting thought. And a good possibility to finally break the knot of interpretation, not to cut it, but to loosen it!

I have attached
(1) a picture of the statue of Sauroktonos from the Louvre (Wikipedia)
(2) the detail of a bronze relief by Gianlorenzo Bernini: "Lizard creeps towards the sun" on a column of the canopy in St. Peter, Rome, ca. 1625

(1) Pliny the Elder, Naturae Historiae
(2) Hyginus, Fabulae
(3) Behrend Pick, The ancient coins of northern Greece, Vol. 1: Dacien and
      Moesia, 1898
(4) Patricia Lawrence, Apollo Sauroktonos: "The Evidence of the Coins". Online at
(5) Renate Preisshofen, Der Apollon Sauroktonos des Praxiteles, in "Antike Plastik 28  
      (2002): 41 115"
(6) Hans-Joachim Hoeft, Münzen und antike Mythologie - Reise in ein fernes Land, 2011
(7) Irving Lavin, The Fable of Apollo Sauroktonos and the Beauty of Apollo
       Medicus, Institute for Advanced Study. Online at
(8) Roman Collector, Apollo Sauroktonos: No Lizards Were killed in the Making of  
      These Coins, Cointalk, 8 September 2019

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« Reply #433 on: November 01, 2019, 01:01:23 pm »

Herakles and the Lernaean Hydra

The coin:
AE 18, 2.77g, 17.56mm, 210°
obv.: TON KTI - CTHN
         Bearded head of Herakles r.
         Herakles, nude, stg. l., has grabbed the Lernaean Hydra with her several heads, entangling already his r. leg, with his l. hand and holding in his raised r. hand his club to slay the Hyda; behind him on the ground the quiver and his bow
ref.: Mionnet Suppl. II, 604
very rare, almost VF, dark green patina, slightly corroded

From Nikopolis coins are known for Macrinus and his son Diadumenian with almost the same depiction, also with the foot already entangled by the Hydra, so that there are some indications that this is the representation of a statue.

What happened before:
Herakles, the illegitimate son of Zeus and Alkmene, was persecuted from birth by the jealousy of Hera. After marrying Megara, the daughter of King Kreon of Thebes, she struck him with madness amd he killed his children with Megara and threw them into the fire. When he came to his senses again, he banished himself from Thebes and was atoned by King Thespius. Then he turned to the Pythia in Delphi to ask what he should do further. Pythia told him to serve his cousin Orystheus, King of Tiryns, for 12 years.

The killing of the Lernaean Hydra is the 2nd work in the Dodeka catalogue of the 12 works of Herakles. The Hydra, a daughter of Typhon and Echidna, from which other monsters came, was a huge water snake with seven heads, raised by Hera, living in the swamp of Lerna in the Argolis. She covered the land with her deadly breath, devastating the flocks and everything she came to. Herakles, together with Iolaos, climbed his cart and set off. On Athena's advice he chased her out of her cave under a plane tree on the river Amymone with glowing arrows. With effort he overpowered her - she was already wrapping herself around his legs - and struck her heads off with the sword. But each time two new ones grew out of the cut off head. Hera also sent a giant crab to bite Herakles in the foot. Then Heracles called his companion Iolaos for help. He ignited the nearby forest and then burned out the stumps of her neck with fire, so that they could no longer grow back. Finally Herakles cut off her middle head, which was immortal, and buried it under a heavy boulder on the road from Lerna to Elaios. He immersed his arrows in the poisonous blood of the Hydra, making them absolutely deadly.

The Hydra was so poisonous that her breath already killed when someone passed by her, even when she was asleep. The river Anigros in Elis stank unbearably just because once the centaur Chiron, hit by an arrow of Heracles, had bathed his wounds in it. Herakles himself had been bitten by the Hydra during his battle. As a result, he was constantly suffering from incurable ulcers. He asked the oracle in Delphi for help and the oracle advised him to look for a medicinal herb similar to the Hydra in Phoenicia. He found it near the city of Aka, today's Acre in Palestine, which then got its name from the Greek ακεομαι (= I heal, from ακος = healing). Unfortunately it is not handed down which plant it was.

There were problems with Erystheus because he did not want to accept the killing of the Hydra as one of the 12 works. He accused Heracles of using the help of Iolaos. But Herakles replied that he had only called Iolaos when the giant crayfish had helped the Hydra. So the killing of the Lernaean Hydra is considered a valid work of Herakles.

In the end Herakles also died from the poison of the Hydra: The blood of the centaur Nessos, whom he had killed with an arrow, had become so poisonous that he suffered insatiable pain from the blood-soaked nettle shirt that Nessos had given to Deianeira as a gift for him, and in his desperation he sought death by fire.

Lerna lies about 7km from Argos on the southern Peloponnesos and was notorious for its swamps, which were bounded in the north by the river Pontinos and in the south by the river Amymone. These had a dozen strong sources (Greek: κεφαλαι = heads), which were mythologically personified by the Lernaean Hydra with its numerous heads. There was also the "halcyonic pond", which was regarded as an entrance into the underworld. A holy plane tree grove was consecrated to Demeter Prosymna (a nurse of Hera) and Dionysos Saotes with the mystery cult of the Lernaeai. After Apollodoros Rhodios there was also a Poseidon cult (Pauly).

The number of heads the Hydra is said to have had varies from three to five, seven, nine, up to one hundred. Originally the hydra probably had only one head.
It is said to have been Pisander of Kamiros on Rhodes (about 640 B.C.), who first increased the number of heads to make them even more terrible (Pausanias).

Iolaos was originally a Heros who was worshipped in Thebes, but was later suppressed by the Herakles cult. As son of Iphikles and Automedusa, he was the nephew of Herakles and became his companion and charioteer. He helped Herakles in various of his works. At Plutarch and Euripides he is the lover of Herakles. He took part in the hunt for the Kalydonean Boar and in the voayage of the Argonauts. He was the first Olympian winner. Herakles gave him Megara, his first wife, as his wife. After the death of Herakles he had built the big burial mound and took care of Herakles' children. In their defense against Erystheus he died. In Thebes the Iolaeia took place in his honour with chariot races and sacrifices.

Palaiphatos the rationalist, writes:

Lernos was the king of Hydra in the Lerna area and an enemy of Eurystheus, the king of Mykenae. Erystheus sent Herakles to devastate the city. But Hydra was strongly fortified and guarded by 50 brave archers. Whenever Herakles met an archer with his arrow, 2 new ones took his place. When the distress by Herakles grew stronger, Lernos recruited a troop of Carians under the leadership of the great Karkinos (Greek cancer). Thereupon Iolaos helped Herakles with an army from Thebes, set Hydra on fire and the city and the enemy army were destroyed. From this the myth was made (Palaiphatos, middle of the 4th century BC).

History of Art:
I have added 2 pictures:
(1) The picture of an Attic black-figured Stamnos, middle of the 5th century B.C. It shows "Herakles, Iolaos and the Hydra" and is today in the Louvre in Paris. It is attributed to the Princeton painter. On the left you can see Athena, who helps Herakles.

(2) A picture by Antonio del Pollaiuolo "Herakles and the Hydra of Lerna", ca.1480, today in the Uffizi/Florence
This is a pair of paintings to which the painting "Hercules kills Antaeus" belongs too. It is often difficult to decide which of the two brothers Antonio or Piero is the artist. But these two works are attributed to Antonio Pollaiuolo. They show scenes of Greek mythology in the light of Christian philosophy. They were probably commissioned by the Medici. In 1609 they were first mentioned in the inventory of Palazzo Gondi, where they hung as a diptych. In the 2nd World War they were lost and were only rediscovered in Los Angeles in 1963 and returned in 1991. This success was due to Rodolfo Siviero (1911-1983), an Italian secret agent, historian and intellectual who was dedicated to retrieving the artworks stolen by the Nazis.

(1) Hesiod, Theogony
(2) Apollodor, Bibliotheke
(3) Apollonius Rhodios, Argonautika
(4) Pausanias, Travel in Greece
(5) Palaiphatos, Incredible Stories, 38

(1) Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon, 1770
(2) Wilhelm Heinrich Roscher, Ausführliches Lexikon der griechischen und römischen Mxthologie, 1884-1900
(3) Robert von Ranke-Graves, Greek Mythology, 1984
(4) Karl Kerenyi, The Mythology of the Greeks, Volume II: The Heroic Stories, 1966
(5) Der Kleine Pauly, 1979
(6) Aghion/Barbillon/Lissarrague, Lexikon der antiken Götter und Heroen in der Kunst, Reclam 2000

Online sources:
(2) Wikipedia

Best regards

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« Reply #434 on: December 03, 2019, 07:15:45 am »

Excursion: The Hydra as Allegory of the Enemy

Today, the Hydra has become an allegory of the enemy, especially of an insidious and dangerous one who is constantly growing up. Here are a few examples:

(1) First, the infamous commemorative medal of St. Bartholomew's Night, struck under the French king Charles IX. (1550-1574):
AE - Bronze, 51mm, 60g
         struck 1572, medalist Alexandre Olivier (restrike from 1880)
          Bust in armour and sash, laureate, r.
         in ex. 1572
         Hercules, nude, in lion's fur and with lion's scalp on his head, stg. r.
         holding in his raised r. hand the club and in his extended l. hanf a burning torch
         towards the Hydra, which is a scale monster with claws and 3 heads on the right
         in the front of him; in the background a landscape
Ref: Armand III, 286, 1; Jones I, 108; Mazer Roll II, 168

1572 was the year of the terrible St. Bartholomew's Night. Hercules represents Charles IX, who with fire and sword exstirpates the Hydra of heresy. The motto on the back translated reads: "If he does not fear the sword, I will also meet him with fire", that meant the 3 million Protestants (Huguenots).
(2) Commemorative coin on the battle of Millesimo and the battle at Dego as an example of the defamation of the military opponent as Hydra:
Italy, Napoleon Bonaparte, 1796
AE - Bronze, 43mm   
       minted 1796, medallion by Lavy   
         Napoleon in the shape of Hercules stands to the left, fights with club
         seven-headed hydra
         in the field: LE / PEUPLE / FRANCAIS / A / L'ARMEE / D'ITALI
         (legend in 6 lines)
Ref:: ECR Julius 494, Hennin 733

The so-called Battle of Millesimo, rather the loss-making siege of Cosseria Castle on April 13, 1796, and the Battle of Dego on April 14, 1796 were part of several small battles of Napoleon Bonpartes' Italian campaign in the 1st Coalition War (1792-1797) between the revolutionary army of France and the allied armies of Austria and Sardinia-Piedmont in northern Italy, which Napoleon was able to end victoriously.
According to the republican calendar introduced after the French Revolution, the Floreal was a month from April 20 to May 19.

(3) Medal from Germany from the 1st World War:
AE - Iron medal, 85mm, one-sided
           in the field RJA (Medailleur)
           The German Michel as Hercules fights against the hydra of his war opponents

The saying 'VIEL FEIND - VIEL EHR!' = 'Much enemy, much honour' is attributed to Georg von Frundsberg (1473-1528), the lansquenet leader of the Habsburgs. In 1513 he surprisingly defeated a numerically superior army of Venetians at La Motta in Northern Italy.

Today the terror network of the Islamic state is regularly referred to as Hydra, but also the daily terror in the social networks, which is so difficult to deal with.

Best regards

Tribunus Plebis Perpetuus
Procurator Monetae
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Posts: 11527

Omnes vulnerant, ultima necat.

« Reply #435 on: December 03, 2019, 07:17:35 am »

Sobek - the Egyptian crocodile god

This coin has been in my collection for 10 years. I always thought it was a crocodile on the back. But now Broucheion from CoinTalk has made me aware that the crocodile has a sun disk on its head. So it's not a simple crocodile, it's Sobek, the crocodile god! I had overlooked the sun disk, but I'm not alone: Förschner doesn't mention it either!

So now naturally follows an article about Sobek - the Egyptian crocodile god.

The coin:
Egypt, Alexandria, Arsinoites Nome, Hadrian, AD 117-138
AE - Dichalcum, 2.01g, 12.87mm, 30°, 2.01g
         struck in Alexandria AD 126/127 (year 11)
Obv.: laureated head n.r.
Rev.: Crocodile with sun disk above the head, r. (Crocodile God Sobek)
          in the upper field LIA (year 11)   >
          in ex. APC (for Arsinoites)
Ref.: Milne -; Dattari 6212; Geissen 3383f.; SNG Copenhagen 1085; Förschner 1344
          (Sun disk not mentioned!)
Not common, SS, light green patina

This coin is a so-called Nome coin. In the Old Kingdom Egypt was divided into 32 districts (Greek: Nomoi), which had emerged from the principalities of the Neolithic (Wikipedia). At their head stood a ruler (Strategos), who was relatively independent of the central power of the Pharaoh. Each district (Nomos) was assigned a deity who was especially worshipped. Many of these local gods did not have their own name, but were named after their main place of worship. The goddess of the city Bast in the Nile delta, the famous cat goddess, was simply called "Bastet = the goddess of Bast".

This coin was struck in Alexandria (like all Nome coins) for the Arsinoites district. This had been added to the ancient districts  in Greek-Roman times as the 21st district Noret-Pehet and belonged to Upper Egypt.

Arsinoites was located on the Fajum at the confluence of a contributary to the Nile and the ancient Fajum Lake. The Fajum was an extensive marshland, an ideal hunting ground, which was largely drained only under Ptolemaios II to settle his Greek mercenaries there.

The crocodiles living there since ancient times instilled admiration and fear in the people. So it is understandable that they were worshipped there in the shape of the crocodile god Sobek (Egyptian "sbk"). The Greeks called the city Krokodeilopolis because of this worship of the crocodile. Sobek was called Souchos. Sobek was also considered the ruler of water and the god of fertility. He was worshipped as a protector, but was also regarded as evil in part. In the New Kingdom he appears in the underworld books. In the late period he was even regarded as the creator god.

Sobek was depicted as a god with a human body and crocodile head. As a national emblem he carries the Was. scepter in the left and the Ankh in the right. In the New Kingdom around 1400 B.C. Sobek additionally received the sun disk, because he was considered at this time a revelation of the sun god Re and was known as Sobek-Re. We therefore have reason to believe that Sobek-Re is also meant on this coin.

Its importance was so great at that time that a number of pharaohs took its name as an addition, e.g. Queen Nofrusobek or Pharaoh Chankre Sobekhotep, which translated means "Sobek is satisfied".

To the crocodile god Sobek were consecrated numerous temples with ponds for the holy animals. Besides Krokodeilopolis, the most important were found at Kom Ombo in Upper Egypt and at Tebtunis. The ancient Egyptians knew two different crocodile species: the larger Nile crocodile and the smaller West African crocodile. The West African crocodile was usually used for religious purposes, probably because it was less dangerous. The crocodiles who died in this temple were embalmed like humans and buried as mummies. At Kom-Ombo and in the caves of the crocodile necropolis of El-Maabdeh thousands of these crocodile mummies were found, especially young animals.

The Romans renamed Krokodeilopolis to Arsinoites, the city of the Arsinoites. Besides Memphis, Pelusium and Alexandria, it was the court of the governor. Numerous papyri in Greek, Coptic and Arabic script came from there. Today it is Al-Fayum, a large city with over 475000 inhabitants.

I have added
(1) A drawing of the crocodile god Sobek, and
(2) a pic of the front of the Temple of Sobek-Re (Roland Unger, Wikipedia), Qasr Qarun, at Al-Fayum

(1) Old Kingdom ca. 2707 - 2216 B.C. (3rd to 6th Dynasty)
(2) New Kingdom ca. 1550 - 1070 B.C. (18th to 20th Dynasty)

(1) Wikipedia
(2) Gisela Förschner, Die Münzen der römischen Kaiser in Alexandria - Historisches Museum in Frankfurt, 1987
(3) Der Kleine Pauly

Best regards

Tribunus Plebis Perpetuus
Procurator Monetae
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Posts: 11527

Omnes vulnerant, ultima necat.

« Reply #436 on: December 04, 2019, 03:36:30 pm »

Index of this thread

Titles in Italics refer to Roman mythology!
Apollo Smintheus
Apollo Sauroktonos - The Lizardkiller
Amphilochos - The seer
Apollo Lykeios
Apollo Lykeios - or rather not?
The Rape of Persephone
The Stymphalean Birds - an ancient Bird Influenza?
The Sword Dance of the Kuretes
Gigantomachia - The battle of the Giants
The two Nemeseis of Smyrna
Haimos - the Mountain God
Astarte, or Ba'alat Gebul, the Lady of Byblos
Baetyl, the sacred stone
Erichthonios - King of Athens
Marsyas - the skinned
Triptolemos - the bringer of culture
Men - the Anatolean Moon God
Ma-Enyo - the archaic War Goddess
Ares - the bloodthirsty killer
Aphrodite Pudica
The infant Dionysos
Dionysos and the panther
Dionysos with Kantharos
Mount Argaios - the Sacred Mountain of Cappadocia
Some notes on the Roman god Liber
The Aegis - the wondershield of Zeus
The Gorgoneion - the head of Medusa
Asklepios - the Healing God
The gods of the Underworld
Dea Caelestis - the ancient City Goddess of Carthage
Kybele - the great Earth Mother
The Dioscurs - the divine pair of brothers
Hermes - the frontier runner
Melikertes and the Isthmian Games
Omphale - owner and lover of Herakles
The snake cult of Alexander of Abounoteichos (called the FALSE PROPHET)
A curious depiction of Asklepios
The heritage of Greek mythology in modern literature
The madness of Aias the Great
Kronos - father of gods
Asteria - the Star Goddess
Perseus and Andromeda
The Ephesian Boar
The Calydonean Boar
Bull Mythology
Some notes on the river-gods
Mt. Gerizim - the holy mountain of Samaria
The mysterious Cabiri
Herakliskos Drakonopnigon - The infant Herakles strangling the snakes
Atargatis or Dea Syria, the Great Syrian Goddess
Orpheus taming the wild animals
Telephos, the son of Herakles
Dionysos and Nikaia - the founder myth of Nicaea
Dido - founder of Carthage
The Minotaur
Battos - the untrue herdsman
Kadmos - Founder of Thebes
Darzalas - The Great God of Odessos
Tyre and the Ambrosial rocks
Artemis Tauropolos and Iphigenia
The Lokrian Aias
The Herakles Farnese
Europa and the bull
The auloi
Leda and the swan
Tomos - the Ktistes
Hippolytos and Phaidra
An interesting depiction of Zeus-Ammon
Alpheios and the nymph Arethusa
The Dioskouroi
The myths of Arne
Artemis and Kallisto
The Lares
The white sow of Lavinium
The Catanian Brothers
The rape of the Sabine women
Veiovis and Amaltheia
Herakles with kantharos
Laurel wreath with berries
Some notes on Pan
Miletos - founder of Milet
Herakles and the Nemean lion
Venus Verticordia
The love of Ares and Aphrodite
The fourth labor of Herakles, the Erymanthian Boar
Zeus Kasios
Zeus Kataibates
Venus Cloacina
The struggle between Xanthos and Achilleus
The Erymanthian Boar II
Herakles and the giant Antaios
Anna Perenna
Iuppiter Optimus Maximus
Ganymedes - the beautiful
The three Graces
Juno Sospita
Apollo with double-axe
The Amazons
Cheiron, the wise kentaur
The Kentaurs
Aeneas, carrying Anchises
Apollo Patroos
Hekate Triformis
Poseidon and the nymph Beroe
Some notes on Mithras
Hector - Heroe of Troy
Juno Caprotina
The Thracian Rider-God Heros
The unlucky King Kyzikos
Hylas - Herakles' favorite
Aphrodite Urania
Sandan of Tarsos
Diana Nemorensis
Acca Larentia
Apollo Smintheus and the herdsman Ordes
Hera Lacinia
The Egyptian Sphinx
The river Nile
Agathodaimon and Uraeus
The crowns of ancient Egypt
Zeus Olbios and the Priest-Kingdom of Olba
Some notes on Nemesis
The Star of Bethlehem: Mythology or not?
The myth of Tereus and Prokne
Mars and Rhea Silva
Faustulus and the twins
Romulus and the first triumph
Byzas - founder of Byzanz
Herophile - the Sibyl
The voting pebble of Athena
The second labour of Hercules, the Lernaean Hydra
The Garden of the Hesperides
The Cult of Dionysos in Nysa-Scythopolis
Eshmun - The Phoenician Healer God
The pre-Islamic goddess Al-Lat
Aineias escapes from Troy
Pyramus and Thisbe
The Genius
The Genius Cucullatus and Christophorus
Artemis with child
Nymph Nysa and the Dionysos Child
Dionysos and Ariadne
The Samian Hera
Shamash - The Babylonian sun-god
A founder myth of Lanuvium
A word about Aequitas
Doros - son of Poseidon
The bound Ares
The drunken Hephaistos
Leto - mother of the twins Apollo and Artemis
Ptah - the Creator God of Memphis
The Sibyl Mantho
The mysterious Pigmies
Poseidon and Troy
Hadad - Jupiter Heliopolitanus
Io/Hathor (and Marnas)
Saturn - the old Roman God of Agriculture
Herakles and the Cretan Bull
Artemis Perasia, the old Kubaba
Apollo Philesios and the movable stag of Kanachos
The Greek Sphinx
Derketo and Triton(?)
Juno Martialis
Some notes on the Phoenix
The Sothic Cycle
Amor and Psyche
Some notes on Eros
The Greek sun-god Helios
Aphrodite Stratonikis
Gordios - Founder of Gordion
The Griffins
Tyche Euposia
Apollo Karinos, the stony Apollo
Apollon Iatros - Apollon the Doctor
Apollon Klarios and the Oracle of Klaros
Silen and Dionysos
Who is the boy between Asklepios and Hygieia?
Zeus Syrgastes
Pelops and the Curse of the House of Atreus
Some notes on Aeternitas
Aphrodite Aphrodisias

Until here the articles are in the book 'Coins and Ancient Mythology'
Thoth, Hermes Trismegistos
The Caduceus (Kerykeion)
Crescent and the ash-grey moonlight
The Mythology of Tenedos
Maron - Eponym of Maroneia
The Return of Odysseus
Excursion: The island of the Phaiakians - Homer's Atlantis?
The so-called Tyche of Antioch
The horrible fate of Tarpeia
Janus - the God with 2 Faces
Excursion: 'The Mourning Penelope' - An Addentum to 'Tyche'
Phrixos and Helle
Excursion: The Dardanelles
The standing lake-god of Savatra
Zeus Olybrios
Philoctetes - the Story of a Lonely and Tortured
Midas (and Mida)
Athena Itonia
Herakles and Kerberos
El/Kronos of Byblos
Excursion: Joseph Weizenbaum's ELIZA
Theseus, the National Hero of the Athenians
Rhodope and the Rabbit - A Beauty from Markianopolis
The Ichthyocentaurs
Otreus and Aineas
Apollo Karneios
Pallor - Goddes of Paleness and Fear
Some Notes on the Cock
Jupiter Stator
Talos - The first Robot in History
Excursion: Man and Machine
The Phrygian Rider-God Sozon
Astakos and the founder myth of Nikomedeia
Dione and the Oracle of Dodona
Excursion: Deukalion and Pyrrha
Apollo Lairbenos
Sauroktonos revisited
Herakles and the Lernaean Hydra
Excursion: The Hydra as Allegory of the Enemy
Sobek - the Egyptian crocodile god

Index of this thread

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