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Author Topic: Coins of mythological interest  (Read 396248 times)
Jochen
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« Reply #200 on: May 03, 2007, 03:21:23 pm »

The unlucky King Kyzikos

Mysia, Kyzikos, quasi-autonomous, 2nd-3rd century AD
AE 29, 8.3g
struck under strategos Aur. Aristeidos
obv. KYZ - IKOC
      Head of Kyzikos, diademed with taenia, r.
rev. CTR A / [YR AR ]IC / TE[I ]DOY / KYZIKH / NWN
      (in 5 lines) all within laurel-wreath
SNG 91 var. (has an additional line)
Very rare, VF/about VF, dark-green patina
Note: In Münsterberg is named a strategos Aur. Aristaidoas. May be he is the same magistrate named in the legend.

The myth of Kyzikos belongs to the ambit of the myths around the Argonauts and their quest for the Golden Fleece. Kyzikos, son of Aineus, a former ally of Herakles, and his wife Ainete, daughter of Eusor (or son of Apollo and Stilbe), was the king of an island of the Propontis (todays Sea of Marmara), called Dolionos or Arkton, which was surmounted by the Dindymon mountain. When the Argonauts on their journey to Kolchis, where they want to get the Golden Fleece, had luckily passed the Hellespont, they came to this island. Here Kyzikos just have married Kleite from the Phrygian city of Perkote and invited all to take part in his wedding ceremonies. And so they did. On this Island, called Island of Bears too, six-arm sons of Rhea were living. The Doliones hadn't worry about them because they were descendants of Poseidon. But when the Argonauts hereafter climbed the mountain Dindymon the earth-born Giants attacked their ship, the 'Argo'. But Herakles succeeded in killing most of them. With it the desaster started which the Argonauts brought to the Doliones. The Argonauts said good bye and took course to the Cimmerian Bosporos. But in the night a heavy storm descended on them and they were thrown back to the island. Because of the darkness Kyzikos couldn't recognize his guests and regarded them as his enemies, the Pelasgians, and a serious fight occured between them. In this fight Jason, the leader of the Argonauts, killed Kyzikos by his own hand, regarding him a pirate. When the sun raised the noble King Kyzikos lay dead at his feet. Both sides realized their terrible error, and Jason arranged a honorable funeral and gave the reign to Kyzikos' sons. It is told by some that in mourning all of the Argonauts have cut their hair. The burial ceremonies lastened three days and Orpheus, an Argonaut too, was assigned to reconcile Kyzikos' soul. But adverse winds prevent them of driving on. Then the seer Mopsus could understand the cry of a kingfisher and gave them the advise to reconcile Rhea, who was angry because of the death of her sons. So the Argonauts climbed the Dindymon mountain again and erected a wooden statue from a grape-vine for the goddess. Therefore Rhea is sometimes called Dindymene. Then they continued their journey.

Another version of the myth tells, that Kyzikos was a king of the Pelasgians in Thrace, was dispelled with his people from his home and then settled in Asia where he married Kleite, the daughter of Merops, king of Rhybakos, and so came to success. When the Argonauts landed at his island his people had attacked them because they regarded them as their enemies who had dispelled them from Thrace. Kyzikos has tried to detach them and then was killed accidentally by Jason. Kleite, just married, couldn't bear that and of love to Kyzikos she committed suicide by hanging. The Nymphs of the grove had cried hereafter so heavenly about her death that from their tears a spring arised called the Kleite Spring

Others tell that he was killed in a fight with Piasos, his father-in-law, who had loved his daughter, the wife of Kyzikos, unseemly, when because of that it came to a struggle between them. But this seems to be another myth going back to Euphorion and mentioned by Schol. Apoll. Rhod. I, 1063.

In another version of the journey of the Argonauts Valerius Flaccus (Argonautika 3.20) writes that Rhea, the Great Mother who has a cult at top of the Dindymon mountain was offended by King Kyzikos, so that she forced the Argonauts to revenge her. Kyzikos namely, betrayed by his too great love of the chase, once have killed a sacred lion with his spear that was wont to bear its mistress, the Great Mother through the cities of Phrygia and was now returning to the bridle. And now in his hybris has hung from his doorposts the mane and the head of his victim, a spoil to bring sorrow to himself and shame upon the goddess. But she, nursing her great rage, beholds from the cymbal-clashing mountain the ship of the Argonauts with its border of kingly shields, and devises against the hero deaths and horrors unheard of: how in the night to set allied hands at strife in unnatural war, how to enmesh the city in cruel terror. The Argonauts killed Kyzikos and his men at night in a confused battle.

The Doliones mourned for a full month, didn't lightened a fire and lived by uncooked food, a custom which could be observed during the Games of Kyzikos until now.

Some call his subjects Dolopes. In any case the island thereafter got the name Kyzikos and so the capital too. Later the island became a peninsula called Arktonesos (= Island of Bears). The city of Kyzikos had two harbours connected by bridged channels. Under Roman rule Kyzikos remained one of the most wealthy and powerful cities in Asia Minor, especially by its location which brought forward the trade. Until the 6th century AD it was the capital of the province Hellespont.

Literature:
Orpheus Argon. 500
Hygin. Fab. 16
Apollod. lib.I, c.9.§18
Euphorion II.c
Strabo lib.XII.p.575
Val. Flacc.Argon. 3.20
Schol. Apollon. ad lib.I.v.948

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

Sorry, I couldn't find any additional pics for this myth!

Best regards 
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« Reply #201 on: May 06, 2007, 04:00:49 pm »

Hylas - Herakles' Favorite

At first it seemed difficult to attribute this coin. But finally I succeeded by using 'Historia Numorum' von Barcley Head which is provided by Ed Snible under http://www.forumancientcoins.com/numiswiki/view.asp?key=Historia%20Numorum
 
The coin:
Bithynia, Kios, Geta as Augustus, AD 209-212
Ae 24, 7.42g
obv. AYT.KP.CE - GETAC AY
      Bust with scale-armor, lareate, r.
rev. LK - IA - NW - N
      Young Hylas, with waving clothes around his hip, advancing l., holding with r. hand
      drinking vessel at his mouth.
Ref.: ANS -; cf. SNG von Aulock 518 (rev., for Volusian), cites Rec.Gen. p.225, 125;
        probably unpublished in major works
Very rare, F+, brown patina

Mythology:
Hylas, meaning 'of the wood', was the son of Theodamas, king of the Dryopians in Thessaly. When Herakles came to Trachis he met Theodamas, who was plowing his fields with oxes. Because he was hungry and because he wanted to start quarrel with the Dryopians he asked him for an ox. When Theodamas refused the delivery of an ox Herakles slew him and abducted Hylas as infant. Later Herakles fell in love with him and Hylas became his favorite.

After having brought the Erymanthian Boar to Erichtheus Herakles together with the youth Hylas went to the Argonauts to take part in their journey to Kolchis to get the Golden Fleece.  After their adventures in Kyzikos they must land at the coast of Kios in Mysia, because they had to repair the rudders which were broken by Herakles. Hylas was sent out to fetch water for Herakles. When he came to a spring the nymphs of the spring in which he dipped his pitcher were so excited because of his beauty that they drew him into the water to keep him forever. And he was never seen again. Herakles started out to search for Hylas but in vain. Only his pitcher he found at the border of the spring. But Herakles' thrice-repeated cry was lost in the depths of the water. Only the voice of Hylas came from the depth like a far echo. In anger Herakles threatened to waste the land if Hylas were not found dead or alive.

In a vision to Herakles Hylas rises from the water’s level, clad in saffron weeds, the gift of the unkind Nympha, and standing by his dear head utters such words as these: ‘Why, father, dost thou waste time in vain lament? Mine now by fate’s appointing is this glade, this home, wither at cruel Hera’s behest the wanton Nympha has stolen me; now doth she win me power to consort with the streams of Zeus and the heavenly deities, and shares with me her love and the honours of the fountain." - Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica 4.22

In the morning oportune winds came up and because Herakles didn't return Jason, the leader of the Argonauts, commanded to continue their voyage without Herakles. But some say that the Argonauts took Herakles search only as pretense to dispose him because he regularly broke his rudders due to his supernatural power. (Schol. Apollon. ad I.c.v. 533&1163). So Herakles must stay in Mysia.

It is told, that the inhabitants of Kios, in memory of the threat of Herakles and to appease him, every year search for Hylas in a big ceremony. On a stated day they roamed the woods and the mountains, and their priests thrice called the name of Hylas and thrice the echo answered. Probably these ceremonies were the cause for the myth of Hylas (Theocrit. xiii. 72; Strab. p. 564.). But even though this myth was told first in Alexandrinian times the so-called "cry of Hylas " occurs long before as the " Mysian cry " in Aeschylus (Persae, 1054), and in Aristophanes, Plutus, 1127). " to cry Hylas " is used proverbially of seeking something in vain .

Background
Hylas, like Adonis and Hyakinthos, represents the fresh vegetation of spring, or the water of a fountain, which dries up under the heat of summer . It is suggested that Hylas was a harvest deity and that the ceremony gone through by the Kians was a harvest festival, at which the figure of a boy was thrown into the water, signifying the dying vegetation-spirit of the year. The melancholic tunes linked with these ceremonies were known already to Aischylos.

The connection between Herakles and Hylas doubtless was homoerotical coloured. He was his 'catamite. So Hylas appears already in ancient times as an example for the homoeroticism of the great Greek heroes, either eulogized or condemned.

Kios
Kios (Lat. Cius), later named Prusias ad Mare too, was an ancient Greek city bordering the Propontis (now known as the Sea of Marmara), in Bithynia, and had as such a long history, being mentioned by Homer, Aristoteles and Strabo. It was colonized by the Milesians and became a place of much commercial importance. It joined the Aetolian League, and was destroyed by Philip III of Makedonia. It was rebuilt by Prusias I of Bithynia who renamed it for himself. An important chain in the ancient Silk Road, it became known as a wealthy town.

History of art:
This myth was very popular as is proofed by numerous places in literature and depictions in  art. Hylas appears in Hellenistic and especially in Roman art, particulary in Pompejian paintings (Villa Ephebi). Holding a jar in his hand the youth tries to flee from the nymphs. Giulio Romano (AD 1499-1546) picked up this subject as is testified by a drawing in Vienna (AD 1530) for a lost painting. Then there ia a sculpture by Thorwaldsen (AD 1768-1844) in Copenhagen (1831) and several paintings by J.W.Waterhouse (AD 1849-1917).
 
I have added:
(1) a mosaic, (Grenoble, Musée de Saint-Romain-en-Gal)
(2) a painting of Francesco Furini (1603-1646), Hylas and the Najads (1638; Firenze, Palazzo Pitti)
(3) and a painting of J.W.Waterhouse (1896/8; Manchester, CAG)

Sources:
(a) Primary literature:
Strabo, Geography 12.4.3
Strabo XII, 564
Apollonois Rhodios, Argonautika I, 1207-1357
Apollodor. I, 117
Vergil, Bucolica 6, 44ff.
Theokrit Idyll. XIII

(b) Secondary literature:
Der Kleine Pauly
Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon
G . Turk in Breslauer Philologische Abhandlungen, VII (1895)
W . Mannhardt, Mythologische Forschungen (1884) .
Robert von Ranke-Graves, griechische Mythologie
Karl Kerenyi, Griechische Heroengeschichten
http://www.theoi.com/Nymphe/NymphaiMysiai.html
http://www.androphile.org/DE/Library/Mythology/Hercules/Hylas/Hylas.htm
Wikipedia
Aghion/Barbillon/Lissaraue, Reclams Lexikon der antiken Götter und Heroen

(c) Paintings:
http://www.affinities.net/states/forum/forum_page.php?sid=4840002&forumId=1985
http://www.culture.gouv.fr/culture/arcnat/vienne/en/mosa17.htm

Best regards
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« Reply #202 on: May 12, 2007, 03:48:05 pm »

This one is different from those former easy informations provided by Jochen and a few others.
Here is the coin - what might be the mythological background? (Don´t ask me - i have no idea so far).

Nicomedia in Bithynia, Marcus Aurelius, 161–180 AD.,
Æ24 (23-25 mm / 10,25 g),
Obv.: [ΑΥ] Κ Μ ΑΥΡ ΑΝΤΩΝЄΙ[Ν] , laureate head of Marcus Aurelius, r.
Rev.: ΜΗ ΝΕΩΚ-Ο / ΝΕΙΚΟΜ , eagle standing, r., spreading wings, fighting serpent erect before it.
RPC temporary № 5654 .

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« Reply #203 on: May 12, 2007, 03:58:08 pm »

Hi Arminius!

That's very interesting because I got a similar coin from Apollonia Pontica. I will post it in the Provincial board to not confuse the Mythological thread by a longer discussion!

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Jochen
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« Reply #204 on: May 19, 2007, 05:35:20 pm »

Aphrodite Urania

1st coin:
Kingdom of Bosporus, Queen Gepaepyris, AD 37-39
AE 23 (12 nummi), 8.04g
obv. BACILICCHC GEPAIPYREWC
      Bust of Gepaepyris, draped and diademed, r.
rev. Bust of Aphrodite Urania, veiled and wearing kalathos, r.
      IB in front of her
Mac Donald 306; Anokhin 326 var.; RPC I, 1907 var. (both have IB behind the bust)
about VF, brown patina with green highlights

This coin comes from a geographical region about which I have had only superficial knowledge, the Kingdom of Bosporus. Between the seventh century BC and the fourth century AD, the Cimmerian Bosporus, an area covering the Crimean and Taman Peninsulas of southern Ukraine, consisted of a vigorous and sophisticated culture that maintained close ties to the Greco-Roman world. Much of what is known about this region comes from the coins struck by the local cities as well as the Kingdom of the Bosporus, initially independent, but by the first century BC, a client-kingdom of Rome. Alltogether an exciting matter which is worth to be engaged with!

The chief deity of the whole bosporan kingdom was no doubt Aphrodite Urania: the centre of her worship was on the east side of the strait where she had a temple in Phanagoria and one called the Apatouron on the south side of Lake Corocondamitis: after this sanctuary she is described in inscriptions as Apatourias or more often Apatourou medeousa [Minns 1913 p. 618]. Apatura probably originates from Scythian/Sarmatian *ap- tur-, meaning 'water- overflowing'.

2nd coin:
Macedonia, Uranopolis, quasi-autonom, c. 300 BC
AE 15, 3.34g
struck under Alexarchos
obv. eight-pointed star, representing the sun, in dotted circle
rev. OYRANIDW - POLEWC (in straight lines from top to bottom)
       Aphrodite Urania in sleeved chiton and cloak fixed on l. shoulder and enclosing
       legs and l. l. arm, std. half l. on celestial globe, upper part of the body and
       head turned facing. On the head she wears a conical cap ending in a star. Her
       r. hand resting on a long staff which ends at the top in an oval shaped sun
      disk.
SNG ANS 914ff.; BMC Macedonia, p.134, 2ff.; SNG Copenhagen 455-7; SNG Evelpidis 1363; Lindgren 1260; AMNG III, 3, pl.25, fig.4
very rare, F+, light-green patina

The name of the city and this type refer to Uranos, the devine personification of the city. The city was a foundation in the vicinity of the Athos mountain on the peninsula Aktos, the most east cape of the Chalkidike. It was founded c.316-300 BC by Kassander's youngest brother Alexarchos, who was half-mad and acquited himself for Helios, the sun. For statisticians: This is the earlist depiction of the globe on a coin!

Aphrodite:
Primarily Aphrodite probably was a mother and fertility goddess of growing and emerging. By assigning a longing desire to nature she became the Goddess of Love and step by step of Beauty too. Early scholars claim that the origin of her worship originates already from the time where the Greeks still were not separated from the other indo-european people. A goddess with a similar character is found at the majority of these people. While Aphrodite is mentioned already in the earliest epic literature her name is not found on the Linear B tablets of the Mykenian religion. Most probably her cult came to Greece in the peiod between 1200 BC and 800 BC. Her name is obscure and unexplained until now. For Homer, Hesiod, and other early writers, the goddess was intimately linked to Cyprus. The Odyssee lists Paphos as the goddess' homeland, while the Iliad makes Kypris her most common epithet. Hesiod calls her both Kyprogene and Kythereia.

Among leading scholars, there is something of a consensus that the cult of Aphrodite originally came to Greece from the ancient Near East: "Behind the figure of Aphrodite there clearly stands the ancient Semitic goddess of love, Ishtar-Astarte, divine consort of the king, queen of heaven, and hetaera in one." This view receives strong support from the Greeks themselves. Pausanias, for example, offered the following opinion: "The Assyrians were the first of the human race to worship the heavenly one (Aphrodite Urania); then the people of Paphos in Cyprus, and of Phoenician Askalon in Palestine, and the people of Kythera, who learnt her worship from the Phoenicians."
And so Aphrodite has numerous characteristics in common with Astarte. Both are depicted as goddesses of love and associated with rites of prostitution, for example. Aphrodite, like Astarte, was represented as armed and invoked to guarantee victory. As such she was called Areia and became the lover of Ares, to whom she was mythological related because he was the god of thunder too and thus of the fertilization of earth too. Later mainly three different forms of Aphrodite developed - a kind of a panhellenic trifold 'Great Mother'.

Aphrodite Urania:
In Homer's hymnos the goddess occurs as 'Mistress of the wild animals (pothnia theron)', which mated with each other on her hint. Especially the Goddess of Love was differentiated by two aspects, the 'holy, heavenly' Aphrodite Urania and the 'Aphrodite Pandemos', who belonged to the 'whole people'. This sometimes is called the dualism of Aphrodite. Platon has suggested that two different goddesses existed: Aphrodite Urania, goddess of the noble love, and Aphrodite Pandemos, daughter of Dione and goddess of the common morality. This was interpreted by Platon (in his 'Symposion') as the homosexual and the heterosexual love (eros).

Aphrodite Urania (Venus caelestis), the Holy Love (sacral), the Heavenly Love, the Heaven's Queen, stands for the 'virginal, celestial, noble love'. As Urania she was made the daughter of Uranos, who was said to have born her without a mother (so Platon), or to a daughter of Zeus as bright heaven and Dione, his female complement. As such she was worshipped on top of the mountains, therefore called Akraia, where she was nearer to heaven. In this function serves a polos, a round narrow cap on her head symbolizing the support of the heavenly globe, or the celestial globe or a turtle as the same symbol.

As the Greek descendant of the Semitic fertility-goddess Istar, Aphrodite has inherited as her astral symbol the planet of Istar, better known to us as Venus. In the Greek sources themselves, Plato is our earliest authority for this identification. A decisive question for the historian of religions is whether Aphrodite's identification with Venus is relatively late in origin, or whether it has a foundation in the goddess' aboriginal cult. Here the goddess' epithet Urania offers a valuable clue. Urania - "celestial one" - was a Greek translation of the Semitic title malkat ha-ssamayim, "the queen of the heavens," long understood as having reference to Venus. This epithet finds precise parallels in the cults of other Venus-goddesses throughout the ancient world. In Sumer f.e. Inanna was identified with the planet Venus. The Akkadian Ishtar shares the same epithet as is known from hymns. In Babylonian astronomcal tablets she is named "the bright queen of heavens", among the various names for the planet Venus. The Canaanite goddess Anat, whose fundamental affinity with Inanna and Ishtar is well-known, was likewise deemed the "Queen of Heaven" in Egyptian sources. And she too has been identified with the planet Venus. The celestial goddess figures prominently among the pagan gods mentioned in the Old Testament, and no doubt there was much truth in the Israelite's admission that the people had long burnt incense to the Queen of Heaven. Although Jeremiah does not name the goddess in question, Astarte seems the most likely candidate. Astarte's identification with the planet Venus is commonly acknowledged, as is her affinity with Aphrodite. Indeed, a late inscription, c. 160 BC, identifies Astarte and Aphrodite Urania.

History of Art:
Pausanias reports an Aphrodite Urania from gold and ivory erected in the temple of Aphrodite in Elis. The left foot of the statue rested on a small turtle. This statue was ascribed to the famous Phidias (500-432 BC). Sadly this statue was lost. So we have only the description. A torso in the Pergamonmuseum in Berlin possibly refers to this statue.

Sources:
Der kleine Pauly
Wikipedia
http://www.aeonjournal.com/articles/aphrodite/aphrodite.html
http://www.jannis.tu-berlin.de/23_Studies_Tauric_&_Bosporus/www_Phanagoria_6_unter_den_Roemern.html
http://www.pontos.dk/publications/books/bbs4-files/BSS4_13_Saprykin.pdf
http://www.anthroglobe.ca/docs/Sergei/scythian-sarmatian-meotian-beliefs.htm

I have added the pic of Aphrodite Apatoura of a terracotta vase from Phanagoria. It shows surprisingly a near connection between Aphrodite Urania and Anadyomene! But it is not so much surprisingly when we look at the mythology: Aphrodite was suggested to be the daughter of Uranos. When Kronos cut the genitals of his father and threw them into the sea a white foam originated around them which for some time was floating on the sea until finally Aphrodite emerged from it (Hesiod Theog.v.188; Serv. ad Vergil. Aen.V.v.801). On a scallop she came first to the island of Kythera and flowers sprouted everywhere where her feet touched the ground (Hesiod Theog.v.192). I think you all know the famous painting of Botticelli 'La nascita de Venere' (The birth of Venus)'.

Another pic is from the Naples Museum. It shows a beautiful, noble head usually called 'Sappho', but Evelyn Harrison, a eminent scholar in Pheidian sculpture, is sure that is shows the 'Pheidian head of Aphrodite Ourania (Hesperia 53)'. The pic is from Pat Lawrence, thanks!

Best regards
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« Reply #205 on: May 19, 2007, 05:41:35 pm »

Sandan of Tarsos

Out of a far, strange world!

Cilicia, Tarsos,autonomous issue, 1st century BC
AE 21, 6.54g
obv. Bust of the city-goddess (Tyche), veiled and turreted, r.,
      on the face c/m in the shape of a male radiate head (Helios?) in circular incus.
rev. Pyre of Sandan in pyramidal shape, crowned by an eagle with spread wings, stg. r. on a
      small round base; within cult statue of Sandan wearing polos and holding double axe,
      stg. r. on a winged and horned lion, r. hand raised; besides l. and r. a baetylus; altogether
      on a round base decorated with garlandes.
      in the r. field from top TAR[C]EWN
      in the l. field from top AR / AR / DI / Q
Ref.: SNG BN 1333-1334; Sear GIC 5672
about VF, slight roughness

History of religion:
Center of the cult of Sandan was Tarsos. Tarsos was an important foundation of the Hetits and in Greek and Roman times the most eminent city of Cilicia. From the early times of Hetits it has kept Sandan as its main god. But Tarsos was a stronghold of syncretism too. Here Baal, Tarz and Zeus have been melted into Sandan and in Hellenistic times he was identified with Herakles too. The cult image of the god was depicted already on Seleucid coins (Houghton Coll. 475 ff.).The iconographic details of Sandan and his beastlike mixed being we know already from oriental arts, especially from the region of the Hetits.

The cult of Sandan, or Sandon or Sandas (LIMC VII), is a remnant from the time when Cilicia was conquered by the Hetits in the 17th century BC. In its Luwian form it was Teshub, the god of mountain storms. In the Hetitian sanctuary of Yazilikaya he is depicted as a bearded man, wearing a conical head-dress, holding a club and a plant, probably with reference to the Mesopotamion 'Tree of Life'. Like the other Hetitian high gods his feet never touched the earth. He was riding on the backs of mythological animals, has been borne on the shoulders of lower deities or was walking over the tops of the mountains. The tops of the mountains reminded the Hetits of their high loomed homeland, and so did the high head-dress and the pyramidal shape of Sandan's pyre. Whereas the cult of Sandan in Tarsos was assimilated with the cult of Herakles, in fact  - by his origin as nature god - he resembles more the Greek king of gods Zeus. This depiction of Sandan appears about 2000 years after his first occurence in mythology, but the similarity with the Hetitian original is striking (CNG).

Referring to his name Sandan (or Shantash too) was warshipped not only in Cilicia and Cappadocia but in Lycaonia, Isauria, Pisidia, Caria and Lydia too (look at 'Sandon' in Pauly-Wissowa or 'Sandas' in Roscher). According to H.T.Bossert he was the main god in Crete too, and it was the same god and his epiphany they longed for when the women performed her dances with bare breasts and snakes in her hands (but since then disproved by Linear B studies!). In historical times he has survived in Dionysos and Bes, the dwarf with the lion-skin over his shoulder, in Herakles with the lion-skin, especially serving disguised as woman at the court of Omphale, struggling with the lion or subdoing the bull of Marathon, as Apollo and Ares/Arte-mis Lafria = Labrys, i.e. with double-axe (the androgyne hunter split in a male and female aspect).

In hieroglyphic Hetitian texts Santas is called 'the Great', and in Syria his cult is found until the 3rd century AD. Eusebius writes that Herakles in Phoenicia and Cappadocia and yet in his times has been worshipped under the name Desandus (Tesh Shandash). And several rulers seem to call themself Tesh Shantash, where Tesh is the stem of a word we know from the Greek theos (= god).The Great Hunter then is identical with the ruler, an idea which later had big influence on the ideology around the Roman emperor. So the funeral fire, the so-called consecratio seems to be a direct copy of Sandan's pyra.
 
The Pyra:
On coins of Hellenistic times Sandan always is depicted nude, standing on the back of a lion, a burning altar behind, the lion winged and horned, the god with a mystical flower and a double-axe in his l. hand, wearing a polos on his head, which should show that he is the world pillar holding apart heaven and earth. He is depicted too standing within a pyramide shaped structure, his pyra, a funeral pile, on which he was burned. This pyra obviously was built so skillfull, that it became the symbol of the world mountain with the eagle of apotheosis on top and flanked by the two personified world pillars, representing the split world mountain. Sandan was regarded as founder of Tyros and often identified with Perseus who was worshipped as founder of the city too.

The pyra plays an important role in the cult of Sandan. It was a pyramide made from wood which was erected to burn Sandan in the shape of an idol. In Rome the cult around Sandan became the role model for the consecration celebrities of the apotheosis of the emperor. Like Herakles and the Tyrian god Melqart Sandan was raised up to heaven by the fire. This symbolism has strong connections to the Phoenician sun-bird: Phoenix after dying in the fire is eternally reborn in the fire. Here we found the idea of re-birthing or resurrection of death.

The Roman emperor too burnt up like Sandan in the shape of an idol. A wax doll was playing the role of the deceased Caesar in the consecration celebreties. And afterwards his soul was raised to heaven by the sun-bird. For that an eagle was set free from its cage at top of the burning wooden pyramide (symbol of phoenix!). This was found too in the temple of Melqart in Tyros: A flying eagle on top of the burning world pillar (or world tree).
   
Sandan and Christianism:
The creator of Christianism in the form we know today was Paulus of Tarsos. Our Christianism actually is Paulism. He grow up in a city known as centre of the cult of Sandan known by the Greek under the name of Herakles too. H.-J. Schoeps, whom I have the honour to get to know in the 60th years in Erlangen, writes about the religious enviroment in which St.Paul grew up before he came to Jerusalem. Each year in honour of Sandan-Herakles in Tarsos the festival of the funeral pyre was celebrated. The idea behind the mysterium was the dying of nature under the withering sommer heat and the following re-flourishing to new life. This reveals its close relationship to the cult of the Syrian Adonis, the Phrygian Attis, the Egyptian Osiris and the Babylonian Tammuz. Schoeps infers: "That the young Saul has seen the processions in honour of this deity on the marketplaces and in the streets of Tarsos can't be proofed, but seems to be most probably!". http://www.abrahamsknife.com/excerpt_lecture.shtml
   
On the other side no sign of syncretism of Syria or Asia Minor could be found in his letters. So nobody today is following the conclusions of Schoeps and Goppelt, that Paulus was influenced in his christianology - even only indirectly - by these impressions in his youth. But we must concede that by deities like Sandan, Herakles, Dionysos or Mithras the idea of resurrection after death was well known to the people and was not surprising.   

I have added the pic of a tetradrachm of Antiochos VIII Grypos (121-96 BC), CSE 489, from Tarsos (from CoinArchives). Here you can see the details of the pyre better than on my coin.

Sources:
http://www.ancientlibrary.com/wcd/Hittites
http://www.tribwatch.com/hercules.htm
http://coins.reidgold.com/lion/article.html
http://langkjer.dk/origin/1-12.htm
http://langkjer.dk/origin/1-18.htm
http://langkjer.dk/origin/2-25.htm

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« Reply #206 on: May 27, 2007, 10:18:14 pm »



Tarsus being one of those cities of Cilicia that seemed to have a long mythological history minted an amazing variety of coins, including these types of Sandan on his horned-lion-like creature with wings. I post here my variety of Jochen's coin without the pyramidal temple, just Sandan on his beast. I have an interesting similar type for Tranquillina.

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« Reply #207 on: June 02, 2007, 02:47:22 pm »

Diana Nemorensis

Roman Republic, P. Accoleius Lariscolus, gens Accoleia
AR - Denarius, 3.90gm, 19.7mm. 
        Rome, 43 BC
obv. P. ACCOLEIVS - LARISCOLVS
       Archaisized bust of Diana Nemorensis, draped, r.
rev. Triple cult statue of Diana Nemorensis (Diana, Hecate, Selene) facing,
       supporting with their hands and shoulders a bar; behind them a grove of five
       cypresses; the figure on the left (Diana) holds a bow in her outer hand, the
       figure on the right (Selene) a poppy.
Crawford 486/1; Sydenham 1148; Accoleia
gVF, light toning, with a reasonably unobtrusive banker's mark.
According to Andrew Alföldi this coin is a type from the later time of this issue recognizable by the hairdress of Diana Nemorensis on the obv.: The first type has a double row of knob-like curls bordering the flatly combed hair which clings closely to the skull. An intermediate type has a braid falling down on the neck and the last one has a hair-dress covering the flatly combed crown of hair with a turban-like cloth wrapping - as we can see here.

The family of the mint-master is originated from Aricia at the Lake Nemi were the grove and the temple of Diana Nemorensis stood. Here too votiv-inscriptions of the Accoleii have been found. Octavian's mother was from Aricia. Perhaps Octavian himself has influenced the selection of this coin-motive.

Sadly most often the description of this coin is wrong. Often the bust on the obv. is called Acca Larentia. But more errors can be found on the rev. (A. Alföldi):
(1) Often the three figures were called Nymphae Querquetulanae. But it could be seen clearly that the depicted trees are cypresses and not oaks which would be expected for oak-nymphs. Cypresses usually remind the Romans of fear and death matching the ambit of Diana-Hecate. So the trees are neither poplars too.
(2) The figures don't hold beams with trees on it, but it is a bar which they hold on their shoulders to stress their connection (like the statue of the Dioscurs in Sparta), and the trees belong to a grove in the background. The misinterpretation is understandable because of the alterations made by the die-cutters during the issue of this series. So the three figures look like caryatids and the lower parts of the trees have been left out. On the first types they are seen clearly. 
(3) The object held by the left figure (Diana) naturally is a bow and not a poppy. A poppy could be held by the right figure (Selene) even though in later issues the plant looks more like a lily.

Diana Nemorensis literally means 'Diana of the Wood'. Her sanctuary was found at the
northern shore of a lake below the cliffs of the todays city Nemi. This lake, called  'Diana's mirror' too, in ancient times was known as the Lake of Aricia. However Aricia was situated about three miles off at the foot of the Mons Albanus and separated by a steep descent from the lake, which lies in a small crater-like hollow on the mountain side. This sanctuary was the most important Roman sanctuary of Diana

According to one story the worship of Diana at Nemi was instituted by Orestes, who, after killing Thoas, King of the Tauric Chersonese (the Crimea), fled with his sister Iphigenia to Italy, bringing with him the image of the Tauric Diana hidden in a faggot of sticks. After his death his bones were transported from Aricia to Rome and buried in front of the temple of Saturn, on the Capitoline slope, beside the temple of Concordia. The bloody ritual which legend ascribed to the Tauric Diana is familiar to classical readers; it is said that every stranger who landed on the shore was sacrificed on her altar. But transported to Italy, the rite assumed a milder form. The fight for the Rex Nemorensis is said to be an old reminiscence of that ritual. But Alföldi denies any connections to the Tauric Diana.

The votive offerings found in the grove of Ariccia portray she was conceived of as a huntress, and further as blessing men and women with offspring, and granting expectant mothers an easy delivery.

Diana was worshipped in a sacred grove. Sir James George Frazer writes of this sacred grove in his book 'The Golden Bogh'. Legend tells of a tree that stands in the center of the grove and is guarded heavily. No one was to break off its limbs, with the exception of a runaway slave, who was allowed, if he could, to break off one of the boughs. According to legend, only a man possessing great inner and outer strength would be able to do this. Upon breaking off a limb, the slave was then in turn granted the privilege to engage the Rex Nemorensis, the current king and priest of Diana in the region, in one on one mortal combat. If the slave prevailed, he became the next king for as long as he could defeat challengers.

This resembles a rite of initiation. The legend of Rex Nemorensis is similar to Aeneas who had to break the golden bough from the tree of the Underworld in order to complete his sacred quest. Aeneas encounters Charon the guardian who refuses to let him cross the Underworld lake. Charon and the King of the Woods are parallel figures as the latter is guardian of Lake Nemi. The King of the Woods also is referred to by other names such as a type of Green Man figure, in Italian Witchcraft as the Hooded One since he is covered with greenery of Nature, and in Diana's sacred grove at Nemi he is called Virbius.

The festival of Diana Nemorensis was celebrated on August 13. and was mainly a festival for slaves (Bellinger, 116). Already very early Diana was equated with Luna (Selene), later with the Greek Artemis too. To which extent the Latin Diana has to be differentiated from the Greek Artemis today is nearly impossible to decide. But very early she was known as Diana triformis or Diana triplex. Ovid calls her Trivia ('who is invoked on three-ways', Metam. II, 416), which originally is an epitheton of Hecate, because Diana as Moon goddess shares the nightly regime with Hecate. Then she is called Titania by Ovid because of her seeming relationship to Hyperion (Metam. III, 173). Under this name she appears as Fairy Queen in Shakespeare's 'Summernightdream'. But Diana has not been simply taken from the Greek. The depicted statue on this coin probably is Etruscian. And so is the archaic depiction of the bust on the obv. So Diana probably has come to the Romans by intermediation of the Etruscans. She was worshipped in groves like the German tribes worshipped their deities in groves according to Tacitus. The temple of Diana was built later in Hellenistic times without replacing the grove. The coin could prove that the old cult statue and the cypress grove still existed in the time of the late Republic.
 
About the political statement of the coin depiction one can only speculate. There could be a connection to the Latin League which existed until 338 BC. In its first phase until end of the 6th century it was a cultic union around which the political fusion took place. The centre of this alliance was - beside Juppiter Latiaris on the Mons Albanus - the Diana of Aricia. When this alliance got under the supremacy of Rome the sanctuary of Diana was put on the Mons Aventinus. In a second phase from about 500 BC until the desaster of the river Allia (387/6 BC) the Latins freed themselfs from the supremacy of the Romans, but were attached again to the Romans after the legendary battle of the Lake Regillus. After joining of the Hernicians to the alliance it became a Triple Alliance. Possibly the depiction alludes to this Alliance and was then an appeal for unity.   
 
(will be continued)
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« Reply #208 on: June 02, 2007, 02:49:17 pm »

(continued:)

Because this is the only coin I know with an allusion to Acca Larentia I want to tell about her mythology even though she was not meant on this coin. The Nymphae Querquetulanae I will mention too.

Acca Larentia:
This myth exists in two different variations, one without, the other with a connection to the Roman founder myth. The first goes back to Varro: Once the temple servant challenged the god Hercules to a game of dice. The price was a meal and a girl. The servant playing alternately for the god and for himself lost the game and the meal was sacrificed to the god. The girl was Acca Larentia. She was left in the temple for the god. And there she dreamt she has had sex with the god and he has promised her that she would get a price from the man she would encounter first. This was the wealthy Etruscian Tarutus who married her. After his death she became his heir and later bequeathed her wealth to the Roman people. In honour and filled with thankfulness the Romans celebrates the Larentalia. This was said to have happened in the time of the king Ancus Marcius.

In the other version Acca Larentia is the wife of Faustulus, the royal herdsman and foster father of the twins Remus and Romulus. because she formerly was a lupa = prostitute. The meaning occurs that a she-wolfe, lupa too, has suckled the twins. After the death of Faustulus Acca married the rich Tarutius and  established later the Roman people or Romulus as her heirs.

It is told too that Acca Larentia has had twelve sons. After the death of one of them she adopted Romulus. These twelve men then have got the name Arvales fratres, the brothers of the meadow. Their sign was a wreath of grain-ears and a white taenia. This could be the connection between this myth and the worshipping of the rural Lares which matches the name and the time of the festival (December 23., followed by the festival of the Lares on December 24.). Acca Larentia seems to be originally identical or at least close related to Dea Dia. She is said too to have the cognomen Fabula by which she became the ancestor of the gens Fabia

According to public opinon the Larentalia are a festival of the deads which was celebrated by the Pontifices and the flamen Qirinalis at her tomb near the Velabrum on December 23. On the otherside there was another festival for her in April! The analysis of these myths is very difficult because oral traditions and speculations are nearly unseparable. The she-wolfe of the founder myth is the animal of Mars, the human foster mother certainly secondary and even later the connection to the harlot of the Hercules temple. The equation lupa[/i} = she-wolfe = prostitute is a kind of euhemeristic myth explanation. So the nurse of the twins gets her name. Just these two myths are connected because Hercules often appears as double of Faunus, the god of the Lupercal, whose priests are called luperci. Probably the figure of Larentia originates from the time before the foundation of Rome and belongs to the ambit of the wolfe god Faunus and has a relevance in the Lupercalia, a rural fertily festival. If that is correct the name Larentalia is not derived from Larentia but contrary Larentia from Larentalia. Acca Larentia was seen too - beside Mania - as 'Mater Larum', the mother of the Lares.

Nymphae Querquetulanae:
These nymphs, called Querquetulanae virae too, were the nymphs of the green oak grove inside the city of Rome. Referring to these nymphs the Porta Querqetularia has gotten its name. According to Tacitus the Mons Caelius was called Querquetularia in ancient times. Therefore it is suggested that the grove and the gate has been situated on the southern slope of the Caelius. But the precise site is not known. Probably it was between the Porta Capena and the Porta Caelimontana direct south of the recent church S. Stefano Rotondo. The connection of the three female figures on this late republican coin to the oak nymphs is very questionable. 

Sources:
Der kleine Pauly
Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon
Wikipedia
Andrew Alföldi, Diana Nemorensis, in Am. J. of Arch. Vol.64, No.2 (Apr., 1960), S.137-144
http://www.answers.com/topic/rex-nemorensis
http://www.answers.com/topic/the-golden-bough
http://www.imperiumromanum.com/religion/antikereligion/accalarentia_01.htm
Samuel Ball Platner, A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome, London, Oxford University Press, 1929 (zu finden unter http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/home.html

I have added a pic of the Lake Nemi from AD 1831 and a pic of Turner's painting 'The Golden Bough'

Best regards
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« Reply #209 on: June 02, 2007, 02:50:45 pm »

Apollo Smintheus and the herdsman Ordes

Dedicated to my friend Lars!

Preliminary note: The name of the herdsman referring to on these coins has been passed down as Ordes, not Orodes as he is named in error in Bellinger!

1st coin:
Troas, Alexandreia, quasi-autonomous, AD 2nd-3rd century
AE 22, 4.5g
obv. CO ALEX TRO
       Bust of city-goddess (Tyche), draped and turreted, r.: behind vexillum inscribed CO/AV
       (?)
rev. [CO or COL] AV TROAC
      The herdsman Ordes, in short dress and wearing boots, advancing l., holding pedum
      over l. shoulder, r. hand raised; r. behind him cattle leaping r., head turned l.; on the l.
      side grotto within laying cult-statue of Apollo Smintheus, above Apollo Smintheus stdg. r. 
ref.: Bellinger A480; BMC 41
rare, about VF, weakness of strike on upper part of rev.

2nd coin:
Troas, Alexandreia, Caracalla, AD 198-217
AE 23, 6.99g
obv. AV CEV A - NTONIN
       Head, laureate, r.
rev. CO - L - A - VG TR
      Horse, grazing r., behind herdsman Ordes, holding pedum over shoulder, stg. r., crooked
      forward; on the l. side tree with leafed twigs
ref.: Bellinger A284; BMC 95
about VF

The mythology of these coins have made troubles to me. Mostly Iliad I, 39 is added as a reference. But when you read it nothing is told about the mythology of the depicted scenes! The reason is they play chronologically after the Troyan War and are included in a rather unknown (for us!) local myth. I have found these explanations in an article of Peter Weiss and will follow him here: 

Whereas Homer's Iliad I, 39 describes the famous invocation of the Plague-Apollo Smintheus by his priest Chryses (for further informations look at the article of Apollo Sminthreus in this thread http://www.forumancientcoins.com/board/index.php?topic=25089.0 ), the cult legend we are looking for is found in a scholion (A) to Iliad I, 39. In this scholion Polemon of Ilion is cited as source, a perieget living around 200 BC. The passage probably is originated from the Periegesis Iliov (3 volumes) which is attested by the Suda. Under the lemma 'Smintheu' we find the following:

Epitheton of Apollon. Sminthos is the locality in the Troas where a sanctuary of Apollo Smintheus existed by the following reason: In Chryse, a city in Mysia, a certain Krinis was priest of the local Apollon. Angered at his priest (the reason we dont know) Apollo sent a plague of mice to devastate the crops. But later repenting he appeared to Ordes, the chief-herdsman (archiboukolos) of Krinis,  who hospitably received him, and Apollo promised to kill the mice with his arrows. When leaving he commanded to communicate his epiphania to Krinis too. After this has taken place Krinis erected a sanctuary for Apollon and gave him the epitheton Smintheus; because in their native language the mice are called 'sminthoi'. This legend is found at Polemon. 

The depiction of the 1st coin:
On the lower left side we see a grotto within laying the cult-statue of Smintheus and above the god himself is standing r. in the same iconography. Before and greater - in the centre of the depiction - a herdsman is standing, holding a pedum over his shoulder in emotional, obviously frightened attitude, his r. hand raised (a gesture expressing surprise and adoration at once), behind him a cattle, rearing up and frightened escaping r., head turned backwards. (It seems that Krinis the priest was owner of a notable herd of cattle. This is explicable if we suggest that the cattle belonged to the god himself.) Imhoof-Blumer responded to this scene in detail and started the discussion. He cited the Iliad-Scholion, but doubtfully, denying a reference to it. But he already recognized that it was a grotto with a hidden cult-image; additionally he states in a supplement, it may have been recovered sometime later (in historic time). G.F.Hill took this image - inspired by W.Leaf - as origin of a study and connected it with the myth of the herdsman Ordes; Leaf himself joined him in hs monography about Troy: "This enables us to complete the legend; the figure above the cavern is of course Apollo himself appearing to Ordes, and the actual cult-statue of the god as he appeared was afterwards found on the actual spot of his epiphania.". This analysis is accepted and plausible. But in this case two different events have been combined in one depiction: the Epiphany which then - if we don't wont accept two different Epiphanies - is surely identical with the epiphania, the appearence of the god to Ordes at Polemon resp. the Scholion when the god left, and the - subsequent - discovering of the cult-image, probably by the same herdsman (about which in the shortened article from Polemon nothing is found, but about which he probably could have reported; in the Scholion only cursorily is told about the foundation of the cult by the priest Krinis).

The depiction of the 2nd coin:
As is known the herdsman appears another time on coins of the colonia - he is part of one of the most frequent coin pictures of the city. He is added in imperial times often to the old parasemon of the Hellenistic Alexandreia, the grazing horse, which in turn already was emblem of the polis of Neandria, incorporated in a synoikismos with Alexandreia. In imperial times - from Commodus on - this horse often is accompagnied by a herdsman with pedum. Therefore already soon the herdsman was seen in connection to the herdsmen of the other coinage (W.Wroth, in BMC Troas, as well Hill, but without any consequences), but sometimes the connection was denied too with weak arguments. But I think never before the close question has been asked wether by the formation of this group concrete mythological connotations would originate. There are some reasons for this suggestion. First: often a tree is added to the horse and the herdsman. According to the conventions of the picture language of imperial times pretty sure a sacred area should be indicated by this. With it the limits of a mere parasemon are already left. Then a distinctive feature of the herdsman always has been neglected: On several depictions (especially the better ones) he stands crooked forwards, as if he has been pointed by the the horse to something. As we have seen the herdsman seemingly was the main figure in a recovering story in the scope of the cult legend of Apollon Smintheus. Because of that the suggestion is close that the depiction of this coin with herdsman and horse points to a further detail of this recovery legend: Thus the horse - some time after the Epiphany depicted on the other coin - has led the herdsman to the recovery of the cult image, a topos often found in ancient literature. Some depictions suggest that in front of the horse a spring or a creek is hinted. Here too it is at least worth mentioning that Menander Rhetor has described the sacred groof of Apollon Smintheus situated within springs and creeks. The suggestion here put up for discussion matches a centralpoint of G.F.Hill that here an animal was the guide and he dedicated a full chapter to ancient analogies - however he thought of the cattle beside the herdsman in the first covered coin.

If our suggestions are correct this would mean twofold. The belief of the myth of the 'old' first cult image of Smintheus put it on an equal level like the 'fallen from heaven' palladion of Ilion, the most famous city in the Troas. So the archaic cult image of Smintheus in the imagination was not a human but a divine work. A hint in this direction could come from Menander Rhetor in his Sminthiakos, where he - beside some other and a bit vague - recommends when talking about the cult image to say "may be that this cult image is fallen from heaven too (445, 19)". On the other side sometimes in the future the old parasemon of Neandria and then of Alexandreia - which originally and for a long time surely had no connections to the cult legend - would have been amalgated. That means that in later times there was the need to find an aition for the parasemon and to develop  a solution. The two original disparate elements 'horse' and 'herdsman' were easily to be connected as matter of fact; in respect of content the recovery legend seemed obviously to be the closest solution. In the evolution of the cult legende this was in respect to the content and chronologically too the last step. That this occured not until imperial times - long after Polemon and when Alexandreia was already colonia - is by all means possible.

Notes:
- aition: reason, legend to explain something
- Epiphany: appearance, especially of a god
- parasemon: sign, symbol, f.e. of Greek ships
- pedum: crook, hooked staff of herdsmen
- periegesis: kind of travelogue, the most famous perieget later was Pausanias
- scholion: ancient comment to ancient authors   
- Suda: the largest Byzantine lexicon, c. AD 970
- synoikismos: combining several villages to one polis (city)

Sources:
(1) Homer, Ilias
(2) Alfred R. Bellinger, Troy the Coins, Princeton University Press 1961 (Reprint 1979
     Sanford J. Durst)
(3) Peter Weiß, Alexandria Troas: Griechische Traditionen und Mythen in einer römischen
     Colonia, in 'Schwertheim, R. - Wiegartz, H.  (Hrsg.), Die Troas - Neue Forschungen zu
     Neandria und Alexandria Troas II, Asia Minor Studien 22, (1996) 157-173'
(4) G.F.Hill, Apollo and St.Michael: Some Analogies, in The Journal of Hellenic Studies,
     vol.36, 1916, pp. 134-162'
(5) CNG Coins
(6) Wikipedia

Best regards
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« Reply #210 on: June 23, 2007, 07:18:38 am »

I think these posts would also be excellent Numiswiki entries.   I started one for Apollo Smintheus
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« Reply #211 on: June 23, 2007, 03:36:11 pm »

I think some articles should be revised for a better English style!

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« Reply #212 on: June 23, 2007, 04:23:13 pm »

Hera Lakinia

Magna Graecia, Bruttium, Brettii, AD 214/213-211
Ar - Drachm, 21mm, 4.39g
      struck during Hannibal's campaign in southern Italy after the Battle of Cannae
obv. Bust of Hera Lakinia, veiled and wearing polos, scepte over l. shoulder, r.: behind a fly
rev. Zeus, nude, stg. l., r. foot set on Ionic capitel, holding sceptre in l. hand; in front of him
      eagle flying l., holding wreath in talons
      in r. field BRETTIWN from top to bottom
Ref.: SNG ANS 26; HN Italy 1970; Scheu 84; Arslan dies 28/33
SS, very attractive style, dark toning

It's interesting that the identity of both depicted deities is discussed controversially. The preference for Hera Lakinia on the obv. is resting on the fact that there was a famous temple in honour of Hera and the local mint. The deity on the rev. because of his attitude reminds of the classic iconography of Poseidon but the eagle in front of him allows only the interpretation as Zeus.

Mythology:
Lakinia is a surname of Hera under which she was worshipped in the neighbourhood of Croton where she has a rich and famous sanctuary. ut he adoration was widely spread over Magna Graecia. About the origin of her name there were some different opinions. Some suggest that Lacinius was a bandit who was up to his mischief near Tarent. When he has stolen Hercules some of Geryon's cattle Hercules slew the thief. At the locality where he has killed Lacinius Hercules built the temple of Juno Lacinia (Strab. VI, 261 & 281; Liv. XXIV, 3).
Or the name is derived from the Lacinian promontory on the eastern coast of Bruttium, west of the mouth of the Tarentian gulf (today Cape Nao), which Thetis was said to have given to Juno as a present (Serv. ad Aen. iii. 552.).
Or it is said too that Lacinius was a king which has ruled at the Lacinian promontory. When Herakles drove his cattle on the way to Greece nearby he was put to flight by Lacinius because he built a temple to honour Hera by whose view Herakles removed in disgust. Six miles away Herakles killed accidentally a certain Kroton whom he buried with great honour. And he predicted that in future times a city will be raised at this spot which bears his name (Diodor. Sic. IV, 24; Ovid Metam. XV, 12ff.).
This temple in historical times was the yearly meeting place of all Greeks from southern Italy (Magna Graecia). Derived from the ruins of this temple and the rest of the columns this promontory in the Middle Ages was callede 'Capo delle Colonne'.

The Romans, despite their hatred for the Carthaginians, identified Tanit with their Juno, an aspect of their Great Goddess as Mother and Patroness of Childbirth, a Light-Goddess who brings forth children into the day. As Tanit was also a Goddess of the Sky, the Romans named her Dea Caelestis, "the Heavenly Goddess", or Virgo Caelestis, "the Heavenly Virgin". On coins of the 4th and 3rd centuries BCE she is occasionally depicted riding a lion and holding a lance; generally she is shown in portrait form wearing a diadem or crown, with wheat sheaves bound in her hair as a wreath, the crescent moon behind.

Referring to a Roman legend, Hannibal, the great general of Carthage, once raided the temple of Juno Lacinia. This temple was richly decorated and famous for having a column of solid gold; Hannibal, to test the story, drilled into the column. Finding that it was indeed solid, he decided he would take it as plunder. That night, however, he dreamt that the Goddess warned him not to despoil her temple, telling him that she'd destroy his remaining eye if he did. There Hannibal in Juno Lacinia recognized his own hometown Goddess, Tanit, so left the column unmolested in the temple. From the filings of the column he had a golden cow cast, which was then placed on the top of the column.

It deserves to be noticed that Hannibal dedicated in the temple of Juno Lacinia a bilingual inscription (in Punic and Greek), which recorded the history of his campaigns, and of which Polybius made use in writing the history of the Hannibalian war. (Polyb. iii. 33; comp. Liv. xxviii. 46.)

Another story deals with Zeuxis, the famous Greek painter, scholar of Apollodoros of Athens, 435-390 BC. He has invented the so-called illusion painting, a kind of painting, which was so naturalistic, that the birds came flying to pick at the painted vine-grapes (Plin. Nat. 35, 64). The inhabitants of Kroton, todays Crotone in southern Italy, decided to decorate the temple of Hera Lakinia with paintings of special value. They spent much money to entrust the most famous painter of their time, Zeuxis of Herakleia, to do the work. He chose to paint an image of Helena - the acme of female beauty. For that the Krotoniati should show him their most beautiful maidens from whose he chose the five loveliest. He was convinced that it was impossible to find all features - he needs to show beauty - in only one wife, because nature never creates an individial being so that it is ideal in all of its parts (Cicero, De Invenzione II, 1).

History:
The Bruttii were an Italic people of Lucanian origin, living at the 'Italian Boot' in poorness and harshness as herdsmen and charburner and by robbery. It is said that they came from Brettos, son of Hercules and Baletia, daughter of the son of Baletus, from which the city of Brettium should have its name. The Bruttii several times fought succesfully for their freedom and together with Pyrrhos they stood against the Romans who 278-272 BC triumphed six times over the Bettii and took large territories from them. 216 BC they seceded to Hannibal, hoping to get their freedom back by his victory and becoming his last refuge finally (Liv. 28, 12, 6). By the victorious Romans they were punished very severely. After a newly revolt they were subdued definitely by building military roads, colonias and extensive slavery. The Romans neither treated them ever as allies nor took them as soldiers.

Sadly the temple of Hera Lacinia was destroyed and the only remnant is a column which is shown on the added pic (Thanks for the correction to Dapsul!).

Sources:
Der kleine Pauly
Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon
Ovid, Metamorphosen
http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Hera
http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capo_Colonna
http://www.thaliatook.com/OGOD/tanit.html

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« Reply #213 on: June 23, 2007, 04:33:46 pm »

I think some articles should be revised for a better English style!

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Numiswiki is a wiki, so someone will almost certainly revise it. 
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« Reply #214 on: July 02, 2007, 03:36:11 pm »

Euthenia

The next contributions refer to Egyptian mythology!

Egypt, Alexandria, Hadrian, AD 117-138
AE - drachm, 35.3g, 20.22g
       Alexandria, AD 117/8 (year 2)
obv. AVT KAIC TRAIANOC ADRIANOC
      Bust, draped, laureate, r.
rev. Euthenia, clad in garment of Isis (in chiton and peplos with the typical knot before her breast), wearing crown of Isis (sun disk between horns), leaning l., resting l. arm on small sphinx, laying r., and holding in raised r. hand grain-ears, poppies and lotus-flower(?).
in field LB (= year 2)
Ref. Milne 844; BMC -
VF, brown patina
From Forum Ancient Coins, thanks!

The portrait of Hadrian is a bit unusual and reminds of Caligula. It seems that it needed some time until the Alexandrians got the right portrait!

The typical knot at the breast is the so-called Knot of Isis, the Tit-Knot. This knot originally was a special knottet girdle tie und has relations to the religious sign of Ankh. The Ankh Cross was suggested in ancient Egypt as symbol of welfare and life. The Knot of Isis looks like an Ankh Cross with depending wings.

The dominant triad of Egyptian gods, during the Roman period, was composed of Sarapis, Isis and Harpokrates. Nilus and Euthenia seem to have been  next in importance to the great triad, so far as Alexandria and the coinage are concerned. Euthenia was a very late addition to the Egyptian pantheon. Originally the personification of 'abundance' and 'plenty', and represented on the regular coins of Rome as Abundantia, she became the consort of Nilus, during Ptolemaic times, and acquired the status of an important goddess. She was often assimilated  to Isis. Euthenia makes her first appearance on Alexandrian coins during the age of Augustus and seems to relate to the importance of Egypt as a supplier of grain to Rome (a trade that was important to both parties).

Referring to the Greek mythology Euthenia seems to be one of a group of younger Graces. The others are her sisters Eukleia (reputation), Eupheme (acclaim) and Philosophryne (welcome). Her parents are said to be Hephaistos and Aglaia (Orph. rhapsod. fragm.)
 
The Egyptian Euthenia is often equated with the Roman Abundantia. Both were responsible for the grain supply. But there are differences too. Whereas Euthenia was seen as goddess Abundatia was a pure personification. So she had no own temples. And as an abstract idea she has no own mythology!

Abundantia:

Severus Alexander, AD 222-235
AR - denarius, 19.6mm, 3.22g
        Rome, edition 10, AD 229
obv. IMP SEV ALE - XAND AVG
       Bust, draped, laureate, r.
Rv.: ABVNDAN - TIA AVG
       Abundantia, richly draped, stg. facing, head r., holding cornucopiae with both hand and
       emptying a lot of coins.
ref.: RIC V/2, 184(c); C.1; BMC 591
nice EF (revers!)
Occasion: Perhaps the rev. refers to money gifts which the emperor gave to his soldiers before he went to the East to fight against the Parthians. Under their new dynasty of Sassanides the Parthians have begun to invade Asia.

The added pic shows a marble statue representing Euthenia. Reclining on her left side, she is shown wearing the garment of Isis. Her arm rests on a crouching sphinx, the symbol of Egypt. She holds in her left hand a vessel for holy water and is surrounded by eight children, representing half the number of measuring units (cubits) of Nile flood height required for a bountiful harvest which is sixteen cubits. It is from the time of Hadrian, AD 120-140, and is found in the Greco-Roman Museum in Alexandria.

I have acquired the coin with Euthenia because of the nice small sphinx on which she is resting. Therefore some words about the sphinx.

The Egyptian Sphinx:

Although we usually relate the term sphinx to mean the Great Sphinx of the Giza Plateau in Egypt, there were numerous sphinxes of various type in ancient Egypt (as well as elsewhere in the ancient world). The Great Sphinx guards the Great Pyramid of Giza, and was re-discovered during the reign of Napolean, during his Egyptian campaign. It has been nearly completely covered by the desert sand. The head of the Great Sphinx is believed to be modeled after the pharaoh Khepfre (Cheops), the body is that of a lion, and it is believed to have been carved about 2500 BC, during the time of the building of the Great Pyramid.

There are three types of sphinx:
(1) The androsphinx, the typical lion with a human face/head
(2) The criosphinx, a ram-headed lion
(3) The hierocosphonx has the body of a lion and the head of a hawk.
 
Rarely was the Egyptian sphinx portrayed as a female. When it was, it symbolized Isis and/or the reigning queen. In Egypt the intellectual faculties ennobled the bestial traits present in the physical makeup of this creature. But, in early Greek mythology, the bestial nature warped the mind and spirit of this being and it was portrayed as an unhappy monster, a symbol of the 'terrible mother'; the monster of death bringing extreme bad luck and the perversion of the intellect, womanhood, and power.
The Greek sphinx had the bust and head of a lady, the wings of an eagle, the body and legs of a lioness, and the tail of a snake or dragon. Sometimes it was portrayed with the body of a bull and the legs of a lion. Like many other fabulous beasts, the Greek sphinx was thought to live in the Ethiopian mountains.

Origin:
The Sphinx is a legendary creature made up of both human and animal parts. This figure originated in Egypt and then spread, with many modifications, throughout the ancient world. Its name comes from Egyptian ssp-'ng, meaning 'living image' (not from Greek 'sphingo = to strangle', which is often found too). According to this she is the image by which the Egyptians wanted to express the nature of their ruler.

Role:
The Egyptian androsphinx guarded pyramids, tombs, and sacred highways.
The Phoenicians and Syrians linked the sphinx to the guardian spirit lamassu
and made it a symbol of rulership and the guardian of temples and palaces.

Symbol:
The Egyptian androsphinx is a symbol of abundance, power, wisdom, mysteries, riddles, truth, unity, and secrets. Sometimes a pair of sphinx was pictured with the tree of Life as a symbol of fertility and conception. As a solar symbol, the sphinx is often associated with the sun god Ra; Horus in the Horizon; and Harmakhis, the Lord of the Two Horizons, who represents the rising and setting sun, rebirth, and resurrection.

Androsphinx usually bear the face of the pharaoh who ordered their construction and symbolize the divine power and wisdom he used to rule and protect his people.
Since its form combines human and animal parts into one body, the sphinx usually symbolizes the union of mind and body or intellectual, spiritual, and physical strengths with varying results. It is also, when composed of four animals including a human, a symbol of the four elements - earth, wind, fire, and water. The Druids counted a many-breasted sphinx among their fertility and maternal symbols.

As the Lord of the Two Horizons, the androsphinx's dual nature came to reflect the dual nature of Christ who was both human and divine. Like many other solar symbols, the androsphinx was placed in or near early Christian graves as a representation of the divine Light of the World.

Sphinx composed of a man's head and chest, eagle's wings, a bull's hindquarters, and a lions' forequarters became symbols of the Biblical tetramorph and the four living creatures of Revelation. [Ezek 1:5-14; Rev. 4:6-8] These in turn represent the cherubim; the four Evangelists and their Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; the four kings of the created world - the lion (king of the jungle), the eagle (king of the air), the bull (king of the farm), and man (king of creation); and, according to St. Jerome, Christ's Incarnation (the man), His Passion (the bull), His Resurrection (the Lion), and His Ascension (the eagle).

I have added the pic of the Androsphingen of the Avenue of Sphinges of the temple of Luxor (Arnold, D., Lexikon der ägyptischen Baukunst, Düsseldorf 1994).

Sources:
Der kleie Pauly
http://www.theoi.com/Daimon/Euthenia.html
http://www.coinsofromanegypt.org/html/library/curtis/curtis_chapter_I.htm
http://www.coinsofromanegypt.org/html/library/milne/milne_tokens.htm
http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/ElAnt/V3N6/stevenson.html
http://www.eternalegypt.org/EternalEgyptWebsiteWeb/HomeServlet?ee_website_action_key=action.display.home&language_id=1

Best regards
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« Reply #215 on: July 02, 2007, 03:42:00 pm »

The river Nile

Here is the next contribution to the theme Roman-Egyptian mythology. The cause for this article was the following coin, especially the meaning of the IS on the upper field of its reverse which has fascinated me.

The coin

Egypt, Alexandria, Hadrian, AD 117-138
AE - drachm, 35.4mm, 26.43g
Alexandria, 129/30 (year 12)
obv. AVT KAI - TRAI ADRIA CEB
Bust, draped and cuirassed, seen from behind, laureate, r.
rev. Rivergod Nilus, bearded and laureate, nude to hips, leaning l., holding cornucopiae in outstretched r. hand and reed in l. arm, resting with l. arm on small hippopotamus, stg. r.,
in ex. LDWDEK (= year 12)
in upper field LS
Milne 1267; Dattari 1805; Köln 993; Emmet 1015
about VF, blue-green patina

IS = 16 (cubits), means the optimal level of the flood of the Nile. The S should be read as 'digamma', not as 'stigma'! The cubit was the unit length measured from ellbow to the tip of the middle finger. It ranged from 45 to 53cm. But the so-called Egyptian Royal Cubit (meh nesut) was always 52.3cm (with a deviation of only under 5mm over the times!). 

Mythology:

The dominating trias of Egyptian gods during Roman times was made of Serapis, Isis and Harpokrates. The next important deities seemed to be Nilus and Euthenia, at least insofar the coinage of Alexandria is considered. Nilus was the rivergod of the river Nile which is the source of all life in Egypt as we all know. Although he was regarded in Pharaonian times under the name 'hapi' only as a minor deity he achieved big importance in Roman times in Alexandria. The die cutters seemed to be very free in the depiction of this god and took obviously much pleasure in developing an endless series of types and varieties. He was often assimilated with Osiris and he in turn with Serapis.

Although Nilus represents the important river Nilus, in Greek mythology he didn't play a big role. Referring to Hesiod (Theog. 338) he was son of Okeanos and Thetis. He had several children, f.e. Memphis, mother of Libya, who then became mother of the Egyptian Belos and of Agenor. Other children were Chione, Anippe, Kaliadne and Polyxo.

The fertility of the narrow strip of country in the Nile valley depends upon the River Nile, which overflows its banks every year and brings down fresh soil from the hills. The river is at its lowest between April and June, the period of winter. Fed by the melting snows on the Abyssinian hills, and by the equatorial lakes, which are flooded during the rainy season, the gradual rise of the river becomes perceptible about the middle of June. The waters first assume a reddish tint on account of the clay which they carry. For a short period they then become greenish and unwholesome. Ere that change took place the Ancient Egyptians were wont to store up water for domestic use in large jars. By the beginning of August the Nile runs high. It was then that the canals were opened in ancient days, so that the waters might fertilize the fields. As the Nile rose the peasants were careful to remove the flocks and herds from the lowlands; and when a sudden irruption of the water, owing to the bursting. of a dike, or an unexpected and unusual increase of the river, overflowed the fields and pastures, they were seen hurrying to the spot, on foot or in boats, to rescue the animals and to remove them to the high grounds above the reach of the inundation. . . . And though some suppose the inundation does not now attain the same height as of old, those who have lived in the country have frequently seen the villages of the Delta standing, as Herodotus describes them, like islands in the Aegean Sea, with the same scenes of rescuing the cattle from the water. According to Pliny, a proper inundation is of 16 cubits. He writes "When the waters rise to only twelve cubits, the country experiences the horrors of famine; when it attains thirteen, hunger is still the result; a rise of fourteen cubits is productive of gladness; a rise of fifteen sets all anxieties at rest; while an increase of sixteen is productive of unbounded transports of joy. The greatest increase known...is eighteen cubits; the smallest rise was that of five." (Translation by Bostock, thanks to Curtis Clay!)

When the river rose very high in the days of the Pharaohs, the lives and property of the inhabitants were endangered; in some villages the houses collapsed. Hence the legend that Ra sought to destroy his enemies among mankind.

The inundation is at its height by the end of September, and continues stationary for about a month. Not until the end of September does the river resume normal proportions. November is the month for sowing; the harvest is reaped in Upper Egypt by March and in Lower Egypt by April. It was believed by the ancient farmers that the flood was caused by the tears of Isis which she wept about Osiris. When Sirius rose before dawn about the middle of July it was identified with the goddess. In the sun-cult legend this star is Hathor, "the eye of Ra", who comes to slaughter mankind. There are evidences that human sacrifices were offered to the sun god at this period.

Background:
By Homer the Nile was called - like the old capital city Memphis  and the entire land - Aigyptos. The Egyptians worshipped him as bringer of fertility, so at Silsile in Upper-Egypt and especially in Babylon, the recent Old-Kairo. Here the Under-Egyptian Nile sources were assumed whereas the Upper-Egyptian sources were sought in Elephantine (Herodot 2, 28; between the rocks Krwphi and Mwri). The inundation was measured at the southern point of the island of Rhoda near Kairo. The height of the Nile inundation is partially maintained in the so-called Stone of Annals, where 4 cubits were the normal height. In Hellenistic times the normal height was 16 cubits. But this shouldn't be seen as an increase of the flood but rather as an alteration of the used gauge.

After all the sources of the Nile were unkown to the Ancients. I remind you on the famous Four-River-Fountain of Bernini on the Piazza Navona in Rome. Here the Nile veils his head because of his unknown origin (though there is the bon-mot that the actual reason is that he doesn't want to see the church Sant'Agnese in Agone of Borromini!). Ovid (Metam. 2.254) reports the following: "When Phaethon riding the chariot of the sun scorched the earth: Nilus in terror to the world’s end fled and his head, still hidden; this seven mouths gaped dusty, seven vales without a stream.". The real  sources of the river Nile were discovered not until the end of the 19. century. The exciting story of this discovery - especially the quarrel between Burton (to whom we owe the Tales of 1001 Nights!) and his rival Speke - you can find in the web.

The Hippopotamus:

Some words about the hippotamus, Hippopotamus amphibius L. It was known by the Ancients particularly from the river Nile (hence the name!), but from Palestine too. In rivers from West-Africa (Senegal?, Gambia?) the smaller species Hippopotamus liberiensis Mort. was known. That the hippo was found in the Indus too was stated by Onesikritos but denied by Strabo 14, 706, and not suggested by Pausanias 4, 34, 3. Already in later ancient times the hippo was nearly exstirpated in Egypt and never became homelike again. It was exported to Rome for animal fights (especially against crocodiles) and later this exotic behemoth was found in imperial bestiariums.

History of art:
I have added the pic of the famous Nile statue in the Vatican (Photography of 1892 from my collection). The Vatican Nile, itself a copy of a Hellenistic statue, probably Alexandrian in origin, was discovered in the early sixteenth century in excavations of the shrine to Isis and Serapis near Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome. Pliny the Elder mentions a similar sculpture in ancient Egypt in his Natural History (36.58), explaining that the babies surrounding the river god represent the ideal height of sixteen cubits to which the Nile river rose annually, thereby assuring abundant fertility in Lower Egypt. The sixteenth, the most important of all, is just emerging from the cornucopiae. Unfortunately the statue is much restored in the Renaissance.
 
Sources:
Der kleine Pauly
Wikipedia
Wilkinson, Ancient Egypt
http://www.sacred-texts.com/egy/eml/eml05.htm
http://www.gosahara.de/Forschung/rchtsforsch.html

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« Reply #216 on: July 08, 2007, 11:05:11 am »

Agathodaimon and Uraeus

This should be the last article of the short excursion in the Greek-Egyptian mythology.

The coin:
Egypt, Alexandria, Hadrian, AD 117-138
AE33, drachm, 22.10g
Alexandria, AD 133/134 (year 18)
obv. AVT KAIC TRAIANOC - ADRIANOC CEB 
        Bust, draped and cuirassed, laureate, r.
rev. Agathodaimon, bearded, erected r., and Uraeus-Snake, erected l., confronted;
       Agathodaimon wearing shkent (double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt) and
       holding kerykeion with his tail; Uraeus-Snake wearing crown of Isis (sundisk
       between horns) and holding sistrum.
       across field L  IH (year 18)
Ref.: Dattari 7901
Very rare,  VF

Agathodaimon:
Agathodaimon, lat. Agathodaemon, was in Greek mythology the 'good spirit' of grain fileds and vineyards. Usually the Greeks drank a cup of pure wine in his honour at the end of each meal (according to Aristophanes, Equites, 106). He was also regarded as the protecting spirit of the state and of individuals. He was often accompanied by 'Ayaq Tim (good fortune)', and in this aspect may be compared with the Roman Bonus Eventus (Pliny, Nat Hist. xxxvi. 23), and Genius. He is represented in works of art in the form of a serpent, or of a young man with a cornucopia and a bowl in one hand, and a poppy and ears of grain in the other.
Agathodaimon should not be confused with the many snakes of the Thracian snake-cults or the snake-god Glykon of the false prophet Alexander of Abounoteichos.

Uraeus
According to the story of Re, the first uraeus was created by the goddess Isis who formed it from the dust of the earth and the spittle of the sun-god. The uraeus was the instrument with which Isis gained the throne of Egypt for her husband Osiris.
The uraeus was a symbol for various things from early times including: the sun, Lower Egypt, the king and a number of deities.
As the sacred creature of the Delta city of Bto, the reptile was known by the same name. She soon became an emblem of all of Lower Egypt. The uraeus was often depicted with the vulture Nekhebet who served the same function for Upper Egypt. Together they symbolized the unification of the two lands. The creatures also appear together in the pharaoh's nebty or "Two Ladies" name.

The cobra was also called the "fiery eye" of Re and two uraei were sometimes depicted on either side of the solar disk. A gilded wooded cobra called netjer-ankh ("living god") was found in the tomb of Tutankhamon. It is representative of the cobra's associations with the afterlife. In funerary works, the cobra is often depicted spitting fire. Two cobras doing just that were said to guard the gates of every "hour" of the underworld. During the Late Period, uraei were also shown towing the barque of the sun in funerary papyri. In all of these examples, the cobra's protective nature is clearly demonstrated. The cobra was also representative of various deities such as Neith, Ma'at and Re.

About the meaning of this coin:
The coins of Alexandria differ strongly from the coins for the other part of Egypt, the so-called Nome coins, even though they all were struck in Alexandria. Whereas the Nome coins show the many different gods  and snake-deities of Egypt, the coins of Alexandria are always 'Greek'. So the Greek god were assimilated with Egyptian gods and the Egyptian gods were subject of a syncretism. The names of these new gods were always Greek, f.e. Hermanubis, Harpokrates  or Sarapis, never Egyptian. It should be mentioned that the assimilation regularly is founded on only one aspect of the two deities, f.e. for Anubis and Hermes only the fact that they accompany the deads. Their other, very different features were neglected.
The snake on the right side of the coin has been called Uraeus by all catalogers of Alexandrian coins and that name is not incorrect. The snake with its expanded hood doubtless resembles a n erected cobra. It is not, however, to be confused with the early known royal cobra, Edjo (also known as Buto). Edjo was a symbol associated with the pharaohs of Lower Egypt. When shown together with Nehkbet, the vulture-headed god of Upper Egypt, the symbol was called Uraeus by the Greekand was symbol of the dominion over all of Egypt.

What's the meaning of the cobra on this coin? In Roman times Isis, through the process of syncretism, had become an universal god and merged with the Syrian Astarte, Hathoe and Bastet, the cat goddess. Nut and Sothis too were merged with her and the new goddess emerged with the name Isis-othis. At the same time, Renenutet, sometimes called Thermuthis, the Egyptian goddess of fertility and harvest was personified as a cobra too. She was the mother of Nepri, the personification of wheat, who in turn was equated with Osiris, the wheat god. The parallelism between Thermuthis and her son Nepri, and Isis and her son horus, led to their ultimate union in the form of a cobra, who was worshipped by the name Isermuthis.

Bewildering as all this might sound, it is important to realize that Isermuthis, in her cobra form with the attribtes of disk, horns and sistrum, is still Isis but with her specific role as fertility goddess of agriculture being singled out and empasized.

At the time this coin was struck in Egypt the great triad of the Graeco-Egyptian gods was represented by Sarapis, Harpokrates and Isis. Could the snake on the right side of the coin be Sarapis? Usually it is designated as Agathodaimon. It is a very ancient chthonic deity and in early times largely worshipped in the old Greek cities as a househld god. But in Alexandria, almost from the date of the city's foundation, it had been elevated to the role of protector and provider for the entire city and later for all the country since it wears the shkent, the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt. It was also a fertility god  and a healing spirit, particularly when associated with Asklepios. The snake entwined staff, the kerykeion (lat. caduceus), held in the coils of the Agathodaimon had in the Roman era become a symbol of plenty, particularly in dealings with grain. 

Very early in the Ptolomaic era, the Agathodaimon had to share its role as patron god of Alexandria with a new god  - the great Sarapis. According to Tacitus (Hist. IV 83-84) Sarapis was most likely introduced into Egypt by Ptolemy I, Soter. This god was the result of a kind of syncretism between the spirit of all the deified Apis bulls with Osiris, the grain god. So Serapis too was a god of fertility and grain and is depicted always with a kalathos on his head. Because of this Serapis and Osiris were interchangeable. The oneness of these two deities is illustrated by a coin of Antoninus Pius, showing Agathodaimon with the head of Sarapis (BMC 1103)

So this coin again shows symbolic the overwhelming importance of Egypt for the grain supply of  Rome. Wether this symbolic and rather indirect message has been understood by the people we naturally don't know. But on the other side it is likely that the individual in ancient times knew far more of the gods he or she lived by than the average citizen today.

So this specimen is a beautiful example for the melting of Greek and Egyptian religion on a Roman coin!

Source: L.E. Beauchaine, Graeco-Egyptian religion and Roman Policy on a Coin of Alexandria, Journal of the Society for Ancient Numismatics (SAN), vol.xviii, pp.4-7

Backgound:
The Greek word Ouraios (Uraeus) seems to go back to an Egyptian word iaret, meaning 'who is erecting'. The Uraeus was the snake on the forehead worn by the king on a diadem and from the Middle Empire on at his crown, showing a rearing cobra with billowing neck. An Egyptologist wants to attribute the snake worn as emblem at the head to a curl worn by ancient Libyan tribes on their forehead. Others regard the snake as symbol animal of the pre-historic empire of Buto, whose goddess Uto seated in the shape of an uraeus on the vertex of the king. The uraeus generally is the symbol of royalism and divinity and therefore it is worn too by the king gods Horus and Seth. Because of spitting glow which averts all evil the uraeus is called the fiery eye of the sun-god Re. By equating with the sun-eye Hathor could be invoked as Uraeus-Snake, so f.e. in inscriptions on coffins. Tefnut in her special function as fire goddess (named Upes) wears an uraeus on her head.

I have added a beautiful pic of an uraeus wearing the double crown (shkent).

(will be continued)
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« Reply #217 on: July 28, 2007, 08:41:13 am »

(continued:)

In the end I want to tell a bit about the Egyptian crowns. Probably this will not be new to all dealing with ancient Egypt, but I hope for some members it could be helpful nevertheless.

The crowns of ancient Egypt:
Generally this subject is very confusing because the number of different crowns is so large. There was a real crown cult in Egypt and the crowns themself were regarded as deities. The White Crown was Upper Egypt and the Red Crown was Lower Egypt. Therefore I could give only a short overview.

[1] The crowns of the Egyptian kings:
- The Red Crown of Lower Egypt, deshret, originally was the crown of the goddess Neith, the patron goddess of Sais in Lower Egypt. It is not known yet what the long thin line stands for.

- The White Crown of Upper Egypt, hedjet, was worn by the rulers of Upper Egypt before the unificaton of Egypt. It had a special relation to the goess Nekhbet. The shape was like a mitra, our bishop's hat.

- The Double Crown, pshent or shkent, a combination of the Red Crown with the White Crown. It was called by the Egyptians sechemty or psechemty, meaning such as 'the both mighty'. Egypt was unified c.3200 BC by king Menes. From that time on the Egyptian kings were wearing this Double Crown.
 
- The Blue Crown, khepresh, was a war crown and a kind of helmet. We see it on Ramses II in the battle of Kadesh against the Hetits.

- The Atef was the crown of Osiris. It looks like the White Crown (hedjet) with a red feather on each side. It was the symbol of Busitis, the cult place of Osiris in the Nile delta and it seems to be the expression of a unity of parts of Lower and Upper Egypt already before the unification of Egypt by Menes. It was worn during cult ceremonies.

- The Hemhem Crown or Composite Crown (hemhemet = war shouting) was an elaborate form of the Atef crown, called Triple Atef Crown too. It was composed of three Atef Crowns with an Uraeus on each side. It was the symbol of the power of the Egyptian kings and was worn only by special ceremonies.

- The feather crown, anedtj, was a cult crown and usually worn only at cult ceremonies. It was made of a sun-disk between two ostrich feathers.

- The Nemes actually was no crown but a head cloth, worn by the kings. We know it from the famous bust of Tutankhamun.

[2] Of the crowns of the Egyptian deities and queens only these two:
- The crown of Hathor, the sun-disk between two horns of a cow. This was the crown of the goddess Hathor.

- The crown of Isis. It originally was a throne, because the throne was the hieroglyph for Isis, Egyptian = seat, throne. Later when Isis was assimilated with Hathor she took over the crown of Hathor, the sun-disk between the horns.

I have added the following three pics:
- Kronen #1 shows from l. to r.
the Red Crown (deshrent), the White Crown (hedjet) and the Double Crown (shkent)
- Kronen #2 shows from l. to r.
the Blue crown (khepresh), the Atef crown, the Hemhem crown (l.) and the Feather Crown (anedtj) (r.)
- Kronen #3 shows from l. to r.
the Nemes head cloth, the Hathor crown and the old Isis crown.
 
Sources:
Wikipedia
- L.E. Beauchaine, Graeco-Egyptian Religion and Roman Policy on a Coin of Alexandria, Journal of the Society for Ancient Numismatics (SAN), vol.xviii, pp.4-7
- nW.R.Cooper, The Serpent Myths of Ancient Egypt, 1878?
- Manfred Lurker: Lexikon der Götter und Symbole der alten Ägypter
- http://www.coinsofromanegypt.org/html/library/curtis/curtis_chapter_VII.htm
- http://www.goruma.de/tiere/uraeusschlange.html (Zoology of the Uraeus-Snake)
- http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/crowns2.htm
- http://www.sacred-texts.com/gno/gar/gar31.htm
- http://www.egyptianmyths.net/cobra.htm

Best regards
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« Reply #218 on: July 28, 2007, 08:43:12 am »

Zeus Olbios and the Priest-Kingdom of Olba

Quite a long time I was interested in the names Aias and Teukros on the coins of Olba. Now I went further in this matter and here are the results of my investigation!

The coin:
Cilicia, Olba, quasi-autonomous, 11-12 BC
AE 16, 4.52g
struck under Aias, son of Teukros, archiereus and toparch of Kennatis and Lalassis (year 2)
obv. TOPARX / KENNAT / [L]ALAS / ET B
       in dotted circle
rev. Thunderbolt
      above ARXIER / AIANTOS
      beneath TEVKROV
SNG BN Paris 807; RPC 3729; Staffierie, Olba 15, 14
Ver rare, about EF, glossy dark-green patina
Pedigree:
ex auction F. Sternberg Zürich XXV, 1991, lot 160
ex auction M&M XVII, 2005, lot 965
Expansion of the legends:
[1] TOPARXOV KENNATWN KAI LALASSEWN ETOVS B, (on order) of the toparch of the people of Kennatis and Lalassis, year 2
[2] ARXIEREWS AIANTOS TEVKROV,  (on order) of the archiereus Ajas, son of Teukros
[3] The thunderbolt is the symbol for Zeus Olbios, the Olbian main god.

I have added the pic of another coin (RPC 3725) from CoinArchives. It shows the Priestking Aias as Hermes wearing a cap. The rev. shows the sign of the Teukri, the triskeles.

History:
North of Silifke in the so-called Rough Cilicia, near the village of Uzuncabur, we find the old cult-place Olba with the temple of Zeus Olbios. This temple of Zeus was the center of power of the priest dynasty of the Teukri. Their symbol was the triskeles. The priest dynasty of the Olbian temple state has controlled an area which was circumscribed by the rivers Kalykadnos and Lamos. The center of their power was the Zeus Olbios sanctuary built by Seleukos I Nikator, the founder of the Seleukid Empire around 300 BC. In Hellenistic times (3rd - 1st century BC) it had been extended monumentally to become one of the biggest sanctuaries in Asia Minor. This temple and a huge army tower with a height of more than 20 m and a elaborately decorated tomb tower demonstrate the connection of religious and political power.

About 45 BC Olba's Priest Kingdom had been weakened and Tyrants began capturing the country. At this time, one of the King's relative's, Zenophanes, cooperated with the Tyrants and seized the whole country. The Roman Administration preferred to control Olba with the help of a local priest king instead of a garrison, because of the unsuitable physical features of the region. When Zenophanes came to power, Rome started to lose control. Octavianus, Antonius and Lepidus established the Triumvirate Empire in Rome and shared the management. Antonius had the east lands. Octavianus and Antonius travelled to straighten out the east and killed Zenophanes and gained control over the priest kings again.
Zenophanes's daughter, Aba, married the Priest King, and joined the Olba Kingdom family. The king died from the plague and the administration passed to their mother Aba as her sons were too young to come to power. There was a disagreement between Lepidus and Octavianus in 33 BC, as a result of this Lepidus accepted the superiority of Octavianus, and retreated from Triumvirate. So Octavianus and Antonius became secret rivals in order to dominate Rome. During Antonius's journey to Persia he fell in love with Cleopatra, so his relationship with Rome got worse. However, Cleopatra wanted to regain the old lands and own Ptolemaios's splendor. She succeeded in benefiting from Antonius's passion for her, and beat Rome with the help of the Romans. Antonius married Cleopatra and gave some land to her.
Cleopatra owned the Olba Kingdom, which had many cedar trees used to make ships.
Triumvirate ended formally in 32 BC by Octavianus, after Antonius gave the land to Cleopatra, and Octavianus went to war against them.
Cleopatra donated the Olba to Aba because of her help. Aba was killed, but the Olba Kingdom continued up until 20 BC by her occupants. After this date Rome took responsibility of the administration of the area.

The Olbian Priest dynasty which could be proud for good relations to Augustus didn't succeed in outlasting the fundamental changes in the course of the Roman engagement in Asia Minor. At least  when the province Cilicia was established (1st century AD) the Priest reign changed to an urban administration. This fundamental change took place probably under Vespasian when he founded Diocaisarea which soon incorporated the temple. With it the sanctuary no more was the indisputable center of the whole region but primarly only an usual city sanctuary. 

Mythology:
The Priestkings of Olba ascribed their dynasty to Teukros, heroe of the Troyan War (Strabo 14, 5, 10). The Hellenistic inscriptions show a big number of theophoric names of typical Luwian origin. Especially frequent are names with the component 'tarki', 'tarko-', 'tarky-' and 'troko-'. These names refer to the Luwian weather god Tarhu(nt), the main god of the Luwian pantheon. Naturally Tarhu(nt) in Hellenistic times was equated with Zeus. Significantly under the names of the Zeus priests of Olba besides Teukros, Zenas and Zenophanes (these too theophoric names related to Zeus) Takyaris occurs too. So the assumption is close that the cult of Zeus Olbios was  a Hellenized Tarhu(nt) cult (Trampedach).

But what is the origin of the claimed ancestry from Teukros? The problem is that there are two different groups of myths containing Teukros and both are not compatible:
[1] The Teukros of the Apollo Smintheus myth of Troas
[2] The Teukros of the Troyan War of Homer

The Apollo Smintheus cult is said to be founded by Cretian Teukri near the Troyan Chryse when they settled there. So the identity of the names of the two mountains of Ida could be explained. Over the years the Troyans developed from the Teukri (Aischylos, Agamemnon 112). This Teukros then - as father of Tros - became the ancestor of the Troyan kings. To strengthen the connection with Troas he got as parents Skamandros and a Troic mountain nymph.

Teukros too occurs in Vergil's Aeneis. Dido told Aeneas about Teukros who came as refugee to her father Belus who ruled in Sidon. He gave him the reign over Cyprus. Teukros claimed that he was related to the Troyan king dynasty by his mother Hesione, daughter of Laomedon, who had to follow Telamon as prisoner of war to Salamis. Vergil here skilfully connects both Teukros epics but doesn't mix up the genealogies.

At Homer Teukros was the son of Telamon and half brother of Aias the Great. About the genealogic origin Homer reports nothing. This reconstruction is from Prinz: "Zeus created Aiakos with Aigina. Aiakos married Endeis and created with her Peleus and Telamon. They killed their half brother Phokos. After that murder Peleus and Telamon had to flee from Aigina because of the anger of Aiakos. Peleus came to Phthia and Telamon to Salamis." This genealogy leads from Teukros over Telamon and Aiakos to Zeus himself and got 'quasi canonic character'. This genealogy f.i. was adopted by Pindar (4th Nemean Ode).

But how Teukros came to Cyprus? In Aischylos' 'The Persians' the chorus - describing the Persian Empire - lists the cities of Cyprus. And here appears - beside Paphos and Soloi - Salamis too! And now we have the missing link between Teukros and Cyprus. Teukros founded a city on Cyprus and named it Salamis referring to his hometown. Details could be found at Sophokles (Aias 1008-1021) and Euripides (Helena 87-104, 143-150). This founder myth was known already in the first third of the 5th century BC. But Athens too was interested in a myth which could legitimate its military intervention on Cyprus. For that purpose Athens had first mythologically to take in Salamis. This was done - according to Plutarch - by an arbitration between Spartians and Athenians by which Salamis was granted to Athens. A main argument of Solon, the leader of the Athenian delegation, was the hint that Salamis once was dedicated to Athens by the sons of Aias.

But probably the Cyprian founder myth is originated from Salamis itself. The initial point according to Prinz was the homonymy of the island of Salamis and the city of Salamis on Cyprus. The descendants of Teukros, the Teukri, kept the power on Cyprus until  c.310 BC when Ptolemaios I removed their reign.

The suggested connection of Olba to the Greek myth is represented in this way:
There is no convincing relation to the Troic Teukros. The founder myth of the Zeus Olbios temple by Strabon refers clearly to the heroe of Homer's Ilias. Additionally the name Telamon occurs in the region of Olba not scarcely and the geographical proximity of Cyprus is another evidence. And Teukros is not seen only as founder of the city but as founder of the important Zeus Salaminios temple too. This could be the reason for the Olbian priests to go back to Teukros. And Teukros was suggested as descendant of Zeus too which was stressed especially by Isokrates.

The paradigm of Mallos has demonstrated for the first time that mythological founded Hellenism could bring concrete advantages - in financial aspects too. The consequence was a race of cities and sanctuaries for a noble ancestry. Even the old metropolis of Tarsus has participated with an 'Argivian' founder myth. This has been stressed after the appearence of Alexander the Great. He who searched for prestige needed a Greek myth. In the course of this development the Olbian priestkings too searched for a mythological connection to the Greek 'history'. Amphilochos and Mopsos were inappropriate because they were related to Apollon. The cult of the Anatolian weather god - who could only be identified with Zeus - needed another founder figure. Teukros was appropiate because of several reasons:
[1] He was a descendant of Zeus
[2] He was founder of a famous and not so far Zes sanctuary
[3] He was the ancestor of a famous dynasty of rulers.
After founding Seleukeia ad Kalykadnum Seleukos I did reference to the nearby Zeus Olbios. The Olbian priests told Seleukos the founder myth of their sanctuary with the (now) noble Greek ancestry and as gratification they have been confirmed or introduced as regional kings by Seleukos (Trampedach).

History of art:
Of the temple of Zeus Olbios remained 30 high columns. They are of Corinthian order and were the oldest of this kind in Asia Minor. In the middle of an impressive mountain landscape these 2300 years old columns rise to heaven. I have added a pic. Recently the Universities of Rostock and Konstanz undertake archaeological excavations.

Sources:
[1] Kai Trampedach, Teukros und Teukriden. Zur Gründungslegende des Zeus Olbios-Heiligtums in Kilikien, in: Olba II, Mersin 1999, S. 94-110
[2] Pilhofer/Börstingshaus, Olba/Diokaisarea - Priesterstaat und Doppelstadt -, Vorbereitungsübung zur Kilikienexkursion 2006
[3] Friedrich Prinz, Gründungsmythen und Sagenchronologie, Beck 1979
[4] http://www.turkishdailynews.com.tr/archives.php?id=24078

Best regards
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« Reply #219 on: August 15, 2007, 01:35:36 am »

Jochen,

It has been far too long since I engaged in this discussion board.  I had some catching-up to do.  Your posts on Mithras, Hector, Juno Caprotina, the Thracian Rider-God Heroes, King Kyzikos, Hylas, Aphrodite Urania, Sandan, Diana Memorensis, Apollo Smintheus & the herdsman Ordes, Hera Lakinia, Euthenia, the River Nile, Agathodaimon & Uraeus and Zeus Olbios are all superb!

This board is better than grad school!

Thank you,
Jim
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« Reply #220 on: August 15, 2007, 04:46:39 am »

Hi Jim!

Thanks so much! It would be nice to hear too which subjects are wrong!

Best regards
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« Reply #221 on: September 02, 2007, 10:48:00 am »

Check out the Mythological coin of Romulus and Remus suckling the wolf. I like that coin, mostly because I have an interest in the founding of Rome, and Roman history.

Probus, Antoninianus, 276-282, Siscia, Officina 3
IMP C PROBVS P F AVG
Radiate, cuirassed bust right
ORIGINI AVG
She-wolf right, suckling Romulus and Remus
XXIT in exergue
21mm, 3.15g
RIC V, Part I, 703 (R2)
Ex Goran Petrusic, eBay, June 2003

http://www.beastcoins.com/RomanImperial/V-II/Probus/Siscia/Probus-RICV-703-XXIT-a.jpg
you can view the coin from this link!
Enjoy
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« Reply #222 on: September 08, 2007, 04:32:07 pm »

Some notes on Nemesis

1st coin:
Claudius, AD 41 - 54
AV - Aureus, 7.71g, 18mm
Rome 46/47
obv. TI CLAVD CAESAR AVG PM TRP VI IMP XI
laureate head r.
rev. PACI AVGVSTAE
Pax/Nemesis advancing r., holding with l. hand winged caduceus and points with it at snake, coiling r. at her feet; holding fold of her robe before the chin
RIC I, 38; C.57 (Lyon AD 45!); von Kaenel 628 (this specimen!)
R2; about VF
Pedigree:
ex coll. Moritz Simon, Berlin (1930?)
ex Glandining & Co., London 1929, Nr.666
ex Cahn, Ffm. 1930, Nr.232
ex MuM, Basel

In connection with this coin we should talk about the strange gesture where Nemesis holds a fold of her robe before the chin. Rossbach (in Roscher, Mythologie, 1909) takes it for a gesture of modesty. LIMC IV, sv. Nemesis 232 writes, that it is a gesture symbolizing self-restraint in victory. Her spitting into her bosom ('spuere in sinu') is apotropaic in nature. The type itself was first used by C.Vibius Varus in AD 49 BC (Cr. 494/35). Claudius' re-use of this type was surely due to his personal antiquarianism.

2nd coin:
Moesia inferior, Nikopolis ad Istrum, Macrinus AD 217-218
AE - AE 26, 12.2g
struck under legate Statius Longinus
obv. AV KM OPELLI CEV - MAKREINOC
bust, laureate, r.
rev. VP C - TATI LONGINOV - NIKOPOLITWN PROC / ICTRW (NG ligate)
Nemesis, wearing double chiton, standing l., holding scales and cubit, l. to her feet a wheel
AMNG 1769 var. (has different legends and scourge instead of cubit!)
some green encrustations, elsewise EF, choice portrait
I think here it is actually a cubit because of its marks and not a scourge!

Not long from Marathon, where the mighty Persian army was defeated by the Athenians in historical times (490 BC), there was a sanctuary and statue of Nemesis. It is told that the Persians' pride was such that they believed that nothing stood in the way of their taking Athens. Accordingly, they brought a piece of Parian marble to make a trophy to celebrate their victory, being persuaded that their task was already accomplished. But as it happened, they met defeat, and of this same piece of marble, the Athenian sculptor Phidias made a statue of Nemesis, the goddess who punishes the proud. According to others the statue was made by Agorakritos, one of his pupils.

Mythology:
Nemesis is most commonly de­scribed as a daughter of Night, though some call her a daughter of Erebus or of Okeanos. She is a personification of the moral reverence for law, of the natural fear of com­mitting a culpable action, and hence of conscience, and for this reason she is mentioned along with Aidos, i. e. Shame (Hes. Theog. 223). In later writers, as Herodotos and Pindar, Nemesis is a kind of fatal divinity, for she directs human affairs in such a manner as to restore the right proportions or equilibrium wherever it has been disturbed ; she measures out happiness and unhappiness, and he who is blessed with too many or too frequent gifts of fortune, is visited by her with losses and sufferings, in order that he may be­come humble, and feel that there are bounds beyond which human happiness cannot proceed with safety. This notion arose from a belief that the gods were envious of excessive human happiness (Herodot, i. 34, iii. 40 ). Nemesis was thus a check upon extravagant favours conferred upon man by Tyche or Fortuna, and from this idea lastly arose that of her being an avenging and punishing power of fate, who, like Dike and the Erinyes, sooner or later overtakes the reckless sinner (Apollon. Rhod., Sophocles, Euripides, Catull). The inhabitants of Smyrna worshipped two Nemeseis, both of whom were daughters of Night (See the article in this thread). She is frequently mentioned under the surnames Adrasteia and Rhamnusia, the latter of which she derived from the town of Rhamnus in Attika, where she had a celebrated sanctuary. Besides the places already mentioned she was worshipped at Patrae and at Kyzikos. She was usually represented in works of art as a virgin divinity, and in the more ancient works she seems to have resembled Aphro­dite, whereas in the later ones she was more grave and serious, and had numerous attributes. As winged she should be first depicted in Smyrna. Here is a short listing from my collection:
winged, hand to chin, with caduceus, snake before
winged, hand to chin, with caduceus and wheel
hand to chin, with bridle and wheel
hand to chin, with cubit and wheel
with cubit and patera (2x)
with cubit and scales
with cubit, scales and wheel (5x)
wearing polos, with cubit, scales and wheel
with scales, scourge and wheel
with scales, cornucopiae and wheel (2x)
with short rod and cornucopiae
with short rod, cornucopiae and wheel
with short rod, bridle and wheel (3x)

Often these are goddesses who can't be identfied exactly. Pick has used in this cases a double name, f.i. Nemesis-Aequitas (with scales) or Homonoia-Nemesis (with cornucopiae). The winged Nemesis usually is called Pax-Nemesis.

But there is an allegorical tradition that Zeus begot by Nemesis at Rhamnus an egg, which Leda found, and from which Helena and the Dioskuroi sprang, whence Helena herself is called Rhamnusis. On the pedestal of the Rhamnusian Nemesis, Leda was represented leading Helena to Nemesis (Pausanias). The Rham­nusian statue bore in its left hand a branch of an apple tree, in its right hand a patera, and on its head a crown, adorned with stags and an image of victory. Sometimes she appears in a pensive stand­ing attitude, holding in her left hand a bridle or a branch of an ash tree, and in her right a wheel, with a sword or a scourge.

Background:
Nemesis literally means 'the allocator, the reciprocator'. Hence as goddess of the moment she is the anthropomorphized presiding fate. In Rhamnus happened a melting with Themis-Gaia. Later she was approximating Tyche-Fortuna. As cosmic fate she has been praised in hymns (Orph. Hymn.).

The religion of the ancient Greeks originated from the religion of the immigrated Greeks and the pre-hellenic population in Asia Minor and Greece. Compared to the great monotheistic religions it attracts attention that the greek religion missed clear laws and prohibitions eventhough the goddess Nemesis and the Erinyns punished violations of nature and especially matricide. We can speak - in ancient times since Xenophanes - of an anthropomorphism - a humanization of the gods; so they are by their origin as mythological figures more similar to men in their failing than the one and only god in Judaism, Christianism or Islam. We have even the suggestion that gods and men originally were from the same species which was separated not until late at Mekone (Hesiod, Theogon. 512). A nice idea, isn't it?

I have added a pic of the statue of Themis from Rhamnus, an art work of Chairestratos which was preserved.

Sources:
Der kleine Pauly
Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon
Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology
http://www.theoi.com/Daimon/Nemesis.html
http://de.greece-museums.com/greek-mythology.php

Best regards
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« Reply #223 on: September 08, 2007, 04:35:18 pm »

The Star of Bethlehem: Mythology or not?

"Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold there came wise men from the East to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and have come to worship him." (Matthew 2: 1f.)
"and, so, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was." (Matthew 2:9)

Since the late ancient times it was tried to explain these lines. When we try to explain the Star of Bethlehem we have in principle the following options:
(A) The Star has never existed. It was added later as sign of divinity and choiceness and so like the story of the virgin birth and other miracles.
(B) It was a supranatural phenomenon like f.i.an angel.
But these explanations we should disregard until we don't have exhausted all possible scientific possibilities. And there we have several. If we ask wether a natural phenomenon exists which could explain the Star we have these interpretations:
(C) Scientifical explanations:
1. It was a comet. But this is surely wrong. First there was no comet found for the relevant time, and then in ancient time a comet was seen as sign for coming desaster (desaster = bad star!). It was only Julius Caesar who succeeded in re-interpretating a comet as sign for his divinity!
2. It was a supernova. Such phenomenon Kepler has first seen on October 10. 1604 in the sign of Ophiuchus and immediately thought of the Star of Bethlehem. But for the relevant time no supernova is known. And it couldn't not have been overlooked!
3. It was a special conjunction of the planets Jupiter, Saturn and Mars. Such conjunction Kepler could observe between the signs of Sagittarius and Ophiuchus. In error he suggested that this conjunction was the reason for the supernova.   
The last two explanation originates on Kepler. Strange to say Kepler didn't use these explanations but suggested a supranatural phenomenon. Since these times no other explanation was found and there was no scientifical discussion about the Star. But in 1999 the American astronomer Michael R.Molnar has published a new explanation. His ideas I want to share, because the starting point of his research was an ancient coin of Antochia!

In AD 13/14 Antiochia started to struck a series of small bronze coins, showing on the rev. a ram and a star.

Syria, Antiochia ad Orontem, quasi-autonomous, AD 13/14
AE 21, 4.46g
struck under the governor of Syria,Metellus Creticus Silanus
obv. bearded head of Zeus, r.
rev. EPI SILANOV ANTIOXEWN
      Ram, leaping r., head turned back, star above
      beneath DM (year 44 of the Actian era)     
Ref.: SNG Copenhagen 97; SNG München 645; BMC 65; RPC 626, 4269
about VF, black-brown patina, light roughness
Q. Caecilius Metellus Creticus Silanus was legatus Augusti pro praetore in Syria AD 11-17

Molnar starts from a new conception. Suggesting that the wise men from the east are men with knowledge of stars and planets and astronomy and astrology was not separated in ancient times, he puts himself in the world of ancient astrologers and asks what could have been the belief of the ancient astrologists. One of his main sources is the Tetrabyblos of Ptolemaios. In this work the ram (Lat. aries) was called the sign of "Judaea, Idumea, Samaria, Palaestina and Coele Syria", exact the countries ruled by King Herodes. So this coin may be edited to commemorate the take-over of Judaea by the Romans in Antiochia in AD 6. In any case not the Pisces (fishes) were the sign of Judaea, as it is claimed often today, possibly because the fish (Greek ichthys) was an important symbol of the early Christians. Others suggest the lion as the sign of Judaea probably because they think of the 'Lion of Juda'. Others suggest Virgo possibly because of the Virgin Mary. But actually it was Aries, the ram, where the ancient astrologers were looking in searching for news for Judaea.

The star on the rev. of the coins not only is a sign of divinity but a symbol for Jupiter/Zeus too, who is depicted on the obv. So the rev. means "Jupiter in the sign of Aries". Naturally the coin itself has no direct relation to the birth of Jesus. But it was the starting point Molnar used to get new conclusions for the Star of Bethlehem

"On April 17, 6 BC two years before King Herod died Jupiter emerged in the east as a morning star in the sign of the Jews, Aries the Ram. The account in Matthew refers twice to the Star being in the east with good reasons. When the royal star of Zeus, the planet Jupiter, was in the east this was the most powerful time to confer kingships. Furthermore, the Sun was in Aries where it is exalted. And the Moon was in very close conjunction with Jupiter in Aries. Modern calculations suggest that this was close enough to be an occultation (eclipse). But the Sun’s glare would have hidden that event. Saturn was also present which meant that the three rulers of Aries’ trine (Sun, Jupiter, and Saturn) were present in Aries. Saturn and Jupiter were said to be attendants on the rising Sun, another regal aspect for astrologers. By modern expectations this is trivial, but for ancient stargazers this configuration was truly awesome." (Molnar)

Firmicus Maternus, an astrologer in the time of Constantine I,describes AD  334 in his Mathesis this constellation as condition for a divine and immortal nature. Because at this time he converted to Christianity he probably means Christus.

"The lunar occulation of Jupiter on April 17, 6 BC was just one of several astrological conditions pointing to a king's birth. The greatness of a ruler or king was said to depend on the number of regal astrological effects at the time of birth. This distinguished, say, a low level governor from an emperor. Knowing that lunar conjunctions (close approaches) with Jupiter were one condition for a king's birth, I looked for the closest conjunctions, namely occultations in the time frame biblical scholars claim as likely for the birth of Jesus. I quickly focused on the occultation of April 17, 6 BC after realizing that Jupiter was also "in the east" in Aries. "In the east" is mentioned twice by Matthew because astrologers such as the Magi said this was the most important time for Jupiter to produce future kings. Moreover, the Moon's incredible nearness to Jupiter amplified that power. Keep in mind that astrologers of Roman times were making crude calculations of planetary positions to create horoscopes, but they could not predict eclipses or occultations as we now can. However, they could estimate when these were likely. But keep in mind that the occultation was the key to finding this incredible day which has many important conditions pointing to the birth of not just a king, but a great king in Judea." (Molnar)

The ideas of Molnar I can report only heavily shortened. Naturally it is much more complicated and profund. For all interested in his ideas I recommend his book. Mr.Molnar is very friendly and you can ask him questions.

Naturally there are objections too. The most important I think are these two:
[1] Why only Matthew mentions The Star of Bethlehem and the Magi from the east? It is known that especially Matthew in his gospel makes an attempt to explain the story of Jesus as a fullfillment of old prophecies. "The birth of Jesus was never recorded. However, the evidence is that the early Christians did believe Jesus was born under the Star because the prophecy of Balaam (Num. 24:17) said the Messiah would be revealed by a regal Star.
[2] The Tetrabiblos of Ptolemaios has been written 100 years after the gospels and the Mathesis of Maternus not earlier as in the time of Constantine I. Is it possible that the Babylonian astrologers could know these interpretations? And how could Matthew knew them?

Note: Although Matthew calls them Magi, they often were called 'The Holy Three Kings" and even their names are known (Kaspar, Melchior and Balthasar). It's not wide known that the bones of the Holy Three Kings are kept in a shrine in the Cathedral of Cologne and are one of the most import relics of the Catholic Church.

I have added the pic of a scene found on a capital of the church Saint-Lazare in Autun/France from AD 1475, showing the adoration of the child. In the upper left the Star of Bethlehem is depicted - as comet as usually.

Sources:
Michael R. Molnar, The Star of Bethlehem: The Legacy of the Magi
http://www.eclipse.net/~molnar/
Wikipedia

Best regards
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« Reply #224 on: September 25, 2007, 09:03:51 am »

In my opinion by far the most probable hypothesis is Jochen's (A), the star never existed, no wise men traveled to Judaea for Jesus' birth, these are just embellishments added to Jesus' biography after his death, in order to make his birth seem miraculous and foreordained.

In this case, of course, it is pointless to search for astronomical explanations of the star, since it never existed.
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Curtis Clay
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