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Author Topic: Attributes of Greek River Gods  (Read 23143 times)
slokind
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« on: July 18, 2008, 06:20:21 pm »

ISTROS GUARANTEED GENUINE, complete with the eagle and dolphin.
This came today, and my attempt to photograph it is not good, though the color is fairly true; I'll replace it with a better one if I can.  Meantime, you can see Joe's at no. 29082.
This is Æ14 and weighs 2.27 on my scales.  It's Late Classical, c. 350-250 BCE, acc. to Forum.  The horned and hoary head in 3/4 view on the obverse is Old Man River Ister himself and, in my opinion, as a distinctive face of the great river, a more interesting obverse that of vertically opposed young faces.  That face is my reason for getting the coin.
Pat L.
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« Reply #1 on: July 18, 2008, 09:03:17 pm »

Pat, that is an amazing face.  At first glance I could not see it, but upon careful inspection, it popped out!  That is the beauty of this, the quality of the coin is not immediately visible...but when it does appear...WOW.  Congrats.

Best, Noah
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« Reply #2 on: July 19, 2008, 03:45:06 am »

Very beautiful indeed Patricia! Great coin!

Rupert
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« Reply #3 on: July 19, 2008, 04:46:17 am »

Distinctive and striking - a nice coin.  I wonder why river gods often have horns?  River creatures don't.
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« Reply #4 on: July 19, 2008, 04:47:16 pm »

I think their horn(s) is a fact I'm supposed to know.  At this moment I can only say that Acheloos is horned at least as early as the 6th century BCE.  I used to fancy that Greek imagination might have been inspired by indirect knowledge of the rhinoceros, but I can't recall an aetiology (Webster's says that etiology is the American spelling, but I've never seen it--which shows what kind of books I read, I guess).  Pat L.
The detail of a black-figure vase-painting, part of the frieze all around the large dinos on a stand, by Sophilos, ca. 570 BCE, shows Okeanos (no less) along with Hephaistos, Eleithyia, and (I guess) Tethys, in the procession of gods attending the marriage of Peleus and Thetis, the parents of Achilles.  It is in the British Museum.  It shares this subject with the famous François Vase (in Florence).  The other picture, the scarab, is self-labelled and it does have Acheloos.  Later he may have more humanity than only his face, but he keeps the horn(s).  Note that Okeanos whose waters encircle the earth-disk is serpentine, while the river is bullish, I suppose because he rushes in Spring spate and/or his flooding fertilizes his valleys and makes things green.  Pat
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« Reply #5 on: July 19, 2008, 05:13:14 pm »

Look at the forehead - I think it's not the head of a man with horns but the head of a man-faced bull. Then one might ask: Why is a river-god depicted as a bull and not as a creature of the water? I think it's just to convey the sheer indomitable power of a river and the fertility it brings with it.

Rupert
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« Reply #6 on: July 19, 2008, 05:30:06 pm »

Rupert and I posted simultaneously!  Neither knew what the other was writing.
Now, if my little coin is evidence, or is consistent with other evidence, of Istros having a true bull-bodied, early-type River image for Ister, then I am just deliriously happy to have gotten it!
It is a long time since I did any studies in early Medieval manuscripts, and that was with the UC Berkeley library at my disposal, but I do think that there are a couple of instances of horned rivers somewhere in Carolingian or Ottonian or Middle Byzantine full-page illuminations that include river images.  I just can't be sure or recall where.  But it would be no wonder, since all it would take would be for some bishop or abbot to have, e.g., a gemstone like the scarab I just posted or some other representation surviving.  P.L.
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« Reply #7 on: July 20, 2008, 06:09:57 am »

Two horned rivers on coins that I had in mind when I asked the question.  Images from Coin Archives.  The river Strymon on a coin of Philip V of Macedonia, and the river Rhine on an antoninianus of Postumus.
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« Reply #8 on: July 20, 2008, 08:08:38 am »

The Postumus Rhine river, however, also appears without horns, although this variety is much scarcer.

Lars
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« Reply #9 on: July 20, 2008, 02:23:11 pm »

Indeed, considering what I collect, I have dozens of bearded river gods of Imperial times from cities along the Danube; the young gods with source vessels may be tributary streams but the mature ones must be Father Ister himself.
None has horns, not even cute little 'courtesy' horns.
But early Hellenistic Istros is old enough, and Greek enough, that she evidently has an image of Ister bull-headed, with only the face anthropomorphic.  Hence my delight.
The best picture of Herakles wrestling Acheloos, by Oltos, however, does not have a bull body (attached): the horn sufficed.  It must be Acheloos, though, since it is Herakles that is besting him.  Photo well out of copyright.
For a picture in color, http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/image?arch=1990.14.0258&type=vase
Hoping that you can access Perseus.
Congrats for finding ANY Imperial-date coins whose rivers have horns.
At Tomis the hornèd idea is expressed by giving Pontos at the Civic Tyche's feet lobster-claws in lieu of horns.
Pat L
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« Reply #10 on: July 20, 2008, 04:03:18 pm »

The Postumus Rhine river, however, also appears without horns, although this variety is much scarcer.

Lars

Almost as though the image of the horned river god wasn't quite so familiar so far west, and either individual engravers followed their own bent, or there were two sub-issues. The question should hopefully be resolvable, since the type continued over two issues. Are there other hornless river gods?
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« Reply #11 on: July 20, 2008, 04:51:17 pm »

The Orontes doesn't appear to be horned, on coins with a Tyche of Antioch

The first is a quarter-nummus from Antioch under the "great persecution."

The second image is from Coin Archives, a tetradrachm of Seleucis and Pieria in Syria.
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« Reply #12 on: July 20, 2008, 05:55:18 pm »

None of the many Tyches based on Eutychides' Tyche of Antioch seem to show any horns on the river god (whether Orontes or not) at her feet, nor do any of the Balkan reclining river gods with overturned jug types in my possession show horns.  Actually, none of the reclining river gods I have (with the exception of the Postumus Rhine) have horns; think of the hoards of Bythinian coins of this type.  On the other hand, the deep salt water gods are frequently shown with lobster claws in lieu of horns on the head (although they don't appear all that often).  George Spradling
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« Reply #13 on: July 21, 2008, 12:31:52 am »

Having just replied to Bill Welch that I agree that, starting with my posting of July 18 of the coin I saw and bought here in Forvm, a new thread entitled "Attributes of Greek River Gods" (since the Istros coin in not later, I guess, than 3rd c. BCE, and Head HN puts it in Hellenistic bronze of Istros) would be a good idea.
Indeed, I've been trying to entice postings of Greek ones by offering the necessary comparanda in other mediums.
I think it is true that all derivatives of Eutychides' Tyche of Antioch have a hornless Orontes, and I know that all the many rivers from Imperial age Moesia Inferior are without horns.  But Thalassa with horns at Korykos is great!
But, to get things going, I shall post here the Hirmer photos (fair use) of Gela, the best of all bullish rivers.  These are from the Kraay & Hirmer picture book (German edition is Franke & Hirmer).
Pat L.
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Roland Mueller
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« Reply #14 on: July 21, 2008, 11:15:18 am »

This interesting River-God belongs tot he oldest coins of Acarnania. I got this coin from the M+M auction, it is from the BCD collection. He collected over more than 40 years all coins from this area and from this type exists two coins only! The other one in almost very nice was to expensiv so I boughr on the second one in condition „nice“.
Coin No. 0636
Akarnania, Stratos, 420-400 BC
AR-Hemidrachm 15 mm, 1.77 gr.
AV: Bearded River-God Acheloos facing
RV: Head oft the nymph Kallirhoe facing, string of pearls around head, in the field [A – K]

Kallirhoe was the daughter of Acheloos and wife of Alkmaios, son of Amphiaraos and Eryphile. I mean this is a very special coin with a historical background.
Roland
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« Reply #15 on: July 21, 2008, 12:58:38 pm »

Yes!  I knew Roland would have something, and know about it.  Thank you.
Nymphs are probably important to finding the 'right' river gods.**
In Kraay & Hirmer, a smaller photo, fig. 159,  shows a nymph patting the head of Gela's river on another tetradrachm (about mid 5th c.).  We don't know her name.  She is Jenkins 371.  The legend on the coin is SOSIPOLIS, but I'm not sure whether it is the bull-river that is city-saver or the nymph.  Right now I'm searching the .pdf of Nymphen u. Chariten (thanks again to Gordian Guy; the url is http://www.archive.org/search.php?query=numismatique%20AND%20collection%3Atoronto&page=2
or under Canadian libraries (it's from Toronto) you can run down the list of titles with the keyword 'numismatique' (it's on p. 2) to Journal International d'Archéologie Numismatique, vol. 11, 1908.
I have had this great desideratum, N.u.Char.. for only about a week, and I shall spend this afternoon printing out the indexes and the plates.  It is a large and slow pdf, and once you have a reference it is easy enough to read off the page.  Don't worry about the French title of the Greek journal (nor is the article in Greek).  It is in Imhoof-Blumer's lucid German.
So far I haven't found another nymph treating a horned river so gratefully, but there are bull-headed rivers also at Campanian Neapolis (whence any we might find on Republican coins?) and elsewhere in western Greece.  Pat L.

P.S. Stratos: Coins like Roland's are listed by I-Bl op cit pp. 82-3, nos. 236-237, pl. V, nos. 57-58, esp. the nymph's face on Pl. V, 57.  Those are listed as drachmai, though their diameters are like Roland's coin.
** Apart from Western Greece, and bulls with semi-human heads, however, I didn't locate much.  Imhoof-B. did think that Sosipolis designated the Nymph crowning the man-headed bull river of Gela.

P.S. Cf further for mine, in CA, [BROKEN LINK REMOVED BY ADMIN]
and in that list also nos. 150-151, 189, 124, 224-5, and more (some may have been around twice).  Also, of course, AMNG I, 1, no. 476, Taf. II, 26.
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Roland Mueller
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« Reply #16 on: July 22, 2008, 03:32:26 am »

This coins with the river-god Acheloos are also from the BCD collection. I am really proud that I could buy some coins from this very important and famous collection. Especially the silver stater is of a high and beautiful style- what a strong, impressive portrait of the river-god? I love also the Apollon on the nice decorated thron!

Coin No. 0918
Akarnania, Thyrreion, 168-160 v. Chr.
AR-Stater 25 mm, 9.78 gr.
AV: Head of the River-God Acheloos right, MENANDROS (magistrats name), within a double dotted border
RV: Apollon Aktios enthroned left, holding bow, QURREIWN, in the left field monogram

Ex Auction M+M 23 (2007), Nr. 389

Ref:
SNG Copenhagen 417;
Imhof-Blumer, A. 175.22

Coin No. 0368
Akarnatia, Leukas, 3. cent. BC
AE-22 mm, 5.69 gr.
AV: Head of bearded Heracles in lion’s skin right, monogram below, within dotted border
RV: Head of bearded River-God Acheloos right, monogram on the left, trident above, within lined border

Ex Auction M+M 23 (2007), Lot No. 39.5

Ref.:
BMC, Vgl. 169.19;
Imhof-Blumer, A. 17.5;
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« Reply #17 on: August 11, 2008, 11:04:51 pm »

Just after we were working on this thread, I saw a little bronze of Cales and bought it, because I had no Campanian coin of the period when Rome was beginning to mint artistically, with Campanian help, and it had a man-headed bull, which I take to be their river (it needn't be a large river) as well as a fine Apollo head.  It isn't rare or wonderful, like Roland's, but I like it and here it is:
• 11 08 08 Æ20 6.03g 7:30h  Campania, Cales,  Hellenistic, after 268.  Head of Apollo, laureate, to l.  Rv Nike flying to r. over back of River Bull pacing to r.  Lindgren I, 182; he says that his and ANS 184-7 say CALENO, which is not complete here.  Less exactly similar to Sear GCV I, 547,  Illustrating the man-headed bull and the coinage of Campania at the period when it became relevant to Rome.
Pat L.
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« Reply #18 on: August 12, 2008, 01:12:47 am »

Here's mine that I got very cheaply a while ago:


I did not know that they also represented rivers (and I've never seen this thread before) but here's an interesting one
if not as beautiful as these silver coins earlier in the thread.

[BROKEN LINK REMOVED BY ADMIN]

Andreas
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« Reply #19 on: August 12, 2008, 08:19:04 am »

I think this coin belongs here too.

Sicily, Gela, c.420-415 BC
AE - tetras, 4.81g
obv. Bull with lowered head, l.
        above GELAS, beneath three pellets (for 3 onkiai, tetras)
rev. Head of rivergod Gela, diademed and with horns on forehead, r.
SNG Copenhagen 283/5

A word to the ancient river Rhine:
As mentioned before it was because their incalculability and their outrage that the untamable power of the ancient rivers was equated to the power of bulls and that they were venerated in the shape of bulls.
Until the beginning of the last century the Upper-Rhine uproars through the rocky gorge of Laufenburg so that it was impossible to understand one's own words in the streets of this small town and the whole city was covered in spume. This natural wonder was a must be for each visit to Europe. In AD 1908/14 the rocks and cliffs were blown up for the biggest hydropower plant worldwide at this time.
The lowlands of the Upper-Rhine between Freiburg and Karlsruhe were a huge floodplain changing to a giant sea with a length of 100km each springtime. It was the engineer Tulla who tamed the wild stream in 1817-1862 by squeezing him in a 240m broad kind of channel. Now the dangerous floodwaters didn't appear anymore (they now occur at the Lower-Rhine!) and the Malaria was banned. The modern cultural landscape arose.
This we should have in mind when we look at modern rivers. The ancient rivers were not identical with the peaceful rivers of our lowlands today. In Europe you can find only few of the old wild rivers, may be the Tagliamento in Veneto/Italy.

Best regards     
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« Reply #20 on: August 12, 2008, 03:14:44 pm »

I grew uip on the Thames, which can never have been particularly wild, but is now completely domesticated, with locks every few miles. Take the locks away, and it would probably be quite fast-flowing, like, say, the Wye. The same thing must have been repeated all the way across Europe.
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« Reply #21 on: September 10, 2008, 07:44:04 pm »

Having just replied to Bill Welch that I agree that, starting with my posting of July 18 of the coin I saw and bought here in Forvm, a new thread entitled "Attributes of Greek River Gods" (since the Istros coin in not later, I guess, than 3rd c. BCE, and Head HN puts it in Hellenistic bronze of Istros) would be a good idea.
Indeed, I've been trying to entice postings of Greek ones by offering the necessary comparanda in other mediums.
I think it is true that all derivatives of Eutychides' Tyche of Antioch have a hornless Orontes, and I know that all the many rivers from Imperial age Moesia Inferior are without horns.  But Thalassa with horns at Korykos is great!
But, to get things going, I shall post here the Hirmer photos (fair use) of Gela, the best of all bullish rivers.  These are from the Kraay & Hirmer picture book (German edition is Franke & Hirmer).
Pat L.
Pat-

I really do love those Gela coins! Just wish I could actually afford one. Anyway, I thought this might be fitting. Davisson has one in his current auction.
http://j.b5z.net/i/u/2141526/f/A27_Greek.pdf
Great style and very beautiful.
There's also a great example of "Isis" from Kaunos that we discussed a year or so back. I still refer back to that thread quite a bit.

Ryan
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« Reply #22 on: May 21, 2010, 03:26:07 am »

I guys,

I saw this coin on a catalogue ( number 5 ) and thought about this thread. It is a stater from Laos and the bull with a human face does represent a river. Just like the coins from Gela but here the full bull is represented.
It is based on the early coins of Sybaris as the text refers to.

It must be the best stater of this type from Laos I've ever seen.

I hope the link works ( I never tryed to make one )

http://www.wobook.com/WBUi4ZW38k84

Further on on the same catalogue ( number 12 ) you see a drachm from Istros ( beautiful coin ) Here too the two faces should represent ( the scholars are not sure , and I'm not as well ) the two arms of the Danube at its delta.
The reverse is the same as the nice bronze that started this thread.

Luis
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« Reply #23 on: May 21, 2010, 03:49:35 am »

Here's a screen shot.

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« Reply #24 on: May 21, 2010, 06:52:57 pm »

thanks for the screen shot Andreas.  Smiley

those Laos didrachms are pretty scarce and always expensive. this is a really nice one, so i'm sure thay will have little trouble getting the estimate or more.
the style has always reminded me of the Campanian didrachms, but it's easy to see the Gela connection on this specimen, especially with that pointy beard.

nice coin, and at least i can still dream... 

enviously,
~ Peter
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« Reply #25 on: June 12, 2010, 04:03:37 am »

Hi guys,

Here's a pic from the Drachm from Istros that goes on Auction next week in Brussels. Here you see on the reverse, the same theme as on the bronze coin that started this thread :
It is a eagle ( white-tailed eagle ? the biggest eagle in Europe and rather common arround the estuary of the Danube) and a Dolphin.
This particular coin has an eagle of great style and as a birdwatcher myself I can indeed see a white-tailed eagle ( relative of the american bold eagle ) on this representation. On other coins of this same type the aegle looks a lot like a swallow or a martin.
Does anyone have an idea about the representations meaning ? 
The eagle represents Zeus and the dolphin Apollo. any thoughts on this ?

PS : this coin was on the old collection of Pozzi. He really could appreciate a coin of good style !

Luis
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« Reply #26 on: September 25, 2010, 03:45:13 am »

Should be moved to ''Classical Numismatic'

Jochen
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« Reply #27 on: December 04, 2012, 08:21:23 am »

Here is a link to my webpage with many examples of river gods.  I figured it would go nicely with this thread.

http://manfacedbulls.wordpress.com/

Nick
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« Reply #28 on: January 10, 2013, 07:30:43 am »

Found this image while researching river-god iconography.  I think it is clear that the iconography of Greek river gods stems from earlier Near Eastern traditions:

Image Info: Royal Harp.  Wood, variously ornamented with gold and mosaic inlay [upper part of inlay pictured], height 47 1/4".  c. 2650 B.C.  From Ur.  University Museum, Philadelphia. (J. Du Ry, C. Art of the Ancient Near and Middle East. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1969, p.55)


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« Reply #29 on: January 11, 2013, 02:12:39 pm »

The plot thickens.  Today I found what I believe might be the earliest man-faced bull, from Karanovo VI culture:

Vessel in the form of a winged man-bull. Terracotta with red and white paint. Karanovo Culture, Neolithic (5th mill. BCE). From Goljam Izvor, Bulgaria. Height 16 cm Inv. 223 Hist.District Museum, Razgrad, Bulgaria

I know that scholars have looked for and not found the exact connection between the Greek man-faced bull and the Near Eastern lamassa (winged man-faced bull, sometimes seen on the coinage of Asia Minor) but perhaps there is a common origin that pre-dates both!

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« Reply #30 on: February 20, 2013, 01:01:03 pm »

Considering continuity in Danubian and pre-Greek peninsular cultures, but also considering early farmers' experience of rivers: rushing in spate, untamable, fertilizing of fields when inundating them, I must agree with your suggestion.  Of course, proving it (or even practically proving it) would want much more than a single example, and continuity in Karanovo contexts, in successor contexts in Danublian lands, and in Helladic contexts down to and including early Archaic (i.e., c. 8th century BCE).  Bull identities in myths full of other indications of very deep grass roots (cf. the story of Semele) also should be considered.  Also remember that an idea like this one (the bull-headed river) may be continuous in Asia Minor and on to Mesopotamia as well as in Danubian and pre-Greek Helladic.  At any rate, I would be ready to entertain a more than "orientalizing" (viz, from trade and trading colonies of the eastern Mediterranean lands).
Mind-muddling though it is, a trip through A. B. Cook's Zeus, not limited to its index, might interest you.
Pat L.
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« Reply #31 on: May 03, 2013, 02:57:04 pm »

Some days ago I visited the Museum of Antiquities in Turin.
In the Cypriot collection an object caught my attention.
I think it's a man-faced bull.
The object is dated circa 2000 b.C.
I took the pics with a phone, so the quality is bad.
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« Reply #32 on: May 07, 2013, 06:22:34 am »

Interesting creature.  It could also be a cat.  Were there many cats in the exhibit?
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« Reply #33 on: May 07, 2013, 11:54:08 am »

No cats in the Cypriot collection.
Probably my bad photos can be confusing, but it seemed to me that there were horns on the head, and not the ears.
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« Reply #34 on: October 04, 2013, 09:02:09 am »

Another very early example:

"Animal lid" from Vinca, Serbia, Yugoslavia.  Vinca-Tordos, 5th-4th Millenium BC.  Clay.  Belgrade, National Museum.

It's really our noses that set us apart, isn't it? 
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« Reply #35 on: October 04, 2013, 04:41:24 pm »

My latest acquistion showing the Akarnanian depiction on bronze coinage of the river god Acheloos (image below and details   http://www.forumancientcoins.com/gallery/displayimage.php?pos=-102667 )  It joins an earlier one in the collection  (image below and details http://www.forumancientcoins.com/gallery/displayimage.php?pos=-86412 )

This poses for me a couple of closely related questions that I hope someone can answer:

Why is it that on the bronze coins of the Akarnanians that Acheloos is depicted with a beard, while on the silver coins he is exclusively depicted beardless (refer to an example in a preceeding post by Roland M)?  

What is the significance in this difference in the consistently distinct depictions of Acheloos on the AE (with beard) and AR (beardless) coinage of the Akarnanians?
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« Reply #36 on: October 04, 2013, 05:05:21 pm »

There are actually a few silver coins from Akarnania in which he has a beard.  See here:

http://manfacedbullsar.wordpress.com/akarnania/

As for the bronze he is always bearded on Akarnanian coinage, although two rare issues from Ambrakia show him beardless.  I'm not sure of the significance of beardless vs not, but it is an interesting question.

http://manfacedbulls.wordpress.com/ambrakia/

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« Reply #37 on: October 04, 2013, 05:11:16 pm »

Thanks great links and wonderful catalogues you have compiled.  

I'd overlooked the small fifth century silvers with the bearded depiction. That plus the other examples you highlight suggest that it may simply reflect a varying stylistic preference in the depiction, one that varied with time and location in Akarnania, rather than denomination or metal type of the coin.
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« Reply #38 on: October 04, 2013, 07:16:02 pm »

A working hypothesis: The bearded mfb is Achelous (also in Greek Italy and Sicily), while the beardless mfb could be a local river, a minor brother of the great Achelous (for the Greeks three thousand rivers existed, of which Achelous was the older brother), assimilable to Achelous, but not Achelous himself.
I long debated this thinking with Nick on private mailing. It's a complex issue, that needs further studies and a bright explanation, impossible to give in the space of a post.
I thank so much Lloyd for his question, that drew my attention and gave me the chance to obtain a further little brick for the construction of my hypothesis. I could be wrong, but I observed that on the Acarnanian coinage, the beardless MFBs never have the trident (sign of Poseidon) as secondary symbol, while we find it on the bearded types, and we know that in ancient theogony Achelous was son of Poseidon. (other versions of the myth told that All the 3000 river gods, including Achelous, were sons of Tethys and Oceanus... but only for Achelous there is the alternative "son of Poseidon" version.)
Bye Smiley
Nico

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« Reply #39 on: October 04, 2013, 09:02:41 pm »

A working hypothesis: The bearded mfb is Achelous (also in Greek Italy and Sicily), while the beardless mfb could be a local river, a minor brother of the great Achelous (for the Greeks three thousand rivers existed, of which Achelous was the older brother), assimilable to Achelous, but not Achelous himself.
.......... but only for Achelous there is the alternative "son of Poseidon" version.)

Thanks - that is an interesting obervation regarding the trident and its possible implications..... two or more river gods associated with the one river, but only one a descendent of Poseidon!

Are there any parallels to be found elsewhere in the MFB typology with two different depictions in the one locale and era?
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« Reply #40 on: October 05, 2013, 03:40:34 am »

A working hypothesis: The bearded mfb is Achelous (also in Greek Italy and Sicily), while the beardless mfb could be a local river, a minor brother of the great Achelous (for the Greeks three thousand rivers existed, of which Achelous was the older brother), assimilable to Achelous, but not Achelous himself.
.......... but only for Achelous there is the alternative "son of Poseidon" version.)

Thanks - that is an interesting obervation regarding the trident and its possible implications..... two or more river gods associated with the one river, but only one a descendent of Poseidon!

Are there any parallels to be found elsewhere in the MFB typology with two different depictions in the one locale and era?

I don't know any strict parallel, but in MG coinage there are lots of examples of two different depictions of river gods in the one local and era: as MFB, or as beardless young head with horns.
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« Reply #41 on: October 05, 2013, 07:00:27 am »

A working hypothesis: The bearded mfb is Achelous (also in Greek Italy and Sicily), while the beardless mfb could be a local river, a minor brother of the great Achelous (for the Greeks three thousand rivers existed, of which Achelous was the older brother), assimilable to Achelous, but not Achelous himself.
.......... but only for Achelous there is the alternative "son of Poseidon" version.)

Thanks - that is an interesting obervation regarding the trident and its possible implications..... two or more river gods associated with the one river, but only one a descendent of Poseidon!

Are there any parallels to be found elsewhere in the MFB typology with two different depictions in the one locale and era?

As in bearded vs. not bearded?
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« Reply #42 on: October 05, 2013, 02:45:07 pm »

A working hypothesis: The bearded mfb is Achelous (also in Greek Italy and Sicily), while the beardless mfb could be a local river, a minor brother of the great Achelous (for the Greeks three thousand rivers existed, of which Achelous was the older brother), assimilable to Achelous, but not Achelous himself.
.......... but only for Achelous there is the alternative "son of Poseidon" version.)

Thanks - that is an interesting obervation regarding the trident and its possible implications..... two or more river gods associated with the one river, but only one a descendent of Poseidon!

Are there any parallels to be found elsewhere in the MFB typology with two different depictions in the one locale and era?

As in bearded vs. not bearded?

Yes......if there any other examples where the two types (bearded and beardless) are depicted essentially in the same era and place, then it would lend some support for Taras' hypothesis that two types of river gods are invoked. It would tend to indicate that something more than a varying style preference on the part of the engraver, or local authorities, may be involved in the two distinctive depictions seen on the coinage of the Akarnanians.

I spotted this one in your cataloge with what appears to be two bearded heads http://manfacedbulls.wordpress.com/assorus/  which suggests the possibility of two river gods in one locale, albeit with two rivers present near that city. In this case they are depicted in the same way, with beard, seemingly as twins, if indeed it is a depiction of two MFB's standing side by side, as I think it is.
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« Reply #43 on: October 05, 2013, 04:59:29 pm »

I think Akarnania and Ambrakia are the only two examples where this occurs.

The Assoros coin is fascinating.  I hope I can find a clear example during my study to confirm it is two man-faced bulls!
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« Reply #44 on: October 05, 2013, 05:34:09 pm »

I think Akarnania and Ambrakia are the only two examples where this occurs.

Interesting in that Ambrakia is closely associated with Akarnania

Given the length of the Achelous River, the longest river in Greece, and the dispersal of minting cities along its length one could speculate that the beardless youthful MFB head might be associated with the upper reaches of the river in its youthful stage and the associated highland areas, while the bearded mature MFB head depiction might be more favoured in the lower reaches of the mature river..... the stages of the river thus depicted in the maturing of the depiction of the river god? In which case the trident of Poseidon accompanying the bearded portrayal might be associated with the lower reaches of the river where tidal influences are apparent.

If this speculation were to be correct, then yes its is a style preference in the minting city concerned, but one associated with the symbolism of a maturing river god as one progresses from the upsteam highlands to the plains on the lower reaches of the river.

All speculation, but it suggests the possibility that symbolism, as much as style variation, might be involved in the varying depictions of the river god on the coinage of Akarnania.
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« Reply #45 on: October 06, 2013, 03:41:24 am »

I think Akarnania and Ambrakia are the only two examples where this occurs.

Interesting in that Ambrakia is closely associated with Akarnania

Given the length of the Achelous River, the longest river in Greece, and the dispersal of minting cities along its length one could speculate that the beardless youthful MFB head might be associated with the upper reaches of the river in its youthful stage and the associated highland areas, while the bearded mature MFB head depiction might be more favoured in the lower reaches of the mature river..... the stages of the river thus depicted in the maturing of the depiction of the river god? In which case the trident of Poseidon accompanying the bearded portrayal might be associated with the lower reaches of the river where tidal influences are apparent.

If this speculation were to be correct, then yes its is a style preference in the minting city concerned, but one associated with the symbolism of a maturing river god as one progresses from the upsteam highlands to the plains on the lower reaches of the river.

All speculation, but it suggests the possibility that symbolism, as much as style variation, might be involved in the varying depictions of the river god on the coinage of Akarnania.

Interesting point of view, thanks for sharing Lloyd.
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« Reply #46 on: October 06, 2013, 04:56:27 am »

I think Akarnania and Ambrakia are the only two examples where this occurs.

The Assoros coin is fascinating.  I hope I can find a clear example during my study to confirm it is two man-faced bulls!


I think they are man-faced bulls.
Evidences:

- Calciati reports 4 specimens, three from Virzi, one from a private collection.
All the known specimens are almost illegible, but the specimen listed as III.259.3/2 (Virzì pl.25 n.758) seems to show a human nose, I think they are man-faced bulls. See the attached pic.

- A cult to river deity is attested in the city of Assorus. Cicero (Verr. 4.44) speaks of the Temple of Crysas at Assoros. Crysas was a river deity, still today Crisa is the name of a torrent near the modern Assoro. There is a coin minted in Assoros under roman rule showing the deity...

Assoros. After 210 BC. Æ 20mm (8.06 gm). Head of Apollo right / River-god Chrysas standing right, holding amphora and cornucopiae. Calciati III pg. 259, 1/4 (this coin)

- Two man faced bulls should represent two rivers, as intelligently spotted by the good Lloyd. Well, the ancient city "spread across the plateau between the rivers Salso and Dittaino in a remarkably strong position, naturally defended by the steepness of the hillsides which contain numerous chamber tombs". (cfr. The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites).

I attach a screen from google maps, in which I marker the city in the circle, the river Salso (1), the river Dittaino (2), and the torrent Crisa (3), tributary of Dittaimo.

Regards
Nico
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« Reply #47 on: October 06, 2013, 04:28:22 pm »

Taras - Interesting background and analysis... and just as the rivers run parallel to each other, to the north and south of Assorus respectively, so the twin river gods stand in a parallel portrayal on the coinage of the city   http://manfacedbulls.wordpress.com/assorus/  Coincidence, or by design? Methinks the latter!
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« Reply #48 on: October 25, 2013, 11:48:30 am »

Another man-headed bull from Ur on the following piece in the BM:

Sumerian Early Dynastic III, c. 2600-2400 BCE. From the royal cemetery, Ur (Iraq).
Lapis lazuli, shell, and red limestone, with restored bitumen and red material on restored wood box
Width 49.5 cm, height 21.6 cm. Possibly soundbox of a musical instrument. British Museum ME 121201

Described as a lion-headed eagle over "bull man".

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« Reply #49 on: October 28, 2013, 06:37:15 am »

I'm reading a fascinating article now that links Achelous to the Near Eastern "kusarikku" (pictured below), based on myths of creation and the labors of heroic figures:

D'Alessio, G.B. "Textual Fluctuations and Cosmic Streams: Ocean and Acheloios" The Journal of Hellenic Studies, Vol. 124 (2004), pp. 16-37.

I'm going to summarize the article at some point and add it to the MFB page. 

From the Met:

Human-headed bison
Serpentine (lizardite)
Southern Mesopotamia, probably Tello (ancient Girsu)
Reign of Ur-Ningirsu of Lagash, 2150-2100 BC
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« Reply #50 on: October 29, 2013, 06:04:20 am »

Four pre-historic man-faced bulls, c. 5000-4000 BC.  Marija Gimbutas, in The Gods and Goddesses of Old Europe, suggests that the "bull with human mask" is actually Dionysus.  This might lend support to Eckhel's belief that the man-faced bulls on the coinage of Magna Graecia is Dionysus Hebon.  It might also mean that the iconography of Achelous was taken from an earlier iconography of Dionysus.  The human form of Dionysus and Achelous with small bull horns is very similar, so why not the man-faced bull form?

About the picture, clockwise from the top left:

1. Human-headed (masked) bull from Fafos II at Kosovska Mitrovica, southern Yugoslavia.  Mid Vinca, 5000-4500 BC.

2. Human-headed (masked) bull from Valac, southern Yugoslavia.  Late Vinca, 4500-4000 BC.

3. Terracotta head (mask) of a bull with human-like eyes.  Sitagroi, Macedonia.  East Balkan civilization, c. 4500BC.

4. Crouching bull wearing human mask.  Vase from the mound of Gumelnita.  East Balkan civilization, c. 4500 BC.
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« Reply #51 on: October 31, 2013, 08:41:55 am »

Another stunning Karanovo man-faced bull!
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« Reply #52 on: October 31, 2013, 12:22:26 pm »

Another stunning Karanovo man-faced bull!

That is really an amazing piece!!  Cool
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« Reply #53 on: November 01, 2013, 11:03:03 am »

Ok, so this is just getting ridiculous:

17,000-14,000 BC, an ithyphallic (?) man-faced bull (or bull man) from the La Pasiega Cave in Spain.  It is the only anthropomorph that all the archaeologists agree is actually an anthropomorph.

Gambutas (p. 216) described him as "playing a harp" but I'm fairly certain there weren't harps back then Smiley.
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« Reply #54 on: November 02, 2013, 07:47:14 am »

Ok, so this is just getting ridiculous:

17,000-14,000 BC, an ithyphallic (?) man-faced bull (or bull man) from the La Pasiega Cave in Spain.  It is the only anthropomorph that all the archaeologists agree is actually an anthropomorph.

Gambutas (p. 216) described him as "playing a harp" but I'm fairly certain there weren't harps back then Smiley.


Nick, I post something here, we will deepen the rest of the issue in our beautiful mail exchange Wink
Marija Gimbutas' Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe is a dated book (1974)
She revised many of her theories 15 years later, in her work "The Language of the Goddess" (1989).
The cave painting from La Pasiega, Santander, here is dated 15.000-13.000 b.C., and is described as "horned serpent", as "symbol of embodied energy and stimulator of the process of becoming". (pag.277-280).

In the same work Gimbutas reads the jar lid figure posted on reply#34 of this discussion as an owl-shaped head, not bull.





It is described as a depiction of the prehistoric bird-goddess.
I attach a pic from pag. 53, where the the authoress illustrates the evolution of this iconography, from 5200 to 4500 b.C.

Best Smiley
Nico
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« Reply #55 on: November 02, 2013, 02:17:38 pm »

In the same work Gimbutas reads the jar lid figure posted on reply#34 of this discussion as an owl-shaped head, not bull.





It is described as a depiction of the prehistoric bird-goddess.
I attach a pic from pag. 53, where the the authoress illustrates the evolution of this iconography, from 5200 to 4500 b.C.

This makes sense ...  amongst other things the disposition of the head feathers (upward oriented) versus the forward facing horns of the man-faced bull (refer image at reply #51) point to the distinction between the two types on artistic renderings.
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« Reply #56 on: November 04, 2013, 06:38:12 am »

The bird thing makes sense, I see it now.

About the "horned serpent" I'm not so sure.  For instance, why use a different color for the "tail" of the serpent?  And there are many examples of ithyphallic bull-men, as you pointed out, so it would be consistent with the art of the time.

I'll have to investigate what others have said on the issue.  The face is somewhat serpent-like, though.
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« Reply #57 on: November 05, 2013, 01:56:09 pm »

Oh, I hadn't noticed that lion-headed bird of prey attacking a man-headed bull on the famous Early Dynastic "Standard" (inlaid box) from Ur in the BM, by far my favorite Early Bronze Age Sumerian object.  I think that its inter;preation must include the significance (whatever it is) of the carnivore attacking a herbivore (also a herd animal, perhaps), not simply a river personification.
Pat L.
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