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Author Topic: Who was that I saw riding your horse last night?  (Read 283 times)

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Offline Enodia

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Who was that I saw riding your horse last night?
« on: August 22, 2021, 02:28:16 am »
Most collectors of ancient coins are familiar with the didrachms of Taras, with their images of horsemen on one side (usually the obverse) and the famous dolphin rider on the other.
The dolphin rider is usually described as Taras, or Phalanthos the Spartan founder. But who is the horse rider?
Many of the coins feature a passive scene with a young boy simply described as an anonymous "boy" or "jockey" or "naked youth", but I think we can provide a little more clarity to his identity.


Offline Enodia

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Re: Who was that I saw riding your horse last night?
« Reply #1 on: August 22, 2021, 02:41:25 am »
Why would a series of coins so rich in symbolism embrace such an ambiguous description, especially from a polis whose identity is so strongly tied to the horse in general and cavalry in particular?
Remembering that Taras was a Dorian colony founded by the Spartans we must also recognize that Poseidon was a god especially venerated at Taras. One of the few architectural sites remaining in the modern city are a pair of Doric columns from the temple of Poseidon. In fact the city's name comes from the eponymous Taras, son of Poseidon and the local nymph Satyra, a nymph whose image we see on many early Tarentine coins, particularly fractional silver, and even on the third century trade didrachms often (and I believe erroneously) referred to as the "Campano-Tarentine" types.

Offline Enodia

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Re: Who was that I saw riding your horse last night?
« Reply #2 on: August 22, 2021, 02:52:32 am »
The coiners at Taras frequently placed images of local industry on their coins, images of the fishng industry (scallop shells, etc), the textile industry (the distaff and murex shell, from which a rich purple dye was extracted), and locally made ceramics which were a major export item throughout the Mediterranean (kantharos, rhyton, etc). We also see marshall scenes symbolizing perhaps the most important export from Taras, its famed mercenary cavalry which historically were hired out to some of the greatest kingdoms in the area.

Offline Enodia

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Re: Who was that I saw riding your horse last night?
« Reply #3 on: August 22, 2021, 03:01:51 am »
The Tarentines were obviously proud of their city and its great importance to the region, and this pride was put on prominent display throughout their coinage.
Why then would the position of highest honor, the obverses of their capital coins, be left to some unknown "boy", a boy who was occasionally shown wearing a crown? It is unlikely that they would.
So just who is this kid? The coins themselves may be telling us.

Offline Enodia

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Re: Who was that I saw riding your horse last night?
« Reply #4 on: August 22, 2021, 03:13:29 am »
There is an amazing gold stater minted at Taras during the middle of the fourth century BC, one of the most impressive coin images ever in my humble opinion, executed by the famed KAL engraver. This coin is listed by Oscar Ravel as "Vlasto1" in his catalog "The Collection of Tarentine Coins Formed By M.P Vlasto" (1947). The obverse is a beautiful depiction of Hera, but it is the reverse of this remarkable coin which concerns us here...

Poseidon wearing himation over lower limbs seated left, and bending forwards towards young Taras standing before him with his hands raised in supplication. Beneath diphros, signed K (KAL). In gront to right star and I-.

Offline Enodia

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Re: Who was that I saw riding your horse last night?
« Reply #5 on: August 22, 2021, 03:20:54 am »
This coin was struck at a time when Taras (the polis) was appealing to the mother city Sparta for military support in their almost continuous war against the local indigenous tribes, and we see here a symbolic depiction of the colony in the son Taras pleading with his father Poseidon. If here then why not on the more ubiquitous didrachms?
So the young naked youth we see riding his horse is Taras, the son of the god of horses, on their most widely distributed medium.
Maybe it's time to give this divine child his due, and stop referring to him as a mere jockey.

~ Peter

Offline shanxi

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Re: Who was that I saw riding your horse last night?
« Reply #6 on: August 22, 2021, 05:12:08 am »
Yes, the description as a jockey seems too simple.

The iconography is also discussed here, but to say the truth. Even with auto-translator I do not understand the interpretation of the author.  :-\ (The relevant section is at the end of the article)

https://www.academia.edu/5356146/Le_iconografie_monetali_in_Messapia_e_il_mistero_Taras_

Offline Jay GT4

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Re: Who was that I saw riding your horse last night?
« Reply #7 on: August 22, 2021, 09:05:59 am »
Excellent observations Peter!

Offline Altamura

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Re: Who was that I saw riding your horse last night?
« Reply #8 on: August 22, 2021, 10:25:49 am »
... The iconography is also discussed here, but to say the truth. Even with auto-translator I do not understand the interpretation of the author.  :-\ ...
As far as I understood it, the article is mainly about the dolphin rider.
But Carroccio also remarks that the human on the horse is sometimes so small that in these cases it cannot be seen as an adult hero.

Here we have a small, nude human on a horse holding a palm branch or wreath: http://numismatics.org/collection/1944.100.3395
here with an additional Nike: http://numismatics.org/collection/1957.172.137
This perfectly corresponds to the world of sports and to a jockey, being mostly young and small people because of the low weight.
Another with someone shoeing the horse, again a scenery from the turf: http://numismatics.org/collection/1978.64.41

And here we have two persons, the one on the horse clearly a child compared to the other:
http://numismatics.org/collection/1949.177.1
https://www.acsearch.info/search.html?id=5877677

But sometimes we have real warriors with different weapons (shield, spear, helmet) which are looking adult: http://numismatics.org/collection/1957.172.141

Here we even have two of them: http://numismatics.org/collection/1944.100.3401

Perhaps these horse riders are not always meant to be the same person. And perhaps this imagery is more about horses that about deities.

If it should be Taras, what is not obvious from the coins, why do we have so many different situations he is depicted in?

So I am not convinced that this should be Taras, for me this is too much speculation :-\ .

The most recent book about this coinage seems to be W. Fischer-Bossert, "Chronologie Der Didrachmenpr├Ągung von Tarent 510-280 v.Chr.", Berlin 1999 (where I don't have access to  :( ), perhaps there can be found more information about that.

Regards

Altamura

Offline Enodia

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Re: Who was that I saw riding your horse last night?
« Reply #9 on: August 22, 2021, 12:02:43 pm »
Speculation? Of course it is! But not, I hope, without merit. There may be doubt in some of these examples, but the mere addition of other figures does not eliminate the boy Taras from consideration.
There are a number of different horsemen riding across these didrachms, but as I stated at the outset these musings are only dealing with the coins described as "naked youth", etc. We will try to deal with the other ridings shortly.
In the meantime here is another boy from an earlier issue,, this time a bit more active and apparently wearing a radiate crown...

(By the way, with the exception of the gold stater all of the coins shown so far are from my own collection)

~ Peter

Offline Enodia

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Re: Who was that I saw riding your horse last night?
« Reply #10 on: August 22, 2021, 12:28:45 pm »
To address some of Altamura's doubt here is an ambiguous example which seems contradict my theory, with the crowned boy in this case carrying a shield and dismounting, although the 'crown here could be flowing hair (suggestive of water perhaps?).
This early coin seems to straddle the description of the boy Taras and the ephebe (which will be dealt with shortly). However this crossover is rare and I believe only appears during this early period...

Offline Meepzorp

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Re: Who was that I saw riding your horse last night?
« Reply #11 on: August 22, 2021, 06:43:39 pm »
Hi Enodia,

Excellent posts. I enjoyed reading them.

You make some strong arguments, and you may be right. However, Altamura raised a good point when he stated that perhaps the horse rider is not the same person on different issues and different time periods.

I have about a dozen of these types of coins. Most of them depict a boy riding the horse, but a few depict an adult riding the horse (usually holding a shield or weapon, as Altamura pointed out).

Here are my examples:

https://www.forumancientcoins.com/meepzorp/gi_calb_taras_pt01.htm
https://www.forumancientcoins.com/meepzorp/gi_calb_taras_pt02.htm

Meepzorp

Offline Meepzorp

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Re: Who was that I saw riding your horse last night?
« Reply #12 on: August 22, 2021, 06:51:10 pm »
Hi Enodia,

You wrote that, in the your opinion, the nymph types are "erroneously" described as "Campano-Tarentine" issues.

That is interesting.

Aren't there mint records or some other type of documents that have survived from antiquity that have described this monetary alliance between Neapolis and Taras? If not, then what was the original theory for this alliance based on?

Here are my examples of this type:

https://www.forumancientcoins.com/meepzorp/gi_calb_taras_pt02.htm

Meepzorp

Offline Enodia

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Re: Who was that I saw riding your horse last night?
« Reply #13 on: August 23, 2021, 12:59:44 am »
As has been mentioned above, there most definitely are different types of horsemen shown on Tarentine didrachms, and so far we have only dealt with the 'nude boy' types. The others are the warriors and the 'ephebes'.
Ephebe in the ancient Greek context is defined as a young man of 18-20 years undergoing military training, and we can see this young man on both the horse and the dolphin.
The ephebe can be difficult to distinguish from the warrior, but one common difference is the lack of armor. The trainee might hold a shield or even wear a helmet, but I don't belive they are ever depicted wearing full body armor.
In the first image below we see the naked ephebe holding a buckler and dismounting his horse, probably while participating in marshall games such as those celebrated at Taras in honor of Hyakanthian Apollo.
The following images show warriors in various armory,  from merely holding spears or javelin to full body armor including helmets and breastplates.

Offline Enodia

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Re: Who was that I saw riding your horse last night?
« Reply #14 on: August 23, 2021, 01:17:14 am »
In an earlier post I showed a young boy dismounting his horse, an image which could be confused with the ephebe. However the rider in that case obviously does not fall into the 18-20 year old category. Is he still Taras son of Poseidon? Sure, why not?
The rider is symbolic, and the eponymous devine child symbolizes the city state as well as any other image. And this is key, whether the rider is depicted alone, with a wreath, or in company with Nike, etc, the boy Taras represents the polis which bears his name.

~ Peter

 

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