Numism > Reading For the Advanced Collector

Coins of mythological interest

<< < (36/97) > >>


Phoenicia, Tyros, Valerian I, AD 253-260
AE 30, 17.29g
       Bust, draped, radiate, r.
      Diomedes, nude except chlamys, stg. l., r. foot on rock, holding in r. hand the palladium
      and in l. hand sceptre; behind murex snail
SNG Copenhagen 391; BMC 467
rare, about VF

Diomedes was the son of king Tydeus of Aeolia and his wife Deipyle. Because his father was killed during the campaign of the Seven against Thebens, he fought together with the so-called Epigones against Thebens and succeeded in avenging his father by defeating Thebens. After that he was known as one of the suitors of Helena. But as we know he couldn't get her and married Aigialea, daughter of Adrastos, who was his aunt. He was the leader of the Argives and joined the Troyan War with the big armada of eighty ships. Soon he became famous for his bravery and was hold - together with Achilles and Ajas  - one of the greatest heroes. Almost he had slain Aineas if not Aphrodite had intervened in the last moment. During this struggle she herself was wounded at her hand by Diomedes and put to flight. Finally Apollo could save Aineas from the rage of Diomedes.

Together with Odysseus he was sent to the island of Lemnos to take back Philoktetes and the arrows of Herakles. Only with these arrows the Greek could resist the deadly arrows of Apollo who stood on the side of the Troyans as we know. At a night-time investigation trip together with Odysseus they could capture the Trojan spy Dolon. He told them details about the Thracian camp. Diodemed killed him and entered the camp of the sleeping Thracians. There he killed many warriors, among them their king Rhesos, and abducted his horses. It was suggested that the fate of Troy would depend on these horses. Athena had to invent to stop them, and they returned to the Greek camp.

From Hellenos, one of the sons of Priamos, Diomedes has come to know where the Palladion was located. The Palladion was a wooden statue (xoanon) of Athena - or her companion Pallas - wearing helmet, shield, spear and distaff. By prayers of Ilos, founder of Troy, it has been fallen from the sky and was regarded as guarantor of the invincibility of the city. To make a theft more difficult several identical copies were made. Together with Odysseus they surmounted the walls of Troy and stole the statue. When Odysseus tried to outsmart Diomedes - he claimed that Diomedes had catched the wrong statue - the statue made a move and so Odysseus' fraud was blocked. A dispute started, and Odysseus pulled his sword underhand. But by the shadow at the wall Diomedes was worned of Odysseus' deceitfulness. He could overcome Odysseus, bound his hands and drove him back to the Greek camp by beating him with the flat side of his sword. That was the end of their friendship.   

The courage of Diomedes was so great that he fought against Ares, the War God, himself, so that Athena was needed to save Ares. Hektor too he has almost slain. But he got a wound at his foot by an arrow of Paris. His dark sides were the rape of the executed queen of Amazones Penthesilea whose dead body he threw in the river Skamandros, and then together with Odysseus the infamous complot against Palamedes which was so tricky that the innocent Diomedes was stoned to death. Finally by help of the traitor Antenor Troy was conquered. Together with othere heroes he entered the wooden horse. As prize he got the Palladion which previously Odysseus had taken from Ajas. But after that Diomedes must leave Troy thievishly with his ships because Odysseus had incited the Greek to stone him.

Afer leaving Troy he had an unhappy fate like most of the Greek heroes. In a dark night he lost his way and landed at the Phalerian harbour of Athens. His men held it for an hostile land and began to sack it. It came to a fight with Demophoon and his Greeks, some men were killed and Demophoon could get the Palladion. So it came to Athens. Aphrodite too hadn't forgotten the dishonor Diomedes had done to her. She seduced his wife to begin a love affair with Kometes, son of Sthenelaos. Additionally Oeax, brother of Palamedes (we remember), convinced her, that Diomedes had brought a new wife from Troy. So when Diomedes returned home he was nearly killed if not Hera saved him at her altar where he had fled.   

Together with his followers he first fled to Corinthe, from there to Aetolia, where he succeeded in avanging his uncle Oinaios who was pressed hard by the sons of Agrios. After that he settled there. 

But there are other myths too which suggest that the story with Oinaios was before the Troyan War. Today it is suggested for sure that Diomedes is a pre-homeric heroe. He should have gone from Argos directly to Italy where he has given support to the pressed king Daunos against the Messapias. As prize Diomedes was allowed to chose between the whole booties and the conquered land for himself and his men. But as arbitrator Althainos, the step-brother of Diomedes, fallen in love with Eyippe, daughter of Daunos, awarded the land to Daunos. In anger Diomedes cursed the land. The gods answered his prayers and made the land infertile. Thereupon Daunos persued Diomedes, catched and killed him.
Another myth tells that Diomedes indeed got the land and Daunos' daughter too. He had created Diomedes and Amphinomos with her and has been died in old-age. In any case he should have been strong enough to fight on order of Venus together with Turnus and Latinus against Aineas when he had landed in Italy. He is said to have founded the Pythian Games and the city Argos Hippium, the later Arpi in Southern Italy. He is said to have first worshipped Hippolytos and built a temple for him.

After his death Diomedes too was worshipped as god. It is told, that when his men were sacrificing to ihim after his death, they were ambushed by  enemies and killed. But after that they were transformed by Zeus into birds which were tame at Greeks but never tolerated Romans or Barbarians. Diomedes had a great temple at the mouth of the river Timavus. The Venetians sacrificed a white horse to him. In Umbria he was worshipped as native god. Because he was a great and avid devotee of Athena it is said she herself has adopted him to the gods.

Our Diomedes, the Thydeides, is not the Diomedes, son of Ares, with the man-eating horses which then were defeated by Herakles!

Vase-painting of Diomedes advancing r., holding Palladion, Diomedes painter (c.380 BC), Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

Karl Kerenyi, Die Heroengeschichten
Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon
Der kleine Pauly

Best regards

Juno Sospita

1st coin:
Roman Republic, L. Procilius, gens Procilia
Ar - denarius
        Rome, 80 BC
obv. Head of Juppiter r.
        behind S.C
rev. Statue of Juno Sospita, advancing r., holding shield and spear, snake before
       behind L.PROCILI / F
Crawford 379/1; Sydenham 771; Procilia 1
Clearly you can see the beak-shoe-like bending of her shoes!

2nd coin:
Roman Republic, L. Roscius Fabatus, gens Roscia
AR - denarius serratus, 18.10mm, 3.8g
        Rome, 59 BC*
obv. bust of Juno Sospita wearing goat-skin cap, r., behind modius
        beneath L.ROSCI
        bankers mark in r. field
rev. Virgin in long clothes stg. r., feeding snake, which erects before her in several
       coils, behind cista
       in ex. FABATI
Crawford 412/1 (symbols 23); Sydenham 915; Roscia 3; Albert 1329
scarce, toned VF, appealing silver
ex Harlan J. Berk
* Dated 64 B.C. by Crawford and hence also by Roman Silver Coins , Volume I. The revised date is based on the outstanding analysis of the Messagne Horad by Alan Walker and Charles Hersh, ANS Museum Notes No. 29, New York, 1984, pp. 103-134

Some notes on Iuno:
The name of Iuno has no connections to the name of Juppiter, because the initial sound is always i (and not 'di' as on Juppiter, 'diou-pater'), and particularly because the following u is not created by the diphthong ou. Then there is the name of the gens Iunia which never is written with a diphthong. Probably Paul Wissowa is right who puts Iuno to iuvenis, iuvenca and such words and interprets it as 'young woman', 'nubile wife'. That shows that Iuno originally had no close connection to Juppiter like Hera to Zeus. Today it is suggested that each woman from ancient time on has had her own Iuno like the men who have had their own genius. In literature it is found not until Tibull, but the fratres Arvales sacrificed to Iuno Deae Diae, the Juno of the goddesss Dia, at the Picularia.

Iuno Sospita:
To understand the meaning of the figure in historic times the Italic influence is essential, especially the Etruscan conception which goes back basically to the Greek Hera. The cult of Iuno was wide spread over Italy. Lanuvium was the city of Iuno Seispes Mater Regina; by the people this was etymological turned from Seispes - whose meaning is unclear until today - to Sospes or Sospita, meaning helper or savior.
Propertius reports as cult rite for the Iuno of Lanuvium in which a virgin had to feed a snake (perhaps a temple snake, then the cave which is mentioned is only a 'novellistic painting of our literally sources'). This was suggested as chastity proof and as omen for the fertility of the land in the next year, two very heterogenous elements (the chastity proof perhaps secondary?). In 338 BC the cult was adopted as official cult of the state but was left in Lanuvium. The Sacerdos Lanuvini, a priesthood formed by knights, were known from imperial times. The consules too were sacrificing to the goddess. In 194 BC she got a temple in Rome too by C. Cornelius Cethegus at the forum holitorium, without ceasing the cult in Lanuvium. This temple was renewed by Julius Caesar after Juno Sospita has appeared in a dream to Metella Caecilia with the message she wants to leave Rome if her temple was neglected furthermore. Denarii of Julius Caesar are known where the reverse shows Sospita driving a biga.

The sanctuary of Sospita in Lanuvium has been highly praised in the war against the Insubrians (Livius). Her offiial holiday was February 1st. The depictions show the goddess armed with spear  and a violin-shaped shield looking like the shield of the Salii priests, wearing (Etruscan) beak-shoes which were bended upwards at the toe-cap and a goat-skin which was helmeted-like pulled over her head. The scholar Latte suggests the snake and the cult statue to be signs of an etruscificated type of the Athena Polias. It was not allowed to sacrifice goats to Juno. Ovid assumes because they were hated by Juno. But it could be that Juno had a special relation to goats because as pasture goddess Juno Caprotina she was responsible for goats too. But basically I couldn't find any convincing theory.

Shield of the Salii: Holy shield which is said to be fallen from the sky in the time of Numa Pompilius. The nymph Egeria betrayed the secret of the shield, the ancile, to Numa: It was the pledge of the Roman dominance. Hereupon Numa Pompilius charged the best artists to make eleven copies of the shield, so that it was impossible to find out the original. The priesthood of the Salii, priests of Mars, was authorized to keep the twelve shields. Now the violin-shaped shield of Sospita doesn't seem to be identical with the ancile of the Salii. As we can see on coins of Augustus (RIC 136, 137) and of Antoninus Pius (RIC 736) the ancilia were made from two round shields with a small oval shield laying above them connected alltogether with numerous bolts. Because of that a connection between Sospita and the Salii could be denied.

Athena Polias: The life-size statue of Athena Polias made from olive-tree wood stood in the Erychtheion on the Akropolis in Athens. This originally was the temple of Athena Polias, the city-goddess of Athens. It was said that this statue was fallen from the sky. Her cult was the oldest and the most important in Athens.
I have attached a pic from the temple of Juno Sospita at the Foro Olitorio in Rome, which today is the church of San Nicola, and a pic of the statue of Juno Sospita from the Musei Vaticani, probably a marble cult statue from the 2nd century AD.

Der kleine Pauly
Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon
Michael Krumme, Römische Sagen in der antiken Münzprägung

Best regards


If my records are correct this is a little jubilee. It's my hundredth contribution to this thread! I hope you enjoy it! Some themes I have still in petto.

Best regards


--- Quote from: Jochen on January 14, 2007, 12:11:55 pm ---Hi!

If my records are correct this is a little jubilee. It's my hundredth contribution to this thread! I hope you enjoy it! Some themes I have still in petto.

Best regards

--- End quote ---

Jochen, that is indeed a significant accomplishment and contribution to the Boards, Congrats.  Further discussion of Juno Sospita on Roman coins at:


--- Quote from: Jochen on January 14, 2007, 12:11:55 pm ---Hi!

If my records are correct this is a little jubilee. It's my hundredth contribution to this thread! I hope you enjoy it! Some themes I have still in petto.

Best regards

--- End quote ---


Bravo!  I really enjoy this thread and your contributions--I have learned so much!

Regards, Jim (Cleisthenes)


[0] Message Index

[#] Next page

[*] Previous page

Go to full version