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Coins of mythological interest

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Thanatos - Brother of Sleep

The beautiful image of death as the brother of sleep already occurs in Homer's Iliad, where death is described as "brazen sleep", or in the Odyssey, where the Phaiaks "bring their husband home in a deep sleep quite similar to death". This is in accordance with the Homeric doctrine of the soul, according to which the soul, as a double of the living human being, leaves the body during sleep and death. The only difference is that during sleep it returns to the body, whereas at death it leaves it for good.

The ancients imagined the soul as a "soul bird". In the drawing of the Piot Amphora from Capua (today in the Louvre in Paris), the body of Memnos is carried away from Troy by two warriors, whom the artist has given wings as a reminiscence of the twins Thanatos and Hypnos. Above the mouth of the dead man rises the "soul bird". A conception that existed similarly with the soul bird Ba in ancient Egypt. This pre-Homeric ghost of the soul was originally probably the soul of someone else coming to take that of someone else (Roscher).

Later the soul was seen as a butterfly, and in representations it was given into the hand of Thanatos, which is often seen in vase paintings. This may come from the fact that in Greek the butterfly is called psyche.

In fact, Thanatos (Latin mors, feminine by the way!) is not a mythological figure.  He belongs to a group of pre-Olympic deities, such as Moira, Ate, Ker (the doom of death) or Nemesis, who were regarded by the Greeks as more powerful than the gods and whom the gods also had to obey. The great Wilamowitz writes: "Thanatos is not a person of faith, neither as the twin brother of Sleep, nor as the henchman of Hades who wrests Alcestis from Heracles, nor as the comic person in the tale of Sisyphus."

Only Hesiod invents a lineage so that everything has its order. He gives Nyx (the Night) as mother to Death and Hypnos, who brings forth evil fortune from within herself, as well as Moros (the male form of Moira) and Ker. Hyginus gives him Erebos ín addition as father, and Sleep and Death receive Tartarus as their home. They were δεινοί θεοί (terrible gods) whom the shining sun never looks upon; but while the one walks over the earth calm and friendly to men, the mind of the other is of iron. Whom he has once seized, he holds fast without pity. Therefore he is also hateful to the immortal gods.

Since Homer said that his twin brother was Hypnos, sleep, they are depicted side by side on statues (Pausanias). Thanatos with black wings and in black clothing (Horace), Sleep in white. In his hand he has a wreath and a butterfly. An actual cult is not known. According to Pausanias, there was a temple only in Sparta, and a temple is known from Gades where animal sacrifices were also made to him.

In the dramatists, Thanatos also became the redeemer from suffering, for example in Sophokles' "Philoktetes", who longed for death. And even in the death of Socrates, he did not frighten him, but was seen almost as a friend. Life is illness, death is recovery.

Nevertheless, Thanatos, probably "because of the transparency of his name", always retained "something of a pale abstraction, something wavering and, as it were, bloodless" (Heinemann). He writes of the dramatists: "it is as if the process of personification in Thanatos had to be carried out anew by the poet in each individual case, and he never becomes a truly formed figure to such a degree as even Nike and Eros".

In popular belief, Thanatos increasingly takes a back seat to Charon. In mythology, Charon was originally the ferryman across the Acheron. In later times he became the Greek god of death par excellence. It is he who is found in large numbers on the sarcophagi.

Outsmarting death:
The outwitting of death, which has fairy-tale features, occurs in all the fairy tales of the world. In Greek mythology there are the following tales:

Asklepios was so well instructed in healing by Cheiron that he was even able to bring the dead back to life. Among them were Glaukos and Lykurgos. This angered Hades, who saw his kingdom threatened, so that he complained to Zeus about him. And Zeus killed Asklepios with his thunderbolt. Angered by the murder of his son, Apollo then killed the Cyclopes from whom Zeus had received his thunderbolt.

The tragedy "Alkestis" by Euripides is about vicarious death for another and being brought back from the underworld. After the murder of the Cyclopes, Apollo had been condemned by Zeus to tend the flocks with King Admetes. Since Admetes proved to be benevolent, Apollo rewarded him with being able to postpone his death by having a deputy go to his death for him. When Death goes to fetch his beloved consort Alkestis, Apollo announces to him that Herakles will free Alkestis again. Despite reproaching Admetes for not having gone to her death himself instead of Alkestis, Herakles succeeds in bringing Alkestis back from the underworld. Euripides tells how Herakles defeats Thanatos in a wrestling match at Alkestis' grave.

Sisyphus is said to have entered the underworld 2x. It is said that before his death he asked his wife not to bury him. After his death, he then complained about this injustice to Hades, who finally allowed him to return to the upper world to call his wife to account. Sisyphus, however, did not think of going back to Hades, so Hades had to commission Hermes to bring Sisyphus back. Thereupon he was punished to roll a stone up a high mountain for eternity, which then rolled down again.

According to Eukleides of Megara, Thanatos is said to have been deaf and blind so that he could not be dissuaded from his duty by beauty or entreaty. This was also true of Charon, who once spared a beautiful girl on Lesbos and was therefore punished by Zeus with blindness, deafness and lameness.

Art history:
(1) Vase images of Thanatos were numerous in antiquity, where death was man's constant companion. One of the most famous images is found on the so-called, "Euphronios krater", a red-figure calyx krater signed by Euxitheos, the potter, and Euphronios, the painter, ca, 515 BC, formerly in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, now back in Cerveteri, the original site. It shows a scene from the Trojan War in which the body of the Lykian king Sarpedon is carried away by Hypnos (left) and Thanatos (right) while Hermes looks on. This scene from Homer's Iliad Book XVI, is the source for the idea of sleep and death as twin brothers.

(2) Something special is found on the column relief of the Artemision of Ephesus. Thanatos is depicted on the left with his sword sheathed and a butterfly(?) in his right hand, and Hermes Psychopompos (the soul guide) on the right with his kerykeion lowered, both escorting Alkestis between them into the underworld. Here Thanatos is depicted for the first time as a youth in the pose of Eros!

This depiction takes up the beautiful coin from Berytos in the collection of featherz (Forum Ancient Coins). Thanatos in the depiction of the youth from the Ephesian Artemision and Hermes Psychopompos have accompanied a soul to the underworld and are now resting. This is the only coin that actually depicts Death.

1st coin:
Phoenicia, Berytos, Elagabal, 218-222
AE 30
         Bust, draped and cuirassed, seen from behind laureate, r.
         Thanatos, nude, winged, standing r., left foot on rock, holding burning torch down in right hand, left resting on left thigh, facing Hermes standing left, nude, right foot on rock, holding kerykeion down in left hand
coll. featherz, Forum Ancient Coins

(3) The numerous genii of the imperial period with the torch lowered or extinguished and the putto-like representations of Eros on coins no longer have anything to do with the Thanatos of legend and popular belief (Pauly).

2nd coin:
Moesia inferior, Nicopolis ad Istrum, Septimius Severus, 193-211.
AE 16, 2.24g, 16.09mm, 225°.
        Laureate head r.
         Eros, winged, with crossed legs srg. r., leaning on an upturned torch.
Ref.: a) not in AMNG:
            Rev. AMNG I/1, 1368 (depiction)
                   AMNG I/1, 1384 (legend)
            Obv. e.g. AMNG I/1, 1348
         b) not in Varbanov
         c) Hristova-Hoeft-Jekov (2021) No.   

Francis Jarman: Eros and Thanatos
A major annoyance is that the figure of the putto-like Eros with the torch is still referred to as Thanatos or the Genius of Death, even by eminent numismatists. Francis Jarman, to whom we owe the fundamental work on Eros on coins, has traced the history of this misunderstanding. And in doing so, he has come across the German classical period, which had developed an idealised idea of ancient Greece since Winckelmann's "Edle Einfalt und stille Größe". The significance of the prevailing aestheticism played a major role in this. The idea of death as the twin brother of sleep was so fascinating that it pushed aside the brutal reality of death. Important personalities such as Lessing and Herder ensured the widespread dissemination of this reception, which then radiated through German Romanticism, and not only in Germany.  But Death is not a cherubic angel, apart from the fact that his representation on the Severan coins would make no sense.

An interesting side note: Since Θ (= 9) was an abbreviation for the Greek thanatos, it was subject to a taboo, like 13 in our days, which also does not exist as the number of a hotel room. So on this coin from Antioch Θ, the 9th letter of the Greek alphabet, was replaced by ΔE, which as 4+5 also makes 9. But there were also AH and IX, or N (for novem) in Rome.

3rd coin:
Constantine I the Great, 307-337
AE 3, 2.63g, 18.56mm, 330°.
Antioch, 9th Offizin, 329-30
         Bust, draped and cuirassed, wearing rosette diadem, r.
         So-called. Camp gate, with 2 towers and without gate
         above star
         in l. and r. field Δ - E (for officina 9!)
         in ex. SMANT
Ref.: RIC VII, Antioch 84
Very rare (R5), almost SS, sand patina, patina damage on top of Rev.

(1) The Aithiopis was an epic poem describing events at the end of the Trojan War that Homer had not covered. These include the battles of the Amazons before Troy, Penthesilea's fight with Achilles, the intervention of the Aithiopians under King Memnon in the war, and the quarrel between Ajas and Odysseus after the death of Achilles. Unfortunately, it has not been preserved.
(2) Eukleides of Megara (c. 450 - between 369/367 BC) was a Greek philosopher and founder of the Megarian school. He was a student of Socrates and is said to have been present at his death. The central theme of his philosophy seems to have been goodness, but his writings are lost. 

(1) Homer, Iliad
(2) Homer, Odyssey
(3) Aithiopis
(4) Hesiod, Theogony
(5) Hyginus, Fabulae
(6) Pausanias, Periegesis
(7) Cicero, De Natura Deorum

(1) Wilhelm Heinrich Roscher, Ausführliches Lexikon der griechischen und römischen Mythology (also online)
(2) Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon, Leipzig 1770 (also online)
(3) The Little Pauly
(4) Patricia Lawrence, Wings, Daimonia, Asomata: The Embodiment of the Bodiless (more relevant to numismatics than they may seem)
(5) Francis Jarman, Eros and Thanatos, 2011

Best regards

The myth of Apollo and Daphne

The myth of Daphne is probably one of the best-known stories of ancient Greece. But first my coin:

The coin:
Mysia, Apollonia ad Rhyndacum, Commodus, 177-192.
AE 27, 6.91g, 26.5mm
Bust, draped and cuirassed, seen from behind, laureate, r.
Apollo, nude, with waving chlamys advancing l., holding bow(?) in lowered left hand, grasping branch with raised right hand; on left before him Daphne kneeling l., head turned r., embraces a laurel tree with both arms
Ref.: RPC online IV.3 No. 450.3 corr. (this coin, but mistakenly adopting the description of No. 450.2); von Fritze Mysia 268; F.W. Haslick, NC 1907, 440, no. 20 Very rare (1 of 3 known specimens), F+/almost VF, brown patina.
Lanz Numismatik

The RPC IV.2 coin has a slightly different rev. design and legend separation. The obv. legend also appears to be slightly different: possibly AVPHLIOC?
The coins all show the scene where the transformation of Daphne has not yet begun.

There are several versions of this mythology. The most beautiful and poetic one is by Ovid. Therefore, I will at least put its content at the beginning:

Apollo is known in mythology for liking to chase nymphs. Daphne was his first love. The reason for this, however, was the wrath of Cupid. Apollo had seen him draw his bow after his victory over the python and made fun of him: he should leave archery to real men. Cupid replied: "You can hit anything with your bow, but I can hit you!" Then he drew two arrows from his quiver with opposite effects: the gold-plated one produced passionate love, but the leaden one disgusted love. With this one he hit the nymph Daphne, the daughter of Pineus. The gold-plated one he shot at Apollo. Daphne roamed the woods with the virgin Phoebe (Diana) and hunted animals. Many suitors sought her, but she fled them all. Her father urged her to marry because he wanted grandchildren. She finally got him to recognise her wish for lifelong virginity.

When Apollo caught sight of her, he was immediately enamoured of her. With flattering speeches he tried to beguile the terrified woman who was fleeing from him and raved about her beauty. These seductive speeches during his chase are the focus of Ovid's verse. When Apollo reached her on the banks of the Pineus and she saw no way out, she called desperately to her father to destroy her beauty. At the same moment she was transformed into a laurel tree. Apollo's love, however, was still not finished. He embraced the branches and kissed the tree, which avoided him. Then he put the laurel on his head in memory of Daphne.

The versions report different origins of Daphne:
(a) The nymph Daphne is the daughter of the river god Pineios (lat. Pineus) of the river of the same name in Thessaly and of Gaia (Hyginus; this was adopted by Ovid).
b) She is the daughter of the river god Ladon in Arcadia and of Gaia (Tzetzes ad Lycophr.)
c) She is the daughter of Amyklas, king of Sparta and founder of Amyklai (Parthenios of Nikaia).
d) In her flight she had reached Antiocheia in Syria, where her transformation then took place.

(1) Since all the river gods are sons of Okeanos and Tethys, in this case she is a granddaughter of Okeanos.
(2) Amyklai is one of the oldest ancient cities on the Greek mainland. Already in Mycenaean times Hyakinthos, the lover of Apollo, was cultically worshipped there. After the conquest by the Spartans around 800 BC, the "Throne of Apollo" was erected there with a colossal statue of Apollo (Pauly).
(3) The inhabitants of Antiocheia in Syria claimed that Daphne was a native of their country and still displayed in their suburb the laurel tree into which she was transformed. This suburb is called Daphne after her and was in ancient times a city of the rich and beautiful. Pausanias still saw the sanctuary of Apollo Daphnaios there. The "Grove of Daphne" still exists there today.
(4) Johannes Tzetzes (c. 1110 - c. 1180) was a Byzantine grammarian. The Allegorias mythologicas, physicas, morales are known from him. He is also said to have been the author of the Commentary on Lykophron. Through his extensive commentary on classical authors, much information on Greek literature of the Classical and Hellenistic periods has been preserved.

The version by Parthenios:
The oldest version of the Daphne myth is by Parthenios from Nikaia, who refers to Diodorus and Phylarchus. Later it was adopted by Pausanias.

In Parthenios, Daphne was the daughter of Amyklas, the king of Sparta (in Pausanias, the daughter of the river god Ladon). Her only pleasure was hunting and therefore she was especially loved by Artemis. She had sworn virginity to her and kept away from men and love.

Leukippos ("the one with the white horses"), the son of Oinomaos, king of Pisa, a countryside in the western Peloponnese, fell in love with her and, seeing no other way to approach her, he let his hair grow long and disguised himself as a woman. In this way he managed to win the friendship of Daphne. She did not see through the deception and he became her best friend.

But Apollo had also fallen in love with Daphne and was jealous of Leukippos. He gave Daphne the idea of bathing with her playmates. When they came to a river, the girls undressed, but Leukippos refused. When they forcibly undressed him, they saw that it was a man who had been living with them and immediately killed him with their spears. The story then continues with Apollo chasing Daphne as in Ovid, except that at the end Daphne begs Zeus, who turns her into a laurel tree.

Daphne is Greek for laurel. The explanation that daphne itself comes from δαιω (= I burn) and φωνη (= voice), because the laurel crackles in the fire (Eustath. ap. Gyrald), is only folk etymology.

The mythology of Daphne is quite clearly aetiological, i.e. it is meant to explain why the laurel is sacred to Apollo and why he has epithets such as Daphnaios, Daphnephoros or Daphnites. The river god Pineios may have entered the story because the area around the Pineios was known for its abundance of laurel. The quintessence that a virgin can gain eternal glory through chastity, as Hederich writes, sounds too much like Christian morality. Ultimately, this is also a story that shows the power of Eros, which is stronger than even the gods.

Palaiphatos tells us that Daphne, the daughter of the river Ladon and Gaia, at the end of her flight from Apollo, asked her mother to take her back to her and keep her as she had always been. And a rift opened and Gaia took her daughter to herself. In that place a plant (the laurel) sprang up immediately. It was taken up by Apollo who adorned his head with it

Art History:
The myth of Daphne has inspired numerous artists, usually focusing on the moment of transformation. I have chosen

(1) the floor mosaic from the house of Menander in Antioch, late 3rd century AD, today in the Princeton University Art Museum.
Daphne is depicted in the midst of transformation with branches of laurel reaching up from the earth to enfold. Apollo, reaching out to catch her, wears a radiant aureole, like a halo.

(2) The famous marble group "Apollo and Daphne" (c. 1625) by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680), which today stands in the Roman Villa Borghese.
The work was commissioned by Cardinal Scipione Borghese as the finale of Bernini's mythological sculpture group. It is worth circumventing this sculpture from behind in the opposite direction to the clockwise direction. Daphne is in the beginning of the transformation.

What is remarkable is the progression of the transformation, the further one follows the direction of the group of figures. Around her legs, rising up to her left hip, there is already tree bark.

(3) The painting "Apollo and Daphne", 1734/44, by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, today in the Louvre/Paris.
Here the transformation into a laurel has already begun on the fingers. In the foreground is her father, the river god. In Apollo, Tiepolo has taken a liberty: Apollo is already wearing a laurel wreath!

(1) Hyginus, Fabulae
(2) Nonnus, Dionysiaka
(3) Ovid, Metamorphoses
(4) Pausanias, Periegesis
(5) Parthenios von Nikaia, Erotica pathemata
(5) Plutarch, Parallelbiographien
(6) Palaiphatos, Unglaubliche Geschichten

(1) Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon, Leipzig 1770
(2) Wilhelm Heinrich Roscher, Ausführliches Lexikon der griechischen und römischen Literatur
(3) Der Kleine Pauly
(4) Karl Kerenji, Die Mythologie der Griechen
(5) Robert von Ranke-Graves, Griechische Mythologie
(6) Aghion/Barbillon/Lissarrague,Reclams Lexikon der antiken Götter und Heroen in der Kunst, 2000

Online Sources:
(2) Wikipedia
(3) Wikimedia

Best regards

Enodia - The Thessalian Hekate

Already in our school days we have read with pleasure in Goethe's Faust, Part 2, the scene in the laboratory:

Thessalian witches!  Well!  They are people,
For whom I have long inquired.
To dwell with them night after night,
I don't think it would be pleasant;
But to visit, try -

You can see Mephistopheles licking his lips! The following coin takes us right into this Thessalian witch world:

The coin:
Thessaly, Pherai, 353-352 BC (National Museums in Berlin).
AE 21 (trichalcone), 6.55g, 30°
Obv.: Head of the water nymph Hypereia with wreath of reeds 3/4 n. l.; in left field fish swimming upwards.
          Enodia, in long chiton, seated lady on horse, riding r.; holding long torch in front of body; in upper left ield, fountain in form of lion's head with water flowing from its mouth
Ref: BMC 22; SNG Copenhagen 247; BCD Thessaly II, 716; Hoover HGC 4, 565
VF, somewhat rough

The en face effigy of the nymph on the obverse is inspired by Syracusan coin designs. There the famous die engraver Kimon first showed the local nymph Arethusa in frontal view with her hair open.

Pherai was an ancient city in the Thessalian landscape of Pelasgiotis. Due to its location, Pherai dominated the port city of Pagasai and the Pagasitic Gulf, the only large bay in Thessaly connected to the Aegean only by a narrow strait. The city profited from the grain trade and trade in other goods, so that a prosperous middle class was able to form, in contrast to the other more agrarian cities of Thessaly.

Towards the end of the Peloponnesian War it became the seat of tyrannical rule. Lykophron of Pherai was the first to establish a thoroughly popular tyranny. In 404 BC, he succeeded in defeating the noble family of the Aleuads of Larissa. The Larissaians, however, enlisted Persian support and returned. These ongoing conflicts between the Larissaians and the tyrants of Pherai subsequently determined the political development of Thessaly. Later, Antiochos III of Syria conquered Pherai, but was soon forced to surrender it to the Romans. Today, only sparse remains of the ancient city can be seen, e.g. the Hypereia spring.

According to mythology, Pherai was founded by Pheres, the son of King Cretheus of Iolkos and Tyro. He was the father of Admetos, Lykurgos and the daughter Idomene. Admetos succeeded him on the throne. He is known among other things for the fact that Apollo had to serve him for 10 years after his banishment from Olympus. He was followed by his son Eumelos, who fought as leader of the Pheraeans and Iolians before Troy.

Hypereia was the source nymph of the famous water spring of Pherai. She is already mentioned by Homer (Iliad 6, 457). Sophokles (Fragm. 911) writes of the water "which the gods love". Hera is said to have bathed in its crystal-clear, healing waters to restore her virginity. She is usually depicted as a lion's head from whose mouth the water emerges. This lion's head, which represents the spring's enclosure, also exists as a single depiction on coins:

2nd coin
Thessaly, Pherai, ca. 404-369 B.C.
AE 19 (dichalcon), 3.78g
Obv.: Laureate head of Enodia r.
Rev.: Fountain in the shape of a lion's head r.
Ref.: BCD Thessaly II, 689; HGC 4, 577
London Ancient Coins, Vcoins

This spring has been there since people settled there, from about 3000 BC, and since those times it bubbled in abundance until 1998, when it suddenly dried up. I have attached a picture from Ottoman times and a sad picture of the spring today, north of the town of Velestino.
(1) The "Hypereia krini" in Ottoman times
(2) The "Hypereia krini" near Velestino today.

According to Pindar, the name of the spring comes from Hyperes, the son of Melas and Eurykleia. Melas, in turn, was a son of Phrixos, the brother of Helle, after whose death the Hellespont was named.

For a long time it was assumed that Enodia was simply an epiklesis of Hekate. However, it is now believed that it is the ancient Thessalian goddess Enodia who took the name Hekate

Enodia is closely associated with Pherai. In the time of Pheres, the founder of Pherai, shepherds are said to have found her in the field and brought her to the city. So she grew up together with the city and became its patroness.

Her name comes from the Greek εν (= in, on) and οδος (= way), thus as much as "the one on the way". She is also spelled with Gemmination Ennodia I will stick with Enodia here though.

Her name says that she was a goddess of the streets, standing at crossroads and on the main road, watching over the entrances to the city, but also over the entrances to private houses. In this sense she was apotropaic as a tutelary goddess, as were Hekate or Hermes. She was even supposed to keep pestilence away. The fact that she is often found in cemeteries underlines her chthonic character. She was worshipped together with Zeus Meilichios, in some places even in a common sanctuary. Meilichios was also a chthonic deity, the Zeus in the underworld.

Her main place of worship was Pherai, especially before the 5th century BC. Since Pherai was an important city at that time, the cult of Enodia quickly spread to Thessaly, Southern Macedonia and even Thrace, where the epithet thea (Lat. dea = goddess) was often attached to her, a sign that she was actually an "immigrant goddess" there. But she became a Panthessalian goddess during this time. This was also related to the striving for a Thessalian sense of belonging. According to Polyainos, Enodia was a national deity during the Ionian migration. She was worshipped until Roman times, as can be seen from votive offerings to her.

The use of Enodia for the new Thessalian identity, which was to be created with the refoundation of the Confederation by Flaminius 196, failed, however, as it was not suitable for this purpose. It is completely absent on Thessalian coins from the post-Flaminian period. Thus the resolutions of the new covenant were also not published in a sanctuary of Enodia, neither in Pherai nor elsewhere in Thessaly. Nor is there any evidence of possible investment in one of her sanctuaries, and no month of the Thessalian calendar used after 196 seems to acknowledge and honour the goddess.

Identification with Hekate
Because of many similarities between the two goddesses, Enodia was identified with Hekate. They have in common the protection of the crossroads, the warding off of evil and animals such as the dog. Thus, Lucian describes the rites of Hekate as "rites of Enodia". Pausanias reports how a black puppy was sacrificed to Hekate-Enodia by the Spartans at night. In the 4th century, Hekate-Enodia was associated with spirits and seen as the cause of the "holy disease (perhaps epilepsy)".

According to Wilamowitz, however, Enodia belongs to the ancient Hellenic deities before the time of the Olympians. It was not until the spread of the cult of Hekate from Asia Minor to mainland Greece that she was worshipped in certain sanctuaries along with Hekate. He also pointed out her connection with children and the underworld, which was expressed in a variety of epithets. This was used especially by writers to establish a connection with Persephone, Hekate and Artemis.

But Wilamowitz already recognised the independent existence of a goddess Enodia, especially because she was common in Thessaly, where Hekate was absent. Her syncretisation with Artemis or Hekate took place outside Thessaly. There she was also referred to simply as Artemis Pheraia or just Pheraia.

Chrysostomou suspects that although the original character of the goddess was terrifying, she already developed in the classical period into a deity who served her worshippers in a variety of ways. And so Hekate, Artemis et al. were assimilated with Enodia and not Enodia with these goddesses.

The Enodia priestess Chrysame
In his "Strategemata", the Macedonian writer Polyainos tells the following about the wartime stratagem of the Thessalian Enodia priestess Chrysame: When, during the colonisation of Ionia by the Greeks, the Greek conqueror Cnopus of Kodridae fought the Ionians at Erythrai, he received the oracle saying "to take Chrysame the priestess of Enodia as general of the Thessalians." This he did, and Chrysame chose a large bull and mixed into its feed poisonous herbs that caused madness. When the two armies faced each other, she had an altar built and brought the magnificently decorated bull. But the bull broke out and attacked everything in its path. The Erythraeans took this as a good sign, caught the bull and sacrificed it to their gods. They divided the meat among themselves. But this was also poisoned and produced the same madness that afflicted their whole army. Then Chrysame ordered the enemy to attack, and the Erythraeans were cut down. Thus Cnopus came into possession of Erythrai. Thessaly was known for its witches, and especially for the use of herbs. Thessalian witches were said to be able to conjure up even the moon

Polyainos (Latin Polyaenus), * c. 100, was a Macedonian rhetor, lawyer and writer in Rome. Of his works, only the "Strategemata" have survived in their entirety, in which he dealt with military strategies and which he dedicated to Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus so that they would avoid the mistakes of earlier commanders in their campaign against the Parthians.

Art History:
The iconographic type of Enodia appears regularly in Upper Macedonia from the Hellenistic to the late Roman period. It is identical to the images on the coins.
 (1) The first image shows the votive relief for Enodia from the 3rd century AD from Hagia Paraskevi (Elimeia) [Chrysostomou (1998), pl. 14Α]. Depicted is Enodia on a horse sitting side by side with a short torch and a dog accompanying her. The dog is a typical attribute of Hekate as well.

(2) The second picture shows a consecration gift with an inscription, also from this sanctuary. It is a marble relief from the time between the 2nd and 1st century B.C. Here Enodia stands in a long chiton (chiton pederes), which is girded cross-shaped under the breast, and with long sleeves and 2 torches in 3/4 view. A horse and a dog can also be seen. It was donated by a Ma (Μα[ς Μενάνδρου), today in the archaeological collection of Kozani.

(1) Homer, Ilias
(2) Sophokles, Fragments (Loeb Classic Library)
(3) Apuleius, Metamorphoses
(4) Goethe, Faust 2.

(1) Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon, 1770
(2) Wilhelm Heinrich Roscher, Ausführliches Lexikon der griechischen und römischen Mythologie
(3) Head, Historia numorum
(4) Der Kleine Pauly
(5) Wikipedia
(6) C.D.Graniger, The Regional Cults of Thessaly, 2006 (Dissertation)
(7) Kalliopi Chatzinikolaou, Locating Sanctuaries in Upper Macedonia According to Archaeological Data, in Kernos, Revue internationale et pluridisciplinaire de religion grecque antique, 23/2010
(8) Chrysostomou, P., Η θεσσαλική θεά Εν(ν)οδία ή Φεραία θεά, 1998
(9) Wilhelm Gemoll, Griechisch-deutsches Schul- und Handwörterbuch, 1954

Best regards


Hades, Ploutos, Pluto, Pluton and then Serapis are an almost inextricable group of underworld gods. Here I will try to untangle this tangle a little.

Hades was the eldest son of Kronos and Rhea and a brother of Zeus, Poseidon and Hera (Homer). Hesiod added Hestia and Demeter to him. He was swallowed by Kronos, as were all his children except Zeus, but was then broken out again by an emetic of Metis. According to some, it was also a stone that Zeus then had erected for worship at Delphi.

In the battle of the Titans, Hades sided with Zeus. He used the Hades cap, a camouflage cap that made him invisible. According to an older legend, he had been given this by the Cyclopes in gratitude for their liberation, just as Zeus was given the bundle of lightning and Poseidon the trident. After that, the world was divided: Zeus got the sky, Poseidon the sea and Hades the underworld. Earth and Olympos were common property.

According to Homer, he was the implacable god of the underworld, his kingdom a place of terror and horror. It was as closed off as Zeus' heaven. That is why he was also called Zeus katachthonios, the subterranean Zeus.  His attribute was the sceptre.

His wife was Persephone, who was an equally implacable judge. But they only became judges in Aeschylos. Later genealogists also named Radamanthys, Minos and Sarpedon (or Aiakos) as judges of the underworld (Cicero, Ovid).

They did not form a family. The Furies were close to them, but could not have been his daughters, which they were later made to be.   

Hades does not actually appear in myths, since he knows nothing of Earth and Olympos in the underworld. He does not intervene in the human world.  There are only 2 stories in which he comes to the upper world, whereby the robbery of Persephone also only takes place at the command of Zeus.

(1) In the Homeric Hymns, the story is told of the robbery of Persephone, which had happened near Nysa, but whose geographical location is unclear. When Persephone/Kore was playing there in a flower meadow, the earth suddenly opened up and Hades came in a chariot with his 4 immortal black horses and abducted her into the underworld. Claudius Claudianus even knows the names of the horses:  Aethon, Alastor, Nykteus and Orphnaios.

Claudius Claudianus, born c. 370 probably in Alexandria - died after 404, was a late ancient Greek writer, court poet under Honorius and Stilicho. One of his most important works is the mythological epic "de raptu Proserpinae". Around 400, a statue was even erected for him on Trajan's Forum in Rome, the pedestal of which is still preserved.

1st coin:
Lydia, Maionia, Marcus Aurelius, 161-180.
AE 35, 24.70g, 0°
struck under the archon Quintus, who was 1st archon for the second time
         Laureate bust r.    
         Hades, with clothes blowing in the wind, charging in quadriga  r., head turned l.,
         embracing the struggling Persephone, who has spread her arms in despair; r. beneath
         the horses  her fallen basket of flowers; above them the flying Eros.
Ref.: SNG by Aulock 3018
VF, pretty blue-green patina, flan crack at 7h.
ex coll.  Marcel Burstein, Nevada
ex auction Peus 366, 2000

The second time there was a fight with Herakes at the gate to the underworld when he brought up Kerberos. In the process Hades was hit on the shoulder by an arrow from Herakes and had to be healed on Mount Olympos by Paion, the physician of the gods.

2nd coin:
Bithynia, Herakleia Pontika, Septimius Severus, 193-211.
AE 30, 17.23g, 30.09mm, 195°.
Obv.: .AV - T. - K.Λ.CEΠ.  - CEVHPOC Π
          Bust, draped and cuirassed, laureate, r.
        Herakles, nude, lion skin over left arm, holding club with left hand over arm, standing frontally, head turned l., holding in his lowered right hand by a rope the three-headed Kerberos, who is sitting l.  beside him  r.  and looking up at him
Ref.: SNG of Aulock 378 (Obv. same die, Rev.  however different type; for Rev. cf. 397 for Macrinus); not in SNG Copenhagen, SNG Tübingen, SNG Lewis; not in Rec. Gen.
extremely rare, fig. almost SS, roughness on Vs.
ex lanznumismatik, Ebay, 2007.

Later Ovid tells us that Hades fell in love with the nymph Menthe, who was transformed by Persephone out of jealousy into the spearmint (Mentha spicata). Another nymph, Leuke ("the White"), is said to have been transformed into the white poplar (Populus alba) after her death.

In the Suda, another daughter Makaria is given as the daughter of Hades and Persephone, who does not appear anywhere else. In contrast to Thanatos, she stands for blessed death. Etymologically (but not mythologically!) related is the Island of the Blessed, where today the Macaronesian Islands are understood to mean the Canary and surrounding islands. 

It is understandable that the fearfulness of his nature made him shy and afraid to speak his name. This gave rise to a multitude of euphemisms, e.g. "the many-absorber", where the many were the dead. Or "the great host". In the Odyssey, he was also the psychopompos who guided the dead into the underworld with his staff, like Hermes later on. He was also called Zagreus (= the great hunter), a name that later stood for Dionysos, "the honourable one" or even Euboulos the "benevolent one". As "gatekeeper" he possessed the key to the underworld, which he later gave to Aiakos.

These euphemisms are connected with the Eleusinian Mysteries. Under their influence, there was a complete transformation of the conception in the 5th century. Through the important role of Persephone, the god of the dead became a god of fertility and vegetative wealth. And this also required a new name: Hades became Plouton! He was the god who was responsible for grain, the source of prosperity, but also for the metals in the earth. He first appeared among the poets of the 5th century, where he was later also called Plouteus. His iconography included the cornucopia. Ploutos now represents the milder side of the chthonic powers and displaces Hades from this aspect until it sinks to a mere place name. In contrast to Hades, there were numerous cults for Ploutos and also theoxenia, guest banquets with the god.

Ploutos, the son of Demeter and Iasion (Hesiod), is to be strictly distinguished from Plouton. He is the figure of abundance and wealth, originally of the grain store stored underground. In Eleusis he had a naiskos and was worshipped as a "divine child", probably as an inheritor of Minoiscan ideas. His birth was one of the Eleusinian dromena (cultic acts). Here it was a child of Gaia, as there was no room for another son besides Plouton and Persephone. Since after the emergence of trade and commerce a more effortless and also more dishonest profit was possible, Ploutos was readily attributed with injustice and blindness (Pauly). Although he is depicted as a child, according to Roscher he is not a personification but only an allegory of wealth.

3rd coin
Phrygia, Hierapolis, pseudo-autonomous, 3rd century AD.
AE 27, 11.72g, 27.07mm, 180°.
Obv.: IEPAΠOΛEI - TΩN (from upper left)
         Head of Dionysos with wreath of ivy  r.
Rev.: EUBO - CIA (from lower left)
        Eubosia as Demeter, standing in long robe and cloak l., holding in raised right hand
        2 ears of grain and in left arm cornucopiae on which little Ploutos sits and holds out his
        arms to her.
Ref: Numismatics Naumann Auction 44, June 2016, lot 693 (at Wildwinds, same dies!)
         unpublished in the larger works
Very rare, F+ to near VF, greenish brown patina
ex Bertolami Fine Arts E-Auction 49, 12.11.17, Lot 484.
(mislabelled as SNG of Aulock Pisidia I, 891-7; RPC IX 997. But that is  Decius and from Isinda!)

(1) Personification is the conception and representation of non-human objects as persons, as human beings of definite character.
(2) Allegory (from Greek = "to speak otherwise"), for a long time understood in art only as a sensual representation of something abstract. In 1928, W. Benjamin detached it from its subordination to the symbol and placed it alongside the symbol as its own form of expression. Through his study of Baroque art, he found that it is, in terms of the philosophy of history, an art form of the decaying times (Wörterbuch der philosophischen Begriffe).

The triad Demeter, Kore, Hades/Pluto is certainly already known Pelasgic. Strabon writes that Hades was originally the king of the Cauconians, a pre-Greek people on the Peloponnes, who only gradually became the underworld god of the Greeks. The only sanctuary specifically dedicated to Hades was in Pylos, because Hades came to the aid of Pylos when it was attacked by Herakles.

Especially in Asia minor there were several plutoniums, which were mostly seen as entrances to the underworld, e.g. in Aphrodisias or Hierapolis.
The photo shows the Plutonion in Hierapolis/Phrygia (Wikipedia). Here, carbon monoxide leaked from a fissure in the earth, forming an invisible lake that was deadly to those who did not know their way around. This was passed off as a miracle by the initiated priests.

Pausanias describes most of the places of worship in the Peloponnese, always together with Demeter. Male and female animals of black colour were sacrificed to him, especially piglets, which were thrown into pits. Such a sacrifice is also described in the Odyssey, when Odysseus wants to question Teiresias in the underworld. Kirke advises him to sacrifice one female and one male black sheep, but necessarily with their faces turned away.

Art History:
Because of Hades' unpopularity, there is little evidence and depictions are not consistent throughout. He is usually depicted like Zeus or Poseidon with flowing hair on his head. After Bryaxis created his famous statue of Serapis in Alexandria, all subsequent images resemble him, as can be seen beautifully on the following coin.

4th coin
Moesia inferior, Nicopolis ad Istrum, Caracalla, 198-217
AE 28, 14.47g, 28.24mm, 0°
struck under the governor Aurelius Gallus
        Laureate head r. , slight drapery on l. shoulder.
        Hades/Serapis, in himation, with Kalathos, enthroned  l., resting on long sceptre with
       raised l. hand and holding outstretched r. hand over three-headed Kerberos at his feet.
Ref.: a) not in AMNG
        b) Varbanov 3092
        c) Hristova-Hoeft-Jekov (2021) (this coin) 
not common, almost VF, black patina

In 212 Carcalla had consecrated a temple of Serapis on the slope of the Quirinal.

I have added a photo of the Roman marble copy of the cult statue of Serapis from Alexandria, found in 1750 in Pozzuoli during the Bourbon excavations, today in the Archaeological Museum in Naples.

It is clearly visible that the image on the coin is based on the statue of Bryaxis. It is the blessing giver related to the Plouton with Kalathos. It is therefore Serapis with charges to the benevolent side of Hades.

(1) Homer, Odyssey
(2) Hesiod, Theogony
(3) Pausanias, Periegesis
(4) Strabon, Geographika
(5) Cicero, de natura deorum
(6) Ovid, Metamorphoses

(1) Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon, Leipzig 1770 (also online).
(2) Wilhelm Heinrich Roscher, Ausführlichen Lexikon der griechischen und römischen Mythologie (also online).
(3) The Kleiner Pauly
(4) Karl Kerenyi, Mythology of the Greeks
(5) Robert von Ranke-Graves
(6) Hristova-Hoeft-Jekov, The coins of Nicopolis ad Istrum, Blagoevgrad 2021
(7) Kirchner/Michaelis, Wörterbuch der philosophichen Begriffe, WBG 1998
(8) Wikimedia

Best regards

The Pantheion

The starting point for this article was the following coin.

1st coin:
Roman Republic, M. Plaetorius Cestianus, gens Plaetoria
AR - Denarius, 18.52mm, 3.86g, 60°.
         Rome, 67 BC
Obv.: Draped bust of a winged goddess, r., with helmet decorated with plume, lotus
          blossom and ears of grain on forehead, bow and quiver over right shoulder,
          cornucopiae under chin.
          behind CESTIANVS, in front S.C
Rev.: in ex. M PLAE, then TORIVS F AED CVR
          Eagle with spread wings standing on bundle of lightning .r., head turned l. 
Ref.: :Crawford 409/1; Sydenham 809; BMCRR 3596; Plaetoria 4
ex M&M AG Auction 38, Basel 6/7.12.1968, coll. Dr. August Voirol, lot 181

(1) Plaetorius Cestianus was a friend of Cicero ("Pro Cluentio"). He was a Curulian Aedile and has struck as Mint Master for the final battle against Mithridates.
(2) Dr. August Voirol (1884-1967) was a gynaecologist in Basel. In 1933 he discovered numismatics by chance through some coins of the Adlerbank. He met Herbert Cahn and assembled a small but select collection of ancient coins. From 1942-1954 he was vice-president of the Swiss Numismatic Society.

The goddess depicted on the obv. is regularly but incorrectly called Vacuna. Vacuna is a Sabine goddess and identical with the Roman Victoria. She had an ancient sanctuary (Vacunae nemis) near Hadrian's villa at Tibur, today's Tivoli. The Romans, however, derived her name from Vacuus and thought that she was a deity to whom the country people offered sacrifices when the harvest in the fields was over and the fields were empty (Schol. ad Horat. Epist. I.10.49; Ovid Fast.VI.307; Plin. H.N. III.17). Her festival, the Vacunalia, took place in December. From Horace's Scholiast we also hear that some identified her with Diana, Ceres, Venus, Minerva, Bellonan and Victoria. However, these scholarly interpretations were not yet fully available at the time of the Mint Master, so that this view is untenable (Roscher).
Today her name is etymologically derived from *vacu- (= lacus, with alternation of l>v, like Umbrian 'vaper' = Lat. lapis) and she is determined as 'dea del lago'. Their Sabine cult centre was probably at the sulphurous springs Aquae Cutiliae (Evans) near present-day Rieti. A village called Bacugno in the region there still points to the worship of Vacuna.

The traditional identification of the female bust on the obv. of this coin as Vacuna is impossible, writes Crawford, citing the work of J.P.Morel, MEFR 1962, pp.25-29. An identification as Isis, according to the work of A.Alföldi, S 1954, pp.30/31, may be correct. But she carries not only the lotus-flower of Isis but also
(1) the helmet of Minerva adorned with a plume of feathers,
(2) on her forehead the ears of grain of Ceres,
(3) over the right shoulder the bow and quiver of Diana,
(4) under the chin a cornucopiae and is
(5) winged like Victoria!
In summary we have to state that the identification of the obv, type is still uncertain. She is a real "multi-culti" goddess!

The Pantheion
The Pantheion (Lat. Pantheon) was the totality of the gods, just as the Panellenion was the totality of the Greeks. In a polytheistic religion, people were used to invoking the deity responsible for them or their concerns each time. It was not always easy to choose the right deity. Sometimes the oracle had to be consulted first. At large festivals, several gods were in charge, and sacrifices had to be made to them. In order not to incur the wrath of the forgotten gods, the other gods or even "all the gods" were also invoked. This custom already appears in Homer, where oaths were supposed to be given the strongest confirmation. This was especially true when there was a hurry and there was not enough time to find out which deity was responsible. In such cases, pantes theoi (= all gods) were used, e.g. for oath formulas. In the 4th century, these calls became more frequent, but there was no cult of the gods as a whole. According to Herodotus, when the Ionians, Dorians and Aiolians founded Naukratis in the Nile delta, they built a common sanctuary for all the gods they had brought with them (Pauly), but only as a defence against the foreign cults surrounding them.
This changed in Hellenistic times, when there is an increase in inscriptions referring to consecrations, festivals, priesthoods and cults, especially in Asia Minor, where the formula theoi pantes kai pasai (= all gods and goddesses) also accumulates. The famous Pergamon altar was probably also dedicated to the community of gods, as indicated by the fact that its four sides depict the entire family of gods. Antiochos IV Epiphanes organised a great triumphal procession in Antiocheia, in which the images of "all the gods named among men" were carried along. After the Pantheon in Rome, the most important was the one that Antiochos of Pergamon had erected on the summit of Mount Tauros, which was dedicated to all the gods, including himself and his family (Pauly). Such a Pantheion is also known from Ilion, Pergamon, Erythrai, Antiocheia ad Maiandrum and Alexandria.

A significant influence on the increasing spread of these cults had been Alexander's campaign to the Orient, through which the Greeks became acquainted with a large number of new gods and foreign cults. Their own traditional views became weaker and they were no longer convinced that they were the sole helpers in emergency situations. Worshipping many deities at once made people feel safer. It is said that there were even altars dedicated to the agnostoi theoi (= the unknown gods) in order not to neglect any god. According to Acts 17:13, there was such an inscription on an altar in Athens, to which Paul linked his Areopagus speech.

But a monotheistic tendency was already emerging, that all gods were only the expression of a single higher being. There was probably no goddess named Panthea (Roscher). But more and more often different deities were syncretistically linked with each other, as we know from coins, e.g. Zeus/Ammon, Dea Mater, Aequitas/Nemesis, Tyche/Demeter etc. Caligula had his beloved sister Drusilla consecrated as Diva Drusilla Panthea! Pantheus is found among the Romans as an epithet of many gods. As the name suggests, Pantheus represented a deity who united the various divine powers and personalities within himself. Inscriptions from the 1st and 2nd century A.D. prove that the ideas that led to the worship of a god Pantheus were already present among the Romans relatively early (Roscher). Serapis was also regarded as a universal god. In Carthage there are inscriptions as Serapis Pantheos. The next coin shows him as Serapis Pantheos:

2nd coin
Egypt, Alexandria, Antoninus Pius, AD 138-161
AE 33mm, 26.42g, 33.4mm, 0°
struck 141/42 (year 5)
        Laureate head r.
Rev.: Bust, of Serapis Pantheos, draped, wearing kalathos and radiate crown, ram's
          horn over ear, before him trident around which serpent coils.
          In field L - E
Ref.: Dattari-Savio Pl. 148, 2867 (this coin; RPC IV.4, 15340.6 (this coin)
Shanna Schmidt Numismatics, Vcoins, April 2022.
Naville Numismatics 53, 3 Nov 2019, lot 303.
ex Dattari coll.

The Pantheon in Rome:
The grandest and most perfectly preserved ancient building in Rome is undoubtedly the Pantheon on the Campus Martius. It was long believed to have been built by Agrippa in 25 BC in honour of his friend Augustus. This is also written as a monumental inscription on the epistyle of the vestibule: M. Agrippa L. f. consul tertium fecit. This is also attested by Pliny and Cassius Dio.

The round building contained the statues of many gods and the huge dome resembles heaven. The Pantheon was destroyed several times by lightning and fire and rebuilt each time, so in 89 by Domitian and then by Hadrian, but also in 202 by Septimius Severus and then by Caracalla. In 608, it was converted into the church beatae semperque virginis Mariae et omnium martyrum by Pope Boniface IV under the reign of Emperor Phocas. In the process, of course, all the images of the gods were removed.

In the meantime, archaeological facts have proven that the circular building we see today was not erected by Agrippa, but by Emperor Hadrian. It has been shown that almost exclusively bricks from the Hadrianic period were used in the construction of all structurally important parts. The inscription that names Agrippa as the builder goes back to the fact that Hadrian had a traditional aversion to his name being mentioned on his buildings, and the reason for this almost "quirky reverence" (Pauly) was his endeavour to avoid anything that would have made him appear similar to the hated Domitian. The latter had passed off the buildings he had only restored as his own original creations.

(1) Homer, Iliad
(2) Herodotus, Histories
(3) Pliny, Naturalis historia
(4) Cassius Dio, Roman History
(5) New Testament
(6) Ovid, Fastes

(1) Crawford
(2) The Little Pauly
(3) Wilhelm Heinrich Roscher, Detailed Dictionary of Greek and Roman Mythology (also online)
(4) Smith, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (online)
(5) Benjamin Hederich, Thorough Mythological Dictionary (also online)
(6) Elizabeth C. Evans, The Cults of the Sabine Territory, 1939.

Best regards


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