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Author Topic: Incuse coinage of Magna Graecia and Pythagoras  (Read 19135 times)

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Offline JBF

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Incuse coinage of Magna Graecia and Pythagoras
« on: January 14, 2013, 08:19:39 pm »
I would like to invite people to check out my articles on Pythagoras' (530 BC) background in celature and on how the incuse coins of MG represent Pythagorean teachings.

I know that the current conventional wisdom amongst the academic world is skeptical towards past claims like these, but I believe that over a series of article,
(including some not yet written), I am quite able to make my case.  But either way, let me know what you all think. :)

academia.edu

John Francisco

PS sorry if I should have posted this in some kind of different way, this is my first post.  JBF :)

Taras

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Re: Incuse coinage of Magna Graecia and Pythagoras
« Reply #1 on: January 15, 2013, 01:57:15 pm »
Hi John,
first of all.. congratulations for your works, they're very interesting!  +++
Problems concerning numismatic semiology in Magna Graecia are often set aside by scholars, who prefer to focus on metrological and weight issues (surely useful studies, but much more boring!  :P)

The issue "Pythagora and incuse coinage" always fascinated me, and for some time I have been studying the topic.
I want to share with you my thoughts to try give new substance to the "Pythagorean" hypothesis.
I apologize in advance if my English is not perfect.

As you wrote:
I know that the current conventional wisdom amongst the academic world is skeptical towards past claims like these".

I think today are skeptical positions to be outdated.
In fact the date on which the phenomenon of incuse coinage in Magna Grecia would have began is conventionally indicated around 550 b.C., however, that argument does not rest on solid scientific foundations. It is basically related to an obsolete issue wich correlated a specific coin type with the date of the destruction of Siris ( Siris, the only Ionian colony in Italy, was destroyed by the Achaean colonies of Kroton, Sybaris and Metapontion allied together, at the end of the first half of the VI century b.C.):
Until the sixties it was believed that the coins with legend " :GreeK_Sigma: :Greek_Iota: :Greek_Rho: :Greek_Iota: :Greek_Nu: :Greek_Omicron: :GreeK_Sigma: -   :Greek_Pi_2: :Greek_Upsilon:  :Greek_Xi_2: :Greek_Omicron: :Greek_epsilon: :GreeK_Sigma: " were minted in the Ionian colony.


7,81 g
Photo courtesy of British Museum, Department of Coins and Medals. Reg. Num. RPK.p287.1.SirBux

By this assumption it seemed clear that the incuse coinage should have began before the destruction of the city, so was established by scholars on conventional date of 550 b.C.

In fact, today it is obvious to the majority of scholars that these coins were not minted in Siris, but in another city, probably named Sirinos, gravitating into the orbit of the Sybarite "empire", on the tyrrenian side.
Indeed the Ionian colony of Siris never minted coins.
It seems clear, therefore, that in Greek Italy no coinage existed before the fall of Siris. In fact it would not be plausible that this rich city, devoted to trade much more than its achaean neighbors, had stayed outside to such an important phenomenon such as coinage, if it had already been initiated in the region. (some bibliographic references: "Scritti di Numismatica" by A. Stazio, "Siris-Heraclea" by Lorenzo Quilici, "Siris" by U. Cozzoli, "Osservazioni storico-linguistiche intorno allo statere d'argento di Siri e Pixunte" by I. Cazzaniga)

So, now we can imagine that incuse coinage began after 550 b.C. (destruction of Siris), and before 510 b.C. (destruction of Sybaris).
However, this time interval is still too large to give arguments to the relation between Pythagoras and incuse coinage.

I want to point that some scholars (L. Quilici in "Siris-Heraclea", G. Pugliese Carratelli in "PdP CXXII", T. J. Dumbabin in "The western greeks") they suggest a later date for the destruction of Siris, around 540-530 b.C.; following the assumptions of these scholars the Pythagorean supposition assumes more consistency (Pythagora arrived in italy in 532 b.C.)


As you John write in your article:
There is an argument that the spread fabric incuse coinage could not have been made by the Pythagoreans because the coins predate Pythagoras’ arrival in Magna Graecia.  One could equally say that if the spread fabric incuse coinage is Pythagorean as shown by its symbolism, then the dating of the coins to before Pythagoras’ arrival in 532 must be wrong.

In fact I agree with you, I think it is wrong!

I think that the incuse coinage in southern Italy started concurrently in Kroton, Sybaris and Metapontion, around 530 b.C. (Attilio Stazio, http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attilio_Stazio, probably the greatest scholar in MG coinage, had the same idea), properly in the same years in which Pythagoras arrived in Kroton from Samos.
We should also record that Dicearco from Messine reports how in the last years of the century Pythagoras went to live in Tarentum. In the same years incuse coinage started in Tarentum!!.

Well, I have to better explain myself now.
I shall open a metrological digression to make clear my thoughts.

The relative chronology concerning the three sizes of flans for incuse coinage is widely shared.
First the Spread flans (larger than 25 mm, till 30 mm), after the medium flans (between 22 and 25 mm), and at the end of incuse coinage, before the double relief switching, the dumpy flans (less than 22 mm, till 17 mm).

Here a sample from the first stage of the coinage of Metapontion:


Noe class III, Nr. 57 (this coin)
30 mm, 7,99g
Photo courtesy of Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Münzkabinett, object Num. 18203391
http://www.smb.museum/ikmk/object.php?id=18203391


Noe writes at pag 49 of his work: "Modern scholars have tended to lower Head's chronology, though there is as yet no certain indication of the date of the earliest incuse issues and 550-540 remains as plausible estimate for the first coins of Sybaris and Metapontum."

Ok, let's go on...
here three samples from Kroton, showing the three stages, from earlier to later:

Spread flan

30 mm, 7,82g
Photo courtesy of Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Münzkabinett, object Num. 18215959
http://www.smb.museum/ikmk/object.php?id=18215959


Medium flan

24 mm, 7,92g
Photo courtesy CNG

Dumpy flan

17 mm, 7,97g
Photo courtesy CNG


Today scholars agree that the incuse coinage in Kroton started about 530 b.C. (you can see in the link under the first coin that also the Berlin museum accepts this date). In the past it was believed that Kroton started to mint incuses on 550 b.C., like Metapontion and Sybaris. Then, between the seventies and eighties, scholars focused their attention on a very earlier specimen minted in Kroton (spread flan, with no symbols, probably the first serier of the Kroton mint) stored in the Berlin Museum, ex coll. Loebbecke, which was overstruk on a Corinthian coin like this:


8,61g
Photo courtesy Nomos

Kraay, Bicknell and Garraffo dated this coin about 530 b.C.
This evidence led scholars to lower the chronology for the earlier incuse staters of Kroton from 550 to 530.

Now I want to bring to you another evidence, which could hypothetically allow us to lower the chronology also for the Metapontion early staters, giving substance to the idea that incuse coinage in South Italy started at the same time, after the arrival of the philosopher of Samos.

In 2009 has been published by A. Polosa the catalogue of ancient coins in the Archaeological Museum of Sibari (http://donum.numismatics.org/cgi-bin/koha/opac-detail.pl?biblionumber=175673&shelfbrowse_itemnumber=1113).
I immediately bought it with much enthusiasm, because in the volume was illustrated in detail the "Amendolara Hoard", the most archaic hoard ever found in south Italy, in Amendolara, the village in which my father was born!
Well, putting aside my personal nostalgia, Amendolara is situated on the coast, about halfway between Sybaris and Metapontion. The hoard contained 42 coins, all spread flans: 13 Metapontion, 28 Sybaris, 1 Kroton

Here the Starer of Kroton:


29 mm, 8,182g
National Archaeological Museum of Sybaris, inv. 3904


But is the coin listed 2 the one I want to bring to your attention:


27 mm, 8,276g
National Archaeological Museum of Sybaris, inv. 3869

This type is listed in Noe, class 1
It is probably one of the first series of the mint.
Well, as reported by the scholar who compiled the catalogue, this coin is overstruck on a spread flan Krotonian stater.

The photo is not much clear, but are visible traces of the Koppa and the Ro of Kroton, near the Tau of Meta.



So, resuming:
Some years ago the fact of an overstrike by an earlier stater of Kroton on a Corinthian coin lowered the dating to 530 b.C.
Now, the overstrike of an earlier stater of Metapontion on a Krotonian coin, what conclusion should lead us to?

In conclusion, I reiterate my hypothesis: Incuse coinage in Southern Italy started not before 530 b.C., and this makes it plausible a Pythagorean role in the matter.
Naturally all this is only a personal idea, without any scientific claim.

Bye

Nicola

Offline JBF

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Re: Incuse coinage of Magna Graecia and Pythagoras
« Reply #2 on: January 15, 2013, 10:32:19 pm »
Very interesting.  Charles Seltman thought that Noe type 1 were not the earliest (his essay on the Italiote coinage), your
overstrike might demonstrate that.
I don't know Italian, so the way you lay out the material is new, and informative to me.  My theories are dependent on meditating
on the coinage on the one hand, and on sources concerning Pythagoras on the other (I don't mean 'meditating' literally).
My academic background is in philosophy, which means that I don't consider the theories as certain or as fact, although I think
that my standards for proof is higher than most people.  But if I sound doubtful on some portion, please understand that that
probably says more about me, than it does on the plausibilty of some theory of mine..

I like Stazio's (and your) idea that the first three mints started at the same time, but I don't think so, because there seems to be
an implied numbering in the coins.  Kroton is obviously three with its tripod.  Metapontum is referring to Demeter and always included
with Demeter is Kore.  Together they are 'the two goddesses,' expressed in literature in the dual case.  Kore of course becomes Persephone,
who is the 'maiden who should not be named.'  Thus she is not explicitly referred to, but is always (implicitly in our life) there with Demeter.

That leaves Sybaris, and this may be reaching, but the letter 'A' (alpha) is also the number one.  It comes from the Phoenician letter,
which in turn comes from (I think) the cuneiform symbol for a bull.  The type of Sybaris is, of course, a bull.  Okay, like I said, maybe it
is reaching.  But Pythagoras did travel the known world (and probably beyond), soaking up knowledge.  So he probably did know
the Phoenician alphabet, and to what the letters originally referred. 

If the mints all started up at the same time, I think that there wouldn't be an implicit numbering, which is there, or at least I think it is
there.  But all that is to say is that Sybaris was before Metapontum, before Kroton.  It could be a matter of a few years or even just months,
but probably not a decade or more.

If one looks at the spread fabric incuse staters as a set, Sybaris, Metapontum, Kroton, Poseidonia, Kaulonia, and as a _Pythagorean_ set (like the
Pythagorean cosmogony) then the dating solves itself, Pythagoras arrived in Kroton around 532 BC, and the coins have to after him.

I would like to hear what you think, also there is a whole area of numismatics that is unknown to me because of language difficulties (not just
Italian).  I'm fairly convinced that there is nothing in English that is solid enough to trip up my theories.  I don't however know about scholarship
in Italian (or other languages).  You come at it from a different perspective than me, one about which I would love to hear.  Also, your English is
fine, probably better than mine;)
Kind regards,
John

Offline JBF

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Re: Incuse coinage of Magna Graecia and Pythagoras
« Reply #3 on: January 16, 2013, 10:27:30 pm »
Let me back up,
Pythagoras was a mathematician and explored number theory and geometry, not so much for its own sake, but as a way to understand and get in touch with the cosmos.  He explored odd, even, square numbers, primes and so on, but he also thought that one was god, two was female, three male, four justice, etc.
In other words, he got into areas like number mysticism and sacred geometry for religious reasons.  Not only did he get into number mysticism and sacred geometry, but he also got into etymologies as a way of telling something about a thing.  For example, about him it was said something like 'Pythagoras spoke publicly (agorein) like the Pythian oracle.'  Because he got into etymologies and number mysticism, we should suspect that he got into other kinds of symbolism.  In this Pythagoras would be well within the company of other Archaic thinkers, like Pherecydes of Syros, who was said to be Pythagoras' teacher, Heraclitus, who criticized but also thus commented on Pythagoras, and Aeschylus, the tragedian.  This playfulness with words is not limited to only the Greek Archaic age, but also other Archaic ages such as the Celts.  It (fanciful etymologizing) is characteristic of Archaic ages and bits of the Pythagorean legend refer to this as well.  Plato took issue with it in _the_Cratylus_, so it was still a serious issue even then.  It also comes out in canting puns on coins, such as the seal for Phocaea, or the rose of Rhodes.  But whereas other poleis dabble in it on their coins, the Pythagoreans pursued it quite avidly, primarily in the Achaean coinage of Magna Graecia.  One example in the incuse coinage is how the coinage of Kaulonia depicts Apollo purifying himself in the valley (Aulon) of Tempe after slaying the Serpent at Delphi.  Aulon is pointed out by N.K. Rutter to be an alternate name for Kaulonia.

Does that help explain some things about the numbers that I associate with the coins of Sybaris (1), Metapontum (2) and Delphi?  I hope that it helps, more than it hurts.  It is probably bad form to answer one's own posts, but I wanted to clarify a little.  I do hope that clarified things a little, rather than just muddy up the waters! ;)  If there is anything that you want explained further, either because of language difficulties or just because I am being a little obscure, please let me know.   Thanks!

Taras

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Re: Incuse coinage of Magna Graecia and Pythagoras
« Reply #4 on: January 20, 2013, 09:37:09 am »
I would like to hear what you think, also there is a whole area of numismatics that is unknown to me because of language difficulties (not just
Italian).  I'm fairly convinced that there is nothing in English that is solid enough to trip up my theories.  I don't however know about scholarship
in Italian (or other languages).  You come at it from a different perspective than me, one about which I would love to hear.  Also, your English is
fine, probably better than mine;)
Kind regards,
John


Hi John :)
these days I'm very busy and I have little time for my numismatic passion.
Briefly, I can tell you that I understand your point of view, and It intrigues me so much!
However I think that a "phenomenological" approach like yours needs to be integrated to philological and positivistic evidences, to construct a theory that can be widely accepted by the majority of the numismatic world community.
As soon as I get a little time I'll give you a list of Italian pubblications that could help you in your research, you could ask help to the Department of Linguistics of your University to translate some parts (Some years ago, when I was a researcher in neuroscience, I often did so in my University for texts in languages ​​I don't know).

One last thought:

It could be a matter of a few years or even just months, but probably not a decade or more.


When I wrote that the three mints in my opinion concurrently started their activity, I meant something like this, surely not the same day! But we will never know this, I think, unless we could have a time-machine :)
The greatest virtue of a scholar: to tolerate not knowing.
bye ;)

Offline JBF

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Re: Incuse coinage of Magna Graecia and Pythagoras
« Reply #5 on: January 23, 2013, 03:13:17 pm »
Oh, I think it would be neat if they all (Sybaris, Metapontum, Kroton) started on the same day, the Pythagoreans like doing things in threes (like the division of An Achaean stater), but I think that the implicit numbering in the coins (unless I am just seeing things), would indicate otherwise.  Taras, I'm not saying that you or Stazio ever thought of that as a possibility, I'm saying that I thought about it, and based on what I see as an implicit numbering system, I've decided that it would probably be unlikely.
Poseidonia also has a kind of numbering, the figure of Poseidon wielding a trident depicts retributive justice and four is the number of justice.  Poseidonia's incuse coinage is on the same standard as Velia, a didrachm which is different than the Achaean standard of three drachms per stater.  That, however, also seems fitting because conflict (retributive justice) is oppositional in nature, 'you're either for us or against us.' 
Poseidonia only starts minting after Velia starts minting, but Velia is not in the incuse sequence.  I do, however, think that Velia's lion matches up well against Sybaris' bull, kind of like the coins of Lydia and their types.  Xenophanes of Colophon, who wrote a poem on the founding of Velia, is also our literary source for the claim that Lydia was the first to mint coinage.  The Velians may have gotten an idea for a lion type from Xenophanes.

btw, the first number for the Pythagoreans was the number 3.  It would be like saying, "this" (1), "that" (2) and "another" (3), and "another," etc. etc. or "self," "other" and a third.  One really doesn't start counting until one gets to three.  The ancient Greek language reflects this in that it has a dual case as well as a singular and plural for its nouns and verbs.  I don't know if that explanation makes sense, but just realize that they looked at numbers in a very different way than we do.

JTF

Offline Enodia

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Re: Incuse coinage of Magna Graecia and Pythagoras
« Reply #6 on: January 23, 2013, 03:35:07 pm »
this has been a fascinating thread to follow. i have seen compelling evidence for synchronistic time frames and interesting theories relating to the Pythagorean influence on systems such as that of the Chaldean neoPlatonists, and even references (to me anyway) to the Holy Kabbalah.
all very interesting!

but what i haven't seen is any hard reason given for the Pythagorean influence on the coinage of MG, other than the highly circumstantial evidence of the coinage occuring in his footsteps.
i should however include the fact that i was not able to access the academia.edu article so please forgive my ignorance in that regard. but for dolts like myself and any other readers who could not or have not read this article could you please give the reasons that we should accept any influence of Pythagoras on the minting process of these mundane items?
why would he care, and how do the physical implications of an incuse coinage directly relate to his teachings?

curiously,
~ Peter

(btw, the number '4' not only represents justice but also structure and stability, perhaps even more important concepts within the range of this discussion.)

Offline JBF

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Re: Incuse coinage of Magna Graecia and Pythagoras
« Reply #7 on: January 24, 2013, 02:04:11 am »
My articles at Academia.edu develop it better, but you're right, I should present some of the evidence here, and I'll try to be clear and concise.

First of all, when studying the incuse coinage, I came to the 'Eureka!' moment, realizing that the stater from Kroton was drafted using geometry or, in other words, rectilinear.  This is especially true for the stater shown above by Taras, which has the scroll work (volutes) between the tripod's legs.  If you divide the coin into fourths, you draw one line straight down the middle of the center tripod leg.  The horizontal line goes straight through the middle points of the lower circles of each of the volutes.  Also interesting is a division of the coin into 6 equilateral triangles mapped on the inside of the coin (inside the rim, to, but not beyond the edge of the field.  Just 'eyeballing it,' the Krotoniate stater shown by Taras above, from the Sybaris museum, looks like it has these geometrical characteristics.  However, I haven't bothered to doing the geometry on it.  The coin I used for 'mapping' the geometry is the photo of a Krotoniate stater in Franke and Hirmer (same as Kraay and Hirmer).

Funny thing is, I got a 'D' in high school geometry, God has a sense of humor (in making me notice the geometry here).

Secondly, Hippolytus the church father, in his Refutation of Heresies, gives a Pythagorean (I think he actually says "Pythagoras'") cosmogony and talks about how the cosmos divides things into parts like staters, obols and farthings (okay, that is what the old translation says, I know farthings is anachronistic.)  Point though, is that things can be divided into smaller things and those into smaller things, down to what Democritus (who is later than Pythagoras) would call (indivisible) atoms.  But Hippolytus uses a monetary analogy here in talking about the cosmogony.

The actual cosmogony is that the universe is divided into 3 kinds of things, animal, vegetable and metal (we would today say mineral), and 2 forces,  strife and love, or what we could call discord and concord, concord being the latin term for harmonia, of which we know was a topic of discussion for the Pythagoreans through Plato and others.  Empedocles of Akragas who comes a little later than Pythagoras and is sometimes considered a Pythagorean, writes a cosmogonical poem about strife and love, but instead of these three kinds of things, he talks about the 4 elements.  In addition to harmony being a Pythagorean term, "cosmos" is also a philosophical term which began with the Pythagoreans and thus probably with Pythagoras himself.
So we have 3 kinds of things, and 2 forces.  Interestingly, we have 5 different mints or types for the spread fabric incuse staters.  I do not count in this the coins from Ami[naioi] or Sirinos-Pyxoes which have the same type as Sybaris and were probably minted there.  The 1st mint was Sybaris with a bull, the 2nd mint was Metapontum with a stalk of barley, and the 3rd to mint is Kroton with a bronze tripod.  There we have the 3 kinds of things, in the same order, animal, vegetable and metal.  Then we have Poseidon wielding a trident and Apollo purifying himself, in other words the forces of strife and harmony.

Stability is very important, and the number four definitely implies that as well.  But for the ancients, those things were not exactly separate.  More important though (for me) is that Aristotle talks about the Pythagoreans saying that justice was four.  Also, in Plato's Protagoras, the character of Socrates interprets an early lyric poem (Simonides??) which refers to justice being four-square.  So the idea definitely goes back....

Why would Pythagoras want to have "messages" in the coins?  To answer that, we need to ask "what is a coin?" and so I ask to whomever is following this thread, what is a coin?  I'll answer my own question, but I would like to hear what others think first.

Kind Regards,
John

Offline JBF

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Re: Incuse coinage of Magna Graecia and Pythagoras
« Reply #8 on: January 26, 2013, 07:14:13 pm »
First of all, before getting into what is a coin, we should realize that Pythagoras himself was a celator, so he himself could act as the creative genius behind these odd coins.  In Diogenes Laertius, it is reported that 'he had made three silver cups to give to the priests of Egypt.  The verb 'had made' in the Greek is in the middle voice, and so therefore it is reflexive, meaning that he (himself had made the cups, not commissioned them or anything like that.  He is also reported to have left inscriptions at Delphi and Mt. Ida in Crete, presumably chiselling them into the stone himself.  Probably most important, Pythagoras' father Mnesarchus was called a dactylglyphos (I think I am spelling that right), in other words a gem engraver for seal rings.  Mnesarchus also built a temple to the Pythian Apollo honor Pythagoras' birth (Iamblichus V.P.).  He probably did not just commission it, but designed it and supervised its construction.  Pythagoras was a celator because his father was a celator, and because Pythagoras was trained in the family business.

The evidence for Pythagoras as a celator is from ancient literary sources and is independent of the incuse coins themselves.  I have read that some people take issue with the term 'celator' to mean someone who manufactures ancient dies and that is fine, I also think that it is clear from the literary sources that Pythagoras had a wider skill set than just being a die manufacturer, and so therefore deserves the term of celator.

"Philosopher" was not a job position, if it seems that Pythagoras couldn't be celator because he was a "philosopher," then maybe we should say that Socrates was not a sculptor because he was a philosopher.  And yet the travel writer Pausanias talks about sculpture that Socrates had done on the acropolis.  Point is that ancient 'philosophers' usually had a day job, a traditional occupation handed down in the family.  Pythagoras was no different.

Pythagoras' occupation is explored in more detail in my article, "Pythagoras of Samos, Celator."
Also, the article for the bit on cosmogony mentioned above is, "A Pythagorean Cosmogony and the Spread Fabric Incuse staters of Magna Graecia"
Just in case anyone would want to google it, or of course you can read much the same thing here:)

Taras

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Re: Incuse coinage of Magna Graecia and Pythagoras
« Reply #9 on: January 27, 2013, 10:27:32 am »
Hi John,
thank you for your interesting write.
I confirm what you wrote, ancient historiography bequeathed to us the informations about the engraving skills of Pythagoras. And this evidence gives much substance to the issue of this thread.


Now, I want to put myself in a dialectical position with your arguments, answering to your question with further deliberately "naive" questions, hoping this will "boost" the discussion.



So we have 3 kinds of things, and 2 forces.  Interestingly, we have 5 different mints or types for the spread fabric incuse staters.  I do not count in this the coins from Ami[naioi] or Sirinos-Pyxoes which have the same type as Sybaris and were probably minted there.  The 1st mint was Sybaris with a bull, the 2nd mint was Metapontum with a stalk of barley, and the 3rd to mint is Kroton with a bronze tripod.  There we have the 3 kinds of things, in the same order, animal, vegetable and metal.  Then we have Poseidon wielding a trident and Apollo purifying himself, in other words the forces of strife and harmony.

Look at at the measures of these coins:
http://www.smb.museum/ikmk/object.php?id=18216011
http://www.smb.museum/ikmk/object.php?id=18216000
http://www.acsearch.info/record.html?id=137108
...are we sure that only 5 cities minted spread flans?




Another question: If we state a link between Pythagoras and incuse coinage of achaean cities, how can we explain the existence of this coin (only two known specimens, attributed to the unknown mint of Sontia, between Lucania and Campania), minted incuse, but apparently out of the achaean weight standard?
(The image is taken from http://www.magnagraecia.nl/, it's impossible to past a link.)

5.30 or 5.78 g    SNG III, 662


Third "naive" question.
We know that Laos minted incuse staters too...


http://www.smb.museum/ikmk/object.php?id=18215969

...Laos was a river-port colony of Sybaris, to which the surviving inhabitants of the mother-city would have fled after the destruction of Sybaris in 510 BC. The coinage of the city started at the same time.
Now, we know from ancient reports that the Pythagoreans were among the strongest supporters of the Krotonian attack to Sybaris.
If incuse coinage was a "Pythagorean brand" how can we imagine that the Sybarite refugees could have started to mint incuse staters?


And now a final question.

What is a coin?

A coin is a flat, typically round piece of metal with an official stamp.
Today we use it as "money".
But now I ask... Why is a coin?
Or better: what was a coin 2500 years ago? What his "function"?
Are we sure its primary function was to be "money"?


You have the ball in your court now  ;)

Nico

Offline JBF

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Re: Incuse coinage of Magna Graecia and Pythagoras
« Reply #10 on: January 28, 2013, 07:32:42 pm »
Okay, good.  Let's see if I can come up with something ;)

First of all, am I sure that we have all the types of spread fabric staters amongst the five?  Emotionally, I am sure, but logically we cannot be sure.  We have enough mints that are represented by only one, two or three coins that we should not have total confidence that we have it all.  However, with that caveat, I have got a set of theories that I am following until I am either satisfied with them, or until they (individually or collectively) explode!!  And you all get to watch! :) I do think that the big five are the only spread fabric mints, although we should always remember that the Ami(naioi) and Sirinos- Pyxoes used Sybaris' type and weight standard, as did So[ntia], although on the Chalcidian standard

The spread fabric are the big five, Sybaris, Metapontum, Kroton, Poseidonia and Kaulonia.  (and Ami[naioi] and Sirinos-Pyxoes) Poseidonia is on the Phokaian standard, not the Achaean like the rest.
In the medium fabric, Poseidonia drops out of the incuse family, Sybaris as a stater becomes rare, Palinuros-Molpa, Tarentum Apollo Hyakinthios, Tarentum dolphin rider and Laus get introduced.  These are after the destruction of Sybaris I.
So[ntia] and Rhegion and Zankle are introduced on the Chalcidian standard, after coinage gets introduced into the Chalcidian colonies in Sicily??
Kroton, Metapontum and a very rare issue of Sybaris are on the dumpy fabricIncuse coinage halts with the general revolt against the Pythagoras, which causes the fall of Sybaris IV, the rise of Thurium and the Pythagoreans giving up on being active in politics.

We should remember that we also have rare joint issues between Kroton and Sybaris; Kroton, Sybaris and Laos, in the time of the medium fabric.  I think that the barley-ear and the incuse bull's head on Metapontine triobols can be included in the joint currency.  Double relief coinage coinage "replaces" the incuse coinage, although some places (Ami[naioi], Sirinos-Pyxoes, Son[tia], Palinuros-Molpa) never again mint Greek coins.

To get back to the initial question, about whether we have all the types of spread fabric staters, I think we do, because together they make up a really nice
set in the Pythagorean cosmogony given in Hippolytus.  Animal (Sybaris' bull), Vegetable (Metapontum's barley ear), Metal (we would say mineral, Kroton's bronze tripod).  The force of strife or war, (antipathy, Poseidonia's Poseidon wielding a trident) and the opposite force of peace or love (sympathy, Kaulonia's Apollo purifying himself at the valley of Tempe).  Animal, vegetable, mineral, war and peace
I think that I have summarized the field of what are basically dealing with when we say incuse.  My apologies at not making it clearer, giving it like a laundry list. :P
next step, So[ntia] and Laos!

Offline JBF

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Re: Incuse coinage of Magna Graecia and Pythagoras
« Reply #11 on: January 29, 2013, 01:11:02 am »
In order to understand Laos, we first have to understand Sybaris and also Sirinos-Pyxoes.
The bull is in the process of being converted, it is turning _from_ left, _to_ right.  We can see this
better on the coinage of Sirinos-Pyxoes, where the writing is boustrephedon, or as the bull turns.  This kind of writing is from right to left in one line, then left to right, going both in the "normal" direction and then retrograde (and then normal, retro, normal, etc.)  For the particular Sirinos Pyxoes stater to which I am referring, the ethnic begins in exergue, going in the same direction the bull's body is going, in retrograde N I R I S, the ethnic then turns with the bull's head and in front of his nose, reads going the "normal" direction O S.  The bull is not just looking back over his shoulder, but is in the process of turning around, from the left to the right.

We actually have a story of a bull of Pythagoras being converted, in this case the story is set in Tarentum, but it makes more sense to believe that the story was originally from Sybaris, but changed in location when Sybaris installed a (democratic) tyrant who persecuted the aristocracy and (supposedly) the Pythagoreans.  Beans are a symbol of voting and democracy.
(61)  At Taras he [Pythagoras] saw an ox, in a field of mixed fodder, munching on ripe beans as well.  He went over to the oxherd and advised him to tell the ox to abstain from beans.  The oxherd made fun of his suggestion.  "I don't speak Ox," he said, "and if you do you're wasting your advice on me: you should warn the ox."  So Pythagoras went up and spent a long time whispering in the bull's ear.  The bull promptly stopped eating the bean-plant, of his own accord, and they say he never at beans again.  He lived to a very great age at Taras, growing old in the temple of Hera.  Everyone called him "Pythagoras' holy bull" and he ate a human diet, offered him by the people who met him. (Iamblichus, On the Pythagorean Life, tr. by Gillian Clark).

From what is the bull is being converted, and to what is he being converted?  Just look at all the negative connotations that the direction left has (sinister, gauche) to all the positive connotations the direction right has.  One of the left labels on the list (Aristotle actually has a list of 10 opposites, assigned to the Pythagoreans, see his Metaphysics, book A), is evil, another is the many which in democratic terms becomes the hoi polloi. So the bull in the story gets converted from a life of, what we would call, "sin," to being a model Pythagorean who will have nothing to do with beans.

But in reality the bull was not content with just following the Pythagorean way, there was a democratic coup in Sybaris which installed the tyrant Telys into power, and two years later war broke out, and Sybaris I was destroyed. 
Looking at the numismatic record, I believe that it was during this short democratic phase that coinage continued and we see on the one hand, secondary symbols such as wreathes or branches, and on the other hand, the workmanship on the bull becomes quite crude.  In 510 however, Sybaris I falls to the Krotoniates, and not coincidently, the Etruscan kingship (Tarquinus Superbus) falls in Rome.  Refugees flee to Poseidonia, Laos and Skidros.  A new regime is installed in Sybaris, probably lead by aristocrats who had fled the democratic regime of Telys.  Miletus mourns the destruction of Sybaris I, but when Miletus falls in 493 Laos and Skidros do not mourn, (Herodotus) perhaps because Miletus had gone back to business as usual when the new regime was installed at Sybaris II.

I should also point out that I think the bull on the coins of Sybaris is not a river god, but represents Zeus of Mt. Ida, the Cretan Zeus.  The belief that the bull is a river god is based on the river god on the coins of Laos and later Thurian coins which have fish in exergue.  The coins of Laos, however, are really the exact opposite of the Sybarite bulls, whereas I see the addition of fish as an attempt to change the significance of the coin.  Offhand, I do not know if there are in literary sources that mention the significance of Thurium's type.

Sybaris I has a bull going from left to right, being converted away from democracy to a rule of the best (aristocracy), Laos on the other hand, has a man-headed bull going from the right, turning to the left.  Away from Aristocracy to Democracy.  It is conscious reversal of the Sybaris type.  Also, you don't get more universal than Zeus in Greek polytheism, you can get more specific as far getting into gods or goddesses of a particular place than a river god, but a nymph would not have such a wonderful juxtaposition as this river god.  It says 'you can go the other way, but we, here, are going to do it this way, the democratic way.'  'Not only that but our name itself shows that we are for the people.'  Laos means "the people at large," albeit distinct from the demos= the body politic.  Liddell Scott Greek English lexicon.

but that doesn't answer your question, maybe Laos coins represent a pro-democratic heretical sect of "Pythagoreans."  There were such groups.  Maybe all the die engravers in the area were trained in the incuse style, the crude "imitations" shown and discussed by Noe, might be practice dies from a die engraving school. 
I don't know.  But I can tell the democratic man-headed bull is "playing off" of the symbolism of the Sybarite bull.  I can tell that much.  Whether they are a part of the Pythagorean dialogue or apart from the Pythagorea dialogue, I can' tell.  I think that the Pythagoreans had a plan concerning what types for coins they wanted, but I don't think that that plan survived unscathed and was implemented completely.  Laos may be an abberation, it may mess the whole Pythagorean "message" up, but it couldn't do that if it wasn't incuse.  It is like a little guy giving the great Pythagorean system, the finger.  "Yes, there are great gods, but there are little gods too and we're going to support the little guy." 
As far as making a coin is concerned, the Pythagoreans did not have total control of the process, they still had to deal with the politics on the local level.  Could they have suggested something besides Poseidon for Poseidonia?  probably not.  Why did the Apollo Hyakinthios type at Tarentum last for such a short time?  How does the man-headed bull of Rhegium fit in with the other incuse coins?  Or does it?  How does the introduction of the Chalcidian standard fit with the picture?  I don't know.  Laos fits in, but perhaps only as a counterargument to Sybaris.  Or do these two as "opposites," however, "fit in" in a different way with Poseidonia and Kaulonia, which are also "opposites" or the Apollo Hyakinthios and the dolphin-rider of Tarentum, which are also a pair saying something about friendship, another Pythagorean ideal?  I cannot tell what the politics behind the Laos stater were, but I can tell it must have been interesting.  It is like a "Pythagorean" anti-Pythagorean coin which means we probably need to rethink what a Pythagorean was.  Or in other words, there are a lot of people in the Archaic and classic period who intellectually come out Pythagoreanism, but are not Pythagoreans in our narrow sense of the term.  The incuse coinage of Laos may be a result of those people, I don't absolutely know.  I'm still looking, and I'm open to suggestions.
Kind Regards,
JBF

Offline JBF

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Re: Incuse coinage of Magna Graecia and Pythagoras
« Reply #12 on: January 31, 2013, 12:03:08 pm »
I haven't figured out much about the So[ntia] coinage, that others can't figure out, but again the Pythagoreans didn't have total control of the creation process, but had to work with the political elements that were already there.  In the beginning, they were the hip, new thing on the block introducing a new technology that no one knew about.  Over time, though the locals would get their own ideas of what they wanted.  I suppose a real eye-opener was when Pythagoras convinced the 1000 at Kroton that Kroton should go up against the bigger city of Sybaris.  Some people in Kroton undoubtably said to themselves, "wait a minute, why are letting a non-native tell us to do such dangerous things?"  Kroton won, but Pythagoras went to Metapontum soon after that. 
One thing though is that So[ntia] has an abbreviated ethnic, whereas Rhegion and Zankle, also on the same standard, have a full ethnic, like Taras and Laos (LAFI-NOS, albeit split between both sides).  Maybe that means that Rhegion and Zankle are more contemporary with Taras and Laos, or then again, maybe not.  My guess is that the So[ntia] is earlier.  Of course, Zankle has two types of early coinage, the incuse and another before the Samian exiles take over in 493.

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Re: Incuse coinage of Magna Graecia and Pythagoras
« Reply #13 on: January 31, 2013, 12:41:42 pm »
What a brilliant write!
Your thoughts are giving new life to those ancient metals, new words for those silent coins.
Thank you very much John.

With respect.
Nicola

Offline JBF

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Re: Incuse coinage of Magna Graecia and Pythagoras
« Reply #14 on: February 01, 2013, 11:29:28 pm »
Look at the double ground line with a row of dots in between on the Laos stater shown earlier.
Ten dots, which for the Pythagoreans was a sacred number.  Now what do those ten dots mean?  I don't know.  Probably just an artistic convention dictated by Pythagorean numerology.  But I don't think the number of dots being ten was _just_ a coincidence.  Of course other incuse coins have double ground lines with dots inbetween (a good way to show parallel lines) and admittedly I don't know if those (Kroton, Sybaris) add up to ten, so maybe I am making too much of the Laos stater.  It's just ten dots, but for a philosophical cult which sees the mathematics behind everything, it also a sacred number and therefore we should at least entertain the notion that they would choose it for its aesthetics. 

kind regards,
John

Offline JBF

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Re: Incuse coinage of Magna Graecia and Pythagoras
« Reply #15 on: February 08, 2013, 02:18:48 am »
Earlier Enodia asked why Pythagoras would get involved in minting this "mundane item."  We should realize that to us, a coin is a mundane item, but to the ancient Greeks of 6th century BC, it would be the technological cutting edge, it would be the equivalent of an iPhone.  People were just starting to learn how to use coinage, just like people are now just learning how to use apps.  And just like today with smartphones, ancient Greeks probably over estimated the influence that this new _communications_ technology (for that is what it is) would have.
Communications technologies are different than other technologies in how much they change the way we think, because when we think we think _through_ communications technologies, whether it be the spoken word, or writing, codices vs. scrolls, manuscripts vs. the printed word, and so on.  Coins are no different, they express quantity, value and the endorsement of authority.  We understand the limitations of coinage today, not only because of the long history of coinage, but also because increasingly we are able to compare it with other things such as electronic currency.  "When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail."  In terms of commerce, however, we have not only "hammers" (coins) and screwdrivers and pliers, etc.

When coinage was introduced (or rather, within the first few hundred years after it), it was thought to reveal the nature of cosmos.  This may sound strange, but it really isn't.  People today believe that if we just get enough computing power, computers will be able to "think."  The Curiousity rover is said to "see" Mars.  Statements like this are really just sloppy and imprecise language, but it is understandable because our technological optimism doesn't understand the limits of the technology.

How does coinage feed into a technological optimism for the ancients.  Well, the Pythagoreans were interested not only in coinage directly, but also in quantity and number, in other words the arithmetic of commerce, the geometry of building temples.  Xenophanes expressed an interest in coinage and he and other Eleatics may have influenced the coinage of Velia.  In my opinion, anyone looking at the tiny fractionals, should realize from whence Democritus and his atoms came.  Abdera, the home of Democritus, also happens to have a few coins that depict "a" Pythagoras, perhaps "the" Pythagoras.  Heraclitus said that 'all things are exchanged for fire (cosmic fire), just as gold is for goods.'  The sophists taught the nuevo riche and Protagoras came up with the idea of subjectivity, saying man is the measure of all things.  My favorite is Diogenes the Cynic who was told by the Delphic oracle to "counterfeit the currency" so he went home and debased currency at Sinope before getting run out of town and finally becoming a philosopher.

So why would Pythagoras make the incuse coinage filled with Pythagorean symbolism?  One, because he could having been trained as a Celator, but also, two, because coins were the hottest new communications technology around, and tapping into that meant getting part of that action.  If coins are the cutting edge,  then the incuse coinage is the _bleeding_ edge, with nice round flans, multi-letter ethnics, rims, etc.  By getting into coinage, Pythagoras is saying something about the cosmos, in addition to the cosmogony I point out from Hippolytus.  He is pointing out that the cosmos is rational, orderly, mathematical, composed of things which ultimately add up both literally and figuratively.  Philosophy has an early, long history with coinage, and so it really should not be that much of surprise that Pythagoras used coinage to express his own message, in addition to that kind of message (economic) for which it is most suited.

I hope that helps, please feel free to let me know what you think.

JBF

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Re: Incuse coinage of Magna Graecia and Pythagoras
« Reply #16 on: February 08, 2013, 03:28:41 am »
...My favorite is Diogenes the Cynic who was told by the Delphic oracle to "counterfeit the currency" so he went home and debased currency at Sinope before getting run out of town and finally becoming a philosopher.

Read this : https://www.forumancientcoins.com/board/index.php?topic=64775.0

Offline Enodia

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Re: Incuse coinage of Magna Graecia and Pythagoras
« Reply #17 on: February 08, 2013, 03:37:41 am »
ummm... maybe?

i'm sure after the initial novelty wore off, say by the 6th century or so, these would have lost much of their cosmic mysticism and come to represent dinner, or a plow blade, or cloth. not much different than the way i think of a quarter in my pocket (only worth a helluva lot more).

i myself am pretty intrigued by silicone, but i still don't think of it as anything but mundane.
just me.

but the Pythagorian influence is interesting, and reminds me of some of the 'projective synthetic geometry' popular in the 30's, although dating back, i believe, to the 17th century at least (to put Descartes before the horse   ;)  ).

still following as best i can,
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Re: Incuse coinage of Magna Graecia and Pythagoras
« Reply #18 on: February 08, 2013, 11:47:11 am »
Peter, I wish you'll always have pockets full of quarters, and your toolbox full of silicone! ;)

You wrote: "i'm sure after the initial novelty wore off, say by the 6th century or so, these would have lost much of their cosmic mysticism and come to represent dinner, or a plow blade, or cloth.".

My idea is different.
We should not decline our modern perceptions concerning "coins" in the economic and social reality of the archaic world. Today we live in a Market-System governed by demand and supply, in which the production of currency is a need and a necessity of the States, currency is suitable for all purposes, it's widespread used, and it performs the functions of a general measure of all Goods (dinner, plow blades, clothes... silicone :) ) and Services.

I think that in the archaic world things were a bit different: currency was not a measure for Goods; currency could have been a measure for Services linked to religious significance.

I will try to be schematic because it is not easy for me to express in English the concepts I have in mind.

1) The ancient literary and historiographical evidences tell us that, untill the half of V cent, economy was certainly not handled in monetary terms, but was still based on barter and exchange of goods.

2) The earliest coins were minted mainly in large denomination pieces with high intrinsic value, sure also fractionals were minted, but not in sufficient quantities to ensure the divisional function, which is essential in the modern concept of monetary economy.

3) We shall remember that the earliest hoards we know are found in temples, or near sacred areas... an example for all, the famous Ephesus Artemision.

4) Denominations of ancient currency: "obelòs" was originally the minimum quantity of meat offered to a single citizen after a sacrifice, in a second time the same word was used to indicate the iron skewer, and "dracmé" was the amount of skewers that a man could take hold in one hand, six on average.
These etymological evidences recall an abstract measures of value, mediated by the functions of cults and rituals.

5) Two of the wonderful electrum staters found in the Artemision of Ephesus, considered among the most ancient coins emissions of history, have enigmatic legends (see attached pics, courtesy of British Museum).
The first: "Phaneos", the second: "Phaneos emi sema" ("I am the sign of Phaneos").
Phaneos could refer to the god of light Apollo-Phaneos, but some scholars state it could have been the name of a rich private coin issuer of Ephesus. In the first case we find again the religious significance, in the second case we shall believe that greek coinage in its origins was not exclusively an "affair of State", but also a private action of individuals or groups, whom impressed their own symbol on pieces of metal, surely not for trade, probably as a gift to the temple, and thus to enhance their social position.


Summing up, I think that until the advanced V century monetary economy was not "horizontal" for Goods, but only "vertical" for Services (I don't know if these terms are used in Economy, I apologize if I'm writing balderdash).
To explain myself:
Coins were not used by people and among people as mundane instruments to buy goods and supplies (still exchanged by barter).
Coins were only used by State-Cities as measures of a sort of "mystic value", used to pay the services that citizens held for the community (military service, security of the streets, building of temples, walls, ships, aqueducts etc.), and then coins returned to the "Administration" of the Cities by the offerings of those citizens to the Temple.
In this perspective, I think, the use of coins as mystic communication technologies by the Pythagoreans is highly plausible.

What a linguistic effort, I have headache now!  :P
I hope I was able to be clear.
Bye friends :)

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Re: Incuse coinage of Magna Graecia and Pythagoras
« Reply #19 on: February 08, 2013, 01:17:27 pm »
Taras and John,

If you haven't read it yet, Richard Seaford's Money and the Early Greek Mind (Cambridge, 2004) deals with the emergence of coinage and its religious aspects extensively.  I highly recommend it.

Nick

Offline Andrew McCabe

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Re: Incuse coinage of Magna Graecia and Pythagoras
« Reply #20 on: February 08, 2013, 01:43:09 pm »
The Monetary Systems of the Greeks and Romans, William Harris editor, 2008, is also really worth getting. For the Greek period, relevant essays include:

John Kroll, The Monetary Use of Weighed Bullion in Archaic Greece. Written records of money use in Greece regularly pre-date coinage, thus showing that weighed bullion acted as money before the invention of coinage.

David Schaps. What was Money in Ancient Greece? Contra the remainder of the book, makes the case that money was essentially coin "I do not see a cowrie shell, nor a token of an embedded transaction, nor a transient marker in a vast system of credits and debits... after more than twenty years of looking at Greek money I still see a coin.

Richard Seaford. Money and Tragedy. The Tyrants of Greece used the power given by early money to influence dramatic festivals that had traditionally been local, voluntary, communally funded by participant donations-in-kind, and uncoded. Money made Greek tragedy coded and transferable - the services of an actor or music player could be bought and relayed at a different festival in a different location.

Edward Cohen. Elasticity of the Money Supply at Athens. Cites evidence of banking and bank credit at Athens. Athenian control over their large silver mines also gave them a reserve currency role, able to issue new money or withhold at will.

J.G. Manning. Coinage as Code in Ptolemaic Egypt. The institutionalisation of coinage by the Ptolemies was an important lever of control in what was essentially a command economy.

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Re: Incuse coinage of Magna Graecia and Pythagoras
« Reply #21 on: February 08, 2013, 02:13:12 pm »
The Monetary Systems of the Greeks and Romans, William Harris editor, 2008, is also really worth getting. For the Greek period, relevant essays include:


Now on my list, thanks, Andrew!

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Re: Incuse coinage of Magna Graecia and Pythagoras
« Reply #22 on: February 08, 2013, 05:01:14 pm »
My apologies, I've come to this thread quite late. In your piece you say that:

Quote
...we know that that cosmogony originates from Pythagoras because that cosmogonyis mirrored in its entirety by the types of the five mints of the spread fabric incuse staters of Magna Graecia. These coins are contemporary with Pythagoras.


I know nothing at all about this subject so just out of interest do you have any sources which support this? It seems that your whole paper relies on it and no source is cited...
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Re: Incuse coinage of Magna Graecia and Pythagoras
« Reply #23 on: February 08, 2013, 08:55:05 pm »
Belisarius, for the cosmogony, my sources are primary sources in that I look at the coins on the one hand, and Hippolytus' "Pythagorean cosmogony" on the other.  Hippolytus was a church father who wrote Refutation of All Heresies, in which he refers to Greek philosophy as the source of many heresies and in the process describes it.  For the coins, there are 5 mints known that produced spread fabric incuse staters.  Other, later mints produced incuse staters, but they are not spread fabric and therefore belong to a later time.  The first to mint was Sybaris with its bull, then Metapontum with its barley-ear, and Kroton with its bronze tripod.  Then comes Poseidonia with Poseidon brandishing his trident, and Kaulonia with Apollo, purifying himself with a branch.  These match up nicely with the Pythagorean cosmogony mentioned in Hippolytus.  Animal (Sybaris' bull), vegetable (Metapontum's barley-ear) and metal (we would say mineral, Kroton's tripod), Poseidon brandishing a trident represents the force of strife, and Apollo purifying himself represents the force of love, or peace.

For the incuse coins, its best to look at Historia Numorum Italy by NK Rutter, or Gorini.  the Magna Graecia coins website is also good.

But no, Belisarius, there aren't really sources for my work, other than looking at the coins and researching into primary sources for bits of Pythagorean tradition and getting a dialectic going between the two.  However, I would invite anyone to look at my academia.edu site (John Francisco), for a more organized write up on some of these related topics.  Or google: Pythagoras celator; or Pythagoras incuse coins; or Pythagoras and Magna Graecia.
I hope that that explains why I don't cite a lot of writers.  I'm a philosopher playing with numismatics, and there aren't a lot of people out there like me. 
If something comes up that you are not sure about, or you are sure that I got it wrong, call me on it.  For example, looking at Diogenes again, I think I have some of the particulars of the case confused in my mind.  But point is that the oracle commanded him to counterfeit the currency, and as an ignorant mope he went home to Sinope and did it!
I have looked at Seaford before, and I probably need to look at him again.  Also, I seem to remember Leslie Kurke, but I don't own either of those books.  I have also read Moses Finley on Ancient Economy, that was quite interesting.

Kind Regards,
John

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Re: Incuse coinage of Magna Graecia and Pythagoras
« Reply #24 on: February 09, 2013, 07:24:34 am »
Dear John,

No problem. Thank you for the information.

Best wishes,
Belisarius

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