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Coins of mythological interest

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One of the most frequently depicted deities on provincial coins is Homonoia, which alone proves its great importance.

1st coin:
Moesia inferior, Nicopolis ad Istrum, Elagabal, AD 218-222
AE 28, 14.32g, 26.97mm, 30°
struck under governor Novius Rufus
         Laureate head r.
         Homonoia, in long robe and mantle, wearing alathos, standing frontal, looking  l.,
         holding  cornucopiae in left arm and patera in her outstretched right arm.
Ref.: a) Not in AMNG:
            Obv. not in AMNG I/1
             Rev. AMNG I/1, 1913 var. (legend, other legend break)
                    AMNG I/1, 1968 (depiction)
         b) cf. Varbanov 4037 (cites AMNG 1968)
         c) Hristova-Hoeft-Jekov (2021) No. (this coin)
rare, VF+, black-green patina, portrait!

(1) Cornucopiae = horn of plenty, symbol of abundance. On coins from Alexandria it is also sometimes depicted with double cornucopiae. But Egypt was also the granary of Rome.
(2) Kalathos: Originally a woven basket with fruits of the field, symbol of well-being and abundance.
(3) The patera here has an elevation in the middle. It is therefore a phiale mesomphalos, as it was used in sacrifice.

2nd coin:
Thrace, Tomis, pseudo-autonomous, 2nd century, Antonine(?) period.
AE 17, 2.71g, 16.81mm, 225°.
         Busts of Eueteria and Homonoia, behind each other,  r., both draped and with topknot
Rev.: TO / MI - TW / N
         Cornucopiae with grapes and fruits
Ref.: AMNG I/2, 2576 corr., pl. VI, 19 (legend not legible); RPC I 1823; Moushmov 1786
rare, F+

(1) Regling (AMNG I/2) took the bust at the back for Augustus and therefore placed this coin to Augustus(?). Since his description was not correct, the chronological attribution to Augustus is of course also incorrect.This coin belongs to Group V. Coins of the Roman period without emperor's heads, probably to "b) Antonine period". 

(2) Eueteria an abstract term formed from Greek "ευ = good" and "ετος = year", and literally means "the property of being a good year" (in German you can say in one word "Gutjährigkeit"), thus as much as "good, blessed year" or "abundance of food". Thus "Eueteria" has a similar meaning as "Eubosia", the "good harvest". The meaning is, of course, that there is prosperity only through unity. This puts it in line with the famous statue of Kephisodotos the Elder, the father of Praxiteles, "Eirene with the young Plutos on her arm", whose marble copy is now in the Glyptothek in Munich. 

This legend exists only one other time on a Seleucid tetradrachm, BMC 1, 126-125 BC, where Cleopatra Thea herself is called Eueteria.

Homonoia, from Greek "ομος = equal" and  "νους = sense, reason", was not a goddess in the proper sense, but the personification of concord and like-mindedness. Therefore, as is often the case with personifications, her mythology appears somewhat artificial. Our sources are the Orphic Hymns and the Suda, this great Byzantine work that sought to record all the knowledge of the time without much judgement. However, there are also traces in Aischylos. Here, then, are the complicated family relationships of Homonoia:

According to this, Homonoia was the daughter of Praxidike and Soter, her brother. Her siblings were Ktesios, protector of property, and Arete, virtue.

Her mother Praxidike, the enforcer of justice, was the daughter of Ogygos.  Ogygos was an ancient king of Boiotia and the founder of Thebes. The first great flood occurred under him. Originally he was probably a god and the father of the Praxidikai, the Boiotian oath-keepers. This oath was administered in the open air at Haliartos (Pausanias). Through this lineage, Homonoia was closely connected to the Theban Harmonia, the wife of Kadmos, who as the "unifier" was the patron goddess of the citizens' association (Plutarch).

According to Mnaseas, all three siblings together were named Praxidikai after their mother. In the Orphic hymns, Praxidike was identified with Persephone and the Praxidikai with the Erinyes, the goddesses of vengeance.

Menelaus, after his return from Troy, had erected a statue of Praxidike at Gutheion in Lakonia, where Paris and Helen, before they left for Troy, had spent their first night, but otherwise she was worshipped only in the form of a head (Mnaseas, Europa).

Her father was Soter, the personification of safety and salvation, later adopted by Dionysos and Christ as Saviour. According to Aischylos ("Seven against Thebes") he had another daughter Eupraxia, success by Peitharchia, obedience.  Soter, but also Ktesios, his son, were epicleses of Zeus. Epicleses are cult names under which a god was also invoked.

(1) The Orphic Hymns are a collection of 87 religious poems composed in either the late Hellenistic or early Roman periods. They are based on the beliefs of Orphism, a mystery cult or religious philosophy based on the mythical singer Orpheus.

(2) The Suda, written around 970 AD, is the most comprehensive Byzantine encyclopaedia. It is arranged alphabetically and contains 30000 lemmata (entries). It was compiled by various authors.

(3) Mnaseas of Patara was a Greek historian and geographer of the late 3rd century B.C. He was a student of Eratosthenes in Alexandria. His geographical works ("Periegeseis") were arranged according to landscapes.

Homonoia as a political concept:
The concept of homonoia was an ancient Greek concept that was traditionally not applied beyond their own culture. This was in line with Aristotle's view.

In a short time, Alexander had conquered an empire that encompassed most of the then known world with a myriad of different peoples. If one asks what Alexander's relationship was to these Asian peoples, one must look at Alexander's concept of the unity of mankind, homonoia, and how he tried to realise this through the organisation of his empire.

The Greeks of the classical period divided humanity roughly into two classes: Greeks and non-Greeks; the latter called  barbarians and considered them inferior human beings, although occasionally someone like Herodotus or Xenophon noted that some barbarians possessed qualities worthy of consideration, such as the wisdom of the Egyptians or the courage of the Persians. Aristotle also held this view.

But in the 3rd century, new ideas emerged: All people were equal and should be brothers. This gave rise to the idea of homonoia. At first, however, this only applied to the factional struggles within the Greek cities.

Isocrates extended this concept to the entire Greek world, which should make wars among the Greeks impossible. He presented this concept to Philipp II, who adopted it for a holy war of the Greeks against the Persians. After Philipp's death, the influence of Aristotle grew again, who advised Alexander to treat Greeks as friends, but barbarians like animals. Alexander, however, was wiser than his teacher and preferred to divide people into good and bad without considering their race. He probably realised that it would be easier to deal with the problems of administration if he treated the inhabitants of the conquered countries not as slaves but as free people. And he wanted to spread the ideas of Greekism throughout the known world. Thus he subjected his actions entirely to the goal of homonoia. This was reinforced by his conviction that God had given him the task of harmonising humanity.

"Alexander was called the Great because of the things he did, but the greatest thing about him was this idea", Tarn writes at the end of his biography of Alexander.

His empire was to be "Greek-Oriental" in its essence, and as far as possible a joint enterprise. Thus he retained the Persian satrapies and filled them with Iraqis. The newly formed offices of taxation and finance, however, he filled with Macedonians. Of course, Macedonians were also at the head of the military units. But Persians and Macedonians served together in the same units.

His call to the Macedonians to marry native women he understood as an important step towards unity. In 324, there was a mass wedding of his officers in Susa, who took Persian women as wives. He himself married the beautiful Roxane, a Bactrian princess.

All this increased the discontent of his Macedonians, who could not see that they should be put on an equal footing with a conquered people. The climax, however, was when Alexander introduced proskynesis at his court, which by now resembled the court of the Great King. This refers to the Persian custom of prostrating oneself before the ruler in order to honour him. According to Greek opinion, only a god was entitled to do this.

In the sense of homonoia, the Greeks were to be introduced to Persian customs and the Persians to Greek customs. In fact, however, this "assimilation" amounted to the Persians being overrun by Greek culture, its art and literature and its science. The impact of Greek culture can still be seen hundreds of years after the collapse of Alexander's empire in Oriental architecture, which still reflects Greek influence.

In the end, his concept failed. But it was adopted and continued by the great world religions of Christianity and Islam. In the end, it is a utopian and - I believe - inhuman idea. Just think of the attempts of Bolshevism, the Mao era or the Pol Pot regime to "educate" people to equality and happiness. Freedom and equality are opposites. To demand both at the same time was the great mistake of the French Revolution, on which all later revolutions were based and which all ended in a bloodbath.

In Asia Minor under Roman rule, Homonoia played an important role as a symbol for settling inner-city tensions and for connecting with other poleis. Coins were struck with the legend "Homonoia" to proclaim regional alliances and to place them under the protection of local deities. They probably did not have great political significance. Here I have a nice example from my collection of the so-called Homonoia Coinage which was issued in Asia Minor for two joint cities as expression for their entente cordiale. This one was struck in Ephesos joint with Alexandria in Egypt. For more information for these interesting issues look at Franke/Nolle, Die Homonoia-Münzen Kleinasiens und der thrakischen Randgebiete.

3rd Coin:
Ionia, Ephesos, Gordian III, AD 238-244
AE 29, 8.47g
        Bust, draped and cuirassed, laureate, r.
       City goddess (Tyche), wearing high kalathos, leaning l., holding cornucopiae in
       l. arm and cult-statue of Artemis Ephesia in outstretched r. hand
Ref.: BMC 245, Nolle Homonoia 450 (only 1 ex.!)
very rare (possibly 2nd known!), VF, blue-green patina

Homonoia played a role in the 38th speech of Dion Chrystostomos (after 40 - before 120 AD). There was an old dispute between the cities of Nicomedia and Nikaia in Bithynia  which of them was the metropolis. In his speech, Dion tried to settle the dispute by establishing Homonoia.

Homonoia is said to have had a temple in Olympia (Pausanias).

(1)  Aischylos,  Seven against Thebes
(2)  Orphic  Hymnes
(3)  Isokrates, Panegyrikos
(4)  Suda
(5)  Pausanias, Periegeseis
(6)  Dion Chrysostomos, Discourses

Secondary literature:
(1) Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon
(2) Wilhelm Heinrich Roscher, Ausführliches Lexikon der griechisxhen und römishen Mythologie
(3) Henry M. de Mauriax, Alexander the Great and the Politics  of  "Homonoia",  1949
(4) William  Woodthorpe  Tarn, Alexander  the  Great, 1948 
(5) Der  Kleine  Pauly
(6) Gemoll,  Griechisch-Deutsches  Schul-  und  Handwörterbuch

Online sources:
(3) Wikipedia

Best regards

Virgil H:
I always enjoy these entries.

Dear Virgil!

I write these articles mainly for members like you.


Virgil H:
You should think about putting some of these together into a book. It would make a fascinating book with cross over appeal outside the numismatic community.


Hello Virgil,

The book was self-published by Jochen and it is absolutely marvellous.
You can find Jochens Book via ABEBooks or sometimes on Amazon - look for: 'Münzen und antike Mythologie" , more than 400 pages, German language.

Price varies, cheapest I find right now ist 140 € (around 160 USD) 

Best regards


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