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FORVM`s Classical Numismatics Discussion Board  |  Numism  |  Reading For the Advanced Collector  |  Topic: Phemios and the Ainianes 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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Tribunus Plebis Perpetuus
Procurator Monetae
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Posts: 11492

Omnes vulnerant, ultima necat.

« on: January 29, 2018, 08:04:42 am »

Dear friends!

This article again wants to show how a single coin can open the entry to a previously  unknown world. Actually I have bought this coin because the rev. was described as Phemios, a singer from Ithaka whom Odysseus has spared. But this description was wrong. The iconography of the nude male alone doesn't match a singer but better a hero. And really it shows Phemios, a mythological hero of the Ainianes. Here is the result of my research:

The coin:
Thessaly, Ainianes, Hypata, c.302-286 BC
AE - Bronze Dichalkon, 4.30g, 19.2mm, 180°
obv. Bearded head of Zeus, laureate, l.
rev. ANIAN - WN (from upper r.)
       Heros Phemios, nude, except chlamys over l. shoulder and extended l. arm, sword
       in scubbard, with sidestep stg. l., looking r.,  raising r. hand with slingshot
       to sling a stone; 2 grounded spears leaning diagonal left behind his r. leg
ref.: BCD Thessaly I 1015; BCD Thessaly II 31.1; Rogers 137; SNG Cop 4; BMC
       Thessaly p. 12, 18; HGC 4 50 (R1)
VF-, well centered, dark sea-green patina with exposed bronze spots, bumps and
marks, edge split
ex BCD coll. with tag "N. Rous., Jan. 90, 10000drs."
From Forum Ancient coins, thanks!

From Plutarch we hear that Phemios, king of the Ainianes, has fought with Hyperochos, king of the Inachians, for their land. Here is the complete mythology (Plut. Quest. Graec. 13): When the Ainianes during their migration from Thessaly went down to the region of river Inachos, where the tribes of Inachians and the phthiotic Achaians dwelled, an oracle predicted, that some would lost their whole land, if they would give away something of it, but others would get it, if they could obtain something of it by peaceful means. Temon, an Ainianes, diguised as beggar and went to the Inachians. Just for the devilment and to mock him king Hyperochos bestowed him a clod of earth. Temon appeared delighted and left without further words. But the Eldest remembered the oracle, went to the king and warned him not to take the matter as bagatelle and not to let him escape. Temon recognized their intent, fled, promised Apollo a hecatomb, and escsped fortunately. Thereupon the kings Hyperochos and Phemios came together to a single combat. Phemios demanded Hyperochos first to chase away his dog which he has bought along. When he turned around to do that Phemios killed him by slinging a stone. Thereafter the Ainianes expelled the Inachians and the Achaians and occupied their land. That stone was worshipped as holy and sacrifices were offered to him. And always when they sacrificed to Apollo his hecatomb the most exquisit piece of meat was donated to the descendants of Temon. This piece was called "Meat of the Beggar" (Roscher)

Hence the figure of the youthful slinger on the coins of the Ainianes is interpreted as Phemios (so Head, HN, S. 448, fig. 173, and BMC Thessaly to Aetol. S. 120ff.).

The Ainianes:
The Ainianes were a Greek tribe in ancient Greece who settled originally in Thessaly. They were related with the Myrmidons and the Achaians of the Phthiotis. When the Lapiths invaded their land they were expelled and the majority of them were searching for new settlement areas farther south in the valley of river Spercheios. From this time probably comes the mythology of Phemios and the fight against the Inachians.

The Ainianes were mentioned already in Homer's Ilias. Under their leader Guneus together with the Perrhaibeans they brought 22 ships from Kyphos to Troy. Guneus survived the war and went to Libya where he settled near the river Kinyps. Guneus remains a bit obscure character even his followers are placed in northwest Greece. Homer has not recorded anything about his ancestry.

The main city of the Ainianes was Hypata. Today's Ypati, a village with about 700 inhabitants in middle Greece, is located ca.30 km west of the Thermopylae and belongs to the community of Lamia. It is situated at the northern border of the Iti mountain, the ancient Oita, hence its name Hypata, from υπο Οιτα (= below the Oita).  
It is known as site of the Metamorphoses, the famous roman of Apuleius (about 123 - after 170), known as The Golden Ass too. The young Lucius comes on a business travel to Hypata into the house of an usurer and begins a love affair with the servant Photis. After a festival in honour of Risus, god of laughter, Lucius finds out that Pamphile, wife of his host, is a witch. Secretly he watches her at a magic and can see how by using a magic ointment she transformes to an owl and flies away. When Lucius wants to copy this magic Photis accidentally confuses the ointment and he is transformed into an ass. After numerous adventures - many of them erotic - he turns to the Syrian Mothergoddess who as Isis gives him back his human shape after eating roses. He joins the Mysteries of Isis and becomes in Rome priest of the cult of Isis-Osiris

Excursion I: Erichtho
Thessaly was infamous in ancient times for its witches and its centre was Hypata. Whenever one talks about Hypata he has to talk about witches. The most famous Thessalian witch was probably Erichtho. She was expierenced in necromancy and a powerful necromancer. Sextus Pompeius, son of Pompey the Great, once asked her for the outcome of the Battle of Pharsalus. She went with him to a battlefield, choosed an appropriate corpse and made it alive. From this dead soldier he learnt the gloomy depiction of a civil war from underworld and a rather ambiguous forecast of the fate of Pompej and his relatives. In the bloody Battle of Pharsalus Julius Caesar then defeated the army of the Republicans under Pompey devastating. This is reported by Lucan (39-65) in his Pharsalia (VI, 507-830).

Dante (1265 - 1321) makes use of Erichtho. In his Commedia Divina it is told that Dante is led by his guide Virgil into the inferno. Dante asked him wether anyone has done this journey before (and has returned!). Virgil answered that Erichtho once has forced him to descend to the lowest circle of hell to bring back the soul of a dead soldier (Inf. 9, 25-30). This story has been invented by Dante. But surely it is related to the story of Lucan in his Pharsalia.

And famous too is the appearance of Erichtho on the Pharsalian fields in the 2nd act of Goethe's Faust II as forerunner of the Classic Walpurgis Night. Here she causes confusion by mixing the time of ancient Greece with the time of the Roman Civil War and the Greek liberation war at that time. When the aeronauts Faust, Mephisto and Homunculus arrive, she flees,

Excursion II: War crimes of the SS
Sadly Ypati is known too for one of the most serious war crimes of the SS in Greece. Ypati was a centre of the Greek resistance movement EAM-ELAS. In November 1942 Greek partisans made possible that a British demolition squad could blast the bridge over the Gorgopotamos river. This bridge was part of the strategic railway line fom Piraeus to Thessaloniki, over which runs the supply for the German Afrikakorps. As messure of repression the Germans executed 10 inhabitants. But the blackest day was the 14. June 1944. German troops executed civilians and resisters, looted the place, burnt down most of the houses, destroyed Byzantine churches and historical villas. This gets in line of a great number of crimes especially at the end of the war when the partisans became stronger. Ypati was declared Greek city of martyrs.

A longer and deeper discussion about the numismatic side of this coin you can find on this Forum under

(1) Homer, Ilias
(2) Plutarch, Questiones Graecae
(3) Lucan, Pharsalia ("De Bello Civili")
(4) Apuleius, Metamorphoses ("The Golden Ass")
(5) Dante, Commedia Divina
(6) Goethe, Faust II

(1) Head, Historia Nummorum, online too
(2) Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon, 1770 (Nachdruck),
      online too
(3) Der Kleine Pauly, dtv
(4) Wilhelm Heinrich Roscher, Ausführliches Lexikon der griechischen und
      römischen Mythologie, 1884-1937, online too

(1) Wikipedia
(2) Google pictures
(3) Forum Ancient Coins

I have added the following pictures:
(1) The coin
(2) Ypati from West (Robin Iversen Rönnlund)
(3) John Hamilton Mortimer (1741-1779), Sextus Pompeius consulting Erichtho
      before the Battle of Pharsalia (Christie's Auctions)
(4) Bridge over the Gorgopotamos (George Terezakis)
      In the foreground you see one of the auxilliary piers, which were necessary after
      blasting the bridge

Best regards

Procurator Caesaris
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Posts: 1938

Ego vici mundum

« Reply #1 on: January 29, 2018, 11:30:33 am »

How interesting, I enjoyed every single word.
Thank you , Jochen.
Merci beaucoup monsieur.

Sam Mansourati
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Posts: 788

Life is bigger than a Tweet.

« Reply #2 on: January 29, 2018, 01:49:10 pm »

Very nice coin and great expose of a newly found historical interest.

I have an Ainianes issue from two centuries later that maintains a similar reverse iconography, but otherwise is quite enigmatic in terms of its denomination and the motivation for its issue:

... a little more mystery and history to add to  your discovery.

All historical inquiry is contingent and provisional, and our own prejudices will in due course come under scrutiny by our successors.
Tribunus Plebis Perpetuus
Procurator Monetae
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Posts: 11492

Omnes vulnerant, ultima necat.

« Reply #3 on: January 29, 2018, 02:42:24 pm »

Thank you both for your comments.


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