The last time I was in Oxford some 14 months ago, I think, I snapped this image with my camera phone in the Sackler Library. I was so happy to find an example of the iconography of this coin in a published excavation report of site finds. [Update 8/24/13: The image above looks more like a sheep to me than a goat the longer I look at it here on the blog. It’s the curly horns. I think rest below are really goats.] Something I stumbled upon on the new arrivals shelf. An Italian publication I seem to recall. What I can’t seem to find is any record at all of what the book was or from what site.
If I knew where it was I could say something about the context of the image, perhaps even a divinity associated with the area of the find. Alas, what we have here is a failure of the information pack rat system. What I’m very happy to say is that its a popular motif… you guessed it! … on SEAL rings.
A. Furtwängler, Beschreibung der geschnittenen Steine im Antiquarium, Königliche Museen Berlin (1896) Cat. no. 6811; no. 7525; BM 1917,0501.513; Gold finger-ring with an engraved sard: Eros riding a goat.; BM 1923,0401.1121; Edinburgh Tassie 2258
It is also popular on Lamps:
And the also this figurine from Cyprus:
Crawford thinks its likely to be Dionysiac. Perhaps. Erotes are floating around with goats on many a Dionysiac sarcophagus, or Seasons sarcophagus. But this might actually have more to do with the cult of Venus/Aphrodite:
Pausanias tells us that this is Aphrodite Pandemos, All Encompassing Aphrodite, usually translated Common or Vulgar Aphrodite:
Behind the portico built from the spoils of Corcyra is a temple of Aphrodite, the precinct being in the open, not far from the temple. The goddess in the temple they call Heavenly; she is of ivory and gold, the work of Pheidias, and she stands with one foot upon a tortoise. The precinct of the other Aphrodite is surrounded by a wall, and within the precinct has been made a basement, upon which sits a bronze image of Aphrodite upon a bronze he-goat. It is a work of Scopas, and the Aphrodite is named Common. The meaning of the tortoise and of the he-goat I leave to those who care to guess.
What kind of connotations would “Pandemos” in the mids 80 BC? If that is, in fact, the reference. Certainly populist ones…
Update 8/23/13: Here’s a great study about what Pandemos might mean in a different community. Those working on Cyprus have connected the Eros on Goat terracottas with the cult of Aphrodite/Astarte. Muller took a different approach and associated this the ‘sport of Eros’ i.e. the motif of erotes playing with the attributes of other gods and other activities. Thus he sees the coin as referring to the infancy of Zeus. This is usually dismissed because the goat is male and Zeus’s goat was a nanny-goat.