118 and 119 out of 410 days: Pyrrhus and Thetis

Yesterday late afternoon whilst reading about sources for the Pyrrhic Wars for this book review (It’s a really good book thus far! But slow going because I want to look everything up and enjoy the fun along with the author.) I became obsessed with the image of Thetis on the hippocamp. Below is a rather beautiful specimen in trade (cf. ANS Specimen):

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This is often attributed to the Locrian mint in Italy c. 279-274 B.C. The obverse is identified as Achilles (Pyrrhus’ ancestor) and the “portrait” is sometimes thought to be assimilated to Alexander or maybe even Pyrrhus himself. Perhaps the best thing to read on Pyrrhus’ use of the Trojan War narrative is Erskine, Troy Between Greece and Rome, p. 157-161. It’s basically a take down of the idea that Pausanias 1.12 can be taken as actual evidence that Pyrrhus used ‘anti-Trojan’ type propaganda against the Romans. The interesting thing is the relationship of Pyrrhus’ coin type to that of Larissa in Thessaly:

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There are also an number of illustrated specimens in the ANS collection. Note how on this specimen below the obverse head has the “whale spout” hair style so often associated with Alexander and also the AX monogram on the reverse shield standing for “Achilles”.

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What does Pyrrhus have to do with Thessaly? Well it was his next stop after Italy. So Pausanias, and with references at Plutarch, and Diodorus, and the dedicatory inscription he set up is in the Greek Anthology attributed to Leonidas (6.130). Some discussion of his memorable dedication and his choice of sanctuary can be found in Graninger’s Cult and Koinon in Hellenistic Thessaly. The dedicatory inscription in fact emphasizes his decent from Achilles:

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Of course, the image was generally popular, a popularity often ascribed to a lost statue group of Scopas thought to be referenced in Pliny. An Attic Red-Figure Bell Krater c. 350 BC in the BM show the basic image. And, the iconography is also known on Italic ceramics as well:

Black glazed pottery askos with a ribbed body and in relief on the top, Thetis or a Nereid on a hippocamp to the left with Achilles spear in right hand and in left a shield, the hippocamp has a fimbriated fish's tail.

Just to make things more confused there are some little understood finds said to be from Thessaly near Larissa including this:

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There is a decent discussion here about this comparative evidence as it relates to Thessalian jewelry and gems.

I guess I’ll just have to mug up on the literature on Larissa and Thessalian numismatics starting with:

C. C. Lorber, Thessalian hoards and the coinage of Larissa, In: American journal of numismatics second series, vol. 20, 2008, p. 119-142, pl. 41-46.

Other literature of interest: Lücke, S. 1995. ‘Überlegungen zur Münzpropaganda des Pyrrhos’. In Brodersen, K., and Schubert, C. (eds.). 1995. Rom und der griechische Osten: Festschrift für Hatto H. Schmitt: 171–3. Stuttgart. As well as, Franke, P. R. 1989. ‘Pyrrhus’. CAH2 7.2: 456–85.

66 out of 410 days: Hairy Goats and My Notes

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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

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It is also popular on Lamps:

Mould-made pottery lamp decorated on the discus with a Cupid riding a goat. The nozzle has an air-slit, and is mainly missing. The handle is mainly missing. The lamp stands on a base-ring. Covered with a brown slip.

And the also this figurine from Cyprus:

Eros riding a goat

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.