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Colchis-Herodotus-Egypt: A triangulation. ...Yep, with coins


JeandAcre
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Posted (edited)

Anyone fluent in Herodotus, even in translation (disclaimer: I’m not), is likely to know where this is going.  First, though, the coins.

1UKqsId0fE3opFLlkEstq2OAsVPGUSQYOSBAxXuztpZxD21Xipg2c80gu1iBWIcjXl9fg9aEFURtsU-vKnJs8TQyV0hDqz99pQPH13C5zmVceHLH9VBv152d3jKPamDiPVP3aOlzAiqJAP-i-Q

hPJYxVDJ_UpYLHD7ILQRr8FPG_H5sSmM9zx44JHUbTKZ3S3CkHeYx-nkCo1NX755OK-OT-HeSalkVA6qorCbvJ3Wlcr-jXOs3W1KJaU6qipSSi6zvsDMGBG21tKu6rPZ9-O8oav2OwUvnjBbvg


Colchis. Half siglos / hemidrachm, c. 425-325 BCE.

Obv: Female profile facing right.

Rev: Bull’s head facing right.

Hind 7; HGC 7, 215

usvZwE1O-w3Bgvna9RL93c8JnRd_kIskVlszz46Dc0FF_Yo5zqmLJElTBOY0gSWoCzJSqbyJ5ilvX6C7Syp9BH-dpp2qn0T86rHyv01MrFZ4tBRXhhw7EwFNWOu42vv_RsSRGGJbUAKAHftqzA

Map of Colchis during Classical times.  From the hellenicaworld website: www.hellenicaworld.com/Greece/Geo/en/Colchis.html

The account of the origin of the Colchians by Herodotus (c. 484 – 425 BCE) begins with the following observations.  (I’ll spare all of us his extended digression about the dissemination of circumcision among various Nilotic and Semitic populations.  Not least because one of the latter is conspicuous by its absence.)

“For it is plain to see that the Colchians are Egyptians; and this that I say I myself noted before I heard it from others.  When I began to think on this matter, I inquired of both peoples; and the Colchians remembered the Egyptians better than the Egyptians remembered the Colchians; the Egyptians said that they held the Colchians to be part of Sesostris’ army.  [Corresponding to the improbably early reign of Senusret III; Middle Kingdom, c. 1836-1818 BCE.  Cf. Wilkinson, esp. xv (timeline).]  I myself guessed it to be so, partly because they are dark-skinned and woolly-haired….”  (Herodotus, vol.I, Book II, 104; pp. 391, 393.)  

Later, Herodotus notes that the Colchians fought with Xerxes I in his invasion of Greece, c. 480-79 BCE (vol. III, Book VII, 79; p. 389).  In the latter context, it’s worth noting that his own hometown of Helicarnassus, in Anatolia, was under Persian rule.

Before getting to the Colchians themselves, initial attention is called for, regarding Herodotus’ assessment of the early post-Pharaonic Egyptians.  In the latter context, this passage has been quoted by authors as diverse as Volney, The Ruins of Empires (see esp. 15-17 …trans. 1802; a book the ‘monster’ reads in Mary Shelley, Frankenstein), and Diop’s pioneering work of ‘Afrocentric’ history, The African Origin of Civilization.

But nearly a century prior to Volney and Shelley, John Woodward, a pioneering English antiquarian (contemporary to the likes of Swift, Addison, Steele and Pope), had implicitly accepted Herodotus’ observation, and anticipated Volney’s ensuing thesis, purely on the basis of his “‘conviction that all the events of the Pentateuch [...] had been there truly described.’”  (Levine, 76.)  The book of Genesis unambiguously identifies the Egyptians as descendants of Ham.  Having equally internalized the high tide of British colonialism, genocide and slavery, and the early phases of modern racism, Woodward’s sole option was to denigrate the cultural achievements of the Pharaonic Egyptians.  Noting, for instance, that “the pyramids [....n]ext to classical architecture, [...] were barbarous, ‘without any consideration of adornment or beauty.’”  (78; cf. 76-79, passim.)  …The same agenda has continued, seamlessly, to our own day; only the tactics have changed.

...Meanwhile, it's worth noting that Herodotus himself, in light of his pioneering status as a prototypical historian, journalist, and anthropologist, found numerous critics, from his own time well into later phases of the Classical era.  Given which, thanks to the recurring, large-scale presence of Greek mercenaries in Egypt, from the the 7th to the 5th centuries BCE, we can be confident that his observations regarding the Egyptians could have been summarily discounted by his Greek contemporaries.  (Cf. Wilkinson, 411-2, 428-9.)  That, for one, simply never happened.  In this context, his veracity has been dramatically demonstrated by a recent archaeological discovery (2019 –spelling used in deference to the source).

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/mar/17/nile-shipwreck-herodotus-archaeologists-thonis-heraclion

…Segueing from Egyptians to Colchians, the agenda mentioned above continues its inexorable march.  This numismatic article on the coins of Colchis –despite an introduction referring to its history from the 8th c. BCE– simply has no mention of Herodotus.  …Shifting tactics: can you say, ‘passive aggressive?’

https://www.persee.fr/doc/dha_0755-7256_1993_num_19_1_2084#dha_0755-7256_1993_num_19_1_T1_0236_0000

In the same vein, the Wiki article on Colchis, after quoting Herodotus, says that “[t]hese claims have been widely rejected by modern historians. It is in doubt if Herodotus had ever been to Colchis or Egypt.”  …Citing a net total of two references, from 1992 and 2001, respectively. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colchis#cite_note-FOOTNOTEFehling199413Marincola200134-58

Having addressed the issue of Herodotus’ veracity, I could continue with some circumstantial evidence for a significant Egyptian ethnic component of the Colchians, this time readily adducible from the coins themselves.

First, the eye shape of the female profile.  Right, right, even the Athenian tetradrachms of the earlier 5th century have something vaguely similar.  But in these examples, the relative size, and only more pronounced frontal disposition, evoke the much later survival of an Egyptian esthetic in Aksumite coins, as noted in this passage of  Munro-Hay’s introduction:

“[From the later 3rd century CE], the royal bust is shown in profile facing right.  The eye and shoulders are not seen in profile, but semi-frontally [...].  The Aksumites thus adopted the ancient Egyptian convention [evident in reliefs as well as murals] of showing profile heads while the eyes and shoulders were always rendered full face, very different from the style adopted on South Arabian or Roman coins [both of which drew more directly from Classical precedent].  (35-6.)

image.thumb.jpeg.50a4427f59db658a3456c62f0213c930.jpeg

Ezanas, AR, pre-Christian; Munro-Hay 39.

Meanwhile, the coiffure evokes this, for one.  After which, I’m outta here.

https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/full/10.1086/685672

 

Works cited, other than via links …or too fleetingly to be worth a compete citation (Shelly, Frankenstein.)

Diop, Cheikh.  The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality.  Trans. Mercer Cook.  (My copy, a first US printing from 1974, is currently on loan to an esteemed colleague at work, precluding full bibliographic data.)

Herodotus [sic].  With an English Translation by A. D. Godley.  Vol. I: Books I and II.  1920.  Cambridge, Mass. and London: Harvard UP /Heinemann, 1966.  Four volumes.  (Right, a parallel translation; the kind of thing I could only get any traction with for Latin, Old English, or French.)

Levine, Joseph M.  Dr. Woodward’s Shield: History, Science, and Satire in Augustan England.  Cornell U P, 1991.

Munro-Hay, Stuart and Juel-Jensen, Bent.  Aksumite Coinage.  London: Spink, 1995.

Volney, C. F. The Ruins of Empires.  “Published from the Peter Eckler edition [/translation] 1890.”  Baltimore: Black Classsic Press (“A Young Press With Some Very Old Ideas”), 1991.

Wilkinson, Toby.  The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt.  1st U. S. ed.  (London: Bloomsbury /) New York: Random House (both) 2010.

Edited by JeandAcre
Some of everything, from thematic organization and corresponding structure, to prose, to the inexoorable typos I missed the first couple of times.
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The Goddess Dali of Colchis

DALI
[IMG] 
Kolchis 5th-4th C BCE BI hemidrachm 11.5mm 1.8g Archaic female head - Georgian goddess Dali - Bull head border SNG Cop 98

She was the Hunting Goddess of the Kolchis / Colchis area (think Jason and the Golden Fleece). She was described as a beautiful nude woman with golden hair and glowing skin...

(She is not nude here...)

image.png.a5fa6e7319df4837590a45e7a2efb9d1.png
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dali_(goddess)

http://www.great-adventures.com/destinations/rep_georgia/colchis.html

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Posted (edited)

...And she Doesn't have the same hair style!

Honestly, I'm not getting much traction with the notion, even (or especially) from academics, that where ancient ethnic origin is concerned, the issue of  Georgian vs. Egyptian (...or Greek) has to be a zero-sum game.  ...As you will know, Even in this great land of ours, the real danger to national security isn't immigration; it's inbreeding. 

Meanwhile, Many thanks, especially for the Wiki article.  You might notice that when it came to assigning mythological labels, ...well, either to the woman or the bull, I kind of wasn't going there.  --But, Please, let's stay with bulls for a minute.  In boh Greek and Egyptian mythology, they're conspicuously thick on the ground.  Guessing the significance of that motif would be like having your turn to hit a pinata.

Edited by JeandAcre
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Posted (edited)

You rang?

 

Unfortunately, I've yet to properly photograph this coin, so it's shown as I received it.

image.jpeg.1cacd21ecfbda3485e8d39c5fdf673c5.jpeg

KOLCHIS, Phasis. (425-325 BC). BI Half Siglos – Hemidrachm.

O: Head of Artemis Dali in archaic style to right.

R: Head of bull right; within linear circle.

Edited by Herodotus
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I have been to Egypt 12 times. The Copts who may be considered descendants of the Pharaonic peoples look like their Muslim brothers. It is only past the 1st cataract of the Nile into Nubia that the African nature is apparent! This has been noted archaeologically and on ancient artwork, eg Hatshepsut's mortuary temple at Deir el Bahdri. Diop had an agenda to preach!

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Posted (edited)

Where Egypt is concerned, it's really necessary to think in terms of nuance and, well pluralism, regarding ethnic origins.  Since the mid-first millennium BCE, Egypt has seen multiple waves not only of invasion, but settlement; Persians, Greeks, Romans /Byzantines, more Persians, Arabs, and Ottoman Turks.  And from photographs I've seen, Copts are on a comparable spectrum, some of them with a fairly unmistably Black component.  Think of 'Creoles' in greater New Orleans.    I like to think of Cairo as the equivalent ...except that the river flows in the opposite direction.

Edited by JeandAcre
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As a many times traveler to Egypt I would say the best source to see what Egyptians of the Roman period looked like are the painted funeral masks of the fayyum and antinopolis. A wide variety of racial influences are apparent, even though it is assumed that only the well to do could afford embalming.

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Posted (edited)
On 5/31/2022 at 5:45 AM, NewStyleKing said:

I have been to Egypt 12 times. The Copts who may be considered descendants of the Pharaonic peoples look like their Muslim brothers. It is only past the 1st cataract of the Nile into Nubia that the African nature is apparent! This has been noted archaeologically and on ancient artwork, eg Hatshepsut's mortuary temple at Deir el Bahdri. Diop had an agenda to preach!

Thanks, @NewStyleKing, for your observations.  ...Except, they inexorably invite the question, what was Herodotus' agenda?  ...Or Volney's?  ...Or, for that matter, that of later 19th- and 20th-century, Eurocentric archaeologists?  On this level, revisionism is kind of where you find it.

 @Ancient Coin Hunter's post admirably broadens the scope of this topic, regarding when Egyptians looked like this or that, and what specific demographics were involved in any given historical context. 

For one related example, the Ptolemaic dynasty notoriously intermarried with no one who wasn't Greek.  (Leading to levels of inbreeding that evoke the later Habsburgs in Germany and Spain ...whether or not with comparably catastrophic consequences.)  Much of the initial Roman population was similarly inclined; granted, not at the perilous level of a single dynasty.  And similarly ethnically cohesive populations, whether mercenaries or slaves, were present in Egypt back to Pharaonic times.  It took a millennium and a half of foreign domination for the aggregate population to genetically 'stew' to the point where you see them today.

Meanwhile, Herodotus is reporting on what he saw as of the 5th century BCE, during the earliest, Persian phase of foreign rule.  To reiterate, we're talking about a millennium and a half of history. 

Given which, returning to modern Copts, I can cite a photograph on p. 105 of Christian Cannuyer's Coptic Egypt: The Christians of the Nile (New York: Abrams, 2001), showing a Coptic congregation in worship --all standing, old and young, as in Eastern Orthodox practice (p. 105).  From the hair and facial morphology, there's a spectrum of people of varyingly Arab, and partly Black appearance.  Not unlike modern Palestinians. 

...In effect, what's crudely referred to as 'miscegenation' has been the default mode for centuries, in numerous parts of the world.  For instance, compare this (a group of kids in Cairo --not even likely to be Copts ...unless some of them were)

https://diva.sfsu.edu/collections/levine/bundles/225160

1179327.x1000.png

To this (another picture of Jelly Roll Morton, vis. my OP about old coins and old tunes):

jelly-roll-morton-header.jpg?itok=YSdh_aqA

https://www.nonesuch.com/artists/jelly-roll-morton

Edited by JeandAcre
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  • 2 months later...
On 5/31/2022 at 12:42 PM, JeandAcre said:

Where Egypt is concerned, it's really necessary to think in terms of nuance and, well pluralism, regarding ethnic origins.  Since the mid-first millennium BCE, Egypt has seen multiple waves not only of invasion, but settlement; Persians, Greeks, Romans /Byzantines, more Persians, Arabs, and Ottoman Turks.  And from photographs I've seen, Copts are on a comparable spectrum, some of them with a fairly unmistably Black component.  Think of 'Creoles' in greater New Orleans.    I like to think of Cairo as the equivalent ...except that the river flows in the opposite direction.

This is an irrelevant observation, but actually the Mississippi River flows almost directly due north as it passes underneath the Greater New Orleans Bridge and enters the French Quarter. These days, you won't find many Cops in this area.

image.jpeg.a49fc38ed01e1e1a2d61de23884a10c1.jpeg

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Posted (edited)

You were right the first time.  It's an irrelevant observation.  And my suspicion is that you'll find plenty of (I quote...you:) "Cops in this area;" just not lots of Copts (sic).

Edited by JeandAcre
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Once they let the Casinos into the French Quarter, the Casino Security largely took over the "regulation" of the riverfront. Along with the renovations from the 1976 World's Fair, the area from the bridge to Esplanade became a relatively safe and clean touristy area. Unfortunately, the outlying areas have slipped back toward lawlessness after Katrina, but the French Quarter itself is still a wonderful place to visit.

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On 5/31/2022 at 2:21 AM, Herodotus said:

You rang?

 

Unfortunately, I've yet to properly photograph this coin, so it's shown as I received it.

image.jpeg.1cacd21ecfbda3485e8d39c5fdf673c5.jpeg

KOLCHIS, Phasis. (425-325 BC). BI Half Siglos – Hemidrachm.

O: Head of Artemis Dali in archaic style to right.

R: Head of bull right; within linear circle.

...Yeah, @Herodotus, I did.  If you'll remember, in a personal message on the old forum.  To which you never responded. 

...Given the present state, merely of the numismatic research, I'm, let us just say, ambivalent about leery of a too-easy identificataion with Artemis Dali on the obverse.

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2 hours ago, Edessa said:

Once they let the Casinos into the French Quarter, the Casino Security largely took over the "regulation" of the riverfront. Along with the renovations from the 1976 World's Fair, the area from the bridge to Esplanade became a relatively safe and clean touristy area. Unfortunately, the outlying areas have slipped back toward lawlessness after Katrina, but the French Quarter itself is still a wonderful place to visit.

Thank Heaven for gentrification!

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On 5/30/2022 at 9:18 PM, JeandAcre said:

I could continue with some circumstantial evidence for a significant Egyptian ethnic component of the Colchians, this time readily adducible from the coins themselves.

First, the eye shape of the female profile.  Right, right, even the Athenian tetradrachms of the earlier 5th century have something vaguely similar.  But in these examples, the relative size, and only more pronounced frontal disposition

I see two  immediate reasons not to consider the eye shape on Colchian coins to be evidence of their ethnic/genetic composition.

One, archaic Greek art, almost as a whole, was heavily influenced by Egyptian, which should certainly be relevant to the artistic history of Colchis.

Second, related to the first, cultural diffusion often doesn't correspond very heavily at all to ethnic/genetic change. (There was lots of cultural exchange going on between Egyptians and Romans for many centuries after this, without any requirement for either population to intermarry or produce children with one another.)

Also, that one detail, which isn't necessarily unique to Egyptian art, doesn't even convincingly show much Egyptian influence.

It seems to boil down to the eye and Herodotus, right? I'm not entirely sure what you're suggesting. That Colchis was originally settled by Egyptians but that either predated historical records or escaped history except the impressions of Herodotus?

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Posted (edited)

@Curtis JJ, I'm entirely in agreement with you regarding the fact that, in dramatic contrast to Herodotus' observations about the recently post-pharaonic Egyptians, his remarks concerning the Colchians of the same period are relatively anecdotal, and correspondingly circumstantial, regarding the net evidence.  

...However, as such, hardly worthy of summary dismissal.  With apologies for the ellipticality of the OP on this point, what I gravitate to, first and foremost, is Herodotus' observation, as cited above, that the Egyptians themselves were "dark-skinned and woolly-haired….”  (Herodotus, vol.I, Book II, 104; pp. 391, 393.)  As retailed --or, as @NewStyleKing put it, 'preached' as an 'agenda'-- by Diop. 

...Inviting the question, Okay, so what was Herodotus' ostensible agenda?  Particularly in light of the very recent archaeological confirmation of his detailed empirical veracity, very specifically where contemporaneous Egypt was concerned.  Here's that link again --from the Guardian, but citing the original findings of the "Oxford University's centre for maritime archaeology."

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/mar/17/nile-shipwreck-herodotus-archaeologists-thonis-heraclion

What more would anyone need, by way of confirmation of Herodotus' reliability as an observer?  Right, as mentioned in the OP, he's as significant as a proto-journalist and proto-anthropologist, as he is his capacity as a founding proponent of the discipline of history. 

Given which, it's easy to agree with, and like, your observation that cultural influences and ethnic dynamics are very frequently independent of each other.  (All you need for confirmation of that are the brilliant discussions of ancient Central Asian coinages on this forum.)  At the same time, the veracity of Herodotus in a separate context from Colchis (albeit related, by his own account) has been very recently, definitively vindicated by state-of-the art archaeology. 

 

Edited by JeandAcre
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