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Mythology and symbolism


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A lighthearted look at an Ancient subject.

I begin this around the time of Greece 450BCE, with a similarity of imagery continuing to Late Roman times.

In mythological history, the Kabeiroi were one or many deities of the chthonic persuasion. They were worshipped by a mystery cult in the North Aegian islands of Lemnos and maybe Samothrace. They had a mysterious genealogy buried in folklore and their number varied, but often referenced as pairs of males or females.
The pileus was a brimless felt hat, worn in ancient Greece between 8th – 4th century BCE. The two stars either side of the pileus represent the Kabeiroi, in a similar fashion to the Dioscuri being represented the same way on some Roman coinage.

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The Dioscuri were a popular image on Republican coinage and their representation on later coinage were a pair of stars.

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L. Memmius AR Denarius (20mm, 3.77 g.)
Rome mint, struck 109-108 BC Gens Memmia
Obv. Apollo facing right, wearing oak wreath, mark of value below chin.
Rev. The Dioscuri standing facing, each holding spears and bridle of their horses, Xanthus and Cyllarus. Moneyer name in exergue.
Crawford 304
The gens Memmia was a plebeian family at ancient Rome. The first member of the gens to achieve prominence was Gaius Memmius Gallus, praetor in 172 BC. From the period of the Jugurthine War to the age of Augustus they contributed numerous tribunes to the Republic.
The differing mythology of Dioscuri
sons of Zeus, the horsetamer Castor, and Polydeuces (Lat. Pollux) the master of the art of boxing. In Homer they are represented as the sons of Leda and Tyndareos, and called in consequence Tyndaridae, as dying in the time between the rape of Helen and the Trojan War, and as buried in their father-city Lacedaemon. But even under the earth they were alive. Honoured of Zeus, they live and die on alternate days and enjoy the prerogatives of godhead. In the later story sometimes both, sometimes only Polydeuces is the descendant of Zeus. They undertake an expedition to Attica, where they set free their sister Helena, whom Theseus has carried off. They take part in the expedition of the Argonauts. They undertake an expedition to Attica, where they set free their sister Helena, whom Theseus has carried off. They take part in the expedition of the Argonauts. Castor, who had been born mortal, falls in a contest with Idas and Lynceus, the sons of their paternal uncle Aphareus. The fight arose, according to one version, in a quarrel over some cattle which they had carried off; according to another, it was about the rape of two daughters of another uncle Leucippus, Phoebe and Hilaira, who were betrothed to the sons of Aphareus. On his brother's death Polydeuces, the immortal son of Zeus, prays his father to let him die too. Zeus permits him to spend alternately one day among the gods his peers, the other in the lower world with his beloved brother. According to another story Zeus, in reward for their brotherly love, sets them in the sky as the constellation of the Twins, or the morning and evening star. They are the ideal types of bravery and dexterity in fight. Thus they are the tutelary gods of warlike youth, often sharing in their contests, and honoured as the inventors of military dances and melodies. The ancient symbol of the twin gods at Lacedaemon was two parallel beams, joined by cross-pieces, which the Spartans took with them into war. They were worshipped at Sparta and Olympia with Heracles and other heroes. At Athen too they were honoured as gods under the name of Anakes (Lords Protectors). At sea, as in war, they lend their aid to men. The storm-tossed mariner sees the sign of their beneficent presence in the flame at the mast-head. He prays, and vows to them the sacrifice of a white lamb, and the storm soon ceases.
The rites of hospitality are also under their protection. They are generally represented with their horses Xanthus and Cyllarus, as in the celebrated colossal group of Monte Cavallo in Rome. Their characteristic emblem is an oval helmet crowned with a star. The worship of Castor and Pollux was from early times current among the tribes of Italy. They enjoyed especial honours in Tusculum and Rome. In the latter city a considerable temple was built to them near the Forum (414 B.C.) in gratitude for their appearance and assistance at the battle of the Lake Regillus twelve years before. In this building, generally called simply the temple of Castor, the senate of ten held its sittings. It was in their honour, too, that the solemn review of the Roman equites was held on the 15th July. The names of Castor and Pollux, like that of Hercules, were often in use as familiar expletives, but the name of Castor was invoked by women only. They were worshipped as gods of the sea, particularly in Ostia, the harbour town of Rome. Their image is to be seen stamped on the reverse of the oldest Roman silver coins.

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Thanks for reading, post your coins of this subject or anything vaguely related.

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Here's  one from Southern Italy that's  quite big  on mythology and symbolism and 2 punning allusions too!

The early numismatist Barclay Head saw the main figure as the mythical founder of Kaulonia, who holds a leaf from the plant κανλüς as a punning reference to the city name. Most now report it as  Apollo with the running figure in his hand being a genius or a daimon, a deity of a lower rank which served the higher gods.  Apollo is supposed to hold a laurel branch from the Vale of Tempe*** in Thessaly, and the  daimon is his messenger.

If that's right it shows Apollo after killing the serpent Pytho at Delphi, when he exiled himself for seven years of hard labour as penance for the "murder"; at the end of which Apollo cleansed himself in the sacred grove of bay-trees and his return to Delphi was announced by this daimon to begin his oracular duties for Zeus.  The cleansing part  is   by way of explanation for Apollo wandering around  in his birthday suit on this coin.


Additional symbolism is in the type recalling in general the part played by Delphian Apollo in the foundation of the South Italian colonies.

***"The particular relevance of this story to Kaulonia is that the name of the city was originally Aulonia, and that the word meaning a valley or gorge was specially applied to the gorge of Tempe; the early name of the city survives on a single small denomination which clearly bears on the reverse the letters AY A alone."

 

 

Kaulonia AR Stater. Circa 500-480 BC. Nude Apollo to right, laurel branch in upright right hand, daimon running to right on Apollo's extended left arm, holding branches; to right, stag standing to right, KAVΛO to left; all within dot and cable border / Incuse of obverse.  8.03g, 26mm.

 

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MACEDON, Thessalonica Caracalla.

198-217 A.D. AE 26, 14.9 grams, 7h

Obverse: Laureate and cuirassed bust right

Reverse: Nike advancing left, holding a small Kabeirus and palm

Reference: Touratsoglou Em, II:a, rare 2 according to AC Search

ex: JAZ Numismatics

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Edited by Ancient Coin Hunter
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The Saxons often depicted an ouroboros, a serpent eating its own tail to represent eternity and rebirth. It was apparently previously used by the Greeks and Egyptians.

Series BI A/C Type 27 Primary Sceatta, 675-690
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Essex or East Anglia. Silver, 13mm, 1.12g. Diademed and draped bust right within ouroboros. Dove standing right on cross pattée, annulets flanking all within ouroboros; three annulets below (SCBC 777).

The endless knot from Islamic coins may be something similar - or just decoration, transferred from Buddhism after which it lost its meaning. It's sometimes called a Celtic knot, but it has nothing to do with the Celts (meaning Iron Age peoples). The 'Celts' (meaning Irish, Welsh and Scottish people, although in this case including the English) took on the knot from the Romans, who got it from further east.

Muhammad Öz Beg Dang, 1333-1334
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Saray al-Jadida. Silver, 1.50g. Sultan / Just / Öz Beg Khan; in segments: Mint of Saray and year (AH734). Creed around names of 4 Caliphs: Abu Bakr, Umar, Usman and Ali, with endless knot near the top (Sagdeeva 203; Album 2025).

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This one's a bit rough, but on the obverse is Kronos (supposedly).

The reverse has Demeter with a grain ear, appropriate since she was the goddess of grain. The torch symbolizes her constant vigilance, or perhaps her search for Persephone.

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Cilicia. Mallos
late 4th century BCE
AR Obol 9,5mm, 0.4g
Bearded head of Kronos to right.
R/ Demeter advancing left, holding grain ear and flaming torch
SNG France -. SNG Levante 158

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