A mysterious cult and a popular hat

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by expat, Jun 5, 2023.

  1. expat

    expat Remember you are unique, just like everyone else Supporter

    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 there 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 Roman coinage.
    My new acquisition
    2JjiA8XbGt759HcQsWe6K3ed4nsBG5 - Copy.jpg
    TROAS, Birytis. Circa 4th Century BC. Æ 18mm 4.35gm.
    Head of Kabiros left, wearing pileus; star on either side of pileus / B-IP-Y in two lines either side of club, all within laurel wreath. SNG Copenhagen 247; SNG von Aulock 1502; Seaby 4056. Green patina.
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  3. Curtis

    Curtis Well-Known Member

    That's quite an attractive example. Patina looks great, especially where the earthen material in the recesses highlights the hair. It almost looks like there may be some kind of ribbon or braid or tie hanging down amidst the locks of hair? Going right behind the ear maybe?

    I've been finding the Kabeiroi to be a mysterious and difficult topic indeed. Part of the challenge must be the wide geographic & cultural ranges that had some mythological and religious concept of Kabeiroi, partly the duration of the myths.

    So, a 3rd century CE Kabeiros in Macedon, Thessalonica might be conceptualized quite differently from those in Asia Minor or the Levant 800 years earlier!

    There's enough material online to get a foothold, but I'll have to talk to an expert sometime to feel more confident about the topic.

    Yesterday I shared a coin in the Lydia-Semi-Autonomous-Coins thread that bears an interesting relationship to Kabeiros (in this case, singular). The coin celebrates the 2nd Pythian Games in Thessalonica (the first was under Gordian III), which were held in honor of Kabeiros (the "Kabeiric Pythiad," distinctive to Thessalonica's local games; it was different elsewhere).


    There was a long tradition of the Cult of Kabeiros in Thessalonica (the capital of Macedon in the Roman period, a very important city). We see depictions of Kabeiros on RPC bronzes beginning at least by Augustus' reign (he carries a hammer & drinking horn/"ryhton" -- sounds like a fun guy!). We also see Kabeiros inside this temple, and even Apollo holding Kabeiros in this temple (since Apollo must still sanction the Pythian Games even when they're for his little buddy Kabby & held outside Delphi)!

    By this point, it seems, they figured people understood, and they could just show the temple and announce in the exergue: "PYTHIAD 2!"

    The temple usually isn't identified, but taken in context, it must be the Temple of Kabeiros. (It's also likely that they practiced "temple sharing," so this could also be the Temple of the Imperial Cult for which Thessalonica was granted its first Neokorate award.)
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2023
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