An Ancient Coin Showing Homer

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Curtisimo, Jan 4, 2021.

  1. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish) Supporter

    My first coin of 2021 comes packed with plenty of historical interest. I always enjoy it when a coin type I own was mentioned directly by an ancient source such as this one is. In addition it shows Homer, the legendary rhapsode credited by the ancient Greeks as the author of the Illiad and the Odyssey on the reverse.

    Ionia, Smyrna
    Menophilos Krabaus, magistrate.
    Ae Homereium, struck ca. 105-95 BC
    Dia.: 21 mm
    Wt.: 7.05 g
    Obv.: Laureate head of Apollo right
    Homer, holding scroll and resting chin upon hand, seated left on plinth; sceptre behind
    Ref.: Milne 1927, 294
    Ex Plankenhorn Collection of Ionian Coins

    Connection of Homer to Smyrna
    This coin was struck in the ancient city of Smyrna on the coast of Ionia. Smyrna claimed to be the birthplace and home of the poet and developed a specific local legend about his origins there.

    According to the legend, Homer was the son of a woman named Kritheis. Some of the stories claim that Homer’s father was a diety of some kind and others that Kritheis was sent to Smyrna to hide her shame because she became pregnant without a husband. According to the Smyrnians Kritheis gave birth to Homer on the banks of the River Meles which flowed near Smyrna. She named him Melesigenes which translates to “son of Meles” or “Meles-born.”

    As a young man he lost his vision and acquired the name Homer because this was a colloquial term used for the blind by Ionians and people from Kyme at the time (homereuontes = people to follow, on account of the blind needing guides)[2]. (Note: There are many other stories about how Homer got his name)

    In antiquity there was a cave near the source of the River Meles in which the Smyrnians claimed Homer composed his epic poems.

    This is the oldest continuously used bridge in the world. It spans the River Meles and was built in 850 BC near ancient Smyrna. That makes it old enough that Homer might have used it (assuming any of his legends are based in truth). Image ca. 1860 via the Library of Congress.

    Mention of the Coins by Strabo
    To strengthen their special claim that their city was the birthplace of Homer the Smyrnians struck coins with him on the reverse shown in a seated position, holding a scroll and resting his chin on his hand in a thoughtful pose (such as shown on my new coin). Strabo actually mentions these coins in his description of Smyrna.

    “There is also a library; and the Homereium, a quadrangular portico containing a shrine and wooden statue of Homer; for the Smyrnaeans also lay especial claim to the poet; and indeed a bronze coin of theirs is called Homereium. [1]”

    It’s interesting to note that the word Strabo uses for statue is xoanon, which designates a specific type of pre-historic carved wooden statue. This suggests that the tradition of Homer in Smyrna went back well into the dark ages.


    This thread also gives me the opportunity to post my pre-Euro Greek coin showing Homer that my dad brought back to the US after living shortly in Greece and gave to me when I was a kid.


    [2]"homereuontes"+in+ancient+greek&source=bl&ots=1fvVJIoO8F&sig=ACfU3U0hAjBlhUa4-jCC8cU4WfsRtdQ6Sg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjzs9W71oHuAhXDpFkKHVwtA3QQ6AEwAnoECAoQAQ#v=onepage&q="homereuontes" in ancient greek&f=true

    Please post your coins showing historical figures that weren’t rulers or deities.
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2021
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  3. DarkRage666

    DarkRage666 Tiredness taken over

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  4. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish) Supporter

    Ummm... the other Homer ;)
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  5. DarkRage666

    DarkRage666 Tiredness taken over

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  6. ambr0zie

    ambr0zie Dacian Taraboste

    Excellent coin, @Curtisimo! I'm envious.
    I have to admit I never thought they depicted a writer on a coin and I found this very cool.
    Had I seen this coin, I would have said it is Zeus.
    On all my coins where persons are depicted, they are either rulers or mythological characters.
    DonnaML and Curtisimo like this.
  7. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    This coin type has always bothered me. If that is Homer and Homer is blind why does he have a scroll? Braille? On what is that ID based? 'Homer' sells for a lot more the 'man seated'.
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  8. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish) Supporter

    Homer being blind is only one of the traditions and I included it in my write up because it is the most popularly known, though not necessarily the oldest or most definitive in all locations. Pseudo-Plutarch says Homer got his name because he chose to follow (homerein) a group of settlers when they abandoned the colony of Smyrna. I’ve also read that his name was associated with “homeros” meaning hostage or pledge because he was either captured or made a slave at some point in his life.

    As to a possible meaning for the scroll, Pseudo-Herodotus says that Homer’s mother Kritheis married a teacher from Smyrna named Phemius, who adopted and taught Homer. In Smyrna, Homer became a famous teacher before he decided to take up a career as a poet according to this story. Maybe this shows him composing his poetry before he became blind? Or a way to represent the fact that his poems were written down?

    In my research there seemed to be as many ancient legends about Homer as their were Greek cities that wanted to associate themselves with him. It was a fun coin to study. So much so that I started reading the Odyssey again.

    I can’t say for sure what all the reasons for the reverse being identified as Homer are but I would think that with the testimony of Strabo that Smyrna had bronze coins of this time showing Homer we are on firmer footing saying these coins are of Homer than we are of many of the attributions for other subjects that are commonly accepted. I would be interested if anyone knows any other details on the identification of these with Homer?
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2021
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  9. Ryro

    Ryro They call me the 13th Caesar Supporter

    Home run on that Homer, the Great(ish)!
    This was a must have type when I found out about them when I first started collecting:
    And Ajax looks like he was a beast... at least to the Greeks that put him on coin some thousand years after he may have existed:
  10. AncientJoe

    AncientJoe Supporter! Supporter

    Here's my Homer portrait with his name in the legend. I paid what felt like a strong price for it but I haven't seen another since so I suppose it was worth it:


    PAPHLAGONIA, Amastris. Pseudo-autonomous issue. Time of the Antonines, AD 138-192. Æ (21mm, 6.63 g, 6h). OMHPOC, draped bust of Homer right, wearing taenea / Turreted, veiled, and draped bust of Tyche right. RG 50; SNG von Aulock –. Good VF, green patina. Very rare.
  11. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

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  12. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Well-Known Member

    Curtis, Excellent article & coin. The Iliad & the Odyssey was required reading in my high school :cool:.
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  13. dltsrq

    dltsrq Grumpy Old Man

    I suspect that Homer is holding a scroll as the attribute of a poet, the same way that other figures on Greek coins hold objects that reveal their identity.
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  14. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    Nice one, Curtis! And, yes, it's especially cool when a coin type is quite specifically referenced by an ancient source.

    IONIA Smyrna - AE Homereion Doublestruck 3768.JPG
    IONIA, Smyrna
    AE Homereion. 10.8g, 20.2mm. IONIA, Smyrna, circa 95-85 BC. Artemidoros, magistrate. Milne, Autonomous, Period XIV, Group γ, 323. O: Laureate head of Apollo right. R: The poet Homer seated left, holding scroll; ΣΜΥΡΝΑΙΩΝ to right, APTEMIΔ/ΩPOΣ and monogram to left.

    I'll take the opportunity to show one of my favorite coins from last year, featuring the philosopher Chrysippos and the poet Aratos.

    CILICIA Soloi - AE26 Chrysippus Aratus 4168b.jpg
    CILICIA, Soloi-Pompeiopolis. Pseudo-autonomous issue.
    AE26. 12.98g, 25.8mm. CILICIA, Soloi-Pompeiopolis, CY 229 (AD 163/4), time of Marcus Aurelius. SNG von Aulock 8712; RPC Online IV.3 temp 5840. O: Draped bust of Chrysippos right, touching beard with hand; ΘΚϹ behind. R: ΠΟΜΠΗΙΟΠΟΛƐΙΤΩΝ, draped bust of Aratos right, looking upward.
  15. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish) Supporter

    Thanks ambr0zie!

    Nice coins my friend! You have an eye for interesting types. A Locris showing Ajax is definitely on my list.

    This is simply an amazing coin though I know it would have to be to enter your fantastic collection!

    The portrait style really reminds me of the famous bust in the British Museum.

    Thanks ominus!

    Thank you Al. I have read them both several times. Each time I’ve known a bit more about Greek history than the previous time and I find I get much more understanding out of them every time I read them.

    Good point dltsrq!
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2021
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  16. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish) Supporter

    Great coins Z! That Cilicia AE26 is one of my favorites from your collection as well. Thanks for sharing it and for your kind words.
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  17. cmezner

    cmezner do ut des Supporter

    Homer issued under Hieronymos, son of Hieronymos:

    AE Homereion, Ionia, Smyrna, c. 105-95 BC
    21 mm, 8.713 g

    Ref.: Heyman, "Homer on Coins from Smyrna," SPNO I, Type I; BMC Ionia pg. 246, 99 var. (magistrate); SNG Copenhagen 1160 var. (magistrate's name). From the JB (Edmonton) collection.
    Ob.: Laureate head of Apollo right.

    Rev.: ΣΜΥΡΝΑΙΩΝ, the poet Homer seated left, clad in himation, holding scroll, magistrate's name in two lines to left ΙΕΡΩΝΥΜΟΣ ΙΕPΩΝΥΜΟΥ
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  18. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    When I was in college (class of 1968) we were taught that 'Homer' was not one person but a class of travelling entertainers who recited traditional stories that had been developing for centuries entirely from memory. The question was, "Who wrote the Illiad?" The answer was,
    "Homer or another Greek by the same name." Later, someone wrote them down. The adoption of writing ended the need for memorization over time so we, today, have trouble accepting the possibility of people memorizing long works but the number of people who have memorized the Koran shows that this is quite reasonable. No theory can be proven to a complete lack of doubt. History is not a good subject for those who require everything to be black or white. It turns out that neither is science or anything else that can reside in the human mind but that is another unprovable matter best left to the philosophers. It is a bit like we say on fake coins. Many coins can be shown to be false but we tread on dangerous ground when we believe 100% that we can spot every last fake made in the past and that will be made in the future.
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