Featured Apollo Smintheus and the herdsman Ordes

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Jochen1, Feb 1, 2019.

  1. Jochen1

    Jochen1 Well-Known Member

    Dear Friends of ancient mythology!

    Here I want to share an article about the mythology of Troy.

    But first: The name of the herdsman referring to on these coins has been passed down as Ordes, not Orodes as he is named in error in Bellinger! Orodes is the name of several Parthian kings.

    1st coin:
    Troas, Alexandreia, quasi-autonomous, AD 2nd-3rd century
    AE 23, 4.5g, 23.25mm, 225°
    obv. CO ALEX TRO
    Bust of city-goddess (Tyche), draped and turreted, r.: behind vexillum inscribed CO/AV(?)
    rev. CO[L?] AV TROAC
    The herdsman Ordes, in short dress and wearing boots, advancing l., holding pedum
    over l. shoulder, r. hand raised; r. behind him cattle leaping r., head turned l.; on the l. side grotto within laying cult-statue of Apollo Smintheus, above Apollo Smintheus stdg. r.
    ref.: Bellinger A480 (Type 19); BMC 41
    rare, about VF, weakness of strike on upper part of rev.
    2nd coin:
    Troas, Alexandreia, Caracalla, AD 198-217
    AE 23, 6.99g, 23.29mm, 180°
    obv. AV CEV A - NTONIN
    Laureate head r.
    rev. CO - L - A - VG TR
    Horse, grazing r., behind herdsman Ordes, holding pedum over shoulder, stg. r., crooked forward; on the l. side tree with leafed twigs
    ref.: Bellinger A284 (Type 44); BMC 95
    about VF

    The mythology of these coins have made troubles to me. Mostly Iliad I, 39 is added as a reference. But when you read it nothing is told about the mythology of the depicted scenes! The reason is that they play chronologically

    (1) before the Trojan War and
    (2) after the Trojan War

    and are included only in a rather unknown local myth. I have found these explanations in an article of Peter Weiss and will follow him here ewidely:

    Whereas Homer's Iliad I, 39 describes the famous invocation of the Plague-Apollo Smintheus by his priest Chryses, the cult legend we are looking for is found in a scholion (A) to Iliad I, 39. In this scholion Polemon of Ilion is cited as source, a perieget living around 200 BC. The passage probably is originated from the Periegesis Iliov (3 volumes) which is attested by the Suda. Under the lemma 'Smintheu' we find the following:

    Smintheu, epitheton of Apollon. Sminthos is the locality in the Troas where a sanctuary of Apollo Smintheus existed by the following reason: In Chryse, a city in Mysia, a certain Krinis was priest of the local Apollon. Angry about his priest (the reason we dont know) Apollo sent a plague of mice to devastate the crops. But later repenting he appeared to Ordes, the chief-herdsman (archiboukolos) of Krinis, who hospitably received him, and Apollo promised to kill the mice with his arrows. When leaving he commanded to communicate his epiphania to Krinis too. After this has taken place Krinis erected a sanctuary for Apollon and gave him the epitheton Smintheus; because in their native language the mice are called 'sminthoi'. This legend is found at Polemon.

    The depiction of the 1st coin:
    On the lower left side we see a grotto within laying the cult-statue of Smintheus and above the god himself is standing r. in the same iconography. Before and greater - in the centre of the depiction - a herdsman is standing, holding a pedum over his shoulder in emotional, obviously frightened attitude, his r. hand raised (a gesture expressing surprise and adoration at once), behind him a cattle, rearing up and frightened escaping r., head turned backwards. (It seems that Krinis the priest was owner of a notable herd of cattle. This is explicable if we suggest that the cattle belonged to the god himself.) Imhoof-Blumer responded to this scene in detail and started the discussion. He cited the Iliad-Scholion, but doubtfully, denying a reference to it. But he already recognized that it was a grotto with a hidden cult-image; additionally he states in a supplement, it may have been recovered sometime later (in historic time). G.F.Hill took this image - inspired by W.Leaf - as origin of a study and connected it with the myth of the herdsman Ordes; Leaf himself joined him in his monography about Troy: "This enables us to complete the legend; the figure above the cavern is of course Apollo himself appearing to Ordes, and the actual cult-statue of the god as he appeared was afterwards found on the actual spot of his epiphania.". This analysis is accepted and plausible. But in this case two different events have been combined in one depiction: the Epiphany which then - if we don't wont accept two different Epiphanies - is surely identical with the epiphania, the appearence of the god to Ordes at Polemon resp. the Scholion when the god left, and the - subsequent - discovering of the cult-image, probably by the same herdsman (about which in the shortened article from Polemon nothing is found, but about which he probably could have reported; in the Scholion only cursorily is told about the foundation of the cult by the priest Krinis).

    The depiction of the 2nd coin:
    As is known the herdsman appears another time on coins of the colonia - he is part of one of the most frequent coin pictures of the city. He is added in imperial times often to the old parasemon of the Hellenistic Alexandreia, the grazing horse, which in turn already was emblem of the polis of Neandria, incorporated in a synoikismos with Alexandreia. In imperial times - from Commodus on - this horse often is accompagnied by a herdsman with pedum. Therefore already soon the herdsman was seen in connection to the herdsmen of the other coinage (W.Wroth, in BMC Troas, as well Hill, but without any consequences), but sometimes the connection was denied too with weak arguments. But I think never before the close question has been asked wether by the formation of this group concrete mythological connotations would originate. There are some reasons for this suggestion. First: often a tree is added to the horse and the herdsman. According to the conventions of the picture language of imperial times pretty sure a sacred area should be indicated by this. With it the limits of a mere parasemon are already left. Then a distinctive feature of the herdsman always has been neglected: On several depictions (especially the better ones) he stands crooked forwards, as if he has been pointed by the the horse to something. As we have seen the herdsman seemingly was the main figure in a recovering story in the scope of the cult legend of Apollon Smintheus. Because of that the suggestion is close that the depiction of this coin with herdsman and horse points to a further detail of this recovery legend: Thus the horse - some time after the Epiphany depicted on the other coin - has led the herdsman to the recovery of the cult image, a topos often found in ancient literature. Some depictions suggest that in front of the horse a spring or a creek is hinted. Here too it is at least worth mentioning that Menander Rhetor has described the sacred groof of Apollon Smintheus situated within springs and creeks. The suggestion here put up for discussion matches a centralpoint of G.F.Hill that here an animal was the guide and he dedicated a full chapter to ancient analogies - however he thought of the cattle beside the herdsman in the first covered coin.

    If our suggestions are correct this would mean twofold. The belief of the myth of the 'old' first cult image of Smintheus put it on an equal level like the 'fallen from heaven' palladion of Ilion, the most famous city in the Troas. So the archaic cult image of Smintheus in the imagination was not a human but a divine work. A hint in this direction could come from Menander Rhetor in his Sminthiakos, where he - beside some other and a bit vague - recommends when talking about the cult image to say "may be that this cult image is fallen from heaven too (445, 19)". On the other side sometimes in the future the old parasemon of Neandria and then of Alexandreia - which originally and for a long time surely had no connections to the cult legend - would have been amalgated. That means that in later times there was the need to find an aition for the parasemon and to develop a solution. The two original disparate elements 'horse' and 'herdsman' were easily to be connected as matter of fact; in respect of content the recovery legend seemed obviously to be the closest solution. In the evolution of the cult legende this was in respect to the content and chronologically too the last step. That this occured not until imperial times - long after Polemon and when Alexandreia was already colonia - is by all means possible.

    I have added a pic of the Smintheum of Chryse, near Gülpinar/Turkey (Klaus -Peter Simon, Wikipedia)

    (1) aition: reason, legend to explain something
    (2) Epiphany: appearance, especially of a god
    (3) Menander Rhetor: Greek orator from Laodikeia ad Lycum, 3rd century AD
    (4) parasemon: sign, symbol, f.e. of Greek ships
    (5) pedum: crook, hooked staff of herdsmen
    (6) periegesis: kind of travelogue, the most famous perieget later was Pausanias
    (7) Polemon of Ilion: Greek author and perieget, born c.200 BC in Troy,
    (8) scholion: ancient comment to ancient authors
    (9) Suda: the largest Byzantine lexicon, c. AD 970
    (10) synoikismos: combining several villages to one polis (city)

    (1) Homer, Ilias
    (2) Alfred R. Bellinger, Troy the Coins, Princeton University Press 1961 (Reprint 1979
    Sanford J. Durst)
    (3) Peter Weiß, Alexandria Troas: Griechische Traditionen und Mythen in einer römischen Colonia, in 'Schwertheim, R. - Wiegartz, H. (Hrsg.), Die Troas - Neue Forschungen zu Neandria und Alexandria Troas II, Asia Minor Studien 22, (1996) 157-173'
    (4) G.F.Hill, Apollo and St.Michael: Some Analogies, in The Journal of Hellenic Studies,
    vol.36, 1916, pp. 134-162'

    Online Sources:
    (1) www.cngcoins.com
    (2) Wikipedia

    Best regards
    Marsyas Mike, PeteB, galba68 and 10 others like this.
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  3. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    I've always liked coins with depictions of Tyche.
    Alexander Troas.jpg ALEXANDRIA TROAS_2.jpg
    Marsyas Mike, TIF, galba68 and 4 others like this.
  4. Pellinore

    Pellinore Supporter! Supporter

    An interesting and very long read, in fact these are the most extensive reverse descriptions I ever saw! The Roman provincial coinage never ceases to amaze me, and I like your thoroughness in interpreting the herdsman very much. I hope once to find one of these. So far, I liked Troas coinage (that is, of the towns in the northwesternmost part of Anatolia, now Turkey) because of the pleasant and boldly cut coins showing a horse, the wolf suckling Romulus & Remus, the silenus Marsyas, or the flying eagle.

    That is, the coinage of the 3rd century. A distinct school of celators must have been concentrated in that area. Here's what I can show of Alexandria Troas:

    3257 Val Troas ct.jpg

    AE Valerianus (253-260), Alexandria Troas. Obv. Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust right. IMP LICI VALERIAN. Rev. Grazing horse r. COL AVG TRO. 20 mm, 4.26 gr. Bellinger A436 var (legend).

    3266 A Gallienus co.jpg

    AE Gallienus (253- 268). Alexandria in Troas. Obv: Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust r. Rev: Lupa Romana standing left, suckling Romulus and Remus. COL AVG/ TRO. 20.5 mm, 5.20 gr. Bellinger A459. SNG Cop 200-201; BMC 184.

    3279 AT ct.jpg

    AE Trebonianus Gallus, Alexandria Troas. Obv. Laureated bust t.r. Rev. Marsyas with wine skin t.l. COL AVG TROAD. 21 mm, 7.54 gr.
  5. Jochen1

    Jochen1 Well-Known Member

    Troas, Alexandreia, Caracalla, AD 198-217
    AE 24, 8.48g, 23.9mm, 210°
    Alexandreia, AD 214-8. April 2017
    Bust, cuirassed, laureate, r.
    rev. COL - ALEXAN - D - AVG
    Eagle flying r., holding head and neck of bull in talons
    ref.: cf. Bellinger A302 (Type 47); cf. SNG Copenhagen 139 (obv. legend); cf. BMC Troas p.21, 98 (same); cf. SNG Canakkale 323 (same); SNG von Aulock -, SNG München -, SNG Tübingen -, et al. -
    rare, nice F, portrait!

    The reverse legend dates this coin to after 214, when Caracalla renamed the city from Colonia Augusta Troadensium to Colonia Alexandria Augusta.
    This obverse legend ending in IOV is apparently an unpublished mint error.

    The depiction is referring to the founder myth of Alexandria: The eagle carrying a bull's head which is a common occurence from now [Commodus Caesar] on, must refer to a foundation legend, like that told of Antioch on the Orontes, of an eagle carrying part of a sacrificial animal to a spot where the new city was destined to raise (Bellinger).
  6. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    Another great thread, Jochen. Thanks!

    One of my favorite provincials:
    Severus Alexander - Alexander Troas 2017 new.jpg
    AE24. 6.97g, 24.6mm. TROAS, Alexandria Troas, 222-235 AD. RPC Online temp #3994; cf. Bellinger A338 (obv A338, rev A225 Type 44). O: IMP SEV ALEXANDER AVG, laureate, draped & cuirassed bust left, holding spear & shield decorated with head of Medusa. R: COL AVG, horse grazing right, herdsman (Ordes) behind holding pedum (shepherd's crook), tree to left, TROAC in exergue.

    And another one from Alexandria Troas...
    Severus Alexander - Alexandria Troas Drunken Herakles.jpg SEVERUS ALEXANDER
    AE25. 6.37g, 25mm. TROAS, Alexandria Troas, circa AD 222-235. RPC Online temp #3987 var. (obv legend); Bellinger A335. O: IM AR ƧE AΛEXANDROS, laureate, draped and cuirassed bust right. R: COL AV-G TROA, drunken Herakles stumbling right, an arm around the shoulder of Pan to his right, a satyr on his left holding his hand and another behind him supporting (or restraining) him with both arms.
  7. Jochen1

    Jochen1 Well-Known Member

    Hi zumbly!

    2 nice coins. The 2nd one I like especially because it has an interesting motive: the drunken Herakles.

    @coin #1 Here you can see under the open mouth of the horse something on the ground. It could be only gras, but then why not spread over the whole ground as we can expect on a meadow? I think it can well be something special, that was found by the horse and marks the site where Alexandreia was founded. Some are suggesting a well or a spring.

    Best regards
    Pellinore and galba68 like this.
  8. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    I like it as well! I've often wondered if the reverse copies a lost piece of statuary or painting.

    On many examples, it's frustratingly hard to determine if there's anything there at all, but on others, there's clearly "something"... as to what, I like your suggestion that it may be something more meaningful than just grass. The coins below are not mine, but they show the detail clearer.

    Indeterminate object - spring?

    Grass or spring?
  9. Pellinore

    Pellinore Supporter! Supporter

    Nice, very nice! Yes, probably an element of a myth connected to the Troas region, something everyone knew from grandmother's lore. It reminds me of the myth of King Midas and his donkey's ears: it is as if the horse is saying something to a thing on the ground.
    zumbly and Jochen1 like this.
  10. Jochen1

    Jochen1 Well-Known Member

    Dear zumbly!

    Wonderful coins! I can show another one from my collection: Bellinger A486. I think these depictions are evidence that it is not only a grazing horse showing for example the abundance of horses in this region but a horse that has found a special object, possibly a plant, a flower or something else. This depiction belongs to the first founder myth of Alexandreia. Sometimes the coin has a thunderbolt in exergue, a hint that Zeus could have been involved.

    The 2nd founder myth is found on coins not before Commodus where an eagle ist carrying a bull's head. This founder myth is similar to the founder myth of Antiochia ad Orontem.

    You have written: "I've often wondered if the reverse copies a lost piece of statuary or painting." Yes, I have learned from Pat Lawrence that most of the coin reverses are depicted after real statues as model.

    Best regards
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 2, 2019
    Marsyas Mike, zumbly, Bing and 2 others like this.
  11. Jochen1

    Jochen1 Well-Known Member

    That is a fascinating idea! Thank you.

    Pellinore likes this.
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