Apollon Klarios and the Oracle of Klaros

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Jochen, Feb 19, 2019.

  1. Jochen

    Jochen Well-Known Member

    The coin:
    Ionia, Kolophon, 480-450 BC
    AE 6 (tetartemorion), 0.2g, 6.22mm, 0°
    obv. archaic portrait of Apollon Klarios, frontal
    rev. rectangular incus with inscription TE (value)
    ref. SNG von Aulock 1999; SNG Kayhan 356; Rosen 567; Milne Colophon 8
    VF, a bit rough
    Klaros was a small site between Kolophon and Lebedos, known for its famous sanctuary of Apollon. Klaros itself never became a city throughout its long history, but rather served as a prophecy center, oracle, and a sanctuary to Apollon. In this way it resembles Didyma.

    I have found two different explanations. The first refers to Klaros, site of the temple of Apollon. Then Apollon Klarios is the Apollon of Klaros. The other leads back to the Doric word 'klaros', meaning 'allotment of land, supervisor over cities and colonies'. Then the Klarian Apollon would belong to the founder myth, as it was usual at the Greeks.

    The founding myth of Klaros connects the city with the Epigoni, fleeing after they had sacked the Mycenaean citadel of Thebes; among them was Manto, daughter of the blind seer Teiresias and herself a seer. At the site of Klaros the fugitives were seized by the Cretans: the legend was confirmed by the historic Minoan settlement at Miletos that was discovered in 1995/96 by the German school. In the legend, when Rhakios, son of Lebedos and leader of the Cretan settlers of Caria, learned who they were, he let them settle in the country and married Manto himself. Thus the origin of the oracle at Klaros was remembered by Greeks of the classical period as Minoan-Mycenaean in origin. The Ionian migration from the north of the Peloponnesos dates to the 10th century BC. Revealed proto-Geometric pottery of the 10th century BC found at this site, attesting to the presence hinted at in myth.

    Homer made mention of its Temple of Apollon in the 7th century BC. But probably the oracle is much older. A sacred cave found near the temple suggests the presence of a Kybele cult in earlier periods here.

    Recording to a myth Kalchas the official seer of the Greeks during the Trojan War has been predicted to die if he met a seer who was superior. At the site of Klaros he met Mopsos, son of Manto, who together with Amphilochos was travelling home after the Trojan War. Kalchas challenged him for a competition and asked him to state the number of figs of a nearby fig-tree. The answer of Mopsos was correct to the last fig. Another version reports this story with a high pregnat sow. They discussed the number of piglets the sow would cast. Kalchas said eight, Mopsos nine. When the sow littered eight, Kalchas triumphed. But then a nineth piglet came and Kalchas died in Kolophon of shame of his defeat.

    It is reported too, that Alexander the Great once visited the oracle of Klaros to let interpret a dream in which he founded a city at the Pagos mountain. The oracle explained the dream as demand to rebuilt Smyrna.

    In the time of the Hellenism the oracle was famous over the whole ancient world. Many people came to Klaros from neighboring cities and towns to consult the oracle of Apollo. Even though nearby Ephesos and Miletos had their own oracle in Didyma, they envied the position and importance of Klaros. The religious center thrived under the Roman empire. Emperor Hadrian made a considerable contribution to the reconstruction of the temple which was destroyed by an earthquake.

    The games held here, every 5th year, in honor of Apollo, were the Klaria.

    Aelian writes (in On Animals 10. 49):
    "Particularly in Klaros do the inhabitants and all Greeks pay honour to [Apollon] the son of Zeus and Leto. And so the land there is untrodden by poisonous creatures and is also highly obnoxious to them. The god wills it so, and the creatures in nay case dread him, since the god can not only save life but is also the begetter of Asklepios, man’s saviour and champion against diseases. Moreover Nikandros (priest from Kolophon) also bears witness to what I say, and his words are: `No viper, nor harmful spiders, nor deep-wounding scorpion dwell in the groves of Klaros, for Apollon veiled its deep grotto with ash-trees and purged its grassy floor of noxious creatures.'"

    The Temple of Apollon:
    The temple, which probably replaced an earlier one, is dated to the 4th century BC. It was built upon a stepped platform measuring 26 by 46 meters. The site of the temple was probably chosen over a higher elevation because of its proximity to the sacred spring. 11 columns were placed at the long side of the temple and s6 at the short. In the cella of the temple stood a huge statue of Apollon.

    A Sacred Way leads from the propylaea or entrance way to the Temple of Apollon. Inscriptions were later carved on the columns that named delegations from Greece and Asia Minor that had come to worship and consult the oracle. Along the Sacred Way were columns, statuary monuments and some interesting friezes attributed to the vanity of certain influential Romans. Most of these date to the first century BC. These inscriptions belong to the greatest assembly of Greek inscriptions at all.

    The Oracle:

    The oracles were received in the form of verses in a vault below the temple's cella. This area was the adyton, the holy of holies. Two stairways lead down to a narrow passage that extends to the end of the temple. After a labyrinthine series of bends and turns, the corridor eventually leads to the two small oracular vaults. One of these served as an outer chamber. The inner vault was located directly under the cella. It was in this chamber that the priests drank from the sacred spring in preparation for their duties. A large basin was in the rear of the cavern for this purpose. The oracular staff was composed of thespiodes (composer of the verses), the scribes (recorders), and, of course the prophets themselves. It seems that prophets held office for a year, whereas the priests and thespiodes were appointed for life. The language in which the thespiodes composed the oracles should imitate the language of gods. And for the Greeks this was a poetic and archaic Greek. It consisted of formulas and curious and difficult to understand words, and didn't follow the usual grammar.

    Persons seeking advice from the oracle were not permitted to enter into the inner chamber where the mysterious work was done. Apparently, they waited in the passageway or in the outer chamber. Stone benches were found here, as well as the omphalos, the sacred stone of Apollo. This was of blue marble in the shape of an egg, and was found at various sanctuaries dedicated to Apollo, including the oracle at Delphi. And an elegant bench was found with serpent-arms, showing that this sanctuary had a chthonic origin as all of the genuin Greek oracles.

    Outside the temple an additional altar for Dionysos was found. This division of deities, or rather separation of worship, was common among the many sanctuaries of antiquity.

    The oracle of Klaros was the only one lasting till Christian era. Under the many intaglios found at this site were several invoking a god Jao. Probably this meant Jahwe. In this time Apollo has been decayed to a mediator only between god and men, and he was called angel (angelos) and daimon (probably in the Platonic sense).

    The Excavations:
    The historic Klaros, referred to by Greek and Roman poets, had been entirely buried in the alluvial silt deposited by the small river at the site, a widespread phenomenon along this coastline during the last century BCE, as the hinterland was deforested. T. Macridy uncovered the monumental entrance to the sanctuary in 1905 and returned for further explorations with the French archaeologist Charles Picard in 1913. Excavations recommenced between 1950 and 1961 under Louis Robert, and a series of important Roman dedicated monuments came to light, as well as the famous Doric Temple of Apollo, seat of the oracle, in its final grand though uncompleted Helelnistic phase, 3rd century BC. The Sacred Way was excavated in 1988 under J. de La Genière, and since then much alluvial spoil has been carted off-site and Clarus has been prepared to receive visitors.

    I have added a pic of the Temple of Apollon as we can see it today.
    Klaros_Temple of Apollon.jpg

    From Wikipedia by Nikator

    (1) Apollonius, Argonautika
    (2) Ovid, Metamorphoses
    (3) Strabo

    (1) Karl Buresch, Apollon Klarios - Zum Untersuchungen zum Orakelwesen des späteren Altertums, 1889
    (2) Merkelbach/Blümel, Die Sprache der Orakel, in Philologica, 1997
    (3) Reports of the Turkish Government

    Online Sources:
    (1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clarus
    (2) http://www.theoi.com/Cult/ApollonCult5.html

    Best regards
    Sulla80, AnYangMan, randygeki and 6 others like this.
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