Featured Argaios - the holy mountain of Cappadocia

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Jochen1, Mar 25, 2019.

  1. Jochen1

    Jochen1 Well-Known Member

    Dear Friends of ancient mythology!

    I'm sure many of you have already seen coins from Caesarea (Greek Kaisareia), where the back is called 'Mt. Argaios' or 'Mt. Argaeus'. Here are three of them:

    1st Coin:
    Cappadocia, Caesarea, Marcus Aurelius, AD 161-180
    AR - Didrachm, 6.73g, 20.93mm, 225°
    struck from AD 161 (COS III)
    Bare head with curly head r.
    rev. VΠA - TOC Γ (= COS III)
    Mount Argaios, surrounded by flames(?); in the middle a big round object, on
    top 8-pointed star; on the lower left rock a stag, on the lower r. rock a tree
    ref. Metcalf 130a; Sydenham 327; Sear GIC 1661 var. (drapery on l. shoulder)
    Scarce, VF, slightly toned
    Probably from the hoard found in 1983 in Caesarea (Metcalf)

    2nd Coin:
    Cappadocia, Caesarea, Lucius Verus, AD 161-169
    AR - Didrachm, 6.71g, 21.53mm, 225°
    struck from AD 161 (COS II)
    Bare head r.
    rev. VΠA - TOC B (= COS II)
    Mons Argaios, surrounded by flames(?); in the middle a big round object, on top
    a man stg. frontal, sceptre in raised l. hand (mountain god?)
    ref. Metcalf 716
    scarce, about EF, slighly toned
    Probably from the hoard found in 1983 in Caesarea (Metcalf)

    3rd Coin:
    Cappadocia, Caesarea, Elagabal, AD 218-222
    AE 28, 11.67g, 0°
    struck AD 219 (RY 2)
    Bust, draped and cuirassed, laureate, r.
    rev. MHTPOΠ [KAICAPI] / ET B (RY 2)
    Agalma of Mt. Argaios on altar
    ref. Sydenham 518 var. (has year on altar); coll. Hunter 593, 81
    VF, nice portrait of the young emperor
    ex CNG Electronic Auction 129, Lot 242, December 2005
    Agalma = cult picture, consecration picture

    The Argaios (or Latin 'Argaeus') is the highest mountain in Asia Minor. It is 3916m high, volcanic and mostly snow covered on top. Today it is called Erciyes Dagi, and at its foot lay Kaisareia (Lat. Caesarea), the old Mazaka or Eusebeia, today's Kayseri. Argaios was already a holy mountain at the time of the Hittites, who called it 'harki ' (= the White). Maximus of Tyre, in his commentary on cult images of the gods, 2nd cent. AD, wrote of a mountain that the Cappadocians regarded as a deity (theos), an oath (horkos), and a statue (agalma).
    Erciyes Dagi.jpg
    Erciyes Dagi (from Wikipedia)

    It is indeed an impressive mountain because of its enormous height and because of its volcanic activities. In the year 253 BC there is said to have been a big eruption which is mentioned on republican coins, but I did not find any specimen. The geographer Strabon, in his description of the surroundings of Caesarea, told of plains littered with fire pits where the flames broke out of the ground at night. Mazaka was the capital of the Cappadocian kings, later the capital of the Roman province Cappadocia.

    The images of Argaios on coins are all quite similar. It is always triangular with the tip pointing upwards and composed of parts reminiscent of rocks. In the middle there is usually a circle decorated with dots. The view that it is a flower is probably no longer valid today. Probably it is a cave, possibly for a cult statue. The picture of the Argaios is regularly surrounded by needle-shaped points or cones as on the second coin. These should be flames as symbols of his volcanic eruptions, which is confirmed by similar illustrations on other coins.

    The relative uniformity of the representation suggests that it is probably the representation of an actually existing cult image, a so-called Agalma, a consecration image that can be placed in the temple. And the stag and the tree on the first coin don't look like real. Rather they are objects with which the Agalma is decorated. This theory is confirmed by the third coin, in which the image of Argaios stands on an altar. But whether the Agalma was decorated by figures, which could be added to the cult picture as needed, is not known.

    On some types a star is depicted above the summit, as on the first coin; there are moon crescents, the sun god crowned with rays, a mountain god with sceptre or an eagle. Then there is a type on which the Argaios is carried by a man on a quadriga (probably Septimius Severus) or a very rare type on which the Argaios is seen on a carriage pulled by two elephants. Then a Tyche is known, which carries the Argaios on its head as a wall crown, and a personification of the Cappadocia, with the Argaios in the outstretched hand.

    Interesting (and not yet properly explained) is the following: Although the Argaios, as mentioned above, had a great importance since ancient times, there's no coin from Greek times that mentions it, apart from the relatively short time between 101 BC and 17 AD, in which an alliance with Rome existed. Only in the 1st century AD the Argaios coins appear. A possible explanation would be that the cult was reintroduced by the Romans to bring the Cappadocians closer to the Roman triad Jupiter-Helios-Serapis and to bring them to the recognition of a Summus Deus faith. (Peter Weiß). It is known that an agon took place in his name. Argaios was used as surname of Zeus in Cappadocia (Eckhel).

    Cappadocia was already important at the time of the Hittites (14th century BC) as a central part of their empire. Their capital Hattusa, near today's Boghazköi, was located north of Caesarea. Under Cyrus II it came under Persian influence, but since the distance to the Persian capital was long, Cappadocia remained relatively independent. This was also true for the time of Alexander and for the reign of the Antigonides since 303 B.C. Under the Romans Archelaos was raised to king by Marcus Antonius. 18/19 AD it became under Tiberius the Roman province Cappadocia.

    Other mountain gods:
    The holy mountain Argaios is only one in a whole series of mountain gods. Another important cult, for example, was Zeus Kasios, which can also be traced back to the Hittites. This was the holy mountain Hazzi, where the gods descended from heaven. According to Ugarite tradition it was the seat of the storm and thunderstorm god Baal. In the Greek Seleucid period these two deities merged and parallel to the important Baal, the former mountain god was made the god Zeus Kasios, who was worshipped in Seleukeia Pierias.

    History of Art:
    I have added the pic of a bronze figure, hollow on the inside, showing the mountain massif with three jagged peaks, the two outer ones having a pyramidal shape, and a face on the front in the middle of the mountain. The figure of an eagle, the bird of Zeus, is enthroned on the central summit (From the Archäologisches Museum of the University of Münster, Germany).
    Bronzestatuette des Argaios_2.jpg

    And I have added a picture of the Erciyes Dagi of today.

    (1) Wikipedia
    (2) A nice article from Peter Weiß about Mons Argaios you can find here http://www.bngev.de/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/1985-Band-XXXV.pdf#page=23&zoom=auto,-276,665

    Best regards
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 25, 2019
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  3. Mat

    Mat Ancient Coincoholic

    Lucius Verus (161 - 169 A.D.)
    Caesarea, Cappadocia
    AR Didrachm
    O: AYTOKR OYHPOC CEBACTOC Bare-headed and cuirassed bust right, seen from behind.
    R: YPA TOS B ,Mt. Argaeus surmounted by Helios standing left.
    Struck 161-166 A.D. (as COS II)
    Caesarea, Cappadocia Mint
    Metcalf, Caesarea 131d; Sydenham, Caesarea

    Commodus (177 - 192 A.D.)
    AR Didrachm
    Caesaria, Cappadocia
    O: AYT M AYP KOMO ANTωNI, laureate head right.
    R: YΠATOC ∆ ΠAT ΠA-TPI, Mt. Argaeus surmounted by star.
    Cos IV, struck 183-185 AD.
    Metcalf 155f; Sydenham 372a

    Hadrian (117-138 A.D.)
    AR Didrachm
    CAPPADOCIA, Caesarea
    O: ADPIANOC CEBACTOC, laureate head right.
    R: YPATOC G.PATHPPA, Helios standing on Mount Argaeus, holding globe and sceptre.
    Sydenham, Caesarea 263; Metcalf, Caesarea 92a
    randygeki, TTerrier, kaparthy and 8 others like this.
  4. Jochen1

    Jochen1 Well-Known Member

    Thank you for the pics. It is well possible that on my coin of Lucius Verus the figure on top of Argaios is Helios too.
  5. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    Antonius Pius 6.jpg
    OBVERSE: AYTOC ANTWNEUNOC CEBACTOC, laureate, draped bust right
    REVERSE: KAICAREW N T P ARGAI, Mt. Argaeus culminating in tall pyramidal top (baetyl?), ET Q in ex.
    Struck at Caesaria, Cappadocia, AD 145-146
    7.4g, 20mm
    Syd 310 var
    Antonius Pius 4.jpg
    AR Didrachm
    OBVERSE: ANTWNEI-NOC CEBACTOC, laureate head right
    REVERSE: YPAT B PAT PATR, Helios, holding globe and sceptre, standing atop Mt. Argaeus; * in exergue
    Struck at Caesaria, Cappadocia, 139 AD
    6.2g, 21mm
    Syd 301c
    Septimius Severus 17.jpg
    AR Drachm
    OBVERSE: AY Λ CЄΠ CЄOYHPOC, laureate head right
    REVERSE: MHTPOΠO KAICAPIAC, Mt. Argaeus surmounted by star, ETЄ in ex
    Struck at Cappadocia, Caesarea, Year 5=A.D. 196/7
    2.58 g, 17mm
    Sydenham 395
    Gordian III 11.jpg
    AR Drachm
    OBVERSE: AY K M ANT ΓΟΡΔΙΑΝΟC CE, laureate, draped and cuirassed bust right
    REVERSE: MHTPO KAIC B N, Mt. Argaeus, ETΔ in ex
    Struck at Cappadocia, Caesarea, Year 4=A.D. 240-241
    2.96g, 18.6mm
    Sydenham 603d
  6. Andres2

    Andres2 Well-Known Member

  7. chrsmat71

    chrsmat71 I LIKE TURTLES!

    Here's mine, on the altar with year...

  8. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    A Flavian Mt. Argaeus from Rome.

    RPC1636.jpg Vespasian
    AR Drachm, 3.04g
    Rome mint (for Cappadocia), 73-74 AD
    RPC 1636 (6 spec.).
    Obv: AYTOKPA KAICAP OYЄCΠACIANOC CЄBACTOC; head of Vespasian, laureate, r.
    Rev: ЄYOYC ЄKTOY; Mt Argaeus; on summit, radiate figure standing l., globe in r. hand, sceptre in l. hand
    Ex Bertolami E-Live auction 41, 30 April 2017, lot 259.

    And from Cappadocia.

    AR Drachm, 3.09g
    Caesarea, Cappadocia mint, 74-75 AD
    RPC 1646 (2 spec.).
    Obv: AYTOKPA KAICAP OYЄCΠACIANOC CЄBACTOC; Head of Vespasian, laureate, r.
    Rev: ЄYOYC ЄBΔOMOY; Mt Argaeus; on summit, radiate figure standing l., globe in r. hand, sceptre in l. hand
    Ex London Ancient Coins Auction A1, 3 July 2017, lot 45.
  9. PeteB

    PeteB Well-Known Member

    Marcus Aurelius. 161-180 AD. CAPPADOCIA, Caesarea. AR Didrachm (20mm, 6.81 gm, 11h). Dated COS. 3 (161-165 AD). Obv: AVTOKP ANTWNEINOC CEB, laureate head right, with a seemingly uplifted gaze. Rev: YPATOC Γ, Mount Argaeus, with standing nude figure above summit, holding spear and globe. At the base, hound chasing hare on center right of base; tree before left boulder at base. Sydenham, Caesarea 326(var. hound chasing hare) Metcalf, Caesarea 130b.
  10. Deacon Ray

    Deacon Ray Well-Known Member

    Excellent coins and very interesting post @Jochen ! Congratulations on having your photo essay featured on the CoinTalk main page! :singing:
    Jochen1, arizonarobin and ominus1 like this.
  11. Pishpash

    Pishpash Well-Known Member

    Hadrian 20150111 obv.jpg
    Hadrian 20150111 obv.jpg Hadrian 20150111 rev.jpg

    Hadrian (Augustus)
    Region, City: Caesarea , Cappadocia
    Coin: Silver Drachma
    ADPIANOC CEBACTOC - Laureate bust right, slight drapery on far shoulder
    UPATOC G P-ATHR PATR - Mount Argaeus surmounted by a statue of Helios, holding globe and sceptre.
    Mint: (128-138 AD)
    Wt./Size: 2.70g / 18mm
    • Metcalf, Caesarea 107
  12. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander find me at NumisForums Supporter

    Everyone needs a Mt. Argaios!

    Screen Shot 2019-03-27 at 8.47.55 PM.jpg

    I enjoyed the volcanic landscape and the unusual dwellings this affords when I visited a few years ago.

    Screen Shot 2019-03-27 at 10.46.36 PM.jpg
    Screen Shot 2019-03-27 at 10.45.57 PM.jpg
    Screen Shot 2019-03-27 at 10.45.15 PM.jpg
    Screen Shot 2019-03-27 at 10.57.20 PM.jpg
    Screen Shot 2019-03-27 at 10.47.40 PM.jpg
  13. arizonarobin

    arizonarobin Well-Known Member

    A very informative and interesting thread @Jochen. I always look forward to the words "Dear Friends of ancient mythology!"
    I have only a humble and worn example but it is one I like very much!

    Julia Domna, Cappadocia Ar Drachm; 17-18mm; 2.9g
    Cappadocia, Caesarea
    draped bust right
    Mount Argaeus, surrmounted by star
    ETK in exergue (year 20)
    Syd 454 ADD (not in sydenham)
  14. lordmarcovan

    lordmarcovan Eclectic & Eccentric Moderator

    This thread deserved a resuscitation.

    Roman Provincial (Caesarea): bronze Æ28 of Severus Alexander, ca. 222-235 AD; Mount Argaeus

  15. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member

  16. Mat

    Mat Ancient Coincoholic


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