Artemis with child

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Jochen1, May 30, 2019.

  1. Jochen1

    Jochen1 Well-Known Member

    Dear Friends of ancient mythology!

    I bought this remarkable coin to deal with its reverse side, as always. In this sense I'm a reverse side collector. So this article traces my reflections on the enlightenment of its mythology. Other opinions are welcome. I start with the description of the seller:

    The Coin:
    Thracia, Philippopolis, Julia Domna, AD 193-211
    AE 25, 6.67g, 24.66mm, 15°
    Bust, draped, r., hair bound in broad chignon
    Artemis, in short chiton with bare r. shoulder and wearing boots, stg. r., resting
    with raised r. hand on inverted spear, holding in l. arm infant Dionysos, who
    stretches his arm to her; on the r. side stag stg. r.
    Ref.: a) Varbanov 1386 var. (is supposed to have IOVΛIA. - ΔOMNA CEB, but
    depicted coin very worn!), very rare (R8)
    b) Lanz 112, lot 642 (same dies, heavy worn)
    c) not in BMC, not in SNG Copenhagen
    very rare, VF, dark-green patina
    Pat Lawrence: One of the most interesting coins I have seen!

    The problem of this coin is the rev. depiction. Carrying babies around is not a normal role for Artemis. In LIMC there is no depiction of Artemis with a child. Is it really Artemis and is it really Dionysos in her arms?

    I want to share the information I got by my inquiries and hope for some critical comments.

    (1) Artemis as mother of Cupidus/Eros

    It is obviously Artemis in her usual hunting clothes and with the stag, but there is no known myth in which Artemis is connected to the infant Dionysos. But I came across another myth where Artemis is not only connected to a child but is herself the virginal mother of this child! I don't know wether this can be the actual solution to the coin depiction, because this child is Cupido!

    My source is Cicero, De Natura Deorum, lib. III, c. 34. He knows from three different Dianas (= Artemis) and writes about their parents. There were three differents myths about Diana. According to the first one her parents were Jupiter and Proserpina, the second Diana had as parents Jupiter and Latona, and the third one Upis and Glauce.
    And Cicero knows from three Cupidos too. The first Cupido was the child of the first Mercurius and the first Diana, the second Cupido the child of the second Mercurius and the second Venus and the third one from Mars and the third Venus.

    And Bingo! Here we have a child of the virginal goddess! And Diana and Cupido would be a nice counterpart to Julia Domna! Naturally the objection are the missing wings of the infant. But on the other side which attributions argue for Dionysos?

    (2) Artemis/Bendis as mother of Orpheus

    A friend of the German Forum has pointed me to the Thracian Artemis, the goddess Bendis. She was equated by the Greeks with Artemis, Hekate and Persephone. Her name is according to Kretschmer coming from idg. bhendh- = 'to tie', interpreted as Zygia. But her iconography doubtless shows her character as a hunting goddess: her epitheton dologchos is enlighted by a Bithynian coin from Nikomedes I, on which she is depicted with double spear and a dagger. She was connected with the god Deoptes who possibly could be a relative of the Thracian rider-god Heros, to whom Bendis has had a special relation too. He was suggested to be besides Bendis as Asklepios on the relief of Piraeus. The cult of Bendis was introduced in Athens 430 BC by its Thracian inhabitants and assisted by the polis because of political reasons as is seen on the stone fragments from Munychia. Her importance increased after the Thracians supported the Athenians in the Peloponnesian War against Sparta. Her sanctum and the festival of Bendideia on 20th of the month Thorgelion with procession and torch relay was supervised by a collegium of Thracian orgeones. This official protection of this foreign cult with its supposed orgiastic imprint calls up the echo in the Attic comedy (Strab. 10, 247).

    There was the conception too that the Thracian rider-god Heros was the virginally born son of Bendis. Here we have already the conception which later in the Christianism playes such an important role. And then Orpheus himself, the famous singer and mythical king of the Rhodopian mountains, was suggested to be a son of Bendis.
    Philippopolis was located in the centre of Thrace and surely the cult of Bendis was known. If the figure depicted on this strange coin woud be Bendis, the Thracian Artemis, then the missing bow and the missing arrows are easily understandable. Her attribute was the spear!

    And Orpheus we know from several coins of Philippopolis. Bendis/Artemis and her virginally born son Orpheus would be a nice solution of this strange reverse.
    I personally would go with this second suggestion!

    History of Art:
    I have added
    (1) The pic of a statue of Artemis-Bendis from the Louvre/Paris, c.350 BC. Here
    Bendis wears a Phrygian bonnet and is therefore clearly identifiable. Her spear is lost.

    (2) The pic from an Apulian red-figure krater, c.380-370 BC, ascribed to the Bendis
    painter. We see from left to righ Artemis-Bendis, Apollo, Hermes and a young
    warrior. Today in the Louvre/Paris.
    Here as on the coin the depiction is Greek, not Thracian!


    (1) Der Kleine Pauly
    (2) Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon
    (3) Cicero, De Natura Deorum
    (5) Wikipedia

    Best regards
    Andres2, eparch, Orielensis and 15 others like this.
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  3. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    Another tremendous coin, Jochen!

    Okay :). Here are some thoughts about your writings.

    1. Since this is a provincial coin, I lean towards local legends and myths which support the coin's iconography. For that reason, your second theory seems more plausible-- the reverse is the Thracian equivalent of Diana/Artemis, and the child is possibly Heros or Orpheus.

    2. The infant as Cupid seems a stretch. Is there any evidence that the myths Cicero documents were prevalent in Philippopolis? Also, isn't Cupid usually portrayed with wings?

    3. Artemis supposedly helped her mother give birth to Apollo. Perhaps the child on your coin is her brother Apollo? Artemis and Apollo are often referred to as twins, but in the wacky world of mythology things don't have to adhere to the laws of earth and man. Maybe "twins" doesn't have the same connotation. Maybe Leto delivered Artemis, who instantly aged and then helped deliver her brother. It makes no less sense than many other weird god-birth stories :D.

    4. Artemis was a midwife. Perhaps the infant/child is simply a generic representation of this aspect of her roles.
    eparch, Marsyas Mike, Jochen1 and 5 others like this.
  4. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    What a fascinating coin, @Jochen1 ! I need to look high and low for another example to add to my own collection.

    I favor the local Thacian myth because of where the coin was struck -- Artemis/Bendis and the infant Heros, though @TIF 's Apollo hypothesis is also a good one.
    Jochen1, zumbly and TIF like this.
  5. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    Here's a link to an interesting article that explores the cult of Artemis-Bendis in Attica as well as Thrace. Mention is made on page 102 of depictions of the goddess on 2nd-3rd century AD votive tablets found in Thrace, including the area around the city of Philippopolis. Quoting the article : "The goddess is iconographically similar to reliefs of Artemis known from the Greek world: she is depicted in a short dress, high boots and fur cap, and is often holding a spear or bow, accompanied by dogs or deer. The content of the inscriptions characterize her as a deity protecting children, kourotrophos, and the monuments are often found together with the Thracian rider dedications."
    Marsyas Mike, Jochen1 and TIF like this.
  6. Jochen1

    Jochen1 Well-Known Member

    Thank you for yor quoting this article. kourotrophos makes sense and would end the discussion wether it is Apollo, Heros, Orpheus or anybody else.

    Thank you all. I have learned so much.

    Last edited: May 31, 2019
  7. eparch

    eparch Well-Known Member

    An especially fascinating article. Thank you Jochen
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