Featured Cheiron, the wise kentaur

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

  1. Jochen1

    Jochen1 Well-Known Member

    Dear Friends of ancient mythology!

    The coin:
    Kingdom of Bithynia, Prusias I., 183-149 BC
    AE 20, 6.38g, 45°
    obv. (anepigraphic)
    Head of Dionysos, with ivy-wreath, r.
    rev. Kentaur Cheiron, stg. r., holding Lyra with both hands, waving chlamys behind
    Monogram in lower r. field
    ref. SNG Copenhagen 639; BMC 9; SG 7266; Waddington, 226, 26
    about VF, Brown patina

    Cheiron, or Chiron, was the son of Kronos and Philyra. When Kronos approached Philyra he was surprised by his wife Rhea. For fear of her he turned into an horse. When Philyra after the birth of Cheiron saw his shape as horse she was so ashamed that she was finally transformed into a linden tree. But it is told too that Cheiron like all other Kentaurs has Ixion as father.

    So Cheiron was a kentaur, a creature mixed of horse and man. But he is said to have been such a good physician, musician and astronomer, that he was the educator of Herakles, Asklepios, Jason and Achilleus. He was the teacher in science of many princes of his time too: Nestor, Amphiareus, Peleus, Meleager, Theseus, Hippolytos, Palamedes, Menestheus, Odysseus, Diomedes and Kastor and Polyneikes, to name only few. Aineas is said to be one of his students too. He was the first great teacher of mankind, who teached them justice, holding the oath sacred and bringing the gods thanks offerings. He has teached the humans to interpret the constellations on the sky and is said to have made a calendar for the Argonauts. But he teached his students the art of warfare and hunting too. He teached Dionysos the art of eating and to sacrifice. His best friend was Peleus and he made available that he could marry Thetis. The date of the marriage he calculated astrologically and succeeded in that it was raining at this day and so the gods could descend from the heaven to participate in the festivities.

    Despite all of his good attributes he died a very painful death. Once when Herakles was visiting him, an arrow from his quiver fell down and hurt Cheiron's foot. Because this arrow was dipped into the poison of the Lernaean Hydra it caused the most terrific pain to him and couldn't be hailed. As son of Kronos he was immortal so that there was no end of his torture. There he prayed Zeus imploringly that he should let him die until Zeus answered his prayers. It is told that Prometheus was forged to the Kaukasus because of his sacrileges and that he could be unbanned only if an immortal took the death for him. So Cheiron went into the Hades and Prometheus has been freed and became immortal by the death of Cheiron.

    His wife was Chariklo, a nymph, who bore him the daughter Okyroe. She too was turned before his appalled eyes into a horse. It is said too that his daughter was Endeis who later became the wife of Aiakos and by him mother of Peleus.
    He is said to have lived in a big cave at the mount Pelion in Thessalia. Here he received sick persons to heal them.

    Because of his piety, justice and his other virtues and because he had to die such an awful death without any own debt, Zeus finally put him as constellation to the sky. The Magnetes in Thessalia worshipped him as god and sacrificed to him the firstling of the fruits.

    In a note from Benjamin Hederich I found this: It seems to be paradox that the most famous physician of his time must die from a uncurable wound. But always when the science has come to the highest level a time began of descent and the science slowly dies off. This was Cheiron's fate.

    Chiron, literally mostly Cheiron (hypokoristikon* of Cheirisophos) was originally a healer god with chthonic features, who lived at the mount Pelion. The Thessalic Magnetes brought offers to him as physician; even human sacrifices are attested. A dynasty of physicians in this region ascribed themself to Cheiron. He was seen as son of Kronos who attended the nymph Philyra in the shape of a horse. He belongs to the kentaurs, but he differs from them not only by his origin, but particularly by his justice, clemency and piety. He is immortal and is called a god by Aischylos. He is educator and teacher of many famous heroes and teaches them medicine, hunting and playing the kithara. The Attic poets of the comedy used him against the so-called modern music. Against the tradition that Cheiron after the separation of Thetis from Peleus became educator of Achilleus Homer introduced Phoinix as educator and left to him only the medical care.
    *hypokoristikon = term of endearment, pet name

    History of art:
    In ancient art of Greece, first of all in the Attic vase painting, Cheiron has until Classic times an entire human body with an attached back part of a horse (amphora of Oltos, about 510 BC; Louvre). Often he is clothed as a human; such he received Peleus who brings the little Achilleus on his arms to him (white-ground oinochoe from Vulci, about 510 BC; London, BM). On two wall-paintings from Pompej and Herculaneum Cheiron teaches Achilleus to play kithara, now in the shape of a horse with the upperpart of a human body (both about AD 70; Naples, MN). As educator particularly of Achilleus Cheiron appears in the paintings of the Renaissance. The corresponding wall-paintings of Rosso Fiorentino in Fontainebleau (1535-1540) however indicate mainly the preferences of king Franz I: fencing, swimming, hunting and tournaments. The Achilleus cycle of Rubens (about 1631; Prado) shows the young Achilleus riding on Cheiron, on a painting of G.M.Crespi (about 1700; Vienna, KM) he is teached archery. The dying Cheiron was depicted by Filippino Lippi (about 1500; Oxford, Christ Church College).

    I have attached the pic of the amphora of Oltos.

    At least I want to add a pic provided by Pat Lawrence. She writes:
    In the Basilica of Herculaneum there is a group of unusually careful Late Republican or Early Imperial copies of classical paintings. Each of them seems to refer to its own Hellenistic city or kingdom.

    "Cheiron instructing Achilles" (a) has Macedonian architecture in the background, (b) may flatter Alexander who was tutored by Aristoteles by comparing him with Achilles who was tutored by Cheiron. (c) And also it may be a copy as good as could be done freehand in fresco at Herculaneum of the painting by the most famous name in Greek painting, Apelles, who did work for Alexander.

    In addition, and this is what delights me most, the great painter in a great period has contrived to show a centaur seated, as if having two upper torsos weren't a great impediment to doing so! In fact, equine hindquarters in seated position, in marble, have been found, too (in Greece, not Italy), as if the wonderful tour de force inspired imitation.

    (1) Der kleine Pauly
    (2) Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon
    (3) Aghion/Barbillon/Lissarrague, Reclams Lexikon der antiken Götter und Heroen in der Kunst

    Best regards
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  3. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    Once again, great writeup!

    I was very pleased to have been able to buy this nice example of the OP type from our old pal stevex6 last year.

    KINGS of BITHYNIA. Prousias II Kynegos. 182-149 BC. Æ (21mm, 6.34 g, 12h). Nikomedia mint. Wreathed head of Dionysos right / Centaur advancing right, playing kithara; monogram below raised foreleg. RG 26; HGC 7, 629. Good VF, attractive dark green patina with light earthen highlights.
    Ex stevex6 Collection; ex Dr Lawrence D. Sporty Collection
  4. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    Super write-up, pics, and great coin!

    I only have one Centaur and it is from the Frentani in Italia:

    Frentani - Larinum AE 18mm Quadrans 210-175 BCE Herakles - Centaur SNG COP 272.JPG
    Frentani - Larinum AE 18mm Quadrans 210-175 BCE Herakles - Centaur SNG COP 272
  5. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Great write-up, @Jochen !

    Centaurs sacred to Apollo as part of the Gallienus "zoo" series:

    Gallienus APOLLINI CONS AVG centaur right antoninianus.jpg
    Gallienus, AD 253-268.
    Roman billon antoninianus, 2.60 g, 19.6 mm, 5 h.
    Rome, AD 267-268.
    Obv: GALLIENVS AVG, radiate head, right.
    Rev: APOLLINI CONS AVG, centaur walking right, drawing bow; Z in exergue.
    Refs: RIC 163; Göbl 735b; Cohen 72; RCV 10177; Hunter 95; Cunetio 1378.

    Gallienus APOLLINI CONS AVG centaur left antoninianus.jpg
    Gallienus, AD 253-268.
    Roman AE Antoninianus, 2.73 g, 18.6 mm, 12 h.
    Rome, AD 267-268.
    Obv: GALLIENVS AVG, radiate head right.
    Rev: APOLLINI CONS AVG, Centaur walking left, holding globe and rudder; H in exergue.
    Refs: RIC 164; Cohen 73; RCV 10178.
  6. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    Thanks for the wonderful post, @Jochen! I learned many things about Chiron. The seated centaur painting is marvelous!

    I don't have any coins of Chiron per se but here are a few depicting centaur-powered bigas (oh how Bane would disapprove*! :D)

    Egypt, Alexandria. Trajan
    AE drachm, 34.73 mm, 21.18 gm
    Regnal year 12 (108/9 CE)
    Obv: [AVT TRAIAN] CEB ΓE[PM ΔA]KIK, laureate and draped bust of Trajan right, seen from behind
    Rev: Trajan, raising hand and holding scepter, driving biga of centaurs right; above, L IB
    Ref: Emmett 464.12 (R4).
    Ex Tom Buggey Collection
    Ex Jean Elsen

    EGYPT, Alexandria. Domitian

    RY 14 (CE 94/5)
    Æ drachm, 36 mm, 25.42 gm
    Obv: Laureate head right
    Rev: The Emperor driving biga of centaurs right., raising hand and holding scepter and reins; in exergue, L IΔ
    Ref: Dattari-Savio Pl. 17, 453 (this coin); Geissen 406 (this coin cited); RPC 2704 (this coin cited)
    ex Dattari collection (Giovanni Dattari, 1858-1923)

    ROMAN REPUBLIC, M. Aurelius Cotta

    139 BCE
    AR Denarius, 20 mm, ? gm (can't find my scale right at the moment :D)
    Obv: helmeted head of Roma right; X (mark of value) behind; COTA before; dotted border
    Rev: Hercules carrying a club, driving biga of centaurs right; centaurs each carrying a branch; M·AVRELI (AVR is ligate); in exergue, ROMA; line border
    Ref: Crawford 229/1b; Sydenham 429; Aurelia 16
    formerly slabbed, NGC bulk submission holder, "VF"

    *Harry Potter reference :)
  7. Jochen1

    Jochen1 Well-Known Member

    Wonderful coins! I have only one with biga drawn by Centaurs:

    Lydia, Maionia, Septimius Severus, AD 193-211
    AE 35, 22.57g, 35.15mm, 150°
    struck under archon Julianus
    obv. AV [KAI] Λ CE - Π CEVHP[OC ΠE]P - TIN
    Bust, draped and cuirassed, laureate, r.
    in ex. MAI[ONΩ]N
    Dionysos, in long garment, holding thyrsos in l. arm, leaning r. on biga drawn by
    two centaurs and resting with r. arm on back; the centaur in front, looking back
    to Dionysos, is holding a club in r. arm and a torch in raised l. hand, the other
    one a torch in r. hand
    ref. BMC 43, pl. XIV, no.7 (rev. same die); Lanz 32, April 1985, 633 (same dies)
    F+, surfaces with porosity
    (Thanks to Curtis Clay for attribution!)

    A similar type, AE size 10(?) with slightly different legends, is in the B.M. (J.Y.Akerman in "The Gentleman's Magazin, by Sylvanus Urban, Gent, Vol. IV, p. 132)

    Such a coin is like a beautiful lady clothed in veiling garment where you nevertheless can imagine her shape and her beauty underneath!

    Best regards
    Andres2, Bing, kaparthy and 3 others like this.
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