Eos and her unhappy loves

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Jochen1, Dec 3, 2022.

  1. Jochen1

    Jochen1 Well-Known Member

    Dear friends of ancient mythology!

    The coin
    Roman Republic, L. Plautius Plancus, gens Plautia
    AR - Denarius, 3.54g, 17mm, 210°.
    Rome, 47 BC
    Obv.: Mask of Medusa with dishevelled hair ending in coiled serpents.
    below L.PLAVTIVS
    Rev.: Victoria (or Aurora), winged, holding palm branch, head slightly left., flying
    right, holding the reins and leading the 4 sun-horses
    below PLANCVS
    Ref.: Crawford 453/1a; CRI 29; Sydenham 959; Plautia 15
    CNG, 19.9.2012 (my own coin was too eccentric).

    About the coin:
    Lucius Plautius Plancus was the brother of L. Munatius Plancus, who was Praefectus Urbi under Caesar in 45 BC and 2 years later, as Proconsul of Gallia Comata, founded the Colonia of Lugdunum (now Lyon). Plautius Plancus was born Gaius Munatius Plancus, but then adopted by Lucius Plautius, whose name he took retaining only the cognomen of his original name. The unusual elegance of the reverse type of his silver denarii suggests that their design was based on a special work of art and this may have been a painting by the celebrated painter Nicimachus of Thebes, which was hung in the Capitol by L. Munatius Plancus on the occasion of the celebration of his Gallic triumph in 43 BC. This remarkable painting may have been in the possession of the mintmaster during his tenure and was then reproduced as a coin type to celebrate Caesar's military successes in 48 and 47 BC. In the course of Plautius' proscription during the triumvirate of 43 BC, which led to his execution and the confiscation of his property, it may have come into the possession of his brother Munatius Plancus; there is a strong suspicion that Munatius was responsible for Plautius' tragic end. The significance of the head of Medusa on the obverse still awaits a convincing explanation, although it is probably related to the history of the family into which the mintmaster was adopted (CNG).

    Eos (Greek ηως) is linguistically and factually related to the Indian ushas and the Latin aurora from the root -us (= to burn, to shine), in that a Graeco-Italic form ausos is assumed.

    The parents of Eos are the Titan Hyperion and the Titan Theia (Hesiod, Apollodor), or Aithra (Hygin), also Titan and Earth, or she is the daughter of Pallas (Ovid Fasten). Her siblings are Selene and Helios, Sleep and Death.

    Picture #1.jpg
    Detail from the ceiling painting in the Villa Ludovisi in Rome with the Sun Chariot of Aurora (1621), Guercino. Giovanni Francesco Barbieri (1591-1666), better known as Guercino, was an Italian painter of the Baroque period. The frescoes of the Aurora in the casino of Villa Ludovisi date from his period in Rome.

    Every morning she rises from the camp of her husband Tithonos and ascends from the Okeanos (according to Homer Odyssey 12,4 she has her dwelling on Aiaia) with her team of horses Lampos (bright shine) and Phaeton (the radiant one) and rides across the sky in front of her brother Helios. She only finishes her orbit in the evening and thus signifies not only the morning, but also noon and the whole day (hemera). Her beautiful poetic epithets, the rose-fingered and the saffron-robed, correspond to the colours of the sky at dawn, when the sun covers the sky in long stripes. The horse-drawn carriage is an expression of her speed.

    Eos is notorious for her love affairs. Later it was even said that Aphrodite had put a curse on her because she had surprised her in a love affair with Ares.

    1) The myth of Tithonos
    Tithonos was a Trojan prince, the son of the Trojan Laomedon and thus brother of Priam, but by a different mother, Rhoio (also called Strymo), a daughter of Scamander. He is the only one who, unlike her other loves, was called her husband.

    According to the Lesser Iliad, Ganymedes is a brother of Tithonos. Eos also kidnapped him. But he was taken away from her by Zeus, who brought him to Olympus as a lover and cupbearer.

    Since Tithonos did not take part in his brother's affairs of government, his main occupation was hunting, to which he set out every morning before sunrise. Then he left Phrygia and offered himself to Teutames in Assyria. Teutames received him kindly and made him his commander. According to Diodorus, he had founded Susa.

    When Eos once saw him in battle, she was so overcome by his beauty that she fell in love with him and carried him off in her golden chariot to Ethiopia, where they lived happily in Aiaia or Aethiops on the eastern edge of the Okeanos.

    Picture #2.jpg
    Eos pursues the young Tithonos, who holds a lyre. From an Attic red-figure kylix, Classical period, 470-460 BC, attributed to the Penthesilaos painter. Today in the British Museum/London.

    Eos loved him so much that she asked the gods to grant him immortality. But she forgot to wish him eternal youth as well. So he grew older and weaker. Nevertheless, she remained tenderly attached to him. Finally he had to be locked up in a room, put in a cradle and nursed and fed like a little child. He finally begged Eos to be allowed to die, but she could not grant him this request. Instead, she turned him into a cicada and hung him in a basket in the air so that she could at least still hear his voice.

    Picture #3.jpg
    Aurora and the old Tithonus (1634-1635), painting by Giovanni da San Giovanni, today in the Uffizi/Florence. Giovanni da San Giovanni (1592-1636) was an Italian Baroque painter who worked mainly in Florence.

    Tithonos is the allegory of the freshly beginning, then wearily ending day (Preller), the decrepit old man. The cicada is a symbol of the old people who can no longer do anything themselves, but who constantly talk about all the things they used to do. The motif of the incomplete request is a fairy-tale motif (Pauly).

    Eos begat Memnon and Emathion with Tithonos. Both were kings of Aethopia. Emathion was killed by Heracles. Memnon was given a golden vine by Priam to help him against the Greeks before Troy, and then went to Troy with a huge army. In a duel he was killed by Achilles with a spear. Eos wept for him so much that her tears fell to the earth as dew. After his death, he was worshipped especially in Egyptian Thebes. His particular statues were made of black marble and were famous for making a graceful sound at sunrise, as if rejoicing in the presence of Eos, but a deeply sad sound at sunset, as if mourning her departure. In fact, these statues are images of Amenophis III, one of which was split. When Severus had them restored, they fell silent.

    2) The legend of Kephalos and Prokris
    Kephalos was the son of Hermes and Herse, or Dejoneus, king of Phocis, and Diomede. He was of immense beauty, so that when he was once hunting on Mount Hymettos, Eos robbed him and carried him off to Syria.

    Picture #4.jpg
    Eos abducts the young Cephalus holding a lyre
    Attic red-figure lekytos, Classical period, 470-460 BC, attributed to the Oinocles painter. Today in the Museo Arqueologico Nacional de Espana (MAN)/Madrid.

    But his real wife was Prokris, the daughter of Erechtheus and Praxithea, whom he loved so much that he could not forget her. This angered Eos and she released him, but told him that the time would come when he would not wish to see his Prokris. Then he suspected that she had been unfaithful to him, and he wanted to put her to the test. With the help of Eos, he disguised himself and wooed his own wife with rich gifts until she did his bidding. When he revealed himself, she was so ashamed that she fled and went to Crete to King Minos. When she cured him of a serious illness, he gave her the dog Lailaps, from which no one could escape, and an infallible spear. According to another version, she received both miraculous weapons from Artemis, to whom she had taken refuge. With these she went back to Attica, reconciled with her husband and gave him the dog and the spear. But when Kephalos went hunting incessantly, she became suspicious that he was cheating on her again with Eos. She crept after him and heard him calling for "Aura", which confirmed her suspicions. When she rustled in the bushes, Kephalos thought it was a deer and threw his spear at her, killing her. For this murder he was exiled by the Areopagus and finally came with Amphitryon to the island of Kephalonia, which was named after him. He is also said to have gone with Lailaps, the wonder-dog, in pursuit of the Teumessian fox that was ravaging Thebes and that no one could catch. To escape the dilemma, the fox and the hound were then turned into stone by Zeus.

    This non-homeric story is told at length by Ovid in his Metamorphoses (Ovid met. 7, 672). In fact, Kephalos called in Greek for "Nephele", a cooling cloud, which Prokris misunderstood as a girl's name.
    In general, the story of Kephalos and Prokris is the fusion of various independent sagas (Roscher).

    Picture #5.jpg
    Piero the Cosimo (1461-1512), The Death of Prokris (c. 1490). Today in the National Gallery in London.

    3) Astraios
    With the Titan Astraios, son of Krios and Eurybia, Eos begot the main winds Argestes, Zephyros, Boreas and Notos (Hesiod), a myth based on the observation that the winds seem to come from above, i.e. from the stars. According to Apollodorus, she also fathered the stars with him, including the morning star Eosphoros (= Lucifer), who walks before her in the morning and sets with her in the evening.

    4) Orion
    It is said (Apollodorus) that Eos also once abducted the mighty hunter Orion and brought him to Ortygia, the island where Artemis was born. There are many, also contradictory, stories about his death. In one, the gods envy her possession and Artemis is said to have killed him with an arrow out of jealousy of Eos (Homer, Odyssey). There Calypso laments the jealousy of the celestials.

    Other lovers included
    5) Kleitos, the son of Mantion and father of Koiranos, who was abducted by Eos because of his beauty to dwell among the immortals (Homer Od. 15, 249).

    Eos plays no cultic role. Even the ancients had difficulty distinguishing between a personification and the actual natural phenomenon.

    Of the many literary adaptations of the Tithonos theme, I list only two here:

    (1) The Tithonos poem by Sappho.
    This poem belongs to the late work of Sappho. It was first published in 1922 after a papyrus fragment was discovered at Oxyrhynchus in Egypt. The fragments of the Cologne papyri from the 3rd century BC, published in 2004, contain only 12 lines of the poem, but complete it almost in its entirety and attracted international attention. This poem is one of very few essentially complete works by Sappho and deals with the effects of ageing, which must have been of great concern to Sappho:
    "Often I sigh over it. But what can I do? Ageless, if one is human, one cannot become."

    (2) In "Tithonus" by Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892), Tithonus complains that he is neither mortal nor immortal.

    (1) Nikomachos of Thebes, famous for his rapid painting, worked in the middle and 2nd half of the 4th century B.C. Among his pupils was the even more rapid Philoxenos of Eretria. Nothing is known of his style, although the Victoria quadrigam in sublime raptens (called "Aurora" by Sydenham) on denarii of L. Plautius Plancus is related.
    (2) Little Iliad ("Ilias mikra"), belonging to the Epic Cycle. This cycle includes the epics which represent the prehistory of the Iliad and the stories of the homecomings (Nostoi). The time of origin is the 7th/6th century BC, the authorship is disputed.
    (3) Aiaia, mythical islands in the west and east of the Okeanos. The western one was considered the residence of Kirke and the dancing place of Eos after her demise in the west.

    (1) Homer, Odyssey
    (2) Hesiod, Theogony
    (3) Apollodor, Bibliotheka
    (4) Hyginus, Fabulae
    (5) Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite
    (6) Pausanias, Periegesis
    (7) Ovid, Metamorphoses
    (8) Vergil, Aeneid

    Secondary literature:
    (1) Wilhelm Heinrich Roscher, Ausführliches Lexikon der griechischen und römischen Mythologie, Teubner 1889.
    (2) Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon, Leipzig 1770 (also online)
    (3) Ludwig Preller, Greek Mythology, 1894-1926
    (4) Karl Kerenyi, The Mythology of the Greeks, dtv
    (4) Der Kleine Pauly, dtv

    Internet sources:
    (1) theoi.com
    (2) Wikipedia

    Best regards
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  3. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    I've always found this design to be attactive, so I don't know why I haven't added one to my collection. Very nice Jochen
  4. expat

    expat Remember you are unique, just like everyone else Supporter

    A wonderful and informative write up interspersed with some fantastic graphical images.
  5. Mat

    Mat Ancient Coincoholic

    Great write up and coin. A type I still need to add one day too.
  6. Broucheion

    Broucheion Supporter! Supporter

    Hi All,

    Wonderful write up by @Jochen1. Two similar related coins from Alexandria Egypt. The difference is the placement of the reverse date and legend.

    LUCIUS VERUS (7 Mar 161 - 169 CE)
    ALEXANDRIA, EGYPT Year 04 (163/164 CE)


    Æ Drachma
    Size: 33 mm
    Weight: 23.6 g
    Broucheion Collection R-1995-08-11.002

    Obv: Lucius Verus laureate draped bust facing right. Legend:
    [ΛAYPHΛIOC] - OYHPOCCЄB. Border not visible.
    Rev: Eos standing facing left with head turned to right. Holding torch in outstretched right hand. Left hand leading one of the horses of the sun facing right with head turned to left. Above: Hω; Left field: [L]; Right field: Δ. Dotted border.
    Refs: Emmett-2391.04 var: HωC; G-2153 var: HωC & date above; Dattari-3719; Dattari-Savio pl 199; RPC IV.4-14690 temporary; Milne-2499; BMC-1372 var: L-Δ;

    Æ Drachma
    Size: 32x33 mm
    Weight: 20.9 g
    Broucheion Collection R-2020-09-12.001

    Obv: Lucius Verus laureate draped bust facing right. Legend: [ΛAYPHΛIOC - OYH]P[OCCЄB]. Border not visible.
    Rev: Eos standing facing left with head turned to right. Holding torch in outstretched right hand. Left hand leading one of the horses of the sun facing right with head turned to left. Above: L[Δ]; Below right: Hω. Dotted border.
    Refs: Emmett-2391.04 var: HωC; Geissen-2153; Dattari-3721 pl xii (rev); Dattari-Savio pl 199; RPC IV.4-14594 temporary online; Milne-2499; BMC-1372var: L-Δ; Mionnet-2242.

    - Broucheion
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2022
  7. Jochen1

    Jochen1 Well-Known Member

    @Broucheion Thanks for these interesting coins.
    Broucheion likes this.
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