Featured Ganymedes - the Beautiful

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Jochen1, Apr 12, 2020.

  1. Jochen1

    Jochen1 Well-Known Member

    Dear Friends of ancient mythology!

    To distract you in this sad time of the corono-virus, I will tell you today something about the history of Ganymedes.

    1st Coin:
    Troas, Dardanos, Hadrian, AD 117-138
    AE 21, 4.53g, 20.66mm, 0°
    Bust, draped and cuirassed, laureate, r.
    Rev.: ΔAPΔAN - ΩN
    Eagle facing, head l., carrying Ganymedes, wearing chlamys and Phrgian bonnet,
    holding lagobolon in raised r. hand
    Ref.: unpublished?
    very rare, about VF
    Note: This is the companion piece to Bellinger T136 from Troas-Ilium and Bellinger describes the reverse as "Remarkable in the presentation of a scene of Trojan mythology anterior to the Homeric story".

    2nd Coin:
    Thrace, Hadrianopolis, Septimius Severus, AD 193-211
    AE 26, 9.96g, 25.62mm, 45°
    Obv.: AV K Λ C[EΠ - CEVHPOC Π]
    Bust, draped and cuirassed, seen from behind, laureate r.
    Rev.: AΔP - IANO - [ΠOΛEITΩN]
    Ganymedes, with Phrygian bonnet, stg. l. with crossed legs, holding lagobolon
    in l. hand and resting with r. hand on eagle, stg. frontal with head r., on rocks;
    r. on ground Pan flute.
    Ref.: a) Jurokova 920 (1 ex., Istanbul)
    b) Varbanov (engl.) 3348 (R8, without price, citing Jurokova)
    extremely rare, F/about VF, black-brown Patina
    Lagobolon (Lat. pedum), from Greek λαγως (= hare) and βαλλειν (= to throw):
    Originally a hunter's stick for striking hares.

    This last depiction shows a scene shortly before the abduction of Ganymede by the eagle. The mythologically interesting question, whether this eagle is Zeus himself or only the messenger of Zeus, cannot be decided.

    Ganymedes was the son of Tros, founder and king of Troy, and his wife Kallirrhoe, daughter of Skamandros, according to others son of Laomedon. He was of unbelievable beauty. Once when he was hunting at the mount Ida, others say near the Dardanic promontory, Zeus sent an eagle to abduct him. In heaven he replaced Hebe and became the cupbearer of the gods. He handed the gods nectar and ambrosia. Hera was very angry with Zeus because Hebe was her daughter. According to other authors Zeus needed Ganymedes for his amorous plays. To Tros he gave later a golden grape-vine and two immortal horses which later got Herakles who in return freed his daughter Hesione of the monster Ketos. Finally Zeus put Ganymedes as constellation to the sky.

    But there is this story too: Eos the goddess of dawn has fallen in love with Ganymedes and has abducted him. Zeus then has stolen him from Eos.

    This should be behind the myth: When Tros has erected the city and the castle of Troy and has all arranged well he sent his son Ganymedes with fifty men to Lydia to bring Zeus a thank offering. Tantalos, king of Lydia, regarded them as scouts or agents and put them to prison. But when he realized their peaceful purpose he set them free again. Meanwhile Ganymedes has fallen ill and died. Thereupon all returned home except Ganymedes. Tantalos let him entomb in the temple of Zeus. Because of that the poets have invented the story of the abduction by Zeus.

    According to other authors Tantalos was king in Phrygia and Paphlagonia. When he raped Ganymedes because of his great beauty he denied to give him back to Tros. So between both kings a great war originated, and Ilos, the other son of Tros, went on with the war against Pelops, son of Tantalos, so that he was forced to flee to Greece.

    Others suggest that it was not Tantalos but Minos from Crete who was the robber of Ganymedes. Under the appearence of friendship he was guest of Tros and then has abducted Ganymedes when they were hunting and took him to Crete where he has committed suicide because of home sickness and mourning. When Minos entombed him in the temple of Zeus it was invented that Zeus has took him to heaven.

    Some authors refer his beauty not to the physical beauty of his body but of his psyche, his intelligence and virtue.

    Others claim that the whole story was invented only to euphemize unnatural desires.

    Ganymedes, meaning such as 'the lustrous-happy' (actually "the joyfull excited by erotic passion") was the son of the Dardanic king Tros (and his wife Kallirrhoe), brother of Ilos and Assarakos. According to Homer Il. 20, 231ff. he was hold for the most beautiful of all mortals. He was raped by the gods to the Olympos to serve as cup-bearer for Zeus and to enjoy eternal youth. As compensation Tros got immortal horses. According to Homer h. 4, 2002 Zeus abducted him for the gods by a blast of wind. The Little Iliad (lost) and Euripides made Ganymedes the son of Laomedon, and he was given a golden rape-vine by Zeus. Since Ibykos and Pindar the motiv for the abduction was seen in pederasty which by this myth got a kind of heavenly apology. Platon (in his Phaidros) used the myth for his theory of love, but in his nom. 1, 8 he criticized the Cretans for their vice and their appointment to Zeus. In 4th century BC Ganymedes was a popular figure of comedies. At this time was introduced the motiv of the abduction by the eagle as messenger of Zeus, firstly in fine arts, much later literarily. Not until the Hellenism Zeus himself became the robber in the shape of an eagle. The motiv of Hera's jealousy was Hellenistic too. In the kind of Euhemeros Phanokles, Mnaseas and others replaced the divine robber by heroes: Tantalos or Minos. To put him as a constellation to the sky (aquarius) is from the late Hellenism, so it is too with the eagle (aquila). In imperial times the myth of Ganymedes has been mentioned by philosophers and church-fathers often very polemically. It is created literarily in Lukian's dialogues and in the Dionysiaka of Nonnos.

    Only a short note here to the pantheistic hymne 'Ganymed' of the young Goethe 1774, belonging to his 'Sturm- und Drangzeit' ("Wie im Morgenglanze du rings mich anglühst, Frühling, Geliebter!". Translated: "How, in the morning brightness, Round me thou glowest, Spring, thou beloved one!"

    History of Art:
    Much more numerous are depictions in the fine art. Ganymedes was a popular theme in ancient times. The Attic vase painting depicts particularly the pursuit and seizure of Ganymedes by Zeus, f.e. the kantharos of the Brygos painter, c.450 BC, and the bell krater of the Berlin painter, c.490 BC, where Zeus is forced by Eros. Famous too is the terracotta group in Olympia, .470 BC, showing the seizing of Ganymedes. Not until post-classic times the abduction by the eagle, who takes him to heaven or to whom Ganymedes gave water, became the subject of depiction. 340/330 Leochares created a sulpture of the abduction. On tombs and sarkophaguses of early deads these doubtless have symbolic meaning.

    The Renaissance has interpreted Ganymedes carried to heaven as an allegory of the elevation of the human soul to god (Scene of the bronze door of Filaretes, St.Peter, Rome, 1435-45). On the other hand by the variation of the eagles's posture the homosexual connotation of the motiv has been expressed (drawing of Michelangelo, c.1533). Rembrandt has satirized the theme by creating a Ganymedes who in fear is passing water (1635, Dresden). Corregio's depiction is the counterpart to the unification of Io with the cloud of Zeus (c.1530-32; Vienna). Thorvaldsen has depicted Ganymedes the cup-bearer several times (1804, 1816, 1817; Copenhagen). The elevation of Ganymedes as aquarius to the sky (and of the eagle as aquila) is found in Peruzzi's frescoes in the Villa Farnesina in Rome (1509-1511)

    (1) Euhemeristic, Euhemerism goes back to Euhemeros of Messana, who lived at the court of the Macedonian king Kassander in 300 BC. He attributed the emergence of concepts of gods to the mythical exaltation of human heroes. Then Palaiphatos developed it into a general rationalist interpretation of myths in his work "Unbelievable Stories".

    (2) Nectar, which according to the later mythgraphs was a supranatural red wine which gave immortality, actually was a primitive brown met from fermented honey.

    (3) Ambrosia, the delicious food of the gods, seems to have been a porridge of barley, oil and fruits. With that the kings were indulged whereas their subjects (before introducing grain) had to feed on asphodel's roots, mallows and acorns (Robert von Ranke-Graves)

    I have added the following pics:
    1) A pic of the red-figured Attic vase of the so-called Berlin painter. Ganymedes here is depicted with a hoop, symbol of youth, and a cock, which was a symbol of homosexuality. It is now found in the Louvre/Paris.

    2) The pic of the mosaic from the House of Dionysos in Nea Paphos/Cyprus. This is the classic depiction which is found on my coin too.

    3)The pic of Rembrandt's painting from the Gemäldegalerie in Dresden. Here Ganymedes is shown full of fear! I couldn't resist because of the charming Details!


    (1) Homer, Ilias
    (2) Hymns to Homer
    (3) Ibykos, Fragments
    (4) Pindar, Odes
    (5) Platon, Phaidros
    (6) Lukian, Dialogues of the gods
    (7) Nonnos, Dionysiaka
    (8) Palaiphatos, Unbelievable stories
    (9) Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Ganymed

    (1) Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon
    (2) Robert von Ranke-Graves, Griechische Mythologie
    (3) Der kleine Pauly
    (4) Aghion/Barbillon/Lissarrague, Reclams Lexikon der antiken Götter und Heroen in
    der Kunst
    (5) http://www.schwulencity.de/LukianGoettergespraeche.html

    Best regards
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  3. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    There’s a magnificent statue of Ganymede over by the Grotto of Tiberius at Sperlonga.

    Last picture is a modern copy installed after the removed the original. Amazing to think that so much of the Grotto statues survived after TWO THOUSAND YEARS.
    eparch, PeteB, Ancient Aussie and 9 others like this.
  4. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Well-Known Member

    Johcen1, Many thanks for another fascinating article on Greek mythology :D. The myth of Ganymedes was obviously a not so subtle metaphor for the acceptance of homosexuality by the ancient cultures. To the Greeks & Romans repressing homosexual behavior was unnatural. Today a strong dichotomy exists concerning homosexuality with religions like Christianity & Islam and the open minded public who favor "gay" relationships. The opposition to homosexuality today has gone to violent extremes. I often wonder what has changed to create this ugly dichotomy.
  5. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    Two fascinating coins and a great writeup. I wish I had something related or similar to share, but they’ll just have to be on the want list for now. :shame:
    Jochen1 likes this.
  6. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Fascinating and rare coins, @Jochen1 !
    Jochen1 likes this.
  7. 7Calbrey

    7Calbrey Well-Known Member

    Distracting and curious. In fact this write up sheds light on Zeus rather than the handsome dude Ganymedes himself. Why ? Well here are 3 mythological facts :
    _ In Roman mythology, Zeus abducted Beroe, daughter of Venus.
    _ In Phoenician mythology, Zeus(disguised in a bull) abducted Europa, Kadmos' sister.
    _ In Greek mythology, Zeus abducted Ganymedes.
    Hence, this greatest god was a maniac. I wish he could abduct the COVID 19. Ha.
    Jochen1 likes this.
  8. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Basileus Megalos

    Great write-up Jochen and thanks for explaining the mythological background.
    7Calbrey and Jochen1 like this.
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