Herakles and the Erymanthian Boar

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Jochen1, Jan 15, 2021.

  1. Jochen1

    Jochen1 Well-Known Member

    Dear Friends of ancient mythology!

    Finally I have been able to add another coin to my collection on the 12 deeds of Heracles.

    The Coin:
    Thrace, Hadrianopolis, Caracalla, 198-217.
    AE 27, 11.2g
    Bust, draped and cuirassed, seen from behind, laureate, r.
    Herakles, nude, walking right, on left shoulder the Erymanthian boar, on right before him Eurystheus crouching in a storage vessel and holding out his arms defensively to him
    Ref.: not in Varbanov; Moushmouv 2652 (no image); Wildwinds, Moushmov 2652 (Ancient Coin Art #1284, 2003); Moushmov cf. 2568A (Severus);
    very rare, F+, dark green Patina
    ex Coin Galleries NYC 10/28/1961.
    Getting this coin was fraught with difficulty. Andrew Caldarone of Aegean Numis-matics does not send to Germany because of the idiotic rule that foreign dealers must become members of the German packaging regulations. I thank my friend Peter Burbules in the USA who bought it for me at my request. The coin is very rare, it is not listed in any of the major works.

    In the catalogue of the 12 labours of Heracles, the capture of the Erymanthian boar is considered his 4th labour.

    Erymanthos is a mountain range in Arcadia and was an original territory of Artemis (Homer, Odyssey). Usually, the gods sent a wild boar in anger to punish humans. This was not the case here. The boar devastated the area around Psophis and harassed the farmers living there. Eurystheus instructed Herakles to capture this boar alive and bring it to Mykene.

    Erymanthos was actually a river god who was worshipped in Psophis in a temple with a statue. The neighbouring mountain range was then also named after him. He was the son of Arkas, the father of Xanthos and the grandfather of Psophis, the founder of the city, according to others the son of Aristas and the father of Arrhon.

    This Erymanthos should not be confused with Erymanthos, the son of Apollo, who was blinded by Aphrodite because he had once seen her naked while bathing, and who, to avenge his son, sent a boar which killed Adonis, the lover of Aphrodite. This mistake was made by von Ranke-Graves, for example.

    The mother of the Erymanthishen boar was Phaia, the Krommyonian sow, a descendant of Typhon and Echidna, and the mother also of the Kalydonishen boar. She devastated the area around Krommyon near Corinth and was finally killed by Theseus.

    What is strange about the story of the Erymanthian boar is that the capture of the boar is only the smallest part of it. In the foreground is the prehistory with the encounter and the fight with the centaurs, the events of which are described in detail.

    When Herakles came to the region of Psophis, he was warmly welcomed and entertained by his friend, the Centaur Pholos, a son of Silen, in his cave. It is reported that he served Heracles roasted meat while he ate it raw. Their undoing was that in his cave was the pithos of wine which the Centaurs had been given together by Dionysos. Herakles reminded him that the wine was meant for just such occasions as theirs, opened it and poured out the wine. At the smell of the strong wine, the Centaurs came running to them from all sides, armed with clubs and boulders. Pholos hid fearfully, but Herakles received them with a hail of arrows, and shot Ankios and Agrios, their two leaders. Although Nephele, the mother of the Centaurs, sent a heavy rain which made Herakles' bow ineffective, he slew more with his club, so that they fled to Cheiron, who had been driven by the Lapiths to Malea, a cape at the southernmost tip of the Laconic peninsula.

    In the process, an arrow had pierced Elatos' arm and got stuck in Cheiron's knee. Although Herales immediately pulled the arrow out of his friend's wound and Cheiron, who was known to be a great physician himself, applied a remedy (Centaurea) to the wound, there was no cure; for Herakles' arrows had all been dipped in the deadly poisonous blood of the Lernaean Hydra. Howling with pain, Cheiron crawled into his cave. But he could not die either, because as the son of Kronos he himself was immortal. Only later, with Zeus' permission, was he allowed to exchange his immortality with Prometheus and was transferred to the sky as a constellation. Since then, incurable wounds have been called Ξειρωνειον ελκος. This was used by Aulus Cornelius Celsus (c. 25 BC - AD 50) as chironium vulnus and later also denoted in the figurative sense for an incurable evil.

    Meanwhile, Pholos had buried his dead relatives and pulled out the deadly arrow of Herakles from one of them. He looked at it and marvelled that such a small thing could kill such a strong being. As he did so, the arrow fell from his hand, wounding his foot and killing him instantly. Herakles buried him with great honour at the foot of the mountain, which is now called Pholoe after him. Then he set out to catch the boar.

    He chased it from its thicket by the river Erymanthos up the mountain into a deep snowfield and jumped on its back. Then he bound the beast with chains, took it on his back and brought it to Mykene to Eurystheus. Eurystheus was afraid and had hidden himself in a large pithos, into which he could retreat like into a bunker in case of danger. Herakles threw the boar in front of him and turned to join the Argonauts' Voyage with his beloved Hylas.

    Who finally killed the boar has not been handed down. But its tusks are said to have been seen in the temple of Apollo in Cumae (Pausanias).

    The pithos is a large storage vessel of antiquity for wine, oil or grain, which was found throughout the Mediterranean cultural area. The production of such vases or jars, up to the height of a man, required special skill on the part of the potter.

    History of Art:
    While representations of Herakles and his deeds are ancient, we encounter representations with the motif of the Erymanthian boar only in later archaic art from the 2nd half of the 6th century onwards. The type is completely fixed and corresponds exactly to the representation on the coin:

    Herakles striding out to the right carries the living pig on his left shoulder, in front of him stands a pithos in which the frightened Eurystheus is hiding, of whom only the head and arms are visible. The painting shows this scene on an Attic black-figure amphora, attributed to the London Painter. From the Archaic period, c. 540-530 BC, found in Vulci/Italy, now in the British Museum in London.

    (1) Homer, Odyssee
    (2) Apollodor, Bibliotheke
    (3) Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca historica
    (4) Pausanias, Periegesis
    (5) Hyginus, Fabulae

    (1) Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon, 1770
    (2) Wilhelm Heinrich Roscher, Ausführliches Lexikon der griechischen und römischen Mythologie, 1896
    (3) Karl Kerenyi, Die Mythologie der Griechen
    (4) Robert von Ranke-Graves, Griechische Mythologie

    Online Sources:
    (1) theoi.com
    (2) Wikipedia

    Best regards
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  3. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Congratulations, @Jochen1, on finding another labors of Herakles coin for your collection! Fantastic write-up, as usual!
    ominus1 likes this.
  4. Alegandron

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

    I really enjoy your write-ups, @Jochen1 ... and nice, albeit, difficult coin that you obtained!

    RR M Volteius Mf AR Denarius 78 BCE 18mm 3.96g Hd Hercules R lion skin headdress - Erymanthian boar Cr 385-2 ex SteveX6
    Curtisimo, Bing, Andres2 and 3 others like this.
  5. Jochen1

    Jochen1 Well-Known Member

    Sorry! I had taken over the attribution of the coin from the seller. Now I have to correct it. With AVT K P CEPTI it is of course Geta!
    Ref.: Varbanov 3687 corr. (same dies but writes GETA); Jurukova 436

    Best regards
    DonnaML likes this.
  6. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Great coin and write-up, @Jochen1. Here's another example of the M. Volteius Erymanthian boar, together with my own brief write-up focusing on the agonistic associations of the coin:

    Roman Republic, Marcus Volteius, AR Denarius, 78 BCE (Crawford) or 75 BCE (Harlan). Obv. Head of young Hercules, wearing lion’s skin headdress, right / The Erymanthian boar running right; M•VOLTEI•M•F in exergue. Crawford 385/2; RSC I Volteia 2; BMCRR 3158, Sear RCV I 313 (ill.); Harlan, RRM I Ch. 12, pp. 62-79 at pp. 74-77, Sydenham 775. 18.5 mm., 3.96 g., 7 h.*

    Volteius (Hercules-Boar) jpg version.jpg

    *This coin, depicting Hercules and the Erymanthian boar -- one of five coins issued by M. Volteius as moneyer during that year -- relates, like the other four Volteius coins, to one of the five principal agonistic festivals which were celebrated annually at Rome. Specifically, this one relates to the Ludi Plebeii, held each year from 4 to 17 November. Hercules had a special relationship with the Circus Flaminius, which was where the Ludi Plebeii were held, and was near the temple of Hercules Magna Custos ad Circum (Hercules the Great Guardian at the Circus). See Harlan at p. 76 for a summary of the legend of Hercules capturing the Erymanthian boar alive, the fourth of the twelve labors of Hercules. Harlan points out that according to tradition, the tusks of the Erymanthian boar were preserved at the sanctuary of Apollo at Cumae -- perhaps establishing a connection of the Erymanthian boar to the Circus Flaminius (where the Ludi Plebeii were held) and the nearby temple of Hercules Magna Custos ad Circum (which was supposedly built on the advice of the Sibyl of Cumae). This may have been the rationale for the portrayal of the Erymanthian boar on this coin rather than one of Hercules’s other labors.
    Curtisimo, Bing, Andres2 and 2 others like this.
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