Hippolytos and Phaidra

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Jochen1, Jun 27, 2019.

  1. Jochen1

    Jochen1 Well-Known Member

    Dear Friends of ancient mythology!

    I know this coin is very worn, but it is the only one that is referring to the myth of Hippolytos and Phaidra. The legends are nearly illegible. I have completed them according to others from BCD.

    The Coin:
    Argolis, Troizen, Commodus, AD 177-192
    AE 22, 9.61g, 21.93mm, 270°
    Obv.: [M AVP KOMO]ΔOC AV[Γ]
    Laureate head right
    Rev.: [TPOI - ZHNIΩN]
    Hippolytus, nude, chlamys over shoulder, standing facing, head left, resting with raised l. hand on spear and holding in extended r. hand unknown object; at his feet his dog(?)
    Ref.: NCP 1887, p.162, 7 (this coin); BCD Peloponnesos 1341.2 (this coin)
    extremely rare, VF, black green patina with traces of lighter olive overtones, light roughness
    ex BCD coll.
    ex A. Rhousopoulos coll.
    ex LHS 96, 8./9. May 2006, lot 1198

    (1) BCD: Troizen must have enjoyed a special status under Commodus, as did Aigion, Megara and Pagai. These cities and Epidauros are the only ones that issued non-Severan coins in the Peloponnesos, with the exception of the well-established mints of like Corinth, Patrai, Elis, Argos and Lakedaimon.
    (2) Pat Lawrence: NPC 1964 newprint in Chicago mentioned 3 coins showing Hippolytos. One with Commodus shows Hippolytos a hunter with his dog, holding a spear, illus. pl. M, viii. Pausanias does mention "an archaic statue". Mayy be that it is!
    (3) NCP = Imhoof-Blumer & P. Gardner, Numismatic Commentaries on Pausanias, London 1887
    (4) LHS = Lambert Smith Hampton, Auctions House, UK

    Troizen is known as home of Theseus, the most famous Greek hero and future king of Athens. Besides many deeds and adventures he abducted Antiope (or Hippolyte or Glauke), queen of the Amazones, who gave birth to his son Hippolytos. After her death he married Phaidra (Lat. Phaedra), daughter of the Cretian king Minos and his wife Pasiphae. This marriage made her step-mother of Hippolytos. But Hippolytos was brought to Troizen to be raised up by Theseus' sister Aethra.

    Hippolytos, like the Amazones, was a devotee of Artemis, goddess of hunting and chastity. Aphrodite, angry about that and because Hippolytos was not interested in love, took revenge on him by bewitching Phaidra. As goddess of love she made Phaidra falling in love with Hippolytos, when she once saw him at a festival in Athens. She followed him to Troizen and built a temple for Aphrodite where she could look at the stadion, where Hippolytos was exercising nude. This temple she called Hippolytion, later it was called temple of the 'Aphrodite looking around'. There the myrtle was standing where Phaidra in excitement perforated the leafs with her needle.

    By Phaidras' nurse Hippolytos heard about the unnatural affection of his step-mother and was heavily shocked. He refused her wherupon Phaidra committed suicide by hanging. But she leaves a suicide note by which she accused Hippolytes of having besieged her. When Theseus coming home read this letter his mourning changed into blind rage. He banned Hippolytos from Troizen and cursed him by Poseidon. Because Hippolytos has sworn to maintain silence Theseus didn't find out the truth. Poseidon immediately fulfilled the curse of Theseus and let a monster (or a bull) climbing up from the sea so that Hippolytos' horses were frightened and had almost draggled him to death (or he was suspended in a tree). In the meantime Artemis has enlightened Theseus and he was sorry about his overhasty curse. When he and Hippolytos met for the last time Hippolytos forgave his father and then he died.

    Fortunately - referring to an Roman adaptation of the myth - he was resuscitated by Asklepios. The goddess Diana Aricina (Artemis) having a sanctuary nearby transformed him into an old man who was worshipped under the name Virbius.

    The story of Hippolytos and Phaidra covers the famous motive of Potiphar which we know too from Bellerophontes. In history it could have played a role at Crispus and Fausta.

    Hippolytos was worshipped in Troizen as god. Referring to older opinions he was obtained as god of salvation. In his temple just married persons dedicated some of their tresses to him so that Hippolytos - made potent by this - could unify with Artemis. Their fertility then should come back to the young pair. The stadion and the gymnasion in Troizen was called after him. The temple of Artemis Lykeia was hold as his foundation. He was worshipped too in Athens and Sparta. His name should mean 'teared by horses'. The motiv of the resuscitation by Asklepios seems to be very old. Beeing a god Hippolytos was not allowed to die and so he was set to the stars as 'waggoner'.

    The identification with Virbius remains mysterious. Virbius in the Lat. poetry was held as the new name of the by Asklepios resuscitated Hippolytos. But this seems to be a wrong etymology of Virbius as 'Vir bis = double man'. Virbius was worshipped in Aricia at the lake Nemi as Dianae minister. Horses were not allowed there due to his death. There was a Virbii clivus in Aricia and in Naples a flamen Virbialis is known. He was one of the lower country gods.

    Euripides has taken the myth of Hippolytos twice. His older work, 'The veiled Hippolytos', is lost. Probably Euripides didn't succeed with this work because it was too scandalous. With his younger work 'The wreathed Hippolytos' Euripides won the 1. prize at the Festival of Dionysos BC 428. This work is online under

    Ovid too used the staff of Euripides in his Metamorphoses and his Heroides (letters of mythological men and women). Other adaptations are from Seneca ('Phaedra', c.50 AD) and then from Racine ('Phedre', 1677), one of the most important works of French literature.

    History of Art:

    The myth of Phaidra and Hippolytos is told in particular episodes especially on Roman sarcophagusses. I have attached an exemplar. The so-called 'Aldobrandini Marriage', a Roman painting of the 1st century BC (now in the Vaticane), assembles the protagonists of the myth. In later times the death of Hippolytos - like on Pompejian wall paintings - was the favoured motive because of its dramatic. Rubens shows the overturned carriage and the heavily dreaded harnessed horse team. (1611/12; Cambridge, FM).

    I have attached

    1) A pic of the sarcophagus, c.290 AD, from the Campana coll., now in the Louvre/Paris. Here we see - sitting between her handmaids and some Erotes - the lovesick Phaidra, in the midth Hippolytos as hunter in his hand the letter of Phaidra, finally Theseus receiving the news of his son's death.

    2) A pic of the mosaic with Phaidra and Hippolytos from the house of Dionysos in Nea Paphos on Cyprus, late 2nd century AD.

    (1) Apollodor, Epitome 1, 18-19
    (2) Euripides, Hippolytos stephanephoros (The wreathed Hippolytos)
    (3) Ovid, Metamorphoses 15, 497-546; Heroides 4; Fasten 6, 737ff
    (4) Vergil, Aeneis 7, 761-782
    (5) Pausanias, Periegesis hellados (Description of Greece)

    eparch, Ancient Aussie, PeteB and 7 others like this.
  2. Avatar

    Guest User Guest

    to hide this ad.
  3. PeteB

    PeteB Well-Known Member

    Excellent! As usual.
    Thanks, Jochen!
  4. Jochen1

    Jochen1 Well-Known Member

Draft saved Draft deleted

Share This Page