Featured Pelops and Hippodameia

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Jochen1, Feb 16, 2020.

  1. Jochen1

    Jochen1 Well-Known Member

    Dear Friends of ancient mythology!

    The occasion for this article is this beautiful coin, which I could add to my collection. Here I will focus a bit more on Hippodameia.

    The Coin:
    Ionia, Smyrna, Antoninus Pius, 138-161
    AE 35, 25.20g, 34.91mm, 0°
    struck under the Strategos Theidianos, ca.147 AD
    Obv.: [AV KAI T]I AI.AΔPI - ANTΩNEINOC Laureate head r.
    Hippodameia, in long robe and veiled, standing r., lifting fold of her robe on the
    left shoulder, holding with her right hand the right hand of Pelops, who is
    standing frontally beside her, naked except for chlamys over left shoulder, head
    turned left, with his raised left hand resting on long sceptre, both stg. in biga
    driving r.
    in the upper right field ΠEΛO[Ψ]
    Ref.: BMC Ionia, 342; SNG von Aulock 2213; Mionnet 3, p.230, nr. 1289; Klose
    Series A (sixes)
    S+, stripped
    (1) The coin shows the moment when Pelops and Hippodameia get into the car to start the race with Oinomaos. This coin is already mentioned by Roscher, Volume I, p.2670, 1884, and according to A. von Sallet refers to the celebration of the Olympic Games in Smyrna (Ztschr. f. N. 14, 1887). This motif appears on numerous representations.
    (2) ANEΘHKE is a standard formula: Theudianos gave it to the people of Smyrna.

    Hippodameia (Greek = mistress of horses) was the beautiful and much sought-after daughter of Oinomaos, king of Pisa at Elis, a fertile landscape in the west of the Peloponnesos, and the Pleiad Sterope (or the Danaid Eurythoe). Oinomaos himself was a son of Ares and Harpina, daughter of the river god Asopos. He was a great lover of horses. So he forbade his subjects to mate horses with donkeys, on pain of cursing. Oinomaos had been prophesied by the oracle that he would be killed by his son-in-law. It is also said that he was in love with his daughter and had an unseemly relationship with her (Hyginus). In any case, he did not want to give her to any suitor unless he was defested by him in a chariot race. Otherwise he would pay for it with his life.

    The goal of the race was the Altar of Poseidon at the Isthmos of Corinth, and it was not only about Hippodameia, but about the whole country through which the track passed. The suitor had to take Hippodameia with him in his carriage, of course, to divert his attention from the carriage. Oinomaos, however, gave him an advantage of half an hour, as he sacrificed a ram to Zeus Areios (after others to Ares or Hephaistos) before the race. But he had been given two horses by his father Ares, Psylla, the flea, and Harpinna, the plucker, which we must imagine winged. These were faster than the north wind and were steered by the skilful Myrtilos, so that no suitor had a chance against him. He caught up with them and pierced them from behind with a spear he had also received from Ares. 12 (some say 13) suitors had already paid their application with death. He nailed their heads over the gates of his palace.

    When Pelops, who came from his homeland, Mount Sipylos in Lydia, landed at Elis, he asked his lover Poseidon to give him the fastest car in the world for his advertisement to Hippodameia. Poseidon provided him with a winged chariot pulled by two immortal winged horses. There are two different versions:

    (1) Pelops has fallen in love with Hippodameia and came to court her. He brought Myrtilos, the charioteer of Oinomaus, on his side by promising him a night with Hippodameia. Myrtilos was a son of Hermes and Cleobule. He too has fallen in love with Hippodameia, but did not dare to take part in a chariot race. Or Hippodameia had fallen in love with Pelops at the first sight and persuaded Myrtilos to help her by promising him a night with her.

    (2) The other version: Pelops came to Elis actually to win the kingdom of Oinomaos. Then Hippodameia would have been only a nice sideline, so to speak. It fits to this version that he is said to have promised Myrtilos half of the empire.

    In any case, Myrtilos manipulated the wheels on Oinomaos' chariot by replacing the nails on the axle with wax nails. When Oinomaos had just caught up with Pelops on Isthmos, the wheels flew off the chariot, Oinomaos got entangled in the reins and was dragged to death. But before that he cursed Myrtilos and prayed to the gods that he would be killed by Pelops. But Pelops received Hippodameia and the kingdom of Elis by this deceit. He became one of the greatest founding fathers of the Greeks and gave the "Peloponnesos" (= Island of Pelops) its name. By the way, in the Middle Ages the Peloponnesos was also called Morea (mulberry) after its shape!

    On the return journey, Myrtilos tried to approach Hippodameia as promised. But she defended herself and Myrtilos was pushed by Pelops at the Geraist promontory into the sea, which is called the Myrtoic after him.

    But there is also the Phaidra motif: Hippodameia had feigned thirst and sent Pelops for water. So she could seduce Myrtilos in his absence. When Myrtilos rejected her,
    she accused him of rape at Pelops and Pelops pushed him into the sea. But before his death, Myrtilos cursed the family of Pelops. This is the real Curse of the Atrides! So it did not help that Pelops erected a cenotaph in Olympia to atone for him. Hermes remained a bitter enemy of his family.

    At first, her happiness with Pelops was so great that she donated special games to Hera in Olympia, the Hereia, which took place every 5 years and where young girls competed against each other. Pelops sired with Hippodmeia among others the Hippalkos, the Atreus and the Thyestes.

    But Pelops had another son, the handsome Chrysippos (= the one with the golden horses) of Danais, who was his favourite son. Laios, the son of Labdakos and later father of Oidipous, had escaped from Thebes and was taken in as a guest by Pelops. Here he was entrusted with the education of Chrysippos. So he taught him e.g. how to drive a chariot. He fell in love with Chrysippos and abducted him to Thebes when he was allowed to return. But Atreus and Thyestes were able to bring him and Laios back. Pelops forgave him when he saw how much Laios loved Chrysippos. Euripides calls him in his "Chrysippos" the inventor of boy love.

    But Hippodameia hated Chrysippos above all else, because she feared that he would deprive her children of their inheritance. So she tried to persuade Atreus and Thyestes to kill him. When they refused, she took action herself. At night she went to the sleeping chamber of Laios, where he slept with Chrysippos. She took the sword of Laios and plunged it in his body. Of course, Laios was suspected of murder, but with his last breath Chrysippos could name Hippodameia as the murderer. Pelops banished her and she fled to Midea in the Argolis (Pausanias). There she died or killed herself. Pausanias tells that Pelops had her bones brought back by order of the oracle and buried her in Olympia. There she already had a sanctuary, the Hippodameion, which the women were allowed to enter once a year.

    There are indications in this mythology that this race must have taken place somewhere else than it is told in the myth. The distance from Pisa in Elis to the Isthmus of Corinth alone is too long for a chariot race. The description of the horses of Oinomaos as well as the horses of Pelops as winged rather fit for a race over the sea. Thus it is described how Pelops tries his horses before the race, in which he drives from Sipylos to Greece (rather flies!), so fast that the horses' hooves do not touch the water and his charioteer Kylas dies. In Euripides' "Orestes" Myrtilos is thrown out of the chariot into the sea. This happened at the geraistic promontory and this is in the south of the island Euboea. In Scholion C and already at Pherekydes of Syros Oinomaos was king of Lesbos. That fits well also geographically; because the Geraistos lies in the air-line distance between Lesbos and the Isthmus of Corinth. Here the distance does not matter, because it was a flying competition with winged horses. The motive of the father's love for his daughter fits culturally more to Lesbos than to Elis. Kylas, the charioteer of Pelops, is written by Theopompos of Chios as
    Killas and he is the eponymous hero of the Lesbian town of Killa, where he had a burial mound that Pelops is said to have built for him. Therefore there is the opinion that the mythology of the abduction of Hippodameia originally comes from Asia Minor and was only transplanted to Greece with the migration of the Pelopids to Greece.

    The Hippodameia myth was treated dramatically by Sophokles in his "Pelops or Hippodameia", which is lost, and by Euripides in his "Oinomaos", which is preserved in fragments, and in the play of the same name by Lucius Accius (c. 170 B.C.- c. 90 B.C.,)

    History of Art:
    I have added the following pics:
    (1) Pelops and Hippodameia in a quadriga r.. Attic red-figured amphora, around 410 B.C., today in the Museo Archaeologico in Arezzo/Italy
    Arezzo 9e749fad40.jpg

    (2) Pelops and Hippodameia in a biga r.; terracotta tablet with relief, Roman, Augustan or Julian-Claudian, 27 B.C.-68 A.D., today in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
    Terracotta Pelops_and_Hippodamia_racing.jpg

    (3) The race and the accident in which Oinomaos lost his life was often depicted on Roman sarcophagi. This one is Roman, ca. 230-240 AD, 1615 in the Villa Borghese/Rome, since 1808 in the Louvre in Paris. This detail shows the death of king Oinomaos. The king lies with his knees drawn up under the horse and holds the reins with his left hand.
    Sarkophag Louvre 2.jpg


    (1) Apollodor, Epitomes 2, 3-10
    (2) Apollonios Rhodios, Argonautica
    (3) Hyginus, Fabulae
    (4) Pausanias, Periegesis
    (5) Pindar, Olympic Odes

    Secondary literature:
    (1) Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon
    (2 ) Wilhelm Heinrich Roscher, Ausführliches Lexikon der griechoschen und römischen Mythologie
    (3) Der Kleine Pauly
    (4) Karl Kerenyi, The Mythology of the Greeks
    (5) Robert von Ranke-Graves, Greek mythology

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

    Best regards
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  3. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    Fantastic “story coin”, Jochen! Another one for the never-ending wish list :).
    Roman Collector likes this.
  4. John Anthony

    John Anthony Ultracrepidarian Supporter

    Great stuff! You really should write a book with a collection of all your coin mythology essays.
  5. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    Cool! I enjoyed the article and the love the coin, a type I’d not seen before.
  6. Ryro

    Ryro You'll never be lovelier than you are now... Supporter

    What a fun read! Now I know where the Peloponnesos gets it's name!
    Excellent coin as well
  7. Jochen1

    Jochen1 Well-Known Member

    Dear John Anthony!

    Thank you for your hint. I have written 2 books about this stuff and have received only the best reviews in our numismatic journals. The best was a quote from Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742-1799), a great german philosopher: "if you have 2 pairs of trousers, make one into money and get this book!"

    (1) Hans-Joachim Hoeft, Münzen und antike Mythologie - Reise in ein fernes Land, 2 editions, 2011 and 2017, pp.430, DIN A4, four-colour digital print, €72.- A heavy book: 2kg!
    (= "Coins and Ancient Mythology - Journey into a faraway land")
    (2) Supplement, 2017, same title, pp.110, 24.-

    Both books are only in German. if there are enough interested people (at least 50) it is possible to publish these books in English. Most of my articles are translations of articles from my books. A third one is already in work but will surely need another 1 year.

    Best regards
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2020
    7Calbrey, zumbly, TIF and 1 other person like this.
  8. Ryro

    Ryro You'll never be lovelier than you are now... Supporter

    I would be very interested in getting an English version of one of your books! Do they come with coin pics???
  9. Jochen1

    Jochen1 Well-Known Member

    View attachment 1069380
    Of course they are all with pics as in my articles too. The big book has an index of 6000 entrances and all Greek legends are translated in a special chapter at the end of the book.
    But because I have to prepay the printing I should have ca. 50 confirmed reservations before I can contact the printing house.

    Best regards
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2020
    zumbly and Ryro like this.
  10. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    Jochen, you can count me among those who will commit to purchasing an English version.
    zumbly and Ryro like this.
  11. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    @Jochen1, as always I enjoyed your informative write-up, related art and coin. Searches of ACSearch and Coryssa confirm that coins with Hippodameia are not found every day. You can include me on your pre-order list for your book in German or English - both existing ones also seem hard to locate for sale.
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2020
  12. eparch

    eparch Well-Known Member

    Jochen, please add me for another pre order of your book in English
  13. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    Add me to the list of those who’d definitely buy an English version of your book, Jochen.
  14. Jochen1

    Jochen1 Well-Known Member

    Dear @TIF, @eparch and @zumbly!

    I have added your names to my list. But be patient.

    Best regards
  15. Ryro

    Ryro You'll never be lovelier than you are now... Supporter

    Don't forget me, please! I would be eager to get one in English.
  16. Jochen1

    Jochen1 Well-Known Member

    Added to list.

    Ryro likes this.
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