Staring at the Gorgon, drinking wine.

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by iamtiberius, May 16, 2019.

  1. A recent acquisition bared a familiar face upon inspection. Admittedly, during the auction; I didn't really inspect the impression closely. The description was simply "Human face." Here's the new aquisition:
    Greek Campania Ceramic Kylix.JPG
    Magna Graecia, South Italic Colonies, Campania, ca. 360 to 320 BCE. A wheel-thrown kylix with a squat foot, a wide, shallow body, and a pair of applied parabolic handles that curve over themselves at the terminals. The majority of the exterior is covered in a black glaze, aside from a tiny unglazed ring on the underside of the foot. Incised in tondo is a five-pointed star surrounding a small human face, forming a maker's mark. Size: 7" W x 2" H (17.8 cm x 5.1 cm)

    Take a closer look:
    Greek Campania Ceramic Kylix appollonian diobols.jpg

    A few of my Apollonian Diobols for reference. I'm entirely convinced we're staring into the eyes of a Gorgon. Interestingly, this specific piece is attributed having been made in Campania, modern day Italy, 360-320 BC. The Apollonian diobols of the Black Sea region were concurrent in making, circa 400-320 BC (depending on who you ask.) Though Campania and Apollonia are 1430 miles apart, by road, the similarities in design and era are uncanny. Even the size of the impression to the coins are close on wider diobol examples.

    The Kylix was primarily used in wine drinking; cupping the chalice with both hands, palms faced upward, with the thumbs resting over the elongated handles. One could not help but notice, once the kylix was empty, that you would come face to face with the gorgon. A purposeful nod to the myth, or simply the maker's mark?

    Image Source:

    Show your Gorgons!


    Possibly the same premise as the Sicilian Dekadrachm example posted by @John Anthony 2 years ago?
    Last edited: May 16, 2019
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  3. Orielensis

    Orielensis Supporter! Supporter

    This is a beautiful kylix. I'd like to congratulate you with a couple of Gorgons:

    We all know this type. It's probably not from Parium/Parion in Mysia, but I'll keep the attribution in scare quotes until a better one has been established:

    Magna, Graecia – Mysien, Parion, drachm Gorgoneoin.png
    "Mysia, Parium," drachm, ca. 480 BC. Obv: vorgoneion. Rev cross-shaped incusum. 12.2mm, 3.14g. Ref: BMC 4–8; Sear Greek 3917; SNG Copenhagen 256, SNG von Aulock 1318.

    Here are two Gorgon drachms from Apollonia Pontika:

    Magna Graecia – Thrakien, Apollonia Pontika, Drachme, Gorgoneion und Anker.png
    Thrace, Apollonia Pontika, AR drachm, 5th–4th century BC. Obv: Gorgoneion facing. Rev: upright anchor; crayfish to l., A to r. 13.5mm, 2.87g. Ref: Sear Greek 1655. Ex FSR, auction 106, lot 6.

    Magna Graecia – Thrakien, Apollonia Pontika, Drachme, Gorgoneion und Anker 2.png
    Thrace, Apollonia Pontika, AR drachm, 5th–4th century BC. Obv: Gorgoneion facing. Rev: upright anchor; crayfish to l., A to r. 13.5mm, 2.85g. Ref: Sear Greek 1655. Ex Savoca London, Blue Auction 2, lot 73.

    While the drachm clearly shows a gorgoneion, I always assumed that the diobol from Apollonia Pontika, which looks similar to the face on your kylix, shows Apollo (the laurel wreath is at least a strong indicator). Maybe you're looking at Apollo and not a Gorgon? I guess that would be good news...

    Magna Graecia – Thrakien, Apollonia Pontika, Diobol, Apollo und Anker.png
    Thrace, Apollonia Pontika, AR diobol, 4th century BC. Obv: laureate head of Apollo facing. Rev: upright anchor; A to l., crayfish to r. 11mm, 1.35g. Ref: SNG Copenhagen 459–461. Ex Artemide, eLive-Auction 7, lot 98.
    Last edited: May 16, 2019
  4. Jwt708

    Jwt708 Well-Known Member

  5. Clavdivs

    Clavdivs Supporter! Supporter

    I am just wondering what the ancient drinking game was called??
    "Lock eyes with the Gorgon"?.... chug, chug!!

    Joking aside - what a wonderful purchase - a beautiful thing to own!
    Last edited: May 16, 2019
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  6. octavius

    octavius Well-Known Member

    My Medusae ... all RR denarii - Plautius...

    3eEYF7wS8ZZkJ5qebi4GY6Sm9PnjiP.jpg 9808LG.jpg 661318.jpg zJP85cXMZCn6K9HtqW2YL7om7kC4r3.jpg
  7. Terence Cheesman

    Terence Cheesman Supporter! Supporter

    neapolismac1.jpg Stater of Neapolis 500-480 B.C. HGC 3 583
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  8. Alegandron

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

    Here are a couple of mine...

    Ionia Klazomenai 480-400 BC AR Drachm Pentobol 3.5g 13mm Forepart winged boar r gorgoneion incuse sq Cf SNG Copenhagen 12 Rare

    Etruria Populonia 3rd C BCE AR 20 As 8.1g Metus Blank HN152
  9. gsimonel

    gsimonel Supporter! Supporter

    I'm a bit dim when it comes to Greek coins. I have a coin similar to yours, also attributed to Parium. This is the first time I've heard this called into question. Can you say why you doubt this origin?
  10. Ryro

    Ryro The last of the Diadochi Supporter

    I'm with you. Certainly the face looks very much like that of a Gorgon.
    Simply amazing acquisition! I LOVE it!!!
    The closest I have is what I believe to be an ancient Greek pot shard.
    I wonder if they, like we used to until the term became pretty exclusive to getting high, would call getting drunk getting stoned? Seriously. "Look into the cup while you drink and get stoned looking at the Gorgon!"
    But the request is for Gorgons, so everybody must get stoned:
    3A698E19-D251-4CE2-A08E-0D197B3F7A41.png FBE725EE-23BB-4554-AA33-47907F50D9C9.png 50091948-FD78-4551-88A1-54954DD25F77.png 5D8CEE54-8A47-44E7-B156-9E9248DABE4D.png 82AED754-7471-4ABA-960B-94A1EC33C861.png 72B9DE3A-E4AA-43A7-98B4-672A84E2DFF4.png

    Last edited: May 17, 2019
  11. Ed Snible

    Ed Snible Well-Known Member

    I also doubt these come from Parion. I was going to write this up for publication but I never got around to it. I suspect gorgon/cross silver units come from Olbia.

    The editors of An Inventory of Greek Coin Hoards cite just a few hoards: 101 gorgon/incuse drachms in the Kruševo hoard, circa 32 km East of Plovdiv, Bulgaria (hoard #695); 1? drachm in a hoard of Tekirdag (ancient Bisanthe), Thrace (hoard #697); 2+ drachms in a hoard circa 37 km East of Cǎlǎraşi, Romania (hoard #734); 1 drachm in a hoard found at Granitovo, near Jambol, Bulgaria (#761; this hoard also included a Parion gorgon/cow hemidrachm); 1 drachm of the irregular incuse variety in a hoard found near the Cilician-Pamphylian border, burial circa 480 BC (hoard #1177); and 1 drachm of the irregular incuse variety in the Asyut hoard found in Egypt (hoard #1644). None of these are near Parion.

    Richard Payne-Knight first attributed the common fabric type to Parion in 1830. He did not record his reasoning nor did he mention de Blaramberg’s 1822 attribution to Olbia. J. P. Six argued, in 1876, against 18th century attributions to Abydos. Six wrote that it makes more sense to attribute based on obverse types than reverse types. He also assigned to the mint at Parion, a city that used a gorgoneion obverse, rather than Abydos, which has only a gorgoneion reverse type. Payne-Knight and the elder Six’s became the accepted attribution when Warwick Wroth, Barclay Head, and Babelon all followed it. The first edition of Head’s Historia Numorum hedged saying “... it must be confessed that the attribution to Parium is not by any means certain.” (Six’s own son Jan Six later proposed mints in Lycia and at Selge as better candidates.)

    It is surprising that no modern scholar argues for de Blaramberg's choice: Olbia on the Black Sea. Olbia is near the findspots and issued bronze gorgon/cross coins during the same period. The bronze of Olbia had similar hair style. The depiction of the gorgon’s hair, formed of half circles on coins of Olbia, is unusual. There are no gorgons with similar half circle hair in Josef Floren’s book of gorgoneion vase paintings and sculpture. Furthermore coins of Olbia depict the tongue similarly.

    Barclay Head suggests that the bronze gorgoneion coin type of Olbia was “copied from the silver coins of Parium.” I am proposing that the resemblance may be closer than copying – that the same city issued both.

    The usual weight for these silver coins is about 3.25g. The weights of the Olbian bronze denominations are about 12.5g, about 25g, and about 100g. I haven’t found any sources for the Black Sea area silver to bronze valuations, but ratios in the early period of Italy were about 120:1. If the same ratio existed at Olbia (and if these silver coins are in fact Olbian) then gorgon/cross silver has an intrinsic value of quadruple of the largest bronze.

    An ancient inscription says “1 Cyzicene = 11 Olbia silver staters”. But then what was an “Olbia silver stater”? Olbia doesn’t have any large silver coins. A Cyzicene electrum stater weighed about 16g. To the ancient Greeks, electrum was worth about ¾ the value of gold. Gold was worth 13 times the value of silver, suggesting a Cyzicene was the equivalent of 156g of silver. An “Olbia silver stater” would thus be worth 14g of silver. Thus gorgon/cross coin can’t be the stater mentioned... unless we interpret the inscription as 1 Cyzicene hekte = 11 Olbia silver staters” the inscription equates a circa 2.6g electrum hekte with perhaps 34g to 37g of silver, fitting nicely with the circa 3.5g gorgon/cross coins.

    The gorgon type which was minted in vast quantities for Parion may not have even had an early connection to the city. Parion was conquered by Abydos circa 360 BC. Abydos used the gorgon motif on its early coinage. 360 BC is about the time the gorgon/cow coinage commences at Parion.
  12. Finn235

    Finn235 Well-Known Member

    Beautiful piece of art! I had no idea that ancient pottery/drinkware in that condition could be so (relatively) inexpensive. I had always figured mid 4 to 5 figures for something beautiful and intact.

    That issue is probably my favorite depiction of a Gorgon in the whole of numismatics. Reminds me of a snarling wolf that's about to attack.

    I'm not actively building any Greek collection, but I do have a soft spot for coins with Gorgons

    Apollonia drachm gorgon anchor crayfish.jpg
    Apollonia pontika hemidrachm gorgon anchor.jpg
    Mysia parion hemidrachm caduceus.jpg

    imgonline-com-ua-twotoone-Walc6fHPy9Av.jpg imgonline-com-ua-twotoone-1krwqyWfZH.jpg
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  13. Terence Cheesman

    Terence Cheesman Supporter! Supporter

    Ed Snible I like what you have done with the coins of Parion?/ Olbia? One area of useful inquiry would be comparing the weights of these coins with those of other coins in the region such as Messembria Apollonia, Pontika and Istrus.
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  14. gsimonel

    gsimonel Supporter! Supporter

    So it's the earliest ones with the incuse punch that are suspect; the ones from the 4th century with the bull on the reverse are assumed to be from Parion, correct? Thank you for enlightening me.
  15. Ed Snible

    Ed Snible Well-Known Member

    Correct. And the proof is the ΠΑΡΙ inscription, which must be Parion or the island of Paros. Pellerin's 1763 book established Parion from similarities with a bronze gorgon/eagle coin with ΠΑΡΙΑΝΩΝ reverse inscription. (Paros has coins inscribed ΠΑΡΙ, but ΠΑΡΙΑΝΩΝ wouldn't be grammatical for Paros).

    ... but wait ...

    ... gorgon/cow hemidrachms are often found in hoards with Lion/quarters hemidrachms from Chersonesos. Dimitar Draganov published a gorgon/cow muled with a lion/quarters hemidrachm from the Gorno Novo Selo hoard discovered in 1961. This establishes Parion and "Chersonsesos" are same mint (or possibly that a wandering engraver, forger or Celtic tribe was making both types). Thus the gorgon/cow was minted for Parion, but we can't be sure where.
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  16. Orielensis

    Orielensis Supporter! Supporter

    @Ed Snible has already explained this in much greater depth and detail than I could ever have done. The only minor thing I can add is that Topalov in his "Ancient Thrace" (2003) tentatively attributed the type to a mint in or near the Odrysian kingdom, yet he didn't give much explanation for this. If I understand correctly, he basically extrapolates from the pattern of find spots and the dating indicated by the Asyut hoard. It appears, though, that Olbia or another town near the Black Sea would fit this evidence equally well.

    Thanks for sharing these findings! If you ever found the time to expand this and publish it as an article, I (and, I am sure, many others) would be very grateful. It really is somewhat unsatisfying that such a common and often collected early Greek coin type remains that understudied.

    In order not to completely hijack @iamtiberius' thread, here is my last and unrelated Gorgon:
    Makedonien – Alexander der Große, AE, Schild und Helm.png
    Alexander III "the Great" (postumous issue), Kingdom of Macedonia, AE half-unit, 323–315 BC, Salamis mint. Obv: Macedonian shield, with facing gorgoneion on boss. Rev: B-A; helmet; kerykeion to left, monogram (sigma and iota?) to right. 15mm, 3.89g. Ref: Price 3159.
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  17. Shea19

    Shea19 Supporter! Supporter

    Very interesting. Here’s mine which is (allegedly) from Parion.

  18. Ed Snible

    Ed Snible Well-Known Member

    Stavri Topalov believes the gorgon/incuse examples of 3.2g and less are Thracian. He claims hoards are found in cities along the Maritza [=Maritsa] river at Plovdiv (ancient Philippopolis), Stara Zagora (ancient Augusta Trajana), Khaskovo, and Yambol (ancient Cabyle). Topalov believes multiple mints in the interior struck the type but his evidence is merely a lot of surviving coins. I got frustrated with his book because he argues that minting began circa 450 BC, and also that minting began circa 384 BC under king Kotys I.

    Topalov also claims no specimens with test cuts exist but one has been published (SNG Ashmolean part 9 #716 which was originally in Numismatic Chronicle 1961 by E. S. G. Robinson). I have a fourree of the type, establishing the need to test the coinage.

    Numismatists call the facing head as a gorgoneion but Topalov believes it depicts the Thracian Great Mother Goddess. He argues that die cutters deliberately rendered her with unsharp features – perhaps imitating rock sculptures of this Goddess. The Thracian Great Mother was “Bendis”, the moon.

    I actually think Topolov might be onto something here. Olbia was a home to the Orphic religion, and Clement of Alexandria, writing circa 150 – 215 AD, wrote that Orphics called “the Moon ‘Gorgoneion’ on account of the face in it...” If Topalov’s theories are correct then tribes near Olbia, an Orphic center, were putting out coins depicting a moon goddess that look a great deal like a gorgoneion.
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  19. H8_modern

    H8_modern Attracted to small round-ish art

    This one is called a gorgon but I think it looks more like Helios


    And of course I can’t find the attribution right now. I’ll edit tomorrow
  20. H8_modern

    H8_modern Attracted to small round-ish art

    Not sure why the edit button didn’t come up but here’s the attribution:

    PISIDIA, Selge.

    Circa 350-300 BC. AR Obol (9mm, 0.94 g, 12h). Facing gorgoneion / Helmeted head of Athena right; astralagos behind. SNG France 1933; Klein 630
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