Telephos - Son of Herakles

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Jochen1, Mar 21, 2019.

  1. Jochen1

    Jochen1 Well-Known Member

    Dear Friends of ancient mythology!

    First, please don't confuse Telephos with Telesphoros, the companion of Asklepios. Telephos is a son of Herakles. One of the scenes of this myth is depicted on the 1st
    presented coin. It is an AE24 of Damascus in Syria struck for Volusian, son of Trebonianus Gallus.

    1st Coin:
    Syria, Damascus, Volusian, son of Trebonianus Gallus, AD 252-253
    AE 24, 9.20g, 0°
    Bust, draped and cuirassed, laureate, r.
    rev. [COL] DAM - [AS] MET[R]
    Hind with antlers standing r., suckling Telephos sitting underneath
    ref. Rouvier 99
    rare, F+/about VF

    2nd Coin:
    Thrace, Serdika, Septimius Severus, AD 193-211
    struck under legate C. Caecina Largus
    Bust, draped and cuirassed, laureate, r.
    Herakles, bearded, nude, stg. frontal, head r., resting with r. hand on club, holding lion's skin over l. arm and Telephos in l. hand, who has turned towards him.
    ref.: a) Ruzicka 37 corr. (writes that a stag is stg. r. looking upwards to Telephos; but
    the depicted coin is so worn that I think the description is taken from Lucius
    Verus nr.16)
    b) Hristova/Jekov No. (R7)
    c) Varbanov cf. 1958 (has laureate head r., misunderstands Telephos as Dionysos)
    very rare, about VF
    Pat Lawrence: Almost certainly the depiction cites a statue from Pergamon.

    The myth of Telephos is very comprehensive and incorporates several various motives. So sadly I had to keep much shorter than I actually intended.

    (1) The mother of Telephos was Auge, daughter of Aleus, who was king in Tegea, and Neaira. To protect her Aleus made Auge priestess of Athena Alea. When Herakles came to Tegea, possibly on his way to king Augeias, Aleus welcomed him friendly but Herakles drunken from the wine raped Auge near a well of the sanctuary. Because she
    didn't cry for help some are suggesting that she has gone volunteered with him. After that Tegea was hit by famine and plague and Pythia told Aleus that a crime has occured in the sanctuary of Athena. Aleus took Auge who was highly pregnant and gave her to king Nauplios to drawn her. Nauplios didn't want to kill her but wanted to sell her on the slave market. On the way Auge secretly gave birth to a son and hid him in the thicket. Nauplios sold her to merchants from Caria, who sold her to Teuthras, king of Teuthrania in Mysia.

    Auge's son was nursed by a hind (with antlers as usually at Artemis' hinds) on the mountain Parthenios. Here he was found by herdsmen who called him Telephos from "nursed by a hind" and brought him to their king Korythos. As grownup he went to Delphoi to hear about his parents. The oraccle gave him the advise to go to king Teuthras in Mysia. There he found Auge now wife of Teuthras and he learned that she was his mother and Herakles his father. Teuthras gave him his daughter Argiope to be his wife and after the death of Teuthras Telephos became king of Mysia.

    Another story too was told: Telephos has killed Hippothoos and Nereus, his uncles from his mother, and went in search of his mother silent and mute. The "silence of Telephos" became a winged word. When he came to king Teuthras the king was in great distress. The argonaut Idas was going to conquer the Mysian throne and Teuthras promised to give the throne and his adopted daughter Auge to anyone who would help him. Telephos agreed but when Auge who didn't know Telephos and Telephos who didn't know Auge were in the wedding chamber a snake sent by the gods appeared to avoid incest. And so mother and son recognized each other and they returned to their homeland. Auges' sepulcher could be seen at the river Kaikos and the inhabitants of Pergamon claimed that they were emigrants from Arcadia which were moved over with Telephos to Mysia and Telephos was worshipped as one of their heros.

    Other told that Aleus has enclosed Auge and Telephos in a wooden chest and given to the sea. But under the guard of Athena they landed in Asia at the mouth of the river
    Kaikos and Teuthras has married Auge and adopted Telephos.

    (2) In the Mysian prelude of the Trojan War the Achaioi who at first didn't have a leader have landed in error at the coast of Mysia, an ally. They hold it for Troy and started to loot it. But Telephos, king of Mysia, confronted them and killed Thersandros, son of Polyneikes of Thebes. Achilleus and Patroklos attacked him and Telephos fled along the river Kaikos. To punish him because the Mysians had omitted to sacrifice Dionysos in Aulis Dionysos let shoot up a gravevine and he stumbled over it and Achilleus wounded him with his spear at the thigh.

    This wound didn't heal and Telephos asked the oracle what he should do. Apollo declared him that only the causer could heal him. And the slogan ο τρωας ιασεται (Troas will heal) forced Telephos after 8 years of torture to accept the Achaioi, and go to Argos, where he obtained healing by Achilleus in exchange for pointing them to the correct way to Troy. So far the Kypria. The Troyan circle of epics told a more brutal story in which he - disguised as an enemy of Telephos - visited Agamemnon and on the advice of Klytaimnestra he ripped the little Orestes from his cradle and threatened to kill him.

    Agamemnon had learned that without the help of Telephos the Achaioi would not conquer Troy and wanted to help him if he led the Greek fleet to Troy. And Achilleus scratched rust (the cause!) from his spear and healed his wounds. According to Plinius it was yarrow by which he was healed. Achilleus knew it from the wise centaur Chiron. Yarrow was used in ancient times to stop bleeding and to heal stab wounds and cuts. From Achilleus it has got his botanical name "Achillea = Herb of Achilleus".
    Achillea millefolium.jpg
    Achillea millefolium

    In the Troyan War Telephos did not participate itself because his wife Laodike was a daughter of the Troyan king Priamos.

    (3) Telephos had a son Eurypylos who led a Mysian army to Troy to support the Trojans. Priamos engaged him to his daughter Kassandra. He was a great fighter and killed Machaon, the Greek surgeon. For this reason each divine service in the temple of Asklepios in Pergamon began with a hymn to Telephos. Eurypylos later was killed bei Neoptolemos.

    The etymology of Telephos as "suckled by a hind" cannot be maintained. Auge plays a role as birth goddess too. On the agora of Tegea stood a temple of Eileithya, here called "Auge in the birth", depicted kneeling and giving birth to Telephos. So it is more probably that Auge ("the bright") and Telephos ("the widely luminous") are Arcadian deities of the light, usually associated with childbirth (Roscher).

    The myth itself seems to be a reverberation of old battles of the colonists against Barbarians and its own people (Pauly). Already the Kypria initiate a connection to Troy. In a younger version Telephos originates from Troy and has married a woman from Troy, Laodike or Astyoche. His son Eurypylos was fighting for Priamos. The Attalids of Pergamon considered Telephos as their ancestor and Eumenes II let built the frieze of Telephos on their famous altar. Here Telephos is found by his father Achilleus. A "Telephos roman" was written in which the Amazone-like Hiera played a role. She and Telephos should be the ancestors of Tarchon and Tyrsenos who are said to have colonized Etruria(!).

    Telephos was a motive of almost all ancient tragedians like Aischylos, Sophokles, Euripides and more. But all their works are lost. The hellenistic poetry too dealed with Telephos. Ennius and Lucius Accius rewrite the drame of Euripides. In Herculaneum was found the famous wall-painting 'Herakles finding Telephos'.

    I have attached a pic of this painting. It was found AD 1793 in Herculaneum and armed with a thick layer of cement to protect it. Not earlier as 2005 it was restored. Until now not all of its figures could be identified.
    But in the lower left corner we see the hind which is suckling Telephos.

    And I have attached a detail of the Telephos Frieze from the Pergamon Altar (Pergamon-Museum, Berlin). The sculpture shows the scene where the Argives welcome Telephos.

    Kypria: Epic cycles in eleven books depicting the prehistory of the Iliad from the marriage of Peleus and Thetis to the unfortunate disembarkation in Teuthracia and the military actions in the Troas.

    (1) Apollodor, Bibliotheke
    (2) Hyginus, Fabeln
    (3) Plinius HN
    (4) Diodorus Siculus
    (5) Kypria

    (1 Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches Mythologisches Lexikon, 1770
    (2 Wilhelm Heinrich Roscher, Ausführliches Lexikon der griechischen und
    römischen Mythologie
    (3 Robert von Ranke-Graves, Griechische Mythologie
    (4 Karl Kerenyi, Griechische Heldenmythen
    (5 Der kleine Pauly

    Best regards
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 21, 2019
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  3. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    Thanks for the writeup, Jochen. I love that Serdica.

    I have this small bronze from Tegea which is rather rough, but I'm very fond of it.

    ARKADIA Tegea - AE16 Telephos and doe 1050.jpg
    ARKADIA, Tegea
    AE Dichalkon. 2.51g, 16.2mm. ARKADIA, Tegea, circa 250 BC. BCD Peloponnesos 1741.2; cf. HGC 5, 1073 (rev. controls). O: Helmeted head of Athena Alea right. R: The infant Telephos kneeling left, suckling doe standing right with head left; TEGE[A] above.
    Ex BCD Collection; ex Joseph J. Copeland Collection
  4. Jochen1

    Jochen1 Well-Known Member

    From Tegea, center of this myth! I'm jealous.

    zumbly likes this.
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