Featured The Garden of the Hesperides

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Jochen1, May 12, 2019.

  1. Jochen1

    Jochen1 Well-Known Member

    Dear Friends of ancient mythology!

    I was on search of a coin showing the apple of Hesperides already for a long time. But mostly it is only Herakles who is depicted holding apples in his hand, often behind his back (Herakles Farnese). Luckily I found this coin from Tarsos which is showing the trree with the snake too. And now we have the whole scenario. In fact only the Hesperides are missing!

    The Coin:
    Cilicia, Tarsos, Gordian III, AD 238-244
    AE 35, 21.04g, 180°
    Bust, draped and cuirassed, seen from behind, radiate, r.
    in l. and r. Π - Π
    Herakles, bearded(?), nude, stg. facing, head l., resting with r. hand on his club,
    holding over l. arm the lion-skin and in the outstretched l. hand five apples.; l.
    beside him a tree with twigs, entwined by a snake.
    in the upper r. field A / Γ, in the lower l. field M / K
    Ref.: cf. SNG Copenhagen 383
    very rare, good F/about VF, usual rough state like all coins of Tarsos, traces of ancient smoothing process on rev.

    The golden apples were a gift of Gaia for Hera when she married Zeus. They had the nature to give youth and eternal life. Hera was very pleased and planted them in her own divine garden. The Hesperides, daughters of the Night, were assigned to guard them. But the Hesperides, known for their sweet voices, marauded the tree and gave its fruits away. It is said f.i. that they gave apples to Hippomenes so that he could win the run against Atalante. Therefore Hera placed the dracon Ladon in her garden who entwined the tree. His order was to guard the tree against the Hesperides!

    Because Eurystheus didn't accept Herakles fight against the Hydra because Ioalos had helped him, he gave Herakles another task: He should bring him the apples of the Hesperides.This was the eleventh labour in the classical kanon of his labours. The problem was that no one knew where to find the garden of the Hesperides! It was told that the garden was located in the high north in the land of the Hyperboraeans, or at the western horn near the Ethiopian Hesperiai. But the usual opinion was that the garden was situated far in the west. That matched the name Hesperides which means 'girls of the evening', a explicit hint to the west.

    On his quest for the apples Herakles came to Illyria and the river Po. He had a fight against Kyknos, a son of Ares, until Zeus stopped the fight. The region around the Po was ruled by the sea-god Nereus. Nymphs pointed him to the sleeping Nereus and Herakles forced him to reveal where he could find the apples and how he could get them. Although Nereus took different shapes and curled around like Proteus Herakles won the fight and got all informations he needed.

    Another myth (Aischylos) knows that Herakles was told the secret by Prometheus. He, a Titan like his brother Atlas, was forged to a rock of the Caucasus montains, and each day Zeus sent an eagle to eat from his liver which grew again each night. Herakles freed Prometheus and gratefully Pometheus gave Herakles the needed information and the hint not to take the apples by himself but to ask Atlas to get them for him.
    Atlas was punished by the gods to carry the sphere of heaven on his shoulders. When Herakles came to Atlas he took the sphere for him and Atlas went to the garden and got the apples. Some say that Herakles has shot Ladon before. Coming back with the apples Atlas denied to take the sphere again. But Herakles fooled him. Declaring himself agreed, he ask Atlas to take the sphere for a short moment, because he wanted to set a pad on his shoulder. When Atlas has taken the sphere again Herakles walked away with the apples laughing.

    Over the time the mythology changed. In the oldest versions Herakles got the apples from the Hesperides himself. Then it was said that Ladon, the guardian of the tree, fell asleep by the song of the Hesperides. The last versions said that Ladon was killed by Herakles' arrow. The story became - so to speak - more brute. Thereby Ladon, son of Typhon and Echidna (or Keto and Phorkys), was not a horrible monster but one of the wise snakes which spoke many languages and could understand them. After Ladon's death he was set by Hera gratefully to the sky as constellation Draco.

    Another myth tells that the Egyptian king Busiris - attracted by the beauty of the Hesperides - sent a ship to rape them. When his assistants has raped the Hesperides they celebrated their deed at the beach. In this moment Herakles came by and freed the Hesperides. Bringing them back to their father Atlas(!) Atlas gratefully gave him the apples and teached him astrology too because he was a famous astrologer (Diodor. Sic. I. IV. c.27, p.162). Here Atlas is not the bloody idiot as he is depicted otherwise.

    It is said that Herakles visited the garden of the Hesperides once before when he was on the quest for the hind of Keryneia. There is an ancient vase painting showing the hind standing under the tree with the golden apples guarded by two Hesperides. But Herakles has took the way back because no one was allowed to left the garden. In this sense the garden was like the underworld (Kerenyi).

    It is told too (Apollonius) that the Argonauts visited the garden of the Hesperides on their voyage to the Golden Fleece. The came one day after Herakles has taken the apples and they met the Hesperides crying. Their sorrow was so great that they transformed in front of the heroes into trees: a black poplar, an elm tree and a willow tree. But later they could transform themselves back!

    According to Hesiod the Hesperides were the daughters of the Night (Nyx), according to others daughters of Phorkys or Atlas or Hesperos. 'Beyond the Okeanos' they kept their golden apples and the fruit-trees of the garden of gods. The apples were symbols of eternal youth, or love and fertility. Gaia had let them sprout as a marriage gift for Hera and Zeus.

    Originally this magic garden seems to be the theater of the hieros gamos, the holy marriage. There are similarities with the garden Eden, the Paradise, with its magic tree and the snake, which are leaping to the eye.

    However the location of the garden was shifting to the west more and more together with the growing geographical knowledge of the Greeks and their growing view of the world. At first it was at Berenike on a peninsula of the gulf of Syrte in Libya, then on the slopes of the Atlas mountains, finally on a mythical island in the Atlantic ocean.
    The number of Hesperides varies from three over four to even eleven on vase paintings. Hesiod knew three, named Aigle, Erytheia and Hesperthusa. The last name was divided by Apollodoros in Hesperia and Arethusa and so making four. Herakles' adventure with the Hesperides appears on pictures not before the 6th century BC, in literature not before the 5th century BC. In the first tales Herakles was picking the apples by his own motive, not until later it became a charge of Eurystheus.

    In Baroque the 'Garden of the Hesperides' was the name of many elaborately arranged exotic gardens especially with lemon or orange trees. Probably the mythical apples has been lemons or quinces too because in the times of that myths apples were small, hard and inedible. Famous 'Gardens of the Hesperides' could be found in Nuremberg or Bamberg and other cities..

    I have added a detail of the famous painting of the Attic painter Meidias. It is found on a red-figured Hydria from about 420-410 BC now in the British Museum. The painting shows the Hesperides and the tree with the golden apples, here together with the magician Medea with her box with magic herbs.

    And for all of you who are interested in Greek mythology, I would like to point to the wonderful site: www.theoi.com


    (1) Der kleine Pauly
    (2) Robert von Ranke-Graves, Griechische Mythologie
    (3) Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologischs Lexikon
    (4) Karl Kerenyi, Die Mythologie der Griechen

    Other threads dealing with the garden of the Hesperides are
    (1) An apple of immortality:
    (2) Interesting Deultum of Gordian:

    Best regards
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  3. Limes

    Limes Well-Known Member

    I really like reading your stories Jochen. Thank you for writing and the link to the site.
    Jochen1 likes this.
  4. Jwt708

    Jwt708 Well-Known Member

    Very nice! Do you have a reference for all these mythic scene coins or are you that knowledgeable of the mythology to keep an eye out for these reverse types?
    Jochen1 likes this.
  5. Jochen1

    Jochen1 Well-Known Member

    For more than 5 years I was hunting for coins with mythological scenes. The coin was always the introduction to an article I posted in the German Münzforum. Then I was asked whether I could not summarize these articles in a book. And that's what I did in 2011, from which the book "Münzen und antike Mythologie - Reise in ein fernes Land" (Coins and Ancient Mythology - Journey to a Distant Land) came into being. It contains over 200 articles. So far only in German. And of course I now have a larger library with books on antique mythology.

    In 2017 a supplementary volume with further 30 articles was published and maybe a 3rd volume will follow.

    The articles I post here are revised articles from these books.

    Meanwhile my main work together with Gospodin Jekov is the work on the coinage of Nikopolis. This is very time-consuming and my mythological interests have suffered a little.

    Last edited by a moderator: May 13, 2019
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  6. PeteB

    PeteB Well-Known Member

    A similar example, but with different details on obverse and reverse:
    Gordian III. 238-244 AD. Tarsos, Cilicia. Æ 36; 19.78 gm. Obv: AYT KAI M ANTONIOC (sic) ΓΟ(PΔΙΑΝΟC CΕΒ). Π - Π to right and left. Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust, right. Rev: TAPCOY MHTPOΠΟΛΕΩC AMK ΓB; Herakles in the garden of the Hesperides, facing, head left, holding club in his right hand and apple(s) in his left hand with the skin of the Nemean lion draped over his left arm. in the trεe to left, the dead guardian dragon Ladon, which Herakles had to kill to get the golden apples. Ziegler 772, double die match. SNG France 1669. AMK = The first, largest and most beautiful (city in Cilicia).

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  7. pprp

    pprp Well-Known Member

    I'm surprised no one posted this coin from Phaistos/Creta

  8. lordmarcovan

    lordmarcovan Eclectic & odd Moderator

    Never seen that type. I like it. That's one neat thing about ancients. Even after 12 years of collecting them and browsing online, I still regularly see types I've never seen before. Dozens, in fact, if not hundreds of types new to my eyes.
  9. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    That Herakles looks like the Getty’s example
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