The Lokrian Aias

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Jochen, Mar 14, 2019.

  1. Jochen

    Jochen Well-Known Member


    Dear Friends of ancient mythology!

    Here we have the Lokrian Aias, also called the Aias the Lesser. But he is not less interesting than the Greater Aias. He is a famous example of human hybris.

    The coin:
    Lokris, Lokris Opuntia, c.380-338 BC
    AR - hemidrachm, 15mm, 2.4g
    obv. Head of Demeter/Persephone (or Artemis/Arethusa?), wearing earring, necklace
    and wreath from corn-ears, l., so-called Euainetos type.
    rev. [OΠON - TIΩN]
    Ajas, nude, except crested Corinthian helmet and shield, advancing r. with pulled
    out short sword, below spear laying.
    ref. Jenkins (1972) 266-7; Brett 959-961
    lokris_opuntia_Jenkins266-7_a.jpg

    Note:
    Euainetos was a famous die cutter from Syracuse c.400 BC. The obv. portrait imitates his style.

    Mythology:
    Aias was the son of king Oileus of Lokris at the Thessalian coast and his wife Eriopis. Therefore he was called the Lokrian Aias or Aias Oileus too. He was one of the suitors of Helena which then Paris took to Troy. That was the reason that he led the Lokrians in forty ships against Troy, where he distinguished himself as a fast runner and good spear shooter. Often he was fighting together with the great Telamonian. At the funeral games of Patroklos he proved as quarrelsome; in the race with Odysseus Athena caused him to make a false step.

    After the fall of Troy he tried to rape Kassandra, daughter of the Troyan king Priamos and priestess of Athena. During this attempt the palladium, the cult statue of Athena, to which Kassandra has fled, was overturned. Referring to others Aias has really dishonoured Kassandra. When the Greek by an advice of Odysseus wanted to stone him to death he fled to the altar and saved himself by a false oath accusing the witness Agamemnon as liar. But Agamemnon won in this conflict and Aias fled with his ship over the sea. To punish him Athena went to king Nauplios of Euboia and caused him to take revenge on the Greeks because they have stoned to death his son Palamedes on a perfidious machination of Odysseus. Nauplios lightened a beacon on reefs so that the ships of Aias were misdirected and shattered. Homer in contrast describes the ruin of Aias as work of Athena and Poseidon alone. As punishment Athena threw a thunderbolt of Zeus in his ship.When Poseidon saved him by a big wave to a cliff he - still being on the rock - started to vapor that he has escaped the sea against the will of the gods. There Poseidon with his trident split the cliff and Aias was pulled in the deep. This is said to be happened at the Cephareian cliffs.

    Background:
    Already in ancient times the double name was mentioned. Robert and v.d.Mühll assume, that the two Aias have developed by doubling or forking of an original sole being; the case that divine saviors often appear paired (e.g. the Dioskurs) has stimulated the separation. By the Lokrians Aias was highly worshipped. In a battle they always left a space free for him. When once a hostile military leader (Autoleon of Kroton) tried to use this free place to make a break-in into the lines of the Lokrians he got a heavy wound at his hip which would not heal until by an oracle he reconciled with the ghost of Aias. By the way there were hundreds of years special cultic relations between the Lokrians and the city of Ilion.

    Art history:
    We have about hundred Attic vase paintings which show the intrusiveness of Aias against Kassandra who has fled to the cult statue. On the oldest paintings the statue seems to be alive, she points with the spear to Aias whereas the undersized Kassandra sought for help at her feet. On the red-figured vase paintings since c.500 BC Kassandra mostly is shown nude so accentuating the erotic aspect of the scene. The same scene is found in the Pompejian paintings, on an Etruscan mirror and several cameos. In the post-ancient painting the 'Lesser Aias' is seldom seen. On a painting of Rubens (c.1616, Vaduz, SL) he is grabbing for Kassandra; a fresco of Rosso Fiorentino (1536) in the gallery Francois I in Fontainebleau shows the wreckage of Aias, undoubtless an allusion to the unfortunate luck of this French king.
    I have attached the pic of a red-figured painting of the Lykurgos painter c.370-360 (Wikipedia) which shows Aias when he tried to pull Kassandra from the statue to which she cling.
    Ajax_drags_Cassandra.jpg

    Sources:
    (1) Appolodor, Epitome 5, 22-23, 6, 6
    (2) Euripides, Trojan women 48-97; Andromache 293-300
    (3) Homer, Ilias 2, 527-535; Odyssee 4, 449-511
    (4) Aghion/Barbillon/Lissarrague, Lexikon der antiken Götter und Heroen in der Kunst, Reclam
    (5) Der kleine Pauly
    (6) Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon
    (7) Wikipedia

    Best regards
     
    Ryro, zumbly, Pavlos and 6 others like this.
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  3. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    Thanks, Jochen, great writeup!

    Lokris Opuntii Stater - SolomonJSolomon_ Ajax and Cassandra.jpg
    Ajax and Cassandra, by Solomon J. Solomon (1886)
     
    Ryro and Jochen like this.
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