Featured The river god Acheloos

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Jochen1, Dec 22, 2022.

  1. Jochen1

    Jochen1 Well-Known Member

    Dear friends of ancient Mythology!

    Here is my last article before Christmas

    The Coin:
    Akarnania. Oiniadai, 219-211 BC.
    AE 22, 6.91g, 22.02mm
    Obv.: Laureate head of Zeus r.
    Behind thunderbolt, below ΠPI.
    Rev.: OINIAΔAN
    Head of river god Acheloos as bull with human head n. r.
    behind monogram AKAP
    Ref.: BCD Akarnania 347; SNG Copenhagen 402
    rubbers, otherwise almost VF
    BCD Akarnania 347.jpg

    The name Acheloos probably comes from the old Greek word αχ (= aqua, related to the German Ach, Ache) for water, which is why its name was also used by poets for fresh water in general. In ancient times the river was also called Thoas and Acheloos was king in Aetolia. It is said that the river only received its final name after Acheloos drowned in it in an accident. Others say that the river was originally called Thestios, after the son of Ares and Prisidike.

    The parents of Acheloos were Okeanos and Tethys (Hesiod), but there are also other accounts such as Okeanos and Gaia or Helios and Gaia. In favour of Okeanos and Tethys is the fact that according to the ancient greeks all rivers have their origin in the sea.

    The Sirens
    From the general meaning of Acheloos it is explained that he was the father of the Sirens (Pausanias), whom he had with the Muse Melpomene, Calliope, or Terpsichore (App. Rhod.). The Sirens, of whom there were two or three, were hybrid creatures of man and bird and could attract sailors by their beguiling song, who then killed them. It is known that Odysseus had himself tied to a mast. This way he could hear their song, but could not follow them. When the Argonauts came near them, Orpheus was able to drown them out with his lyre. At Hera's request, they are said to have competed with the Muses to see who could sing more beautifully, but they were defeated. In Hellenistic times, there is a legend that the Sirens then committed suicide.

    The nymph Perimele
    Ovid tells how Theseus, on his way to Athens, came to the Acheloos, which he could not cross because of its strong current. Acheloos invited him to a banquet and asked him to wait until the river had calmed down again. He told him about the fate of the Echinades: Four nymphs sacrificed on the banks of the river to all the gods, danced, jumped and sacrificed, but forgot Acheloos. Enraged by this, he swept away the riverbank and the nymphs with his stream and the naiads became the islands. The fifth island was his lover, the nymph Perimele, the daughter of Hippodamas. Because she had allowed herself to be seduced, her father pushed her off a cliff into the sea before she could give birth. Acheloos was able to keep her afloat and at his request she was turned into an island by Poseidon. These islands lie off the mouth of the Acheloos and were later named Echinades after a soothsayer Echinos. They were silted up early on (Strabo).

    This banquet of Acheloos with Theseus has been depicted several times in paintings. Yes, in 16th century Italy it became very popular as an Italian midday meal in a garden grotto under a shady tree. In France, even dwellings were built in this style.
    According to Apollodorus, Acheloos begat Hippodamas and Orestes with Perimede, the daughter of Aiolos and Enarete. He also had a daughter Kallirrhoe, who later became the wife of Alkmaion.

    The battle for Deianeira
    The Calydonian king Oineus had a daughter Deianeira with his wife Althaia, whose beauty attracted many suitors. Among them were Acheloos and Herakles. Since Oineus did not want to spoil things with anyone, he promised his daughter to the one who would remain the victor in a battle. Since no one wanted to take on Herakles and Acheloos, the two faced each other in battle. The battle was fought with the greatest violence. Finally Herakles had Acheloos on the ground. Since Acheloos could not fight him with his strength, he transformed himself into a snake (many river gods could transform themselves), Herakles could only laugh at this; he had already overcome two snakes in the cradle. Then Acheloos turned into a roaring bull. But Herakles grabbed him by the shoulder and one horn and forced him into the sand, breaking off one of his horns. Full of shame, Acheloos threw himself into the river named after him and left Deianeira to Herakles, who was happy not to have to follow Acheloos. But the nymphs took the horn and made it into the horn of plenty (Ovid). According to others (Apollodorus), Acheloos was in possession of Amaltheia's horn of plenty and gave it to Herakles in exchange for his own.

    Oiniadai was a town in Akarnania on the western side of central Greece at the mouth of the Acheloos into the Ionian Sea. The Acheloos is the second longest river in Greece, and still the one with the most water. It rises at Mount Lakmos in the Pindos Mountains and flows in a southerly direction until it turns southwest at Stratos, where it forms the border between Aitolia and Akarnania. There it flows through an extremely fertile plain, which is, however, interspersed with swamps due to flooding of the Acheloos, and then flows into the Ionian Sea near Oiniadai. Especially in the upper reaches, where it has a strikingly light colour due to the subsoil, it has a great gradient, so that it is very noisy, and many meanders. The comparison with a bull's roar and with a snake is therefore understandable. It brings a large amount of debris and has washed up the archipelago of the Echinades in its estuary.
    The Acheloos, which was also called Thoas in prehistoric times, was the most revered river of the Greeks in antiquity, a fact recognised by all tribes. It naturally played a major role in the nearby sanctuary of Dodona, which contributed to its veneration.

    Art history
    Acheloos appears frequently in ancient art. He was a popular motif in Greek and Etruscan art and also appears in Graeca Magna, e.g. on coins of Metapontion, where games were held in his name because that was Aitolian populated, but also in Sicily. In literature, he remained popular as an example of the unfortunate lover until the Roman Empire.

    (1) Etruscan_bull_fresco.jpg
    (1) "Heracles and Deianeira and the disgruntled bull with the face of Acheloos", Etruscan wall painting from Tarquinia, c. 550 BC (Wikipedia).

    (2) 800px-Herakles_Achelous_Louvre_G365.jpg
    (2) "Heracles fighting the river god Acheloos".
    Side A of an Attic red-figure craters, Classical period, c. 450 BC, found in Agrigento, now in the Louvre in Paris. Heracles has seized Acheloos by the horn, Deianeira is on the left.

    (3) Hall_of_the_Augustals.jpg
    (3) "Hercules and Achelous", fresco from the Collegio degli Augustali, Herculaneum, Deianeira in the background.

    (4) 1024px-Metropolitan_Rubens_Achelous.jpg
    (4) "The Feast of Acheloos" (c. 1615), Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), together with Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568-1625), now in the Metropolitan Museum for Art, New York. After Ovid, Metamorphoses. It was these paintings that had such a great influence on lifestyles at the time.

    (1) Homer, Odyssee
    (2) Hesiod, Theogony
    (3) Apollodor, Bibliotheka
    (4) Apollonios Rhodos, Argonautika
    (5) Macrobius, Saturnalia
    (6) Pausanias, Periegesis
    (7) Ovid, Metamorphoses

    Secondary Literature
    (1) Wilhelm Heinrich Roscher, Ausführliches Lexikon der griechischen und römischen Literatur, Leipzig 1889
    (2) Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon, Leipzig 1770
    (3) Der Kleine Pauly, dtv
    (4) Aghion/Barbillon/Lissarrague, Reclams Lexikon der antiken Götter und Helden, 2000

    Online Sources
    (1) Wikipedia
    (2) theoi.com
    (3) metmuseum.org

    Best regards and Merry Christmas to all
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  3. Nicholas Molinari

    Nicholas Molinari Well-Known Member

    My favorite!
    ominus1 and Jochen1 like this.
  4. Nicholas Molinari

    Nicholas Molinari Well-Known Member

  5. Jochen1

    Jochen1 Well-Known Member

    @Nicholas Molinari Thank you so much for this profound work on Acheloos. I appreciate it.

    But it is far above the level of my article. I write my articles for the average collector with the intention that he also cares about the background of his coins so that they do not remain just small metal discs. That is why the example coins are always average coins that everyone can afford.

    Kind regards
  6. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

    ...i got one of those last year....(now i have to buy a book from Nick too :)) you'll pardon the other coins shown......i consider it good luck to buy a copy when i can't get the real thing...it seems like they come along then..:) IMG_1196.JPG IMG_1198.JPG
  7. Nicholas Molinari

    Nicholas Molinari Well-Known Member

    Two nice examples. I had a Gela copy for years until I started to buy real ones, like this:

  8. Sulla80

    Sulla80 Supporter! Supporter

    Is there any relationship to the man faced bull from Campania sometimes attributed as "Acheloos"? is this even a river deity on this coin?
    Campania Neapolis Bull Nike.jpg
    Southern Campania, Neapolis, c. 270-250 BC. Æ19 (~6grams)
    Obv: Laureate head of Apollo l.; O behind.
    Rev: Man-headed bull standing r., being crowned by Nike who flies above; IΣ below. Ref: HNItaly 589
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2023
  9. Nicholas Molinari

    Nicholas Molinari Well-Known Member

    Yes, it is Acheloios of the Sebethos, IMO. In antiquity, the rivers of the world were seen as the “sinews” of Acheloios, and often assumed his form in art. Your coin is interesting because it features the IS below Acheloios (IS in Greek means both ‘strength’ and ‘sinew’). I’m writing a fairly lengthy essay on the topic now, which might interest you. I also maintain in a recent essay that he is crowned by Parthenope-Nike, because Parthenope’s embodiment of victory in transcending death is at the core of Neapolitan cultural identity. My essay on that topic was recently published, but still behind a paywall.
    Sulla80 and ominus1 like this.
  10. GinoLR

    GinoLR Well-Known Member

    This reminds me the powerful verses of Sophocles in Trachiniae, lines 518-522. The Choir is telling the fight between Herakles and Acheloos :

    τότ᾽ ἦν χερός, ἦν δὲ τόξων πάταγος,
    ταυρείων τ᾽ ἀνάμιγδα κεράτων:
    ἦν δ᾽ ἀμφίπλεκτοι κλίμακες,
    ἦν δὲ μετώπων ὀλόεντα
    πλήγματα, καὶ στόνος ἀμφοῖν.

    There was clatter of fists and clang of bow and crash of a bull's horns mixed together; then there were close-locked grapplings and deadly blows from foreheads and loud deep cries from both. (transl. Jebb, 1892).

    I had to study it when I was a student, I remember the sound of these verses when pronounced loud in Greek, I could hear the very noise of the fight. Great poetry.
    Sulla80 and Nicholas Molinari like this.
  11. Sulla80

    Sulla80 Supporter! Supporter

    Thank you @Nicholas Molinari, I grabbed a copy from archeopress.
    ominus1 and Nicholas Molinari like this.
  12. Nicholas Molinari

    Nicholas Molinari Well-Known Member

    I’m honored, thank you. If you look at my academia profile there are a few other essays online. The main argument from Potamikon is online (not the whole book, just the relevant chapters), and there are two other essays there as well—one concerning the Trachiniae, and the other Akarnanian Federal coinage! There is also a video of my ANS long table talk that gives a brief overview.
    ominus1 and Sulla80 like this.
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