Three Thessalonian coins depicting Kabeiros

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Roman Collector, Oct 28, 2020.

  1. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    The god Kabeiros uncommonly appears on coins and most people have never heard of him. He is similar in appearance to Dionysos and the rites of his cult were likely similar to those of the Dionysian mysteries. The attributes of Kabeiros are a rhyton* and hammer. I know this has been discussed before (see this featured thread by @ancient coin hunter) but I wanted to compile all the examples from my own collection in one thread for comparison's sake and to go into more detail about what what known about Kabeiros worship in Thessalonica.

    Lemnos was the location for a cult of the Kabeiroi from the sixth century BC onwards, and archaeological excavations confirm that initiation rites occurred there. Lemnos is the setting of a now lost play by Aeschylus titled The Kabeiroi. Lemnos notwithstanding, the vast majority of coins depict a singular god Kabeiros, and were struck in Thessalonica, which was very much a center of worship as well. I have three such coins spanning several decades. In all three examples, the god is depicted in the same pose, with the same accoutrements, and inside a temple on one of them. This suggests the presence of a temple to the god in Thessalonica, with a cult statue as depicted on the coins. For a review of the coins of Thessalonica and other evidence of worship of this god in that city, I highly recommend this article by Eduard Verhoef of the University of Praetoria. Verhoef writes:

    Lactantius and Firmicus Maternus, writing in the 3rd and 4th century CE, respectively, both state that Kabeiros was worshipped in Thessalonica. Firmicus Maternus argued that this Kabeiros was murdered by his brothers and that he was venerated by the Thessalonians. He was assessed to be the 'tutelary deity' (Edson 1985:925). This role as tutelary deity becomes clear as Kabeiros is portrayed standing on the city wall (Touratsoglou 1988:309 and plate 45). In CE 254 and CE 268 the Goths had attacked Thessalonica and both times the Roman army had managed to drive them away. On a coin, perhaps issued by Claudius Gothicus in CE 269 (cf. Arrigoni 2003:20; Hemberg 1950:206), it says 'Deo Cabiro', in honour of God Kabeiros. These words might refer to these victories (Witt 1977:976). The rescue of the city was thought to have been achieved by Kabeiros (Vitti 1996a:92). Holy games were held in honour of Kabeiros from the time of Gordianus III (CE 238–244). They were called the Πύθια Καβείρια, 'Kabeiric Games', in order to distinguish them from the Πύθια Καισάρεια, 'Caesar's Games', (Steimle 2008:163; Vacalopoulos 1963:14; Hemberg 1950:206–207). In the Octagon, part of Galerius's palace in Thessalonica, a marble capital has been found that shows Kabeiros in a short chiton and with a rhyton in his right hand (Tzanavari 2003:230). This rhyton could suggest that some elements of the cult of Dionysos had been adopted. One of the Kabeiroi may even have been known by the name of Dionysos (Vitti 1996a:91). Three other capitals in this palace depict Zeus, Hygeia and one of the Dioskouroi (Vitti 1996a:212, pictures 61–64). The capital with the sculpture of Kabeiros confirms that he had a prominent place in Thessalonica.​

    See also this article on the mythology of the Kabeiroi, for it compiles many ancient literary sources.

    Post any coins featuring the Kabeiroi/Kabeiros or anything you feel is relevant.

    *A rhyton (plural rhyta) is an ancient Greek drinking horn or libation vessel. Horn shaped, the rhyton was filled by scooping wine or water into the wide mouth at the top with the thumb covering the hole at the bottom. To drink or pour the user removed their thumb to unstopper the hole at the bottom conical end and the fluid run into the mouth (or onto the ground or altar in libation).

    [​IMG] Time of Antoninus Pius, AD 138-161.
    Pseudo-autonomous Æ 21.4 mm, 8.48 g, 11 h.
    Macedonia, Thessalonica.
    Obv: ΘΕCCΑΛΟ-ΝΙΚΕѠΝ, turreted and draped bust of Tyche, right.
    Rev: KABI-POC, Kabeiros standing left, holding rhyton and hammer, star in left field.
    Refs: RPC IV.1 3486 (temporary); SNG Cop 384; SNG ANS 812 var. (no star on reverse; same obv. die); BMC 5.113-14, 47-49; cf Sear 4820; Touratsoglou p.329, 30.
    Notes: Ex-ArtCoins Roma, Asta 4, lot 96, 5 Dec 2011.

    Julia Mamaea, AD 226-235
    Roman provincial Æ 24.7 mm, 10.46 gm
    Macedonia, Thessalonica, AD 226-235
    Obv: ΙΟVΛΙΑ ΜΑΜΑΙΑ ΑVΓ, diademed and draped bust, right
    Rev: ΘΕCCΑΛΟΝΙΚΕΩΝ, Kabeiros standing facing, head left, holding rhyton and hammer.
    Refs: Similar to SGI 3409; Varbanov 4484.

    Gordian III Thessalonica Temple and Kabeiros.jpg
    Gordian III, AD 238-244.
    Roman provincial Æ 27 mm, 11.3g, 12h.
    Macedon, Thessalonica, AD 238-244.
    Obv: AVT K M ANTΩNIOC ΓΟΡΔIANOC, laureate, draped and cuirassed bust right.
    Rev: ΘЄCCAΛΟΝΙ-ΚЄΩΝ ΝЄΩΚΟ-ΡΩΝ, distyle temple containing Kabeiros standing facing, head left, between two urns containing palm, holding rhyton and hammer.
    Refs: RPC VII.2, — (unassigned; ID 59017); Touratsoglou 145; Price & Trell 132; Varbanov 4583 var.; Moushmov 6827.
    Notes: Ex-ArtCoins Roma, Asta 4, lot 303, 5 Dec 2011.
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2020
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  3. Spaniard

    Spaniard Well-Known Member

    @Roman Collector ......Very nice coins, I really didn't know much about Kabeiros so thanks for the interesting, informative write up and links...
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  4. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Basileus Megalos

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