What is thing on Athena's neck?

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by savitale, Nov 17, 2019.

  1. savitale

    savitale Active Member

    What exactly is this thing highlighted in the photo? I can't find any reference describing it. To me it looks like a piece of leather or cloth that would protect the back of the neck from the bronze helmet. But I suppose it could be jewelry, hair, or something else. Any help? athena.png
    Curtisimo and Marsyas Mike like this.
  2. Avatar

    Guest User Guest

    to hide this ad.
  3. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    My interpretation is that it's her hair.
  4. green18

    green18 Unknown member Sweet on Commemorative Coins Supporter

    Cone Head hickey..........
  5. Nemo

    Nemo Well-Known Member

    savitale likes this.
  6. green18

    green18 Unknown member Sweet on Commemorative Coins Supporter

    Proof positive....

    And now I'll go stand in the corner.

    Another 'green' driveby, without the weapon......
    spirityoda likes this.
  7. happy_collector

    happy_collector Well-Known Member

    It's part of Athena's long hair, curled under her helmet.
    savitale likes this.
  8. jb_depew

    jb_depew Well-Known Member

    Out of curiosity, why is the hair comprising her bangs rendered in smooth lines, while the hair in the back can only be described as a "beaded mullet?"
    savitale likes this.
  9. Hispanicus

    Hispanicus Stand Fast!

    I think that it would be a piece of leather or cloth like material that protects the back of the neck below the helmet and above the upper torso armor. Something is needed when the helmet is tilted back, but still worn as shown in a lot of Greek pottery.
    savitale likes this.
  10. savitale

    savitale Active Member

    Archaic coins clearly show beads for hair, maybe representing braids (see image below from Heritage). It certainly is plausible for the Athenian tetradrachm as well. Though I can't recall any other representations of Athena wearing braids or an up-do.

  11. gsimonel

    gsimonel Supporter! Supporter

    Apparently it's quite common. I just did a quick search of CNG and found many examples. Here's the first two that popped up:

    Here's one without beads:

    I think the reason it may seem foreign to you is that the neck below the helmet is often off the flan:
    Nicholas Molinari likes this.
  12. pprp

    pprp Well-Known Member

  13. savitale

    savitale Active Member

    I'm coming around to the hair hypothesis. Looking at the archaic examples, here is one that is most likely hair, with the hair on the forehead and at the back of the neck in lines. From Roma via acsearch.

    athena lines Roma 2.jpg

    Now here's one with beads on the forehead and on the neck, suggesting that it is hair. From Heritage via acsearch.

    Athena dots Heritage.jpg

    And here's one showing lines on the forehead and dots on the back of the neck. From NAC via acsearch.

    athena - NAC.jpg

    To me, this last one doesn't look like well-defined beads, but instead are lines to which the engraver attempted (crudely) to give some texture. Perhaps this evolved into well defined beads?
    PeteB and Bing like this.
  14. Ken Dorney

    Ken Dorney Yea, I'm Cool That Way...

    Well, it is indeed hair and we know this because it is very easily seen in other types of artwork, not just on coins. The look may have been achieved in a number of ways, braided, beaded, tied, maybe even 'dread locks'. Here are a few examples which should make it easier to accept:

    5.jpg 4.jpg 3.jpg 2.jpg 1.jpg
  15. savitale

    savitale Active Member

    True, but I have not found any examples of Athena wearing her hair in braids, or any cases at all of the braids curving back up. In all examples of sculpture or pottery I have found where you can see Athena's hair it is free flowing below her helmet. The "hair" on the coins doesn't look much like the hair on these kouroi and kore.

    So why did this "official" portrait of Athena suddenly get an up-do?
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2019
  16. SeptimusT

    SeptimusT Well-Known Member

    Interesting. I think that the fact that New Style tetradrachms depict Athena's hair in the same position is telling. Her hair is usually free flowing there, as is usual for Athena. However, I noted some Archaic sculptures do show her with quasi-braided hair. Here is the pediment from the Old Temple of Athena in Athens, from circa 500 BC (the same time as some of the early Athenian tetradrachms):


    Likewise, the Athena from the Temple of Aphaea, circa 500 BC:

  17. Carausius

    Carausius Brother, can you spare a sestertius?

    Alegandron and savitale like this.
  18. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    I also believe it is her hair although there is room for disagreement :).

    The swept back and then turned up hair is known on other coins. Imagine Arethusa's hair under a Corinthian helmet:

    Image from CNG's archives

    I don't know why Athena's hair is straight (or unbraided) at her forehead and apparently braided further down. Could the area in question be a decorated leather flap? The shape seems right but I don't recall seeing such decorations depicted on leather caps of statues and busts.
  19. Carausius

    Carausius Brother, can you spare a sestertius?

    I don't think so. Such flaps were on Corinthian-style helmets, not Attic-style helmets. Look at a New-Style tetradrachm for guidance. It shows a similar image and helmet type (though with triple crest), in a more "modern" rendering. No flap visible there.
    Hispanicus and TIF like this.
  20. savitale

    savitale Active Member

    Interesting. Maybe whoever made the design for the Athenian Tetradrachm (I hope he signed a royalty agreement) was inspired by this type.
Draft saved Draft deleted

Share This Page