Portraits of Greek Coinage - 'Celenderis'

Portraits of Greek Coinage - 'Celenderis' Apr 11 2012 Coins

By Robin Eaglen


AR Stater, c.410 - 400 BC.

10.70g (21mm diameter). Author's collection. Ex David Miller, 2004.


 Fig 1. Obverse: Naked rider, with whip in right
hand, dismounting from horse prancing r., framed by border of fine dots.



Fig 2. Reverse: Male goat l., kneeling on left
foreleg, with head turned back. KE..E
above, with N between hind legs. T in exergue. All within an incuse circle.


Celenderis, on the south-eastward coast of Turkey about fifty miles north of Cyprus, is said to have been founded by Sandokos, father of Kinyras. 1 It was later colonised from Samos, possibly before 700 BC. 2 Under Persian suzerainty it thrived as an important city and harbour3 on the northerly Mediterranean sea route, reflected in the quantity of coinage struck there to the Persian standard from the mid -fifth century BC.4

The obverse (Figure 1) of a naked, dismounting horseman was introduced at the outset and continued until the last third of the fourth century. 5The scene, with the horse facing left or right, has been identified with the 'kalpe' (êÜëðç), a horse race in which the bare-back, stirrupless riders jumped down to finish the race running alongside their mount.6 The event, as a trotting race (êáëðçò äñüìoò), was part of the Olympic games from 496 to 444, and thus discontinued soon after the introduction of the obverse at Celenderis.7 However, as the horse was in motion, the image would not appear to depict simply a dismounting rider. Although horses with naked riders was a popular design on Greek coinage, most notably at Tarentum over the same period,8 the horse men shown as dismounting all carry a shield,9 some have a lance,10 some wear a helmet11 and others have both trappings,12 showing that a warrior rather than competitor was intended.

The reverse (Figure 2) of a kneeling goat, with his head turned back to face either left or in later issues right, enjoyed a long currency at Celenderis, stretching from the mid-fifth to the first century BC.13 Accompanied by an abbreviation of the city name, like the owls of Athens it must have been the city's emblem. Kraay saw it as a punning allusion to the city name, as 'some goats were known as êåëÜäåò.'14 Their precursors appear on coins from eastern Macedonia at the beginning of the fifth century BC.15 Later, Archelaus, king of Macedon (413-399 BC) issued a reverse depicting the forepart of a kneeling goat16 and Ainos, in Thrace, provides good examples of the animal standing upright (Figures 3 and 4).17 Nevertheless, given the importance of goats in the ancient world, it is perhaps surprising that they do not figure more prominently on Greek coinage.

AR Diobol, c.435-405 BC.

1.08g (11mm diameter). Author's collection. Ex Spink, 2004


Figure 3 Obverse:



Figure 4: Reverse

At a practical level, goats were major contributors to basic diet in the form of cheese, alongside stone-ground bread, olives, figs, wine diluted with water, honey, eggs and fish.18 Goat cheese also appears to have been an important constituent of military rations.19 Goat meat was much less consumed and, if so, more probably as kid,20 killed for sacrificial or other festive purposes to be eaten upon or after such occasions.21 Although there are some differences of view,22 it is believed that milk of cows, goats and ewes were not important to the Greek diet, partly owing to the climate and partly because lactose was indigestible to many people.23 It was nevertheless valued for medicinal and cosmetic purposes.24 Hides also had their uses, including an alternative to papyrus for writings,25 but fur was spurned as a characteristic of northern barbarian dress.26

The goat also enjoyed an important, if not greatly distinguished place in Greek mythology. Pan was half man, half goat, as befitted his role as the guardian of flocks, and shepherds would sacrifice kids, goats or sheep to him. This cult spread from Arcadia to the rest of Greece in the fourth century BC.27 Satyrs, the boon companions of Dionysus, god of wine, fertility and rebirth, were often portrayed with goat-like characteristics.28 The mythical beast slain by the hero Bellerophon, the chimaera, embodied the forepart of a lion, of a goat sprouting from the back and a snake at the rear.29 The Greek words for a shegoat (÷ßìáéñá) and chimaera were the same.30 At Celenderis the depiction is of a male.

The omnipresent and omnivorous goat has often been blamed for the bleak mountainsides of modern Greece,31 but it is harsh to blame it as main culprit for the loss of vegetation.

1 Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World, edited by R.Talbert (Princeton, 2000), Map 66, C4. B. V. Head, Historia Numorum (Oxford, 1911), p.718.

2 G. Shipley, A History of Samos, 800 - 188BC (Oxford, 1987), pp.41-42. N. G. L. Hammond, A History of Greece to 322 BC, 3rd edition, (Oxford, 1986), pp.121, 660, dates the Samian foundation as 'probably' in the sixth century BC.

3 Strabo, Geographia, 14.5.3.

4 C. M. Kraay, Archaic and Classical Greek Coins (Berkeley and London, 1976), p.280. Head, Historia Numorum, p.718. The Persian standard was of a double siglos of 11.0g (C.
M. Kraay and M. Hirmer, Greek Coins (New York), p.17.

5 D.R.Sear, Greek Coins and their Values (GCV), II (London, 1979), pp.502-3.

6 G.C. Brauer, ' The Kalpe - an Agonistic Reference on several Greek Coins?', SAN 6, no. 1 (fall 1974), pp.6-7. J Swaddling, The Ancient Olympic Games, 3rd edition (London, 2004), pp. 87,89.

7 H. G. Liddell and R. Scott, Greek-English Lexicon, 9th edition with a revised
Supplement (Oxford, 1996), p.870.

8 A. J. Evans, 'The Horsemen of Tarentum', NC (1889), pp.1-228.

9 Evans, Plates II. 7, III. 9 and 10.

10 Evans, Plate VII. 10.

11 Evans, Plate VII. 9.

12 Evans, Plate II. 6.

13 GCV, pp.502-03.

14 C. M. Kraay, Archaic and Classical Greek Coins, p.279. The word is not listed in the Greek-English Lexicon and the further suggestion, that the obverse - showing a race-horse (..........) - is also punning, stretches credibility.

15 These coins were until recently attributed to Aigai (see, for example, Kraay,Archaic and Classical Greek Coins, p.141) but are now considered as tribal issues from
Bisaltia or Mygdonia, further to the east (see, for example, C. Lorber, 'The Goats of Aigai', in pour Denyse: Divertissements Numismatiques, edited by S. M. Hurter and C. Arnold - Biucci (Bern, 2000), pp.113-135).

16 GCV, I (London, 1978), GCV 1494, p.151.

17 GCV, p.158.

18 P. Green, Ancient Greece, a Concise History, (London, 1973), p.20.

19 A Dictionary of Ancient Greek Civilisation, (London,1966), p.203.

20 C. M. Bowra, The Greek Experience, (London, 1957), p.5.

21 The Oxford Classical Dictionary (OCD), edited by S. Hornblower and A. Spawforth, revised 3rd edition (Oxford, 2003), p.603; Dictionary of Ancient Greek Civilisation, p.203.

22 Bowra, The Greek Experience, p.4; Dictionary of Ancient Greek Civilisation, p.203.

23 OCD, p.981.

24 OCD, p.981.

25 OCD, p.250.

26 OCD, p.497.

27 OCD, p.1103.

28 C. Jones, Sex or Symbol? Erotic Images of Greece and Rome, (London, 1989), pp.78, 82.

29 OCD, p.322.

30 Greek-English Lexicon, p.1192.

31 Bowra, The Greek Experience, p.4.