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The Grape Clusters of Ancient Thrace

In researching for my post on the Grape Clusters On the Coins of Maroneia I found a rich variety of wine related coins. For this post I have expanded the geographic boundaries outside of Maroneia to include coins of Thrace minted from 450-338 BC. I did not find nearly as many coins with grape clusters minted at other cities. It is hard to draw any conclusions from such a small sample size. Still, these coins form an interesting variety.

The majority of the coins feature both perky and dropping lateral lobes on the grape bunches. The Tetradrachm from Maroneia and the Hemidrachm from Chersonesos feature a compact bunch of grapes. The Hemidrachm from Chersonesos stands apart from the other coins with its graphic simplicity. Perhaps a combination of the peninsular location and having just returned to Athenian control resulted in simpler coinage. The Tetradrachm from Abdera, minted during or after the revolt against Athens, bears a grape cluster within a particularly delicate ivy wreath perhaps reflecting the importance of its mint in trade.

Thrace, Mende, Tetradrachm, 450-425 BC, Reverse

Mende is a small town located near Ainos,in the Samothrakian Peraia. Reverse, MEN – DA – IO – N around linear square in which a grape vine with four bunches of grapes; the whole within incuse square.

Thrace, Abdera, Tetradrachm, 411-386 BC, Reverse

Abdera was located on the southern coast of Thrace near the mouth of the Nestus River. Abdera was a very important city which actively traded with Egypt and the Orient. The prominent denomination was the large Octodrachm which was useful for both international trade and tribute. The early coins followed the Phoenician standard. After the coinage decree of 425 BC there was a gap in the coinage. It is suspected to have revolted against Athens between 411-407 BC and took up a new standard of coinage, the Aeginetic. Reverse, HPO-F-ANH-S (magistrate) around grape bunch on stem entwined with wreath of ivy; the whole within incuse square.

Thrace, Maroneia, Tetradrachm, 400-350 BC, Reverse

Thrace, Maroneia, Tetrobol, 398-385 BC, Reverse

Maron was located halfway between the mouths of the Hebrus and Nestus Rivers. Famous for its wine production the coins are richly decorated. Early coins followed the Phoenician standard before taking on the Rhodian. The first coin, reverse, E?I K-A??-IKPA-TEOS around square in which grape vine with four bunches of grapes; the whole within incuse square. The second coin, reverse, ??-AP-STO-?? around grape-bunch on vine in dotted square.

Thrace, Chersonesos, Hemidrachm, 386-338 BC, Reverse

The Thracian Chersonesos (now Gallipoli peninsula, Turkey) was abandoned by the Persians in 493 BC then ruled by Athens except for 431-404 BC when Sparta gained control. Athens regained control until it was ceded to King Philip II of Macedon. Reverse, quadripartite with pellet and grape bunch on stem; the whole within incuse square.

Thrace, Aenus, Tetradrachm, 380 BC, Reverse

Aenus/Ainos (now Enez, Turkey), in the Samothrakian Peraia, located on the mouth of the Hebrus River. Its location meant it was involved in commercial trade with eastern Thrace. Reverse, AINION, goat standing right on a line, below head, grain of corn and grape bunch on stem; the whole within incuse square.

Grape Clusters On the Coins of Maroneia

May 16, 2012 1 comment

In this post I continue investigating wine related coins by looking outside of Sicily. The ancient city of Maroneia is located in Thrace at the north-eastern portion of contemporary Greece. The city is named after Maron who is the son of Euanthes or Dionysus. Through out the Greek and Roman periods Maroneia remained famous for its strong wine which smelled of nectar. In the Odyssey, Odysseus subdues the Cyclops Polyphemus with a wine so strong and sweet that it was drunk diluted with twenty parts of water.

But when he had busied himself at his tasks, he again seized two of my men and began to eat them. That was when I went up to him, holding an ivy-wood bowl full of dark wine, and said: “Here, Cyclops, have some wine to follow your meal of human flesh, so you can taste the sort of drink we carried in our ship. I was bringing the drink to you as a gift, hoping you might pity me and help me on my homeward path: but your savagery is past bearing. Cruel man, why would anyone on earth ever visit you again, when you behave so badly?”

At this, he took the cup and drained it, and found the sweet drink so delightful he asked for another draught: “Give me more, freely, then quickly tell me your name so I may give you a guest gift, one that will please you. Among us Cyclopes the fertile earth produces rich grape clusters, and Zeus’ rain swells them: but this is a taste from a stream of ambrosia and nectar.”’

‘As he finished speaking I handed him the bright wine. Three times I poured and gave it to him, and three times, foolishly, he drained it. When the wine had fuddled his wits I tried him with subtle words: “Cyclops, you asked my name, and I will tell it: give me afterwards a guest gift as you promised. My name is Nobody. Nobody, my father, mother, and friends call me.”
From Homer, The Odyssey, Book 9

On his way home Odysseus and his men plunder Ismarus (Maroneia) but spare the shrine of Apollo. Maron presents Odysseus with twelve jars of sweet and unmixed wine as a reward.

Then I bade the rest of my trusty comrades to remain there by the ship and to guard the ship, but I chose twelve of the best of my comrades and went my way. With me I had a goat-skin of the dark, sweet wine, which Maro, son of Euanthes, had given me, the priest of Apollo, the god who used to watch over Ismarus. And he had given it me because we had protected him with his child and wife out of reverence; for he dwelt in a wooded grove of Phoebus Apollo. And he gave me splendid gifts: of well-wrought gold he gave me seven talents, and he gave me a mixing-bowl all of silver; and besides these, wine, wherewith he filled twelve jars in all, wine sweet and unmixed, a drink divine. Not one of his slaves nor of the maids in his halls knew thereof, but himself and his dear wife, and one house-dame only. And as often as they drank that honey-sweet red wine he would fill one cup and pour it into twenty measures of water, and a smell would rise from the mixing-bowl marvellously sweet; then verily would one not choose to hold back. With this wine I filled and took with me a great skin, and also provision in a scrip; for my proud spirit had a foreboding that presently a man would come to me clothed in great might, a savage man that knew naught of justice or of law.
From Homer, The Odyssey, Book 9

Pliny comments on Mucianus who doubted the veracity of Homer’s statement. Mucianus conducted an experiment and found that an even greater portion of water was used to dilute the wine.

With the end of the First Peloponnesian War, through peace between Persia and Athens, Pericles proposed a decree in 449 BC. In what is known as the Coinage Decree all allied Athenian city-states must use Athenian Tetradrachms to the exclusion of all other silver coinage. The mint of Maroneia began producing coins around 425BC. These coins all contain wine related symbols emphasizing the importance of wine in Maroneia’s economy.

The nine coins featured in this post represent the time span of 436 – 348 BC. The two smallest denominations of Hemibol and Obol feature a Gorgoneion on the obverse with the larger denominations featuring a forepart or entire horse. The three smallest denominations Hemibol, Obol, and Tetrobol feature a single grape cluster on the reverse. These single grape clusters are attached to a peduncle, steam, or vine. The two largest denominations, the Stater and Tetradrachm feature four or five grape clusters on the reverse.

There appear to be four main types of grape clusters which roughly correlate with the denomination. First, the three coins from 436-411 BC all feature a similarly shaped grapevine with four or five grape clusters featuring both perky and drooping lateral lobes. Second, the Tetradrachm from 400-350BC appears to be struck from a die similar to that of the State from 386-348 BC. The central stalk of the grapevine is more vertical with four compact grape clusters which are more tapered than having lateral lobes. Third, the Tetrobols feature a single grape cluster attached to a cane with leaves on it. The cluster features two perky lateral lobes. Fourth, the Obol and Hemibol feature a single grape cluster attached to a short peduncle with no leaves. The cluster itself features two drooping lateral lobes. I am curious to determine to what extent these variations are due to the artist who made the die or the varietal which inspired the design. In time I shall gather more images for analysis.

Here are some terms encountered in this post:

  • Gorgoneion is an image of a mask or head.
  • Hemibol is a Greek Silver coin, equivalent to half a Obol.
  • Kantharos is a type of Greek pottery used for drinking. It is characterized by high, looping handles.
  • Kerykeion is a winged staff carried by Hermes.
  • Obol is a Greek silver coin, there were six to a Drachmae.
  • Stater is coin of Macedonian origin, often worth one Tetradrachm in Athens.
  • Tetrabol is a Greek silver coin, equivalent to four Obol.
  • Tetradrachm is a Greek silver coin, equivalent to four Drachmae.

Thrace, Maroneia, Stater, 436-411 BC

Obverse, horse prancing to left; above, helmet to left, MAPON; all within dotted circle. Reverse, ?OS-?HI-O-E?I around square in which grape vine with four bunches of grapes; the whole within incuse square.

Thrace, Maroneia, Tetradrachm, 425 BC

Obverse, horse prancing left; above, kantharos, MAPON, all within dotted circle. Reverse, NH-SE-?I-?E around square in which grapevine with five bunches of grapes.

Thrace, Maroneia, Stater, 411-397 BC

Obverse, horse prancing left, crested helmet above. Reverse, BP-AB-EO-S (magistrate) around square in which grapevine with four bunches of grapes; the whole within incuse square.

Thrace, Maroneia, Tetradrachm, 400-350 BC

Obverse, horse prancing left, loose rein looped above, small shaggy dog left below. Reverse, E?I K-A??-IKPA-TEOS around square in which grape vine with four bunches of grapes; the whole within incuse square.

Thrace, Maroneia, Tetrobols, 398-386 BC

Obverse, forepart of horse left. Reverse, grape-bunch on vine within dotted square border, MA; the whole within incuse square.

Thrace, Maroneia, Obol, 398-386 BC

Obverse, facing gorgoneion with protruding tongue. Reverse, MA-PO-N around grape bunch on stem; the whole within incuse square.

Thrace, Maroneia, Tetrobol, 398-385 BC

Obverse, forepart of a horse prancing right, MAPO. Reverse, ??-AP-STO-?? around grape-bunch on vine in dotted square.

Thrace, Maroneia, Hemibol, 398-386 BC

Obverse, facing gorgoneion. Reverse, M-A, grape cluster diagonally within incuse square.

Thrace, Maroneia, Stater, 386-348 BC

Obverse, horse prancing left, trailing rein. Reverse, E?I-IKESIO (magistrate) around square in which grape vine with four bunches of grapes, kerykeion to left; all within shallow incuse square.

For those curious I recommend you visit the Ancient Coin Search Engine and read “The Greek Settlements in Thrace Until the Macedonian Conquest”, Benhamin Isaac, 1986.

Categories: History of Wine Tags: ,

Other Greek Coins From Sicily

Ever since my post on the Greek Coins from Naxos, Sicily I have been curious to look at coins minted on Sicily outside of Naxos.  Naxos provided a rich selection of wine related coins but the rest of Sicily proved more elusive.  In this post I have included a selection of coins minted throughout Sicily and not a specific town.  I have a few observations, which may prove incorrect, that I hope to research in the future.

The town of Tauromenion provided the largest source of wine related coins.  In retrospect this is not surprising as Tauromenion was founded by colonists from Naxos.  The large grape clusters bear resemblance to those on coins minted in Naxos 50-75 years prior.  These, however, do not show the delicate veining of the leaves nor the tendrils of the vines.

I also came across numerous portraits of Silenus.  The Naxion coins predominantly displayed the full body of Silenus squatting with a Kantharos.

I found the Tetradrachm from Messana particularly interesting with the beautiful grasshopper on top of a small bunch of grapes.  In my brief searches I was unable to find another coin like this.  While there are other examples of grasshoppers on coins, in at least one example, a Silver Decadrachm from Akragas, the grasshopper probably represents a mint control mark.  In this coin the grasshopper appears as a congruous element of the coin so it may be a symbol of a local, powerful family.  Or perhaps, since it is on top of grapes, it is a symbol of pestilence.

Through The Ancient Coin Search Engine, Wild Winds, and Google I have been able to find the variety of coins and descriptions for this post.   For those interested in further research I recommend the British Museum, Coins and Medals department.  Through Google Books you may read such publications as “Coins of Ancient Sicily”, By Sir George Francis Hill.

 Here are some new terms encountered in this post:

  • Biga is a two-horse chariot used for both sport and transportation.
  • Bucranium  is the skull of an ox.
  • Kentron is a goad used for urging horses and other animals.
  • Quadriga  is a four-horse chariot.

Sicily, Aetna, 470-466BC

Obverse, bald, bearded head of Silenus to right with ivy crown.  Reverse AITN, sheaf of wheat.

Sicily, Galaria, Litra, 460BC

Obverse, S-OTE-, Zeus Soter (the Savior) seated on throne left, holding eagle-tipped scepter.  Reverse, CA?-A, Dionysus standing left, holding kantharus and grape cluster.

Sicily, Messana, Tetradrachm, 420-413 BC

Obverse, MESSANA, charioteer driving biga left, holding kentron in right hand, reins in both; two dolphins in exergue. Reverse, MES-S-ANI-ON retrograde, hare springing right; grasshopper on bunch of grapes below.

Sicily, Catana, Hemidrachm, 410 BC

Obverse, facing head of bald Silenius with snub nose, beard, and goat’s ears.  Reverse, KAIANAI-N laureate head of Apollo right, hair rolled.

Sicily, Akragas, Tetradrachm 409-406 BC

Obverse, AKRAGANTI-NON, Nike driving galloping quadriga left, holding kentron in left hand, reins in both; grapevine with grapes above.  Reverse, STRATWN, two eagles standing left clutching at dead hare, the closest eagle with wings closed and head raised, the furthest eagle with spread wings and its head down; head of a young horned river-god above front eagle’s tail.

Sicily, Syracuse, 344-317 BC

Reverse, laureate head of Apollo left; grape bunch behind.  Reverse, Pegasus flying left, HP monogram below.

Sicily, Tauromenion, 339-336 BC

Obverse, laureate head of Apollo left.  Reverse, man-headed bull standing left, grape bunch underneath head.

Sicily, Tauromenion, 336 BC

Obverse, laureate head of Apollo left. Reverse, TAUR – IAN, grape bunch.

Sicily, Tauromenion, 336 BC

Obverse, APXAGETAS, laureate head of Apollo Archegetes left.  Reverse, TAUR-M ENITAN, lyre, grape bunch above.

Sicily, Tauromenion, 325-275 BC

Obverse, laureate head of Apollo Archegetes left.  Reverse, -IAN, grape bunch.

Sicily, Tauromenion, Litra, 275-219 BC

Obverse, head of bull facing.  Reverse, grape bunch.

Sicily, Alaisa, 263 BC

Obverse, head of Apollo left; border of dots.  Reverse, ALAISA ARC, bunch of grapes, bucranium below left.

Sicily, Kalacte, 241-210 BC

Obverse, head of young Dionysos right, wreathed with ivy, thyrsos over shoulder.  Reverse, KALAKTINWN, bunch of grapes.

Sicily, Katane, 212 BC

Obverse, KATANAIWN, wreathed head of Dionysos right.  Reverse, Dionysos, holding grape cluster in right hand and scepter in left, seated left in biga being pulled to the right by two panthers; three monograms around.

Sicily, Entella, 36 BC

Obverse, head of Dionysos right, wearing ivy wreath.  Reverse, ENT-, grape bunch on vine.

Greek Coins from Naxos, Sicily

April 29, 2011 1 comment

I collected coins through the end of high school.  Our recent tasting of Italian wine made me curious to look for images of coins that are wine related.  The coins pictured in today’s post were minted during a 150 year period at Naxos, Sicily.  Naxos was the first Greek colony in Sicily founded in 734 BC.  It was a successful colony in that after several years they were able to found the colonies of Leontini and Catana.  In 495 BC an altar to Apollo Archagetas was built.  Apollo was the patron under which the Chalcidians originally sailed.  Hippocrates of Gela attacked and took over Naxos around 498-491 BC.  Then in 476 BC Hieron of Syracuse removed all of the inhabitants of Naxos to the city of Leontini and brought in fresh colonists to live in Naxos.  By 461 BC the old inhabitants returned to Naxos.  In 427 BC, the three Chalcidic cities allied themselves with Athens during the Peloponnesian war.  The final blow was delivered in 403 BC when Dionysius of Syracuse turned against the Chalcidic cities.  He took over Naxos, sold all inhabitants as slaves then destroyed the city walls and all of its buildings.  Naxos never recovered.

Here are some terms found below.

  • Apollo was a Greek and Roman god, the son of Zeus and Leto, and twin brother to sister Artemis.
  • Assinos is the god of the river Assinos that flows just north of Mt Etna.
  • Dionysus was the god of the grape harvest, winemaking, and of wine.
  • Herm is a sculpture with a head and possibly a torso on a square, lower section that was adorned with male genitals.  It was intended to ward off evil.
  • Kantharos is a type of Greek pottery used for drinking. It is characterized by high, looping handles.
  • Silenus is a companion and teacher of Dionysus who lives in the forest.  He was the oldest, wisest, and must drunk follower of Dionysus.
  • Thyrsus is a staff of giant fennel carried by followers of Dionysus.

Sicily, Naxos, Drachm, 530-510 BC

Obverse, head of Dionysos to left, with long, pointed beard, ivy wreath in his hair and a necklace of pearls bordered by two plain torcs at the truncation; around, border of dots within two linear circles. Reverse, NAXION Bunch of grapes on stalk with two leaves.  From the Calatabiano Hoard (IGCH 2061), found near Taormina before 1946.

Sicily, Naxos, Drachm, 525-510 BC

Obverse, head Dionysos, bearded and garlanded with ivy. Reverse, bunch of grapes hanging from stylized tendril between two leaves; NAXION (reversed).

Sicily, Naxos, Tetradrachm, 461 BC

Obverse, head Dionysos, bearded. Hair in knot and garlanded with ivy. Reverse, NAXION. Nude Silenus sitting with footless kantharos.

Sicily, Naxos, Drachm, 461-430 BC

Obverse, Head of Dionysos to right, wearing ivy wreath and with his hair in a bun at the back.  Reverse, Ν Α ΧΙ ΟΝ Nude and bearded Silenus squatting, facing, turned very slightly to the left, turning his head to the left towards the two-handled, stemless drinking cup he holds in his right hand, and supporting himself with his left hand propped on the ground; his animal tail curls out behind him and around to the left.

Sicily, Naxos, Litra, 430-420 BC

Obverse, NAXI. Head of Dionysos right, wreathed with ivy, dotted border.  Reverse,  grape cluster with six leaves.

Sicily, Naxos, Drachm, 430-420 BC

Obverse, bearded head of Dionysos to right, wearing a hair band ornamented with an ivy wreath, and with his relatively short hair hanging loose in curly locks.  Reverse, NAXION. Nude and bearded Silenus squatting, facing, his right knee raised, his left on the ground, and his tail coming out to left, turning his head to the left towards the two-handled, stemless drinking cup he holds in his right hand, and holding an upright thyrsos with his left; to left, ivy branch.  

Sicily, Naxos, Onkia, 425-420 BC

 Obverse, male head right, wearing tainia.  Reverse, vine leaf; N-A flanking.

Sicily, Naxos, Tetras, 420-415 BC

 Obverse, Kantharos with three pellets around.  Reverse, grape cluster with vine.

Sicily, Naxos, Tetradrachm, 420-403

 

Obverse, NAXION. Laureate head of Apollo to right, his hair rolled at the back; behind neck, laurel twig with leaf and berry. Reverse.  Nude and bearded Silenus squatting, facing, his right knee raised, his left on the ground, and his tail coming out to left, turning his head to the left towards the two-handled, stemless drinking cup he holds in his right hand, and holding an upright thyrsos with his left; to right, herm topped with an archaic head; to left, ivy branch.

Sicily, Naxos, Didrachm, 420-403 BC

Obverse, signed on the obverse by the artist Procles. NAXION, laureate head of Apollo left, laurel leaf and berry behind neck, die engraver’s initial Π under neck truncation.  Obverse, nude Silenus seated facing on ground, head turned left, right hand raising kantharus to lips, left hand holding thyrsus, ivy vine growing to left, herm standing to right.

Sicily, Naxos, Hemidrachm, 420-403 BC

Obverse, head of the youthful river-god Assinos to left, wearing wreath of parsley and with a tiny horn above his forehead.  Reverse, NAXION. Silenus kneeling partially to left, nude and with a long beard, holding kantharos in his right hand and an ivy branch in his left.

Sicily, Naxos, Litra, 410-404 BC

Obverse, NAXI. Wreathed and bearded head of Dionysos right with flowing hair. Reverse, grape cluster on vine with two leaves.

Sicily, Naxos, Litra, 410-402 BC

 Obverse, head of the river-god Assinos left, crowned with vine leaves.  Reverse, grape-vine with grape cluster.

Sicily, Naxos, Hemidrachm, 420-403 BC

Obverse, head of the river-god Assinos left, crowned with vine leaves.  Reverse, grape-vine with grape cluster.

Sicily, Naxos, Tetras, 400-390 BC

Obverse, Kantharos with three pellets around.  Reverse, NA, grape cluster on vine tendril.