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Achelous The Man-Faced Bull

 
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 Posted 03/06/2021  8:41 pm Show Profile   Bookmark this topic Add Novicius to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
I often wondered why a river god would be represented by a man-headed bull, or more precisely a man-faced bull. After purchasing this coin from Oiniadai I did a bit of research, and found the story very interesting.

In ancient Greek religion and mythology, Achelous (also Acheloos or Acheloios) was the god associated with the Achelous River, the largest river in Greece. According to Hesiod, he was the son of the Titans Oceanus and Tethys. He was also said to be the father of the Sirens, several nymphs, and other offspring. He was able to change his shape, and as a suitor for Deianeira, daughter of Oeneus, the king of Calydon, he transformed himself into a bull and fought Heracles for the right to marry Deianeira. Achelous was defeated, and Heracles married Deianeira. The story of Achelous, in the form of a bull, battling with Heracles for Deianeira, was apparently told as early as the 7th century BC, in a lost poem by the Greek poet Archilochus. According to a summary of a lost poem by the early 5th-century BC Greek poet Pindar, during the battle, Heracles broke off one of Achelous's bull-horns, and the river-god was able to get his horn back by trading it for a horn from Amalthea.

Sophocles, in his play Women of Trachis (c. 450-425 BC), has Deianeira tell her story, how Achelous wooed her in the shape of a bull, a snake, and a half-man/half-bull:
"For my suitor was a river-god, Achelous, who in three shapes was always asking me from my father - coming now as a bull in visible form, now as a serpent, sheeny and coiled, now ox-faced with human trunk, while from his thick-shaded beard wellheads of fountain-water sprayed. In the expectation that such a suitor would get me, I was always praying in my misery that I might die, before I should ever approach that marriage-bed. But at last, to my joy, the glorious son of Zeus and Alcmena came and closed with him in combat and delivered me."

Ancient Oiniadai lies on top of the Trikardo hills in the centre of the Acheloos River delta (NW Greece) at a distance of 9 km from the present coast. Its shipsheds testify to a former connection with the Ionian Sea. Because of its strategic position on the banks of the river Achelous with access to the Ionian Sea, the city of Oiniadai was a desirable possession for both the Akarnanian League as well as the Aitolian League. Its fortified walls, however, made it a difficult to acquire prize, and even the famed Athenian general Perikles failed to capture it when he led an army against it in 454 BC.

This series of bronze coins dates to the period when it was taken from the Aitolians by King Philip V of Macedon and restored to the Akarnanians. Production ended when the city was conquered by the Romans in 211 BC. Little is known of the history of Oiniadai after this, though it is known that it survived into at least the 1st century AD.

Akarnania - Oiniadai. Zeus / River-god Achelous. 219-211 BC.
Obverse: Laureate head of Zeus right. Reverse: Bearded head of man-headed bull, the river-god Achelous right, AP monogram behind. Reverse Inscription: OINIAΔAN above head. Bronze. Diameter: 22 mm. Weight: 6.1 gr.
Reference: BMC 6-7; BCD Akarnania 345
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 Posted 03/06/2021  10:15 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Bob L to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Enjoyed the write-up and coin, Jim. Thanks for sharing. You may be interested in Nicholas Molinari's article in the first issue of KOINON: The International Journal of Classical Numismatic Studies. It's titled "Sophocles' Trachiniae and the Apotheosis of Herakles: The Importance of Acheloios and Some Numismatic Confirmations." Nick, with Nicola Sisci, wrote the Potamikon: Sinews of Acheloios book that provides much context and a catalog of the man-faced bull bronze coinage. A very interesting area of ancient numismatics.
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 Posted 03/07/2021  06:26 am  Show Profile   Check echizento's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add echizento to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Cool coin and very interesting write-up.
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 Posted 03/07/2021  07:11 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add erafjel to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply


Interesting and educational. Thanks for sharing.
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 Posted 03/07/2021  09:06 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Novicius to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Thanks for the comments, guys.

Quote:
You may be interested in Nicholas Molinari's article in the first issue of KOINON: The International Journal of Classical Numismatic Studies. It's titled "Sophocles' Trachiniae and the Apotheosis of Herakles: The Importance of Acheloios and Some Numismatic Confirmations."

I had read the paper, "Some Problems of River God Iconography", by Ruth Michael Gais, but as the title implies, it is heavily weighted on the iconography. Not really what I was looking for. However, "Sophocles' Trachiniae and the Apotheosis of Herakles", does have the sort of information that I've been looking for.

I was astonished to learn that, "Approximately seventy-one mints issued some variety of coinage featuring a local embodiment of Acheloios as a man-faced bull, covering millions of square miles."

For a god that is not awfully well known, that is a huge amount of coinage.

Thanks for pointing me in the right direction once again, Bob.
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 Posted 03/07/2021  12:55 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add micha to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Novicius, is never a bad idea to turn your collection into a book, those nice info you share are very helpful for other collectors and not only.

More info about Achelous can be found at
www . theoi . com / Potamos / PotamosAkheloios . html

connect the link back together
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 Posted 03/07/2021  8:41 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Novicius to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Cheers Micha, and thanks for the link.
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