Extremely Rare Greek Cerberus Coin, c. 500-450 BC

This is an electrum stater from the city of Cyzicus (aka Kyzikos) in the region of Mysia (map), with the very rare depiction of the hellhound Cerberus (with just two heads). He is depicted above a tunny fish with a quadripartite incuse square on the reverse. Cerberus appears with some frequency on Roman provincial coins, yet rarely on Greek coins. In Greek and Roman mythology Cerberus guards the entrance of the Greek underworld to prevent the dead from escaping and the living from entering. He is best known for having been captured by Heracles in his twelfth and final labor, which was by far his most dangerous. After delivering the hellhound to King Eurystheus, he then returned to chain the creature at the gates of Hades, which he continued to guard.

Cerberus is typically described as having three heads of wild dogs, though often with just two, as here on this coin; but as with most every aspect of Greek mythology there are various traditions and little agreement, such that Cerberus is described as possessing somewhere between one and one hundred heads. He is said to have had the claws of a lion, a tail in the form of a serpent, and his mane sometimes is described as being composed of a great mass of serpents. 

It has been suggested that this type coin was struck in reference, or homage, to Cimmerium (Kimmerikon), a city on the southern shore of the Cimmerian Bosphorus that earlier had been called Cerberion. The reason being that this city would have been a familiar destination for the intrepid Cyzicene merchants. However, Cyzicus was particularly attached to the story of the Argonautic expedition – especially to Heracles’ involvement – and to the goddess Persephone, who Appian says had received Cyzicus as a marriage gift from Zeus. Since Cerberus is associated with both Heracles and Persephone, this type perhaps is best seen as part of a larger display of designs associated with those deities.


Extremely Rare Ancient Chimera Coin

This is an electrum stater from the ancient city of Kyzikos, Mysia, circa 550-500 BC. It has a chimera above a tunny fish which was the civic badge of Kyzikos. The reverse is a quadripartite incuse square. This near mint state, extremely rare coin sold for around $65,000.

The feared Chimera was a monster of which a brief description in Homer’s Iliad is the earliest surviving literary reference. He depicts it as “a thing of immortal make, not human, lion-fronted and snake behind, a goat in the middle, and snorting out the breath of the terrible flame of bright fire”. It was the offspring of Typhon (last son of Gaia, fathered by Tartarus, and most fearsome of all the monsters of Greek mythology) and Echidna (a half-woman, half-snake, who with her mate Typhon was the origin of many monsters) and a sibling of such monsters as Cerberus and the Lernaean Hydra.

According to Greek myth, the Chimera lived in Lycia, ravaging the land. It was eventually slain by Corinth’s most famous son Bellerophon, with the help of Pegasos, at the command of King Iobates of Lycia. Since the Chimera was impervious to Bellerophon’s attacks even when mounted on Pegasos, an inventive weapon was required – thus, mounting a block of lead on the end of his spear, Bellerophon lodged the lead in the Chimera’s mouth so that when it breathed fire the lead melted and blocked its airway, suffocating it.

About the Chimera on this coin and in Greek art…

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Very Rare Electrum Stater from Kyzikos, Mysia c. 500-450 BC

The coin shows a winged deer with a tunny fish below; an incuse quadripartite square is on the reverse.

Kyzikos (Cyzicus) was a city in the region of Mysia in the northwest of ancient Asia Minor or Anatolia (modern Balıkesir Province, Turkey).
The city was said to have been founded by Pelasgians from Thessaly, according to tradition at the coming of the Argonauts; later it received many colonies from Miletus, allegedly in 756 BC, but its importance began only after the Peloponnesian War (431–404 BC), when the decay of Athens and Miletus set in.

PHOKIS, Delphi. 5th century BC. AR Tridrachm (25mm, 18.26 g). Two rhyta (drinking vessels) in the form of ram’s heads; above, two dolphins swimming toward each other; ΔAΛΦ-I-KON in small letters below; all within beaded border / Quadripartite incuse square in the form of a coffered ceiling; each coffer decorated with a dolphin and laurel spray.

We come this week to a coin that is considered to be one of the most important historical, religious, and architectural artifacts from the Greek world. Struck in Delphi, the so-called “navel of the world,” this coin is thought to show two drinking vessels shaped like the heads of rams on the obverse, and is commonly associated with the Greek defeat of  the Persians in 479 BCE. The reverse is thought to show the actual ceiling of the temple of Apollo at Delphi on the reverse.

This attribution has raised some questions, but it is believed that the Persian treasure from the campaign was dedicated at Delphi and the frequent repetition of dolphins, associated with Apollo Delphinios, the particular god of Delphi, has strengthened these claims.

This is a very rare denomination (tetradrachms are most  common, along with didrachms and drachms) and a very rare coin. Less than twenty are known to still exist.

18 MFU episodes that show the true depth of Napoleon & Illya’s friendship - Part 1

Quadripartite - Napoleon protects his very vulnerable partner.

Shark - Illya takes a beating to protect his partner, even knowing the futility.

Neptune - Underneath Napoleon’s cockiness is his determination to solve the mystery and bring Illya back home.

Terbuf - Illya knows Napoleon is going to need him and will do whatever it takes to help.

Fiddlesticks - Knowing he can’t save Illya is devastating for Napoleon.

Secret Sceptre - Illya once again goes above and beyond for Napoleon and Napoleon returns the favor by reclaiming something that belongs to him.

Love - Illya waiting for Napoleon at the airport and Napoleon so happy to see the friend he had earlier thought dead.

Ultimate Computer - Despite being ordered to get his disreputable body away, “Filthy” returns to rescue Napoleon.

Virtue - He knows he shouldn’t, but Illya still scuttles the mission to save Napoleon’s life.

Children’s Day - Napoleon gets a C- for putting friendship first.

More to follow…

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Where To Start with MFU Classic

So, in recent days, I’ve heard from a few people who are wondering if they ought to take the plunge into watching original The Man From UNCLE.  With 105 episodes–and substantial variations in quality–I thought it might be useful to compile a list of recommendations for “starter” episodes.  

A few of my top picks are:

“The Quadripartite Affair”–one of the earliest episodes to prominently feature Illya; he’s very cute in this and I like the way he is with the female guest star (prickly at first, but eventually warming up to her–not too different from tall!Illya with Gaby).

“The Project Strigas Affair”–an early humor-focused episode; in this episode, Napoleon and (especially) Illya spoof some well-worn spy movie tropes–but (unlike the excessively campy episodes of the third season), it makes sense for them to do so here because the antagonist has some very theatrical ideas about spycraft.  Also features William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, before they were the stars of Trek, as bumbling secondary antagonists.

“The Gazebo in the Maze Affair”–a baddie encountered in some pre-series mission kidnaps Illya so that Napoleon will be lured into to rescue him.  Nice banter between the boys, when they are chained up in a dungeon.

“Re-Collectors Affair”–the guys foil a gang of criminals who focus on returning artworks looted during the war to their rightful owners–for a price.  Illya is particularly yummy in an undercover role as the fiance of the rightful owner of one of the paintings.

“The Arabian Affair”–Illya in a white burnoose, riding a horse.  ‘nuf said.

“The Children’s Day Affair”–THRUSH runs a boys’ boarding school.  Sweet (though sadly truncated) h/c scene between NS and IK, after the latter gets whipped by the headmistress.

OK, we sort of waded into the shallow end of the pool there at the end…there are some parts of season 4 I haven’t seen yet (and am hugely looking forward to), so I’ve focused on the early part of the show.  And, as you might have noticed, I’m Team Illya.  Any other cousins on Tumblr who want to weigh in with additional suggestions?  


Silver stater from Thasos, Islands off Thrace, c. 412-404 BC

This coin shows a bald headed and nude Satyr in kneeling-running stance to right, carrying off a protesting nymph; Α in right field. The reverse is a quadripartite incuse square.

Thasos, a large island off the western coastal region of Thrace, gained its enormous wealth by virtue of its local silver mines as well as mines it controlled on the Thracian mainland opposite the island city-state. According to Herodotos (VI, 46), the city derived 200-300 talents annually from her exploitation of this mineral wealth. Additionally, Thasos gained much material wealth as a producer and exporter of high quality wines, which was tightly regulated by the government, and it was perhaps due to this trade in wine that her coinage spread throughout the Aegean making it a widely recognized and accepted coinage in distant lands.

The artistry of this coin is exceptional, and belongs to the very end of the 5th century BC before the end of the Peloponnesian War. Earlier didrachm staters struck to a local Thracian standard originally of 9.8 g and subsequently to 8.7 g are quite crude in style, portraying a vigorous and beastly satyr forcibly abducting a very unwilling nymph. By contrast the nymph on this coin seems to barely protest the abduction, and the satyr is imbued with almost wholly human qualities. The engraving is by a superior artist and is in a very lovely style, the head of the satyr reminding us of the miniature masterpieces from Katane in Sicily depicting a satyr’s head facing, while the head of the nymph here is strongly reminiscent of the head of the nymph found on the coins of nearby Neapolis in Macedon.

There is no explanation in the relevant literature of the letters A, Σ, or Φ which sometimes appear in the obverse field of these later staters (they never appear on the earlier staters). They cannot be the signatures of the artists as the staters with the same letter often show a markedly different hand at work, so they most probably simply identify the magistrate responsible for the issue, a commonplace feature on other coinages from a number of mints during this and subsequent times.

An Ancient Mystery Coin, 5th-4th Century BC

This gorgeous electrum stater (which sold at auction for $43,000!) is from an unknown mint, possibly a colony or outpost of Kyzikos in the ancient region of Mysia (map). It has the image of Pegasos over a spearhead with his legs splayed forward and the reverse is a quadripartite incuse square in a windmill pattern with stippled quarters. This coin is on the Phokaic standard, which is problematic. It’s an unpublished, unique numismatic mystery.

More details…

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The earliest depiction of Kyzikos, son of Apollo

This electrum stater from Kyzikos, Mysia, c. 460-400 BC shows the hero Kyzikos, riding his rearing horse at a gallop to the right. This is the earliest depiction of the Thessalian Kyzikos, the son of Apollo and the founder of the famous city of Kyzikos located at the Sea of Marmara, where the tuna fish catch was so important that the animal became the characteristic feature of this city’s coinage. The reverse shows a quadripartite incuse square. A rare and very fine coin.

The entire trade in grain as well as slaves in the Black Sea Region was transacted with electrum coins from Kyzikos such as this for many decades. The site of ancient Kyzikos is located in the modern Balıkesir Province of Turkey. It was located on the shoreward side of the present Kapıdağ Peninsula (the classical Arctonnesus), a tombolo which is said to have originally been an island in the Sea of Marmara only to be connected to the mainland in historic times either by artificial means or an earthquake.

Drachm from Teos, Ionia, Hagnon, Magistrate c. 375 BC

The coin shows a Griffin seated right, raising its forepaw. On the reverse, a quadripartite incuse square with granulated quarters and thick crossbars; THIΩN on vertical crossbar, A r-NΩN on horizontal crossbar.

Ancient Teos was flourishing seaport located in Ionia (Asia Minor). The coinage of Teos bears the Griffin (Gryphon), a creature sacred to Apollo, whom most Ionian cities worshiped.

All that is known of Hagnon the Magistrate comes to us from Plutarch:

“He saw that his favorites had grown altogether luxurious, and were vulgar in the extravagance of their ways of living. For instance, Hagnon the Teian used to wear silver nails in his boots.” - Plutarch, Alexander, chapter 40

Does this very rare coin portray Phrixos or Odysseus?

This electrum stater was struck in the city of Kyzikos, Mysia circa 450-400 BC (map). It shows a male figure wearing a pilos and a chlamys. He’s kneeling while in the act sacrificing a ram. A tunny fish is below him and a quadripartite incuse square is on the reverse.

The identity of the figure on the obverse of this coin has been widely debated. It has been suggested that it could be Phrixos, in the act of sacrificing the ram with the golden fleece. However, on the basis of the pilos, Odysseus, shown sacrificing the animal provided by Circe before his descent into Hades, has also been suggested.

A rare & fascinating coin pertaining to the Oracle at Delphi:

This coin is from the Asyut Hoard of 1968/9 and it sold for $600,000. It is extremely rare and of the greatest artistic, historical, and architectural importance - a superb example, probably the finest known.

This tridrachm from Delphi, Phokis (c. 480-475 BC) shows two drinking vessels (rhytons) in the form of rams heads; above them, two dolphins swimming toward each other. On the reverse is a quadripartite incuse square in the form of a coffered ceiling; each coffer decorated with a dolphin and a spray of laurel leaves.

The tridrachms of Delphi are among the most historically interesting of all Greek coins. The fact that almost all the known examples were found in Egypt suggests that the unusual weight standard might have been chosen specifically with Egyptian trade in mind. The obverse type is a direct reference to the Greek victory over the Persians at Plataea in 479 BC, when a great deal of booty, including silver vessels like the two on this coin, were taken by the Greeks. These two rhyta, which are of Persian design, were certainly from that booty and must have been brought as a dedication to Apollo in Delphi (rams were sacred to Apollo, along with dolphins).

The reverse is also very unusual: it is not a normal quadripartite incuse but, rather, clearly shows the stepped coffering that we know decorated ancient ceilings, especially those of prestigious buildings like that of the Temple of Apollo. It is interesting to consider that the coffered ceiling design might be an actual representation of the ceiling that existed in the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. The dolphins that ornament these coffers make the identification sure as they are a punny play on both the name of Delphi (delphis means dolphin) and on the fact that Apollo himself could appear in the form of a Dolphin. Mythology says that he first came to Delphi in the guise of a dolphin swimming into the Corinthian Gulf.

Delphi was famous in the ancient Greek world for being the mountain location of the Temple of Apollo and the Delphic Oracle. The oracle was consulted by kings and by private individuals, the responses being interpreted by the Pythia, who would sit in a trance-like state while she spoke. It is from this place where many important questions were asked and decisions were made in the ancient Greek world - Alexander the Great’s decision to conquer Persia and the rest of the known world being one of them.


The Rare Sphinx Coinage of Cyzicus

There are only six known specimens of this “crouching” sphinx type.

This is an electrum stater from the ancient city of Cyzicus in Mysia (map), struck circa 550-450 BC. The coin has a crouching sphinx above a tunny fish with a quadripartite incuse square on its reverse .

There are four types of Cyzicus staters with sphinxes; one where the sphinx is standing left and raising its right forepaw, one where it is seated left, one where it is crouching left, and one where just its forepart is shown.

The site of ancient Cyzicus is located in the modern Balıkesir Province of Turkey. It was located on the shoreward side of the present Kapıdağ Peninsula (the classical Arctonnesus), a tombolo which is said to have originally been an island in the Sea of Marmara only to be connected to the mainland in historic times either by artificial means or an earthquake. The city was said to have been founded by Pelasgians from Thessaly, according to tradition at the coming of the Argonauts; later it received many colonies from Miletus, allegedly in 756 BC, but its importance began only after the Peloponnesian War (431–404 BC), when the decay of Athens and Miletus set in.