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Fish in Love with Goats

Perhaps close to Valentine's day it is appropriate to begin with a love story between fish and goats. These passages from Oppian's Halieutica, a five book poem on fishing, describe fish in love with goats. The poet, Oppian, was a native of Cilicia from Anazarbus or Corycus in Cilicia. Sargues are a fish called white seabream or Diplodus sargus.

"Sargues' hearts are gripped by yearning for goats."
"Wretched sargue, how swiftly will your yearning for the herds prove a bane. The purpose of fishermen turns your love into a trap and destruction, a purpose such as this. First a man marks out those rocks arrayed close by the shore in twin ridges, forming a narrow space of sea between, the water open to the rays of the sun. And among these rocks many sargues dwell in a communal steading, rejoicing exceedingly in the heat of the sun. There the man eagerly fashions a pastoral ruse, putting on a goatskin and fastening around his temples dual horns. And he throws into the sea barley enriched with goat meat together with cooked fat. And the lovely odor and the deceptive appearance of the man and the rich feast attract the sargues, completely mindless of the ruse, who in reverence await the goat, fawning on its dreadful likeness, a man."
-Oppian, Halieutica 

Oppian lives in 2nd century AD Cilicia. It seems plausible that this was a real fishing practice that he describes. My coin of interest from this region is 2-3 centuries earlier from Cilicia.

Valentine's Day is linked with several storied including one story of a Christian priest (St. Valentine) who married soldiers against the orders of Claudius II in 3rd century Rome. Claudius II had him executed. Another story tells of a physician (also St. Valentine) who heals the jailer's blindness. The jailer and St. Valentine are executed by Claudius II. (for more variants - this site offers a nicely documented set of options as well as some historical information on Valentine, Bishop of Terni). The date is also tied to popular belief in the 14th or 15th centuries AD, among the French and English, that the second week in February was when birds choose e.g. Chaucer:

For this was on Saint Valentine’s day,
When every fowl comes there his mate to take,
-Chaucer, The Parliament of Fowls

This coin, an Antoninianus of Claudius II, is from the Normanby hoard, found in 1985, which is described as "the biggest ever British coin hoard of Roman coins to be sold on the open market".

The Romans celebrated "Lupercalia" at this time which is why the date in mid-February and tradition of passing notes. Ovid offers a lenthy description in Fasti, Book II February 15th.

from "Saint Valentine" by Sabuda, Robert, 1992

"Lupercalia was a festival involving sacrifices to the two deities associated, respectively, with fecundity and childbirth: Pan and Lucina. As part of the celebrations, the men whipped their wives to make them more fecund. Two young musicians close to the scene of the sacrifice to the gods, as well as the statue on the altar itself, carry wind instruments characteristic of this type of festivity."
-Museo del Prado, Lupercalia 

Plutarch describes the scene as witnessed by Julius Caesar, in which Mark Antony was one of the runners:

"At this time many of the noble youths and of the magistrates run up and down through the city naked, for sport and laughter striking those they meet with shaggy thongs. And many women of rank also purposely get in their way, and like children at school present their hands to be struck, believing that the pregnant will thus be helped to an easy delivery, and the barren to pregnancy."
-Plutarch, Lives, Caesar 

Lupercalia, oil on canvas, Andrea Camassei c. 1635 AD, 238 x 366 cm, Madrid, Museo del Prado. Public domain image via Wikipedia

Returning to Cilicia, the question for the day: is this Tyche or a City Goddess or perhaps both? on the obverse of this coin from the Sacred/Holy and Autonomous City of Aigeai or Aegeae?

Cilicia, Aigeai, AE (bronze, 7.59g, 22 mm), autonomous municipal bronze ca 164 BC - 83 BC.

Obv: Turreted head of Tyche or city goddess right

Rev: AIΓEAIΩN THΣ IEΡAΣ (Holy/Sacred Aigaei) / KAI AYTONOMOY (and Autonomous) Head of horse left; monogram to right

Cilicia, Aigeai, AE, autonomous municipal bronze ca 164 BC - 83 BC.

Obv: Turreted head of Tyche or city goddess right

Rev: AIΓEAIΩN THΣ IEΡAΣ (Holy/Sacred Aigaei) / KAI AYTONOMOY (and Autonomous) Head of horse left; monogram to right

This coin struck somewhere between 164 BC estimated timing of this city issuing autonomous municipal coinage after the death of Antiochus IV Epiphanes and 83BC when Tigranes II relocated everyone from Aigeai to populate his new city of Tigranocerta.

"But Tigranes, the Armenian, put the people in bad plight when he overran Cappadocia, for he forced them, one and all, to migrate into Mesopotamia; and it was mostly with these that he settled Tigranocerta. But later, after the capture of Tigranocerta, those who could returned home."
-Strabo, Geography XII.II.9 

Antiochos IV Epiphanes (175 - 164 v. Chr.), AE 19mm 6.4g. ca. 168 - 164 BC Aigeai (quasi-autonomous) Obv: Diademed head of Antiochus right Rev: ΑΙΓΕΑΙΩΝ Bridled horse's head left Ref: SC II, 1389. SNG Levante 1630

Detail showing Alexander from an Alexander Mosaic, House of the Faun, Pompeii, circa 100 BC, public domain image via Wikipedia.

Returning to the subject of goats, it is worth noting that the city of Aigeai is literally connected to Goats, Greek: Aegae, "goats". One explanation for the name is a reference to Alexander's defeat of Darios III at Issos on 5 November 333 BC. In the largely fictional 3rd Century AD "Alexander Romance", Alexander writes a letter to his mother Olympias adn hist teacher Aristotle:

"Alexander, king of kings, greets his dear mother, Olympias, and the learned Aristotle, his venerable guide and great teacher. I deemed it essential to write you concerning the conflict beyond the Taurus between me, my troops, and my Macedonians and Darius. When I heard that he was moving with many kings and satraps toward the gulf of Issus, I collected a lot of goats and tied torches on their horns and attacked them by night. And when they saw us, they turned to flight thinking that the body of troops was vast and that it was moving upon them. And thus we achieved the glory of victory against them. And on the spot, I built a city named Ayes {Greek: Aegae, "goats"}, and on the gulf of Issus, I built a city named Alexandria Kattison."
- Alexander Romance 

A goat featured in the exergue of this Aegeae Tetradarchm - ~2 centuries later (133/4 AD during the reign of Hadrian). This coin is a plate coin from Lorber & Michael 2007 study of these coins. The coins of this type appear to be connected to the the Bar-Kohba War (AD 132-135). This coin from 133/4 AD at the peak of fighting.

"This high level of production further supports the idea of a close con­nection between these coins and the Bar-Kokhba War without explaining what exactly the money was used for."
-Haymann, F. (2014)

Roman Provincial, Cilicia, Aegeae, Hadrian, AD 117-138, AR Tetradrachm (27mm, 13.50g, 6h), dated year 180 of the Caesarean Era (AD 133/4)

Obv: Laureate and cuirassed bust right, slight drapery / AIΓЄAIΩN ЄTOVC · ΠP · (date)

Rev: Eagle standing facing on harpe, head and tail right, with wings spread; below goat heading right, kneeling left

Ref: Haymann 54; F. Haymann, "Hadrianic Silver Coinage of Aegeae (Cilicia)," AJN 26 (2014), Type 20 (this coin shown for dies O12/R68 on plate 45); L&M 305 (this coin); Prieur 721; SNG Levante 1719; RPC III 3349

Notes: ex Ken Dorney, ex CNG eAuction 518 lot 339 ex Crescent Collection (Classical Numismatic Group Electronic Auction 485, 10 February 2021, lot 279); purchased from Freeman & Sear, 2009.


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