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Prayers for Rain

Rain Drops2404441, image used under the Pixabay Content License


The collector's tag is immediately recognizable as "BCD" with the fine ink handwriting on a yellowed disk:

"One of the most recognizable names in the field of numismatics, Basil Demetriadi, known as BCD, has collected coins and books for many decades. His coins were sold in a series of famous auction sales beginning in the early 2000s."
-ANS Long Table 100. An Interview with Basil Demetriadi

Today's coin of interest comes from Crannon in Pelasgiotis region in Thessaly near the source of the Onchestus river, named for the son of Poseidon.

"The curious type of the Hydria is taken from the παράσημον (insignia) of the City. It was customary in the time of drought to take a sacred chariot with Hydria in procession through the City to supplicate Apollo for rain, and if a crow settled on the wheels, that was a sign that Apollo would grant the prayers of the faithful."
-Rogers, Thessaly, published in 1935

Thessaly, Krannon, 3rd century BC, Æ Chalkous (15mm, 4.85 g, 1h)

Obv: Laureate head of Poseidon (or Zeus) right

Rev: KPANNOYNIOYN, hydria on cart, with crow perched inward on each wheel

Ref: BCD Thessaly I 1088 var. (monogram on rev.); Rogers 203, BCD Thessaly II 120.2; HGC 4, 387.

Notes: Good VF, dark green patina. ex Naville Numismatik 90 Lot 115 ex CNG Auction 394 Lot 150 ex The BCD Collection ex S. Thessaly Jan 1997.

One the reverse a hydria is shown on a brass cart as the insignia of the city. The hydria in the center of the reverse is a Greek "water jug" - not surprisingly this type of jug was used for other liquids and other purposes. In the context of this coin, water is intended.

Hydria attributed to the workshop of the Creusa Painter ca. 400–375 BCE from the NY Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image public domain.


Antigonus of Carystus writing circa 240 BCE "about crows" in his Historiae Mirabiles has the following passage:

"At Crannon, a city of Thessaly, they say there are only two crows. And so, even their official offerings, when they (as is the custom in all cities) depict the insignia of the city, with two crows sitting on a bronze chariot; and no more than these have ever been seen there. It may seem strange to some, however a chariot is added for this reason. Among the sacred objects, they keep a bronze chariot: which, when a drought occurs, they strike, and ask the god for water, and obtain it."
-Antigonus of Carystus, Historiae Mirabiles, Chapter XV p.25

408 Stephanus of Byzantium
Krannon: it is city of Thessaly . . . and another city of Athamania different from Pelasgian Crannon. In this one they say that there are only two crows, as Callimachus says in the Wonders and Theopompus. And whenever they hatch others, they depart leaving the same number behind.
-Callimachus, Scholarly Fragments 408

We see this bronze cart with crows depicted on this coin from Krannon.


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