Agesilaos Antik Sikkeler Nümzimatik

Greek Mysia Kyzikos - Griffins

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Antik Sikkeler

4 Şub 2022

Kyzikos [ΚΥΖΙΚΟΣ] - KYZIKHNΩN - Cyzicus

A mythical creature of great antiquity, griffins are represented in Egyptian and Persian art from as early as the fourth millennium BC; from the middle bronze age [1950-1550 BC] they begin appearing in Syria, the Levant and Anatolia, and they can be found in 15th century BC frescoes in the throne room of the bronze age palace at Knossos. Closely associated with guarding precious possessions and treasure, and so frequently utilised as a motif in such capacities, the griffin came also to be a symbol of divine power and so a guardian of the divine. Half lion and half eagle, and so possessing the power and dignity of both of these majestic animals, these fearsome creatures in time came to be associated with the vast quantities of gold that flowed south out of the vast northern wildernesses into Greek and Persian lands.

This seemingly endless source of gold caused a great deal of speculation among the Greeks as to its origin; the myths and fables eventually found form in the idea of a land they called Hyperborea [beyond the north wind]. Homer, Pindar, Hesiod and Strabo all make reference to this legendary place, and Herodotus writes of it: But in the north of Europe there is by far the most gold. In this matter again I cannot say with assurance how the gold is produced, but it is said that one-eyed men called Arimaspians steal it from griffins. But I do not believe this, that there are one-eyed men who have a nature otherwise the same as other men. The most outlying lands, though, as they enclose and wholly surround all the rest of the world, are likely to have those things which we think the finest and the rarest [The Histories, 3.116].

Though it is generally agreed that Hyperborea never actually existed as any single place, but was rather an amalgam of various fragments of truth and flights of fancy, one possible source for the northern gold may be found in the Altai Mountains of Skythia [straddling modern day Kazakhstan, Mongolia, China and Russia], whose name Altai in Mongolian literally means Gold Mountain. It has been further suggested [Mayor, 1991] that this region, rich in gold run-off from the mountains, and which also holds a great many Protoceratops fossils, may have been the ultimate source of the Greek myth of griffin-guarded gold. The sandstone rock formations skirting the gold deposits continually reveal through erosion bleached white, fully articulated skeletons of these prominently beaked quadruped dinosaurs, and being conspicuous against the red sediment would have been noticed by early inhabitants and travellers. Indeed, 5th century BC human remains in the Altai Mountains have been found bearing griffin tattoos, occasionally accompanied by gold griffin artefacts.
That this symbol of power should be adopted by Kyzikos for its coinage again and again is hardly surprising then, given that the city possessed a virtual monopoly on gold coinage in the area from Troy to Ionia, in the Propontis, in Bithynia and in the Black Sea regions, and the animal's fabled reputation as a guardian of the precious metal.