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You would be angry too if someone left you out in the woods for 50 years. Thousands of years ago, Odysseus was cursed to wander the seas for just ten years and he arrived home fit to be tied.
I can imagine him feeling like this ancient Oldsmobile looks. Tired and worn and ready for a fight. The Odyssey depicts him as such as he sneaks back into town to assess the situation at his home.
The coin, issued in 82 BC by a Roman senator serving a one year commission as moneyer, shows Odysseus being recognized by his old dog Argus as he finally returns to his home. The fact that this classic Greek scene appears on a Roman coin attests to the power this classic Greek story had in Roman times.
Eighty-two BC was an unsettled time in Rome. Sulla had just defeated the Marians to take control of Rome but the empire was largely ruled by the Greek Mithradates, who had taken advantage of Rome's civil unrest to recapture much of Greece. Consequently, the Greeks were very much on Roman minds.
I am not sure how the Roman god Mercury (who graces the front of the coin) fit in the Roman mind with the Greek hero Odysseus. Perhaps it was a way to claim Roman connection with the heroic traits of Odysseus or those of the more modern Greek hero Mithradates. Or perhaps, Limentanus, the issuer, traced his family to Mercury.
Many Roman families included Roman or Greek gods in their family trees. Julius Caesar's family claimed affiliation with the Greek goddess Venus. She appears on many coins issued in his name. (His associates also claimed he ascended to the heavens when a comet appeared in the skies shortly after his death.)
Our modern society does something similar, like using the likeness of Mercury on an American automobile. You would expect this car to be swift if it is named for Mercury. Or, co-opting a Greek goddess like Nike to sell shoes. Of course, in Nike's case the association is more abstract. They use a swish as their logo instead of the goddess' image. Interestingly, Nike personified victory to the ancient Greeks and Romans, not speed.
Odysseus wandered far and wide on his arduous ten year journey home, suffering imprisonment, ship wrecks and losing his entire crew. He faced great temptations. He even visited hell, the Greeks called it Hades, where he saw the tortured remains of fallen heros.
A junk yard can show you remains of fallen automobiles adorned with godly symbols and wearing the ravages of time. I guess you can find the old Greeks most anywhere if you look hard enough.
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Next week's post is about Why Spartacus Matters. Kirk Douglas, Joe McCarthy, Dalton Trumbo, a Roman slave and how they all interconnect to make a big impact on 20th century America. All photos and text are copyright Clinton Richardson. The images are from the author's Auto Afterlife and Ancient Selfies Galleries at the Trekpic.com. You can access them from the New and Coins pages. Next week we talk about Prepping for Kenya.
If you like these posts, please tell your friends about the Venture Moola blog at Readjanus.com. For more pictures of the cormorant or the great blue herons whose territory he is invading, see the Jurassic Cove Gallery at TrekPic.com under the heading New.
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The venture moola blog comes to you from Atlanta, Georgia. Find it at readjanus.com. Copyright Clinton Richardson.
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