Coin of the Month

July 2024: Coins and Music

The Coin of this Month is presented by Mykhailo Kobko

For the first time the reader of this rubric is presented with a coin depicting musical instruments. On the Coins of the Month presented so far, there was not a single one with a musical instrument as the main type. Today, this gap is being filled by our student intern from Kiev. We are very happy about his interest and thank him very much.

This bronze coin belongs to the city of Hamaxitos (Troas) and dates from the early Hellenistic period. The reverse side of the coin depicts a kithara. This musical instrument, made of turtle shells (chelys), was one of the most common plucked stringed instruments of ancient Greece and was closely associated with the god Apollo. The birthplace of the kithara was thought to be Asia Minor, specifically the island of Lesbos (Eur. Cycl. 443; Aristoph. Thesm. 120; Plut. Mus. 6). In mythology, its invention is attributed to Hermes (h.Merc. 25). Musicians (kitharists) required great skill to play this complex instrument, and it was usually played to accompany a song (kitharodeia).

Performances on the kithara were usually the most popular at festivals and musical competitions, such as Delia, the great Ionian music festival held on Delos in the Archaic period. Playing the kithara was also an important part of any young Greek male's comprehensive education.

The popularity of the kithara in everyday life and its association with the cults of deities, especially Apollo, explains its frequent appearance as a coin type in various parts of the Greek oikoumene.

To listen to the sound of the kithara, click on this link:

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