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Research Coins: The Coin Shop

 
806128

Nomos AG, 45

806128. Sold For $29500

CRETE, Phaistos. Circa 300-270 BC. AR Stater (23mm, 11.21 g, 12h). T-AΛ-ΩN, Talos, nude, standing facing, wings spread, hurling stone in his right hand, holding another in his left / ΦAIΣTIΩ[N], bull butting right. Svoronos, Numismatique 67 (same dies as illustration); SNG Copenhagen -; BMC 20 (same dies); De Luynes 2775 (same dies). EF, toned, a hint of die rust in field on obverse.


The stories of the origin and nature of Talos are varied and somewhat contradictory. Although the ancient sources associate him with Crete, they are less certain regarding the rest of the details. According to pseudo-Apollodoros, Talos was a winged giant made of bronze, who protected Europa while she was in Crete by circling over the island three times each day. The linguistic similarity of the Cretan dialectical ταλῶς to the Greek ἥλιος suggests that he was a local, pre-classical solar deity, a suggestion supported by Hesychius of Alexandria’s assertion that, "Talos is the sun." During the Archaic period in Crete, Zeus was worshipped as Zeus Tallaios, an incarnation resulting from the syncretization of the Olympian king of the gods with the local god of similar importance. A spur of the Ida mountain range in Crete was known as Tallaia and associated with Talos as his point of contact with the earth. His depiction on coins of Phaistos, such as this one, depict him as winged, emphasizing his role as a god of the sky; in Greek art of a non-Cretan provenance, his wings have been removed.

Elsewhere in Greek mythology, Talos is described either as a gift from Hephaistos to Minos, forged with the aid of the Cyclopes in the form of a bull, or one from Zeus to Europa. He may have been the son of Kres, the eponymous personification of Crete. He also had one vein, going from his neck to his ankle, which was bound shut by a single bronze nail. In the Argonautica, Apollonios says that as guardian of Crete, Talos would throw rocks at any approaching ship. To slay him so that they could make land on the island on their return from securing the Golden Fleece, Medea either drove him mad with drugs, or deceived him into believing that she would make him mortal by removing the nail. When the nail was eventually removed, his life-giving ichor (the fluid that flows in the veins of gods) flowed out of the opening and Talos “bled” to death.