Dolphin money

The Olbians really liked dolphins, and minted many types of coins with them on it. 

There are the famous “dolphin coins” themselves:


A more detailed example of which you can see here:


As well as more normal coins, such as this one which has a Gorgoneion on the obverse:


You’ll note that the dolphin is being carried off by an eagle. This is a common motif, and I’m not sure if it refers to some myth I’m not familiar with or an everyday occurrence. In which case, fuck, they must have big eagles in the Ukraine. 


On this coin (with a kneeling Herakles on the obverse) we find a wheel with dolphins in the cardinal directions, for reasons.

Dolphins also appear in conjunction with some kind of flower and an eight-rayed star, as well as by themselves.

I wonder if these are the dolphins of Dionysos or of Apollon. I’ve seen good arguments either way, as well as scholars put forth that they have some association with Poseidon. While certainly possible, the other two are much more prominent members of the Olbian pantheon so I think it unlikely. 

5 thoughts on “Dolphin money

  1. My guess is that the eagle carrying the dolphin is in reference to a myth or some kind of symbol or motif.  The largest eagle species on record is the Haast Eagle of New Zealand which went extinct around the year 1445 alongside a group of flightless bird species called moas (which also went extinct due to being overhunted by humans) upon which the Haast Eagles fed as their primary food source.  The two largest species of moa both weighed in on average at 510lbs. and were 12ft. in height.  The heaviest of Haast Eagles weighed up to around 40lbs on average.  This would of course mean that these birds would not have been able to fly with the entire moa but would rather tear parts off to take to a perch. 

    There are only three species of dolphins endemic to the Black Sea region: the Bottlenose Dolphin, the Short-Beaked Common Dolphin, and the Harbour Porpoise.  Bottlenoses weigh on average 660lbs, Short-Beak Common weighs 220-300lbs, and the Harbour Porpoise clocks in at 120lbs.  Considering that every eagle native to the Ukraine is smaller than the Haast Eagle, this would mean that it is impossible for any Ukrainian eagle to carry off a dolphin. 

    Therefore, the eagle carrying the dolphin on the coin must not be indicative of an observed natural phenomenon. 


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