From Asianic Elements in Greek Civilisation, The Gifford Lectures in the University of Edinburgh, 1915-1916, by Sir William M. Ramsay, D.C.L., LL.D., New Haven: Yale University Press, 1928; pp. 54-59.

Asianic Elements in Greek Civilisation.



Chapter V


THE two Nemeseis, who are the characteristic deities of Smyrna on coins and in legend, are indubitably a moralised expression of the remarkable twin peaks which stand close together on the south coast of the Gulf of Smyrna, a few miles west of the city. When I used to know Smyrna, fifty years ago or more, the older inhabitants used always to look at the “Two Brothers,” as the twin peaks are called, to find signs of the weather. The belief still was held, and is probably justified by atmospheric effects, that the intentions of the god who resides in the upper regions of the ether are mirrored in the terrestrial phenomena on the chosen peaks. They appeared to Alexander in a vision to intimate the will of Zeus. There is no mountain-deity so characteristic of the coins of any city in Anatolia as are the Nemeseis of Smyrna, except Mt. Viaros of Prostanna and Mt. Argaeus of Caesarea of Cappadocia; and they are all equally impressive in the local scenery.

It may be inferred that the terrestrial image of a single Nemesis was a sharp peak which lifts itself up to the sky as if to appeal to the god and to draw down his just interposition and his vengeance. The duplication of the divine idea is made on earth where the earth shows the twin forms. So the original single Muse became the nine Muses, as the literary art differentiated itself into separate arts. The single Grace became triple, because the sculptural form 55 of the three Graces presented an alluring type to the sculptor. And so on in many cases, like the two Nemeseis.

Nemesis, as a single deity, often represents Smyrna on “alliance” coins. “Alliance” doubtless indicates some agreement as to participation in games or religious rites: Nemesis is the single idea; twin Nemeseis the local presentation of the same idea; so at Laodicea and Smyrna. It is not within my power to trace this idea in every case. Rhamnus I have never seen, but it stands at a promontory where the long ridge of Parnes protrudes into the sea. I was not on the outlook for any local presentation at Synaos, at Dorylaion, or at Synnada; but in the latter case the city is ringed round by mountains; so too with Cibyra. At Hierapolis and at Laodicea on the Lycus, the great single peak of Baba-Dagh (father-mountain) is specially conspicuous; and a pilgrim who wrote an account of the third Crusade under Barbarossa mentions that the army came to Laodicea under a lofty peak. At Amorium the lofty peak of Sivri-Hissar stands up towards the sky, visible from a great distance over the level plain.

In many cases Nemesis is not the characteristic type, but only an occasional one. The most representative type of Laodicea is Zeus, of Hierapolis Sarapis, and so on. But in the mountain-view one single peak stands out as a solitary finger pointing to and invoking the supreme god in heaven. Sivri-Dagh, “pointed mountain,” is perhaps visible from Laodicea; but it is insignificant in comparison with Baba. Twin Nemeseis appear on coins of Synaos, which I have not seen since 1884. But at Dionysopolis with its Nemesis I well remember in 1883 how Baba-Dagh was everywhere conspicuous, across a raised mountain and beyond the deep glen of the Lycus. Sterrett and I often remarked how we seemed unable to get out of sight of the great peak, 8000 feet above sea-level. We also spoke of Chonas-Dagh at some distance to the east of Baba. Long afterwards I began to see that in the Anatolian mind the earth is a humble and very imperfect picture of heaven 56 with its signs, the Bear, the Twins, Orion the Hunter, and all the others. Plato makes Socrates, in the Republic, after finishing his picture of the ideal state, say in reply to the question whether such a state has ever existed: “In heaven, I fancy, a model (of it) is laid up for him who will to see, and as he sees to establish himself as a settler; but it makes no difference whether it exists or shall exist anywhere (on earth), for he will do what is suited to this model-state only, and not what belongs to any other.”1

Again the idea of Justice, called Dika or Gdika (with that insertion of a guttural sound before a dental which was so frequent in Anatolia in names of persons and place), was symbolised by what may be called the Balance, i.e. two peaks at some distance from one another, which seemed to resemble the Divine Balance held out in the skies to weigh the fate of men and heroes. Zeus is so described by Homer as hanging out the Divine Balance to determine which of two heroes shall be the conqueror in their fight.

The best example of the Balance is at Konia, the ancient Iconium, where twin peaks at some distance from one another are still called Takali, and in Arab authorities Dakalias, evidently identical with, and perhaps giving origin to, the (Semitic?) word Tekel, which is familiar to every one in the Book of Daniel and the story of King Belshazzar.2 The two peaks are now called by the Greeks St. Philip and St. Thekla. Thekla, originally Tekla, was the spirit of the mountains; and the exact place where the mountain opened to receive her, when robbers attacked her or her betrothed lover sought to force her into a marriage-by-capture (an old trait in society), are varying features of the legend. The early Christians took the legend and worked it into a non-orthodox form, in which abstinence from marriage, even after a promise had been given, was a feature. Then the orthodox took over the native legend, and 57 tried to gloss over the unorthodox features; and Thekla remains one of the most widely respected Eastern saints.

Another example of the Balance is at the modern Afiom-Kara-Hissar, two miles or so from the site of the ancient Prymnessos. Any one who has been on the outlook for the sites of the intertribal and international markets can feel no doubt that the plain a little north of Prymnessos was the meeting-place of one of those markets. Its situation and its relation to the country and the lines of the roads make this practically certain. Now from the mountains south of Kara-Hissar there runs out a line of volcanic peaks, diminishing in size according to their distance from the main mass of mountains. These are thrust up through the limestone plateau which forms the main mass of Anatolia. Though they diminish, yet I have observed a point from which the two highest can be seen to resemble one another, and to symbolise to man the Divine Justice and the Divine Balance. Here the god has planted the sign which indicates the just dealing which is necessary between merchants engaged in the market. Similarly, the probability is, from the history of Iconium, that before it became a Hellenistic city it also was a natural centre where an intertribal market met. The coins of Prymnessos express this symbolically; the chief type is the goddess Dike (called Dikaiosyne by the numismatists), enthroned on a lofty seat, or standing holding forth the Balance. This Prymnessian goddess was simply the moralised form of Cybele, to whom the power and the duty belonged to keep the market fair and just and safe for traders.

At Laodicea, at Dionysopolis, and among the Hyrgaleis, the choice is given, among the imperfect terrestrial traits of the heavenly symbolism, between Dika and Nemesis. There are the one peak of Baba, and the two peaks of Baba and Chonas. At Laodicea we find, in one coin, the mixture of the two goddesses in one, as a figure who holds both the balance of Justice and the measuring rod of Nemesis. At Dionysopolis there is known only Nemesis; among 58 the Hyrgaleis, side by side with Dionysopolis, there is only Dika. I have been for years trying to find the opportunity of revisiting this region to see whether the difference corresponds to the landscape as seen from each of the two districts.

The two ideas, Dike and Nemesis, are closely related. Nemesis calls for Justice, Justice inflicts Nemesis. They are both attributes of the supreme divine power: “the (nameless) God, or the Goddess still without a name,” of Asia Minor in its original character. The Greeks introduced names for the gods, learning from the Egyptians (as Herodotus says) this fashion. It is an unfortunate error, confounding the history of religion, to treat “the God” of the Anatolian plateau as a mere equivalent of the Greek Zeus. The “nameless God” is a deity; the Zeus of the Greeks is almost a superman, with all the vices and weaknesses of men, a figure half-way above man and half-way or more below a god.

Probably the most noteworthy appearance of Nemesis is at Attoudda, a Carian or Phrygian town situated two miles or so to the sough of Serai-Keui, a railway station. Behind it towers the lofty peak of Baba-Dagh (Father Mountain), and it belongs to a group of cities, all situated around the range of Mount Salbakos, over the centre of which towers the great Father Mountain (8000 feet). Assar or Hissar is the name of the site. On coins of Attoudda appears Nemesis. It has already been pointed out that Nemesis is only a moralised form of Cybele; and in this group of cities, including also Trapezopolis and Laodicea, Cybele is not merely styled the great goddess (as usually in Phrygia), but at Attoudda there was a Priest of the Goddess Mother Adrastos (from whom there is no escape). This goddess is evidently the same as Nemesis, the divine power which always exacts the penalty for any violation of fair dealing and justice: sooner or later, Adrastos the Mother overtakes the fugitive; yet as the Mother Goddess she is as evidently Cybele.

This whole region, for about 30 miles up and down the Maeander 59 and the Lycus, is full of hot springs which rise at many places, and there is also a pond of hot mud. Laodicea was the site of a famous medical school;3 and Attoudda, which is situated near the middle of the region, shared in the honour and profit of these curative agencies. Aesculapius and Hygieia appear often on the coins of Attoudda; the coins picture the natural features of the country, not in the way of scenery (though in certain cities that was done), but in the form of the spiritual powers and divine beings which revealed for the benefit of men the kindly and guiding, advising and punishing power of Mother Earth.



 1  I quote from memory; but I think this is correct: end of Book ix.

 2  Daniel interpreted the writing on the wall; the third word was Tekel, “Thou art weighed in the balance and art found wanting.”

 3  Its professors and teachers are mentioned on Laodicean coins.