The κέλης and the κελάδες


Colin M. Kraay hypothesized in his book Archaic and Classical Greek Coins1 that both the dismounting rider on the obverse and the goat on the reverse of the Kelenderis staters are punning allusions to the city name:

On the obverse a young horseman is dismounting, and on the reverse is the forepart of a goat, which was replaced by the complete creature on all later staters. Both types appear to be punning allusions to the city’s name: the horseman, perhaps the mythical founder, is dismounting from his κέλης (race-horse), and some goats were known as κελάδες.

This hypothesis is often cited, but not unreservedly accepted.2 Indeed, it seems unlikely that the image on the obverse of the coin was chosen with the intention of creating a punning allusion. It shows a scene from an equestrian race called the kalpe (κάλπη), in which the rider dismounted and ran alongside his horse in the final part of the race. The choice for this scene rather indicates the popularity of this sport discipline in Kelenderis. Nevertheless, it cannot be ruled out that the inhabitants of the town perceived a linguistic connection between the word for racehorse and the abbreviated name of their town on the reverse of the coins.

It also seems unlikely that the goat on the reverse was chosen purely because of the linguistic similarity, although again it cannot be ruled out that this linguistic allusion was perceived in antiquity. However, the question is what breed of goat were referred to by the word kelades (κελάδες) and whether these goats were kept in the Kelenderis area. Unfortunately, Kraay does not cite the source of his information. The only mention of these goats I have found so far is in a book by Joannes Jonstonus published in 1678:3

In this history wee shall first deal with the name, Copra, or Goat; then with Hircus, or Hee-Goat; after with Hadus, or Kid. Varro, Cicero, and Nonnius fetch Capra, à Carpendo, from cropping, Festus from crepans, because the Goat makes a noyse with the things; Martinius from kapto, from devouring, because it is a beast that eats much. It changes names from age and sex. The Greeks call it Aix, from aissein, to rush on with a force. But the newborne are called Aiges, and Erriphoi, and Chimaroi; the yearlings, or middle aged and growen Tragoi, yet this seemes to be the name of the males only. It hath many Synonimaes, the late Greeks call him Gida. The Turrhenians Kapra, the Cretians Karrano, Hesychius Meklas, and Astignas. The Kelades are shee-goats, and horned for most part; the Kelades are marked in the fore-head, as with a bunch, or hard-skin; the Mnaades are milked. [the text continues by listing other goat breeds]

However, Jonstonus also does not cite the ancient sources from which he drew this terminology. In addition, according to him, the kelades denoted she-goats of a certain breed of goat, while the staters always clearly depict a he-goat (except perhaps for early issues, which show only the forepart of the goat).

It is also possible that the Kelenderis coins depict some kind of wild goats that lived in this mountainous region. The bezoar goat (Capra aegagrus), also known as the bezoar ibex or simply the wild goat, which lives in the Taurus and Anti-Taurus mountains, among other places, comes into consideration. However, these wild goats have arched horns, while the goats on these coins have horns that are curved upwards at the ends.

Note that hair cloths were made of goat’s hair by the Greeks and Romans. Goats with the longest hair were bred for this purpose in Cilicia. For this reason, this garment was called cilicium in Latin (in Greek kilikion from Kilikia).4


1 Kraay 1976, p. 279

2 Eaglen 2005, p. 307, footnote 14

3 Jonstonus 1678, Book II (The Naturall History of the Fourfooted Beasts), Title 1 (Of the Clovenfooted that live on the Earth), Chapter II (Of the Horned Beasts, in particular that chew the cud), Article IV (Of the tame Goat and Kid)



22 January 2022 – 10 September 2023