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THE DEER AS SYMBOL OF RHODES – AN ALTERNATIVE OPINION

30/09/2011

The Deer in Archaic Rhodian pottery. Museum of Rhodes

The deer is a graceful  animal especially the platoni of Rhodes. It seems natural that it was adopted as symbol of a beautiful island. The opinions about the deer being indigenous of the island or if it was imported by the Crusaders differ with serious arguments supporting both sides. I present here a third opinion that is related to the involvement of eminent Rhodians in the first Holy War in the Delphi during the Archaic Era.

During the 6th century B.C. the Delfic Amphictyony decided the punishment of the Phocian city Krissa that according to their opinion offended the pilgrims and envoys who were going to the Delphi from the harbour of Kirra by imposing on them heavy taxation and commiting robberies and kidnappings. The cynics see behind this war the Sicyonians that wanted to neutralise a commercial competitor, the Thessalians that wanted an exit to the sea and the Athenians who wanted indirect influence on the Oracle.

In the initial stage of conflict the Amphiktyones seem to have conquered Kirra the port of Krissa but the Krisseans endured tenaciously the siege of their mountainous city. As the armies of Archaic Era did not have sufficient siege equipment and engineering knolwledge, the war lasted a long time.Valuable resourses were wasted and the besiegers facing illnesses and hunger were considering to abandon the effort. The Athenian Solon proposed to asked the Oracle of Delphi what to do. Pythia gave the following answer: «Go to Kos and bring back with you the child of the deer and gold.»

The Amphiktyons were puzzled as to why the rich Oracle asked gold from the island of Kos and what did it meant with: “the child of the deer”? Despite all these, they sent envoys in the Kos and explained to her magistrates the purpose of their journey. A well respected man from the Asklepeadae clan stood up and said: The Oracle’s words concern my son Chrysos and me. I am named Nevros and the small deers they are called nevroi.Taking therefore his son with him, along with a Kalydonian follower, he sailed for Delphi. With his medical knowledge he restored health in the camp and threw helleborus in the springs from where the Krisseans took water.

The Krisseans weakened from helleborus found it difficult to resist as the soldiers of the allied city states attacked their walls. Chrysos was the first over the bastions but he was killed by the Krissean fighter Mermodaeos. After the Amphiktyons occupied and destroyed the city, Chrysos was burried in a place of honor at the Hippodrome of Delphi and was revered as a hero.

Even if the Asklepeon of Kos was famous in Antiquity, Herodotus mentions also the medical school of Rhodes. Some sources mantion that Nevros, brocken from the loss of his son, left the Kos and moved to Rhodes. In a season where religion played a major part in peoples lives a servant of Asklepeos who had lost a son tryingwhile trying the will of Apollo, ancestor of god that he trully served would be considered an important person. If we take into account how much the good doctors were esteemed the antiquity and the Doric habit of relouctance in mortals portrayal we can think that perhaps that the image of the stag honoured Nevros, the «child of the deer».

Statues of Deers at the port of Rhodes

Sources

http://www.ecorodos.gr

Theodorides Nikos (Forester – Environmentalist) the PLATONJ of RHODES

http://www.arxaiologia.gr/assets/media/PDFofIssues/4069.pdf

Aesch. «Against Ctesephon» Loeb Classic Library publication 1914

Herodotuss  «Histories» Loeb Classic Library publication 1914

Diodorus Siculus   «Historical Library” Loeb  Classic Library publication 1914

Pausanias of «Tour of Greece»  (Ekdotiki Athinon)

Polyainos «Stratagems» E. Shepherd (1793)

Strabo «Geography» E. Shepherd   (1793)

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