Sunday, 1 March 2015

Heads and Tales

1961: Greek Stamp Centenary
The Greeks had a lot of history and mythology to choose from  when they deliberated in 1860 on the image they wanted to appear on their first stamp in 1861, but they made the perfect decision with this beautiful portrayal of Hermes, the messenger of the Gods, and they celebrated that choice in their anniversary stamp above.  I have none the stamps from the first forty years of Greek philately which encompassed various changes from the one shown on the centenary stamp, commonly called the Large Hermes, then the Small Hermes and latterly the Flying Mercury. The oldest Greek stamp I have was the one produced in 1911 to replace the Flying Mercury
with what is commonly called the "Engraved Issue" and here we have Hermes the messenger once again, although his head seems to be supporting something that looks more like a hat or hover-board than wings on his head.  There were different portrayals in this definitive issue, the one of Hermes face (as shown), his statue and the statue of  Iris the Rainbow goddess, all designed by Professor of Numismatology, J Svoronos (1863-1922) and G Jakovides (1853-1932), (The Greeks don't have a J or G in their alphabet so you can take a choice whether to replace the J and G with an I in these names) engraved in London by Thomas McDonald then printed in Corfu by the Gerasimos Aspiotis Brothers.   Professor Svoronos would design the commemorative stamps for the 1896 Olympics, which were  used as one of  the ways of funding the first games of the modern era.
"Youth's Head"
Greece with her rich history continues to use classical themes and in the 1950s their definitives were taken from "Antique Arts" depicting heroes and other themes from Ancient Greece. 
Alexander the Great
This portrait of Alexander the Great is as he appears on a coin, the Lysimachos tetradrachm.  Following Alexander's death in 323BC his generals divided the vast empire between themselves but not after lots of squabbling and the turmoil of the Successor Wars.  The image of Alexander played an important part as his successors tried to cast themselves as his heir.  Lysimachos was allotted the Kingdom of Thrace in Northern Greece, later adding parts of Asia Minor (modern Turkey).  Reigning from 306-281 BC he produced some stunning silver and gold coins but I have only seen photographs of the coins with their amazing raised surfaces, although I must have waltzed past many in museums without taking any notice.

Staying with coins here are some from the 1959/1963 definitive set which portray ones even older and show the gods
Jupiter's Head and his Eagle (Olympia 4th Century BC)
Athene and her Owl (Athens 5th Century BC)
Apollo and his Lyre (Chalcidice, Macedonia 4th Century BC)

  An entry to the Sunday Stamps II theme of - Faces - hosted by Violet Sky here


FinnBadger said...

Great selection. I like the centenary stamp for its simplicity.

Bob Scotney said...

I am now looking at my stamps from Greece in a different light. I cannot match any of these. The centenary stamp is great and more impressive than our centenary stamp with Victoria and George VI even allowing for the fact that 1940 was in wartime.

VioletSky said...

Two things strike me immediately about these stamp faces - 1) they are all faces to the right, and 2) all (except for Jupiter) are clean shaven.
I'm almost embarrassed to admit that I didn't realize Greeks had no G in their alphabet. Now I must look up how Hellas became Greece.

Jocelyn said...

What a great post! The engraved issue Hermes looks like he would rather take a nap than deliver a message!