A marble altar depicting a battle scene between a serpent monster and a warrior was found near the Akçay River in Turkey by local villagers. The ancient altar dates back to the second century A.D., archaeologists say.
It is quite difficult to interpret the scene on the altar, but archaeologists suggested that it might represent Bargasos (the son of Hercules) battling a monster (possibly the Hydra) in the name of the river god known as Harpasos. Back then, the Akçay River was actually called the Harpasos River.
The altar dedicated to Harpasos is now located at the Aydin Museum in Turkey. It is 1.5 feet (0.45 m) wide and two feet (0.61 meters) high, and has an inscription in Greek that reads: “According to a dream, Flavius Ouliades set this up to the god Harpasos.”
Based on the dedication, it appears as though Flavius Ouliades – the person who built the marble altar – strongly believed in the river god Harpasos. In an article published in the journal Epigraphica Anatolica, Funda Ertugrul, an archaeologist with the Aydin Museum, and Hasan Malay, a professor at Ege University in Turkey, said that in his dream, Flavius Ouliades was requested to create the altar for the river god by Harpasos himself.
In exchange for protection and harvest from the river god, Ouliades likely promised to set up the marble altar for Harpasos, according to Ertugrul and Malay.
The warrior carved on the altar is shown nude, holding a shield in his left hand and a dagger in his right hand, and wearing only a helmet. A creature known as the Hydra – in Greek and Roman mythology the Hydra or Lernaean Hydra was a serpent-like water monster – is represented in the right lower corner of the altar. The creature looks like a snake with multiple heads, Ertugrul and Malay said.
In mythology it is said that Hercules actually fought a Hydra in a region in Greece known as Lerna, and he managed to kill the monster. After the Hydra died, the swamp where it lived was drained and used for agricultural purposes.
The man depicted on the altar, however, is not Hercules but his son called Bargasos, archaeologists say. Bargasos was the son of a woman named Barge and of Hercules. In his honour, the town in Turkey was named Bargasa.
Ertugrul and Malay said that Bargasos likely defeated the monster in battle, which led to the creation of Harpasos, the river god.
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