The phrase "kyprios character" is attested in Aeschylus’ Suppliants, 282-283:
Κύπριος χαρακτὴρ τ’ἐν γυναικείοις τύποις
εἰκὼς πέπληκται τεκτόνων πρὸς ἀρσένων
King Pelasgus makes use of this couplet while commenting on the unusual appearance of Danaus’ daughters, which is remarkably different from that of Argive women. The precise content, the function, even the genuineness of these verses have been discussed extensively, leading to diverse philological interpretations.1 It seems that "kyprios character" in Aeschylus’ Suppliants relates to Cyprian fathers who impregnate Cyprian mothers procreating children to whom the Danaides resemble, according to Pelasgus. This particular interpretation of the dubious verse is also corroborated by the ancient scholia (καὶ γυναῖκες ἂν Κυπρίαι ἀνδράσι μιγεῖσαι τέκοιεν καθ’ὑμᾶς). The couplet has also long been recognized to contain a metaphor taken from coinage. The term character is used in the numismatic terminology to describe the obverse die, that is the engraved image in the negative of the obverse side of the coin, which was usually placed on an anvil and remained steady during the coin minting process. With the hit of the hammer that was positioned on top and on which was engraved the image of the reverse (the back side of the coin), the coin types were stamped on both sides of the weighted flan and transformed it into a coin.2
"Kyprios character" was adopted by the archaeological research already in the late 19th century, initially to denote the aesthetic peculiarities of Cypriote sculpture.3 The use of the term was gradually expanded to embrace the composite cultural identity of ancient Cyprus.4 Einar Gjerstad,5 one of the most dominating figures in Cypriote archaeology, used "kyprios character" to describe the multi-faceted stylistic and artistic features of ancient Cypriote artefacts. Even though these features were shaped under multiple influences, the material culture of Cyprus displayed a distinct character that is easily identified and that can be described as purely Cypriote. It is largely this ability to combine and regenerate cultural elements of different origins that makes Cyprus unique in the archaeological milieu of the ancient Mediterranean.
Text by: Bourogiannis, Giorgos
Gjerstad, E. 1948. The Swedish Cyprus Expedition IV.2. The Cypro-Geometric, Cypro-Archaic and Cypro-Classical Periods, Stockholm.
Hadjioannou, K. 1985. “On the interpretation of the Κύπριος Χαρακτήρ of Aeschylus”, στο Θ. Παπαδοπούλλου και Σ. Αχ. Χατζηστυλλή (ed.), Πρακτικά του Δεύτερου Διεθνούς Κυπρολογικού Συνεδρίου (Λευκωσία 20 – 25 Απριλίου 1982), Nicosia, 509-513.
Hadjistefanou, C. E. 1990. “Κύπριος χαρακτήρ in Aeschylus ‘Supplices’ 282-283: A new emendation and contextual interpretation”, Hermes 118, 282-291.
Hadjistyllis, S.A. 1985. “Κύπριος χαρακτήρ (Α. Supp. 282): A discussion of a new interpretation”, στο Θ. Παπαδοπούλλου και Σ. Αχ. Χατζηστυλλή (ed.), Πρακτικά του Δεύτερου Διεθνούς Κυπρολογικού Συνεδρίου (Λευκωσία 20 – 25 Απριλίου 1982), Nicosia, 515-520.
Johansen, H.F. and Whittle, E.W. 1980. Aeschylus: The Suppliants (vol. 1-2), Copenhagen.
Kraay, C.M. 1976. Archaic and Classical Greek Coins. Berkeley and Los Angeles.
Myres, J. 1899. Catalogue of the Cyprus Museum, Oxford.
Sommerstein, A.H. 1977. “Notes on Aeschylus’ Suppliants”, BICS 24, 1977, 67-82.
1 Sommerstein 1977, 69-70; Johansen and Whittle 1980; Hadjistyllis 1985; Hadjistefanou 1990.
2 Kraay 1976.
3 Myres 1899, 30.
4 Hadjioannou 1985.
5 Gjerstad 1948, 448.