Archaeologists have announced the discovery of an ancient marble altar that depicts a warrior battling a serpent in Turkey. It dates back to around the second century AD and was found by villagers near the Akçay River in the south-eastern European country.
Although the archaeologists have had some difficulty in deciphering the message, the team from the Aydin Museum and Ege University believe it may show Hargasos, the son of Hercules, battling a river monster known as Hydra, in the hope of summoning a river god called Harpasos.
The altar is dedicated to Harpasos and at the time the river went by the same name. It was built by a man named Flavius Ouliades. A Greek inscription at the top of the altar, which measures 2ft high and 1.5ft wide, reads: "According to [a command in] a dream, Flavius Ouliades set this up to the [river] god Harpasos."
In an article published in Epigraphica Anatolica, the authors Hasan Malay, a professor at Ege University in Turkey, and Funda Ertugrul, an archaeologist with the Aydin Museum, wrote: "As a result of a communication with the river god Harpasos in a dream, Flavius Ouliades was requested to dedicate an altar," according to Live Science.
They theorise that the man may have built it if the river god listened to his requests "for a good harvest or protection (for himself or his animals) from flooding or falling down the steep slopes or cure from its healing waters".
"[The] scene on our altar may be a representation of a local myth telling about Bargasos' fight against the ravaging river with many arms," Malay and Ertugrul wrote. "The river turned into a beneficial deity [Harpasos], the recipient of our dedication."