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Historical Article

Attica, Athens - Didrachm of Starr Group IIc



The historical context of this Athenian didrachm, as well as concomitant tetradrachms and celebrated dekadrachms of the same class, has been the matter of much debate. The evidence from the 'Dekadrachm Hoard' confirms the picture suggested by Kraay (ACGC, pp. 66-68), of a rapid evolution from Starr Groups II to V. The relative state of wear on the coins in the hoard, with Group II being, generally, about extremely fine and Group V being mostly mint state, clearly demonstrated that only a short period elapsed between the former and the latter. The key historical dates are the battle of the Eurymedon River in 467 BC, where the Persian booty was enormous and is attested to have been distributed (Plutarch, Kimon 13. 6-8), and the capture of Thasos and its mines in 463/2 BC, where the plunder may be assumed to have been very substantial (Plutarch, op. cit. 14. 2). It is now generally accepted that the didrachms, tetradrachms, and dekadrachms of Class II must have been struck in the 460s BC, and it seems clear that such exceptional and compact issues must have served some special function.

According to the comprehensive census conducted by Harald Salvesen (The Celator, vol. 10, no. 2 [February 1996], p. 6-7), the total of known Athenian didrachms is 42, with only 10 in private hands and three unaccounted for.

ATTICA, Athens. Circa 475-465 BC. AR Didrachm (8.49 gm). Head of Athena right, wearing crested Attic helmet decorated with three olive leaves over visor and spiral palmette on the bowl / Owl standing right, head facing; olive sprig behind; all within an incuse square. Starr Group IIc, 76 (same obverse die); Dewing -; SNG Copenhagen 30.