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Research Coins: Feature Auction

Sale: Triton V, Lot: 363. Estimate $1500. 
Closing Date: Wednesday, 16 January 2002. 
Sold For $2800. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

ATTICA, Athens . Circa 120's-140's AD. Æ Drachm (12.19 gm). Elaborately draped bust of Athena right, wearing Corinthian helmet with a high crest and decorated on the front with a small head, aegis on shoulder, long spear over left shoulder / AQH, owl seated high within an olive tree, a snake wrapped around the trunk of the tree; on the left stands Poseidon striding right and wielding a trident; on the right stands Athena walking left, raising her right hand and holding a shield on her left arm. Kroll 174; Svoronos pl. 89, 2; SNG Copenhagen -; BMC Attica pg. 98, 707; Laffaille -; Imhoof-Blumer and Gardner, "A Numismatic Commentary on Pausanias," in JHS 1887, pl. Z, Athens II, xi-xiv. EF, attractive light green patina, exceptional style, heavy flan. Very Rare. ($1500)

This statue group is one of two groups seen on the Acropolis by the Greek travel writer Pausanias (I. 24, 3-5) who observed: "Athena is represented displaying the olive plant, and Poseidon the wave......" and ".....those on the rear pediment represent the contest for the land between Athena and Poseidon".

In Athens and Attica Athena was blessed for the introduction of the olive tree, which she planted on the Acropolis when Poseidon disputed the sovereignty of the land with her. Athena summed the serpent-bodied King Kekrops as witness and judge as each deity competed to give Attica the best ‘token’ of their divinity that they could offer. Poseidon caused salt-water to spring up by throwing his trident into the ground, while Athena planted the olive tree, demanded and won possession of the land. Poseidon, true to type, took revenge by asking Zeus to smite Erechtheus with lightning and to flood the plain of Eleusis.

When Pausanias visited the sanctuary on Acropolis in about AD 160 he would have seen all the reputed relics from this myth, extraordinary even by Greek standards: the sacred olive tree protected by a snake in the Pandroseion, the salt sea-well and the hole in the roof above the trident mark in the Erechtheion and the tomb of Kekrops in the Kekropion.