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Research Coins: Affiliated Auction

Sale: Nomos 2, Lot: 71. Estimate CHF40000. 
Closing Date: Monday, 17 May 2010. 
Sold For CHF36000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

BOEOTIA, Federal Coinage. Circa 287 BC. Tetradrachm (Silver, 17.13 g 12), Thebes. Laureate head of Zeus to right. Rev. ΒΟΙΩΤΩΝ Poseidon, seated left on throne with a lion’s leg on the front and a Boeotian shield on the side, holding dolphin in his right hand and transverse trident in his left. BCD Boiotia 81 (same reverse die). De Luynes 1980 (same obverse die). Gulbenkian 920=Jameson 2065=Weber 3305 (same reverse die). Extremely rare. Minor area of striking flatness on the beard, nearly extremely fine.

Ex Triton XI, 8 January 2008, 147.

The identification of the head on the obverse of this coin has long been the object of debate, though some of the arguments seem rather odd. In the magisterial BCD Boiotia (Triton IX, 10 January 2006, lot 81) its learned author identifies the head as that of Poseidon wearing a laurel wreath and says he has done so following the arguments of Jenkins in the Gulbenkian catalogue. Unfortunately, Jenkins actually provides no arguments there at all, and is himself merely following Jameson and HN (though there the identification, p. 353, appears as “Poseidon ?”; earlier, in 1884, the same author, in BMC Boeotia, p. 38, 63, identified the head on the coin as that of Zeus). In Garrett, the source of the BCD specimen, the head was also identified as being that of Zeus. The specimens that appeared as Triton VIII, 298 and M&M De 31, 36 were both well made forgeries from the same die pair; for what it’s worth, both cataloguers identified the personage on the obverse as Zeus. Even more interestingly, as BCD points out, the head on the obverse of this coin is clearly not the same as the head of the seated god on the reverse: the latter is definitely Poseidon since he carries a dolphin and a trident, but he seems not to be wearing a wreath (or if he is, it has much longer leaves than the one that appears on the obverse). And why should Poseidon be wearing a laurel wreath at all? In honor of his brother Zeus, who always wore one? It is infinitely more likely that the god on the obverse is Zeus, as nearly everyone thought it was in the past.