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Research Coins: Feature Auction

Sale: Triton V, Lot: 1735. Estimate $5000. 
Closing Date: Wednesday, 16 January 2002. 
Sold For $24000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

PHRYGIA, Apamea. Gordian III. 238-244 AD. Æ 39mm (27.51 gm). AVT K M AN GOPÐIANO-C, radiate, draped and cuirassed bust right, seen from behind / PAR A-AKC-IOV PAN, APAMEW/N in two lines in exergue, representation of the story of Noah: to right, upper parts to waist, tunicate and stolate respectively, of Noah and his wife, latter also veiled, seen standing left in enclosing square chest (Lat., arca; Gr. kibotos) with raised lid on which perches a raven (?) right, facing left; floating on waves and inscribed with NWE; to left, standing figures, as above but full-length, of Noah and spouse, gazing upwards, latter outermost, and raising right hands, elbows bent, in salutation to dove flying right above them, grasping olive-branch in claws. SNG von Aulock 8347 = Kraft pl. 52, 17 (this coin). VF, dark green-brown patina, surfaces a little rough. Extremely rare. ($5000)

From the Robert Schonwalter Collection.

Apameia, a Seleukid foundation at the headwaters of the Maeander where many trade-routes crossed, was a grand entrepôt, as its epithet kibotos, packing-case, attests, forwarding goods from the east and the interior to the ports of Ionia and Mysia. The present coin is not the only class of Apameian coin to show its commercial emblem; BMC 155-7 present the patron satyr Marsyas in a cave full of large boxes. The Latin arca, ark, usually means a treasure chest, like that which bore Danae pregnant with Perseus by Zeus as a shower of gold, across the sea (Ovid. Met. 4.694-700). The money-minded Apameians would therefore have been well aware of the ancient myth that located the stranded ark (a boat, surely, rather than a box) of Noah on the slopes of nearby Mt. Ararat. The tale exists not only as a biblical legend but one that was current in many forms, the oldest of which is to be found in the tale of the demigod and king, Gilgamesh of Uruk, of about 3000 BC (where "Noah" is called Ut-Napishtim). We should perhaps see these Noah coins as punning tokens or souvenir medallions designed to keep the name and fame of the city in the public eye while drawing in as visitors the many Christians and Jews who, by the third century, thronged Asia, and were already denounced by Pliny in Trajan’s time (Ep. 96f). Head, HN pg. 666, supposes the type to have been copied from a painting in the city, and SNG von Aulock 3515 suggests that the design was perhaps derived from a statuary group. It is worth noting that, with the exception of Septimius Severus who in 202 banned Jewish and Christian conversion, every emperor known to have struck this type was either indifferent to or, like Alexander or Gordian III, had an interest in Christianity.