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Research Coins: Affiliated Auction

 
90041056
Sale: Nomos 3 & 4, Lot: 1056. Estimate CHF350. 
Closing Date: Monday, 9 May 2011. 
Sold For CHF3200. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

THESSALY, Halos. Circa 360s-340s BC. Chalkous (Bronze, 16.5mm, 3.71 g 3). Laureate head of Zeus Laphystios to right; before head, thunderbolt. Rev. ΑΛ / Ε / ΝΩ (partially retrograde) Helle, draped but with prominent breasts, seated on ram to right, holding her right hand on the ram’s head and her left on his back. H. Reinder Reinders, New Halos, Utrecht 1988, Series 1 (these dies). Rogers 238. Extremely rare. A piece of fine style with a dark patina. Nearly extremely fine.


The chief god of Halos was Zeus Laphystios (the Devourer), a storm god whose epithet may mean that he received human sacrifices in early times. The scene on the reverse of this coin shows the figure of Helle, the twin-sister of Phrixos. They were the children of the Boiotian king Athamas and the cloud goddess Nephele, whom Athamas later divorced to marry Ino of Thebes. She, in turn, after giving birth to her own children, was jealous of Helle and Phrixos and hatched a plot to have them sacrificed. In true dea ex machina fashion, Nephele sent a golden flying ram out of her clouds for the two children to escape upon: unfortunately Helle fell off and drowned in what was from then on called the Hellespont. Why she should, in fact, appear on this coin is a mystery that Babelon suggests may, in fact, just be a pun (i.e, Helle - Halos, though this is not exactly convincing). The reason why Helle and Phrixos are on the coinage of Halos is that Athamas, the father of this amazing brood of generally not terribly happy children, had founded Halos and, perhaps, they thought putting his children on the coins was more interesting than putting him on them (oddly enough, one of Ino’s children was Melicertes, who appears on coins riding on a dolphin: the family certainly had aquatic connections).
A note from BCD: The rarity of this piece when compared to the Hellenistic issues of Halos (below, lots 1057-1059) is nothing short of astounding. Apparently very few of these early, fine style coins survived the move of the city from its originally elevated location to the plain below, near the sea, where the Dutch School excavated ‘New Halos’ (and have now published in an exemplary manner).