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Research Coins: Affiliated Auction

Sale: Nomos 3 & 4, Lot: 1121. Estimate CHF500. 
Closing Date: Monday, 9 May 2011. 
Sold For CHF8500. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

THESSALY, Larissa. Circa 420-400 BC. Trihemiobol (Silver, 0.99 g 6). Head of a horned and bearded river-god facing front. Rev. Λ - Α Head of the nymph Larissa to right, her hair bound up at the back; all within an incuse square. Apparently unique and unpublished. Lightly toned but with corroded surfaces. Nearly very fine.

An extraordinary piece, hitherto unknown. This is another enigma because its types are so unusual. Why Larissa should produce a coin bearing the head of a river-god is uncertain, but it is presumably the Pineios,which was near the city - the usual water symbolism on Larissa’s coinage tends to be fountain spouts and hydria, pots designed to carry water. The female head on the reverse is similar to female heads on the coinage of Larissa, but it is not so close that it can be ranked with any larger denomination. If it were not for the coin’s clearly Thessalian origins we would be tempted to think that this coin does not come from Larissa at all, but since it is even less likely to have come from either Lamia or Larissa Kremaste, with Larissa it stays! A note from BCD: The improvisation that took place towards the end of the 5th century in the workings of the Larissa mint was remarkable. This was the time when a desperate and humiliated Athens conceded defeat and surrendered to Sparta at the end of the Peloponnesian War. It would therefore be quite normal for a number of disillusioned Athenians, artists amongst them, to leave the city and go north in search of a better life amongst the people who were their allies and friends during the war. Larissa was a vibrant and thriving city and the mint would be willing to try out the work of any die engraver who had something original to offer. It could well be that the head on the reverse of this coin, inaugurating the appearance of the “nymph’s head” that, initially in profile and later “en face”, typified the city’s coinage for the ensuing decades, was sculpted by an Athenian celator.