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Research Coins: Feature Auction

 
89000095

Iolkos

Triton XV, Lot: 95. Estimate $400.
Sold for $1700. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Iolkos (IACP 449)

Located in central Magnesia north of the Pagasetic Gulf and at the foot of Mt. Pelion, the site of ancient Iolkos may be the modern village of Dimini, which is now part of the modern municipality of Volos. Numerous excavations on the site have uncovered the remains of Neolithic settlement there and several Mycenaean-period tombs. In 2009, the remains of a Mycenaean palace were discovered, which may have been the site of the mythological kings of Iolkos.

In Greek mythology, Aison, the rightful king of Iolkos, was removed from the throne by his half-brother, Pelias, whose ambition was to gain control of all Thessaly. Soon after taking the throne, Pelias was warned that he would be overthrown by a man wearing one sandal. In the meantime, Aison's youngest son, Jason, who was still an infant, had been spirited away for his protection. When Jason came to young manhood, he returned to Iolkos to press his rightful claim to the throne. While on the way there, he lost one of his sandals while helping an old woman (the goddess Hera in disguise) ford the Anauros River. Recognizing that the warning was now coming to fulfillment, Pelias declared that he would cede the throne if Jason successfully recovered the Golden Fleece from Colchis at the end of the world. Accepting the challenge, Jason assembled a group of heroes (some of whom were the fathers of the Greek heroes at Troy), and sailed with them on a specially-constructed ship called the Argo - hence these heroes were called the Argonauts. After a number of adventures on the way, Jason and the Argonauts made their way to Colchis. There, King Aietes ordered Jason to perform a series of difficult labors in order to gain the Fleece. Jason was assisted by the king's daughter, Medea, who was renowned as a sorceress (she was, in fact, the niece of Kirke), and who had fallen in love with the handsome young hero. Through her help, Jason was able to take the Golden Fleece and escape from Colchis successfully by murdering and dismembering her brother. Returning to Iolkos, Medea again assisted Jason (by this point, the two were "married") in taking the throne, this time by having the daughters of Pelias dismember and cook their father in a magical stew, whereby they believed he might be rejuvenated. Horrified by this, Pelias' son Akastos (now holding the throne), drove the couple into exile for the murder, and the couple settled in Corinth. Ultimately, Jason tried to wriggle out of his "marriage", so that he could marry Glauke, the daughter of the king of Corinth. In revenge (and as recounted by the tragedy of Euripides), Medea revenged herself on Jason, by murdering Glauke (with a caustic wedding garment), as well as Medea's children whom she had by Jason. According to Euripides, Medea then fled to Athens on a golden chariot drawn by winged serpents, where its king, Aigeus, had offered her sanctuary. Jason, on the other hand, fared not so well. Now rejected by everyone, he returned to the site of his former glory, the Argo. There, he was killed by part of it which fell on him while he slept in the shadow of its rotting hulk.

The only known coinage of this city consists of some extremely rare bronzes of the mid 4th century.

THESSALY, Iolkos. Mid to late 4th century BC. Æ Chalkous (13mm, 2.26 g, 12h). Head of Artemis Iolkia r., wearing pendant earring and necklace, her hair done up in the “melon” style and gathered in a bun at the back of her head / [Ι]ΟΛΚΙΩΝ, prow of galley Argo l., a branch with a leaf attached to the stem post. Liampi, Iolkos, p. 24, 1b and pl. 3, 1b (this coin, illustrated); see also Nomos 4, 1066 (same dies); CNG e-sale 239 (25 August 2010) 74. Good VF, smooth dark green patina, extremely rare, one of six known and missing from all public collections.

Reading the ethnic on the reverse of the Iolkos coin for the first time and realizing that one holds in his hands a unique coin is the kind of treat especially reserved for specialized collectors who can immediately recognize such coins. That the coin was minted in a city known from mythology books and Homer means that all ancient coin collectors can appreciate and share the joy of such an occasion. For this writer, the particular event will remain etched in his memory and will always be a source of intense pleasure when recalled. Such moments can never be taken away from us - and I am sure I am speaking for all collectors - no matter how many adverse laws are passed and in spite of all the contemptible efforts to suppress ancient coin collecting. Because this hobby is not only about buying and selling these little pieces of happiness, it is also about the joys of discovery and about sharing these special moments with others who feel the same way about ancient coin collecting.