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Research Coins: Feature Auction

 
89000627

Pharsalos

Triton XV, Lot: 627. Estimate $150.
Sold for $600. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Pharsalos (IACP 413)

Located in Phthia (which was the homeland of the Myrmidons, as well as Peleus, the father of Achilles), Pharsalos was the capital of that region's tetras (τετράς), and one of the major poleis of Thessaly. Continuously occupied since Neolithic times, its visible remains include a portion of a so-called Cyclopean Wall and a Mycenaean-period tomb. In the Archaic and Classical periods, Pharsalos was under the control of three major families – the Echekratidai, the Menonidai, and the Daochidai. At the time of the second invasion of Greece by the Persians (480-479 BC), the city was allied with Athens. During the so-called First Peloponnesian War (460-445 BC), the Athenians attempted to capture Pharsalos (which by then was outside of the influence of Athens), but failed, though both cities later became allies again. During the late 5th and early 4th centuries BC, Pharsalos was beset by such civil strife, that Polydamas was entrusted with supreme power over that city in 375 BC. Later, Polydamas concluded an agreement with Jason of Pherai, making Jason ταγός of Thessaly. Immediately following the assassination of of Jason in 370 BC, his successor, Polyphron, had Polydamas murdered along with eight other leading citizens of Pharsalos. For a period in the 4th century Pherai dominated the affairs of Pharsalos, but after the arrival of Philip II, the situation was reversed. Pharsalos received Halos in 346 as an outlet to the sea. In 323 BC, Pharsalos joined the revolt against Macedonia; as a result the Daochids were expelled by Antipater and the city lost its independence. During the Second (200-197 BC) and Third (171-168 BC) Macedonian Wars, Thessaly (now allied with Rome and, since 189 BC, a member of the Thessalian League) became the primary battleground, and the Thessalian cavalry (composed largely of horsemen from Pharsalos) frequently battled with the Macedonians. In 48 BC, the plains to the northwest of the city were the site of the Battle of Pharsalus, the decisive victory of Julius Caesar over the Pompey and the Republic (see Lucan, Bellum Civile, 7). After then, the town, although it remained a part of the Thessalian League, diminished in importance throughout the remainder of antiquity.

The coinage of Pharsalos has been studied by Stella Lavva (Die Münzprägung von Pharsalos [Saarbrücken, 2001]), but the reader is cautioned to approach it with a critical eye.

THESSALY, Pharsalos. Mid 5th century BC. AR Obol (10.5mm, 0.91 g, 1h). Head of Athena r., wearing earring and a crested Athenian helmet adorned with two coiled serpents / Φ-AR r. down, horse’s head and neck r., all in an incuse square. Lavva 4 e (this coin). VF, nicely toned; struck on a small flan.

The reason for placing the small denominations first in the order coins of most mints are listed is that this writer strongly believes that the coinage of a city was inaugurated with the striking of fractions before the bigger denominations made their appearance.