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Research Coins: Feature Auction


Cabinet W
SICILY, Syracuse. Timoleon. 344-337 BC

Triton XV, Lot: 1016. Estimate $150000.
Sold for $190000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

SICILY, Syracuse. Timoleon. 344-337 BC. AR Stater (21mm, 8.62 g, 12h). IΕΥΣ ΕΛΕΥΘΕΡΙΟΣ, Laureate head of Zeus to left / ΣΥΡΑΚΟΣΙΩΝ, Pegasos flying to left; below, retrograde Σ. Rizzo pl. LVIII, 2 (Naples, from the Santangelo collection) = A. du Chastel, Syracuse (London, 1898), 130 (same dies). Extremely rare, the second example known. A magnificent and beautifully toned coin with superb head of Zeus of the very finest late Classical style. Some minor edge bumps from the striking process, otherwise, a magnificent, well-nigh perfect coin, FDC.

Purchased privately from Tradart in 2004. Ex Tkalec, 25 October 1996, 15 (illustrated on the front cover).

This is surely one of the most beautiful coins to have been struck by Syracuse. The obverse die was cut by a master engraver of exceptional talent who created a head of Zeus Eleutherios (Zeus the Liberator), which is of great majesty and conveys an aura of serene power. This engraver probably also created some of the dies for the gold tristaters and the large bronze dilitra that were also struck in Syracuse under Timoleon: others were made by his followers. He must have been familiar with contemporary work elsewhere, especially in Greece, as in Megalopolis and, especially, in Olympia. In fact, there are so many parallels between the head of Zeus on this coin and that on the unique stater of Olympia once in the Käppeli collection (= Leu 90, 10 May 2004, 133 - note especially the curls in the beard) that the same engraver almost certainly was responsible for both of them. No doubt Timoleon, who had been chosen by the Corinthians to lead a force to aid the Syracusans during a period of strife, could well have brought this artist-engraver along in his train (his expedition was financed by large issues of Corinthian and Corinthian-type staters so having an engraver and other mint personnel would have been sensible). Even the figure of Pegasos on the reverse is unusually well made. Why so few of these staters were struck is unclear - perhaps normal staters of Corinthian type were much more acceptable in trade; or perhaps these special Zeus staters were made as a limited issue donative for officials or important citizens.