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Research Coins: Feature Auction

CNG 91, Lot: 161. Estimate $300.
Sold for $475. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

EPEIROS, The Molossi. Circa 400-350 BC. Æ (16mm, 5.61 g, 9h). Helmeted head of Athena right / Eagle standing left. Franke 7 (V6/R5); SNG Copenhagen 51 var. (obv. type left); BMC 2 (same rev. die). VF, dark green-brown patina. Very rare, Franke cites 14 examples, but only two in private hands.

From the Greenpoint Collection.

The Molossoi were a tribe that inhabited Epeiros since the the late Bronze Age. According to Greek mythology, the Molossoi were the descendants of Molossos, one of the three sons of Neoptolemos, himself the son of Achilles and Deidameia. Following the Trojan War, Neoptolemos settled in Epeiros along with his army, eventually intermarrying with with the local population. When Neoptolemos was killed by Agamemnon's son, Orestes, the kingdom passed to Helenos, the son of Priam and Hecuba of Troy. Molossos then inherited the kingdom of Epeiros upon the death of Helenos. A possible connection between the Molossoi and the ancient Pelasgoi (who settled much of Central Greece) may be seen in some historical accounts that the first king of the Molossoi was Phaethon, a companion who came into Epeirus with Pelasgos. According to Plutarch (Vit. Pyrrh.), Deucalion and Pyrrha, having set up the worship of Zeus at Dodona, settled among the Molossoi. The Molossoi were members of the Epeirote League until the Third Macedonian War (171–168 BC), when they opposed Rome. As a result, 150,000 Molossoi were enslaved, while the territory was annexed into the Roman Empire. They were renowned for their breed of dogs, used by shepherds to guard their flocks and employed for hunting and protection. The modern breed of mastiff is its descendent, and the term Molosser used to denote the general type echoes that ancestry. The most famous member of the Molossian royal house (Aiakidai) was Pyrrhos (319/18-272 BC); although Olympias, the mother of Alexander the Great, also claimed a familial connection.