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Research Coins: Feature Auction

 
91000209
CNG 91, Lot: 209. Estimate $500.
Sold for $1500. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

ARKADIA, Orchomenos. Circa 370-340 BC. Æ Dichalkon (18mm, 5.54 g, 10h). Artemis kneeling right, holding bow; to left, hound seated right / Kallisto seated left, falling backwards with arms outstretched, an arrow piercing her breast; below, the infant Arkas lying on his back, reaching upward toward Kallisto. BCD Peloponnesos 1575; HGC 5, 958. VF, dark green patina. Rare, and much better than the BCD example.


One of the nymphs who was a companion of Artemis, Kallisto was transformed into a bear and set among the stars, and, through her son Arkas, became the "bear-mother" of the Arkadians. The personage and mythology of Kallisto made have been a later addition, since the nymph's name may derive from Kallistê (Καλλίστη), an epithet of Artemis, and the association with the bear from cult of Artemis Brauron, where its participants (prepubescent girls) were known as arktoi (αἱ ἄρκτοι), or "bears".

According to a fragment of Hesiod's lost work, Astronomoi (Eratosth [Cat.], frag. 1:2), and later retold by the Roman poet, Ovid (Met. 2.405-531), Kallisto was the daughter of Lykaon, the king of Arkadia. Vowing to remain a virgin, she became a companion of Artemis. Zeus, however, eventually became enamored of Kallisto, and impregnated her. Kallisto's pregnancy was soon discovered when she was seen bathing. Angered by this, Artemis – perhaps at the insistence of Juno, according to Ovid – transformed the nymph into a bear; as a bear, Kallisto gave birth to a son who named Arkas and who became the eponymous founder of the Arkadians. Subsequently, either Artemis slew Kallisto, or it was Arkas himself who unwittingly did it, when his bear-mother wandered into a forbidden precinct of Zeus, or was stopped at the last moment. In recompense, Zeus then set both mother and son in the heavens as constellations – Ursa Major and Ursa Minor.