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Research Coins: Affiliated Auction

Sale: Nomos 8, Lot: 52. Estimate CHF75000. 
Closing Date: Monday, 21 October 2013. 
Sold For CHF500000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

SICILY, Syracuse. Last decade of the 5th century BC. Tetradrachm (Silver, 28mm, 16.56 g 7), signed by the engraver Eukleidas on the reverse, c. 410/405-400 BC. Quadriga galloping to left, driven by a goddess (Persephone?) holding the reins in her left hand and a torch in her right; above, Nike flying right to crown the driver; in exergue, grain ear to left. Rev. Σ]ΥΡΑΚ[Ο]ΣΙΩΝ Head of Athena facing, turned slightly to the left, wearing a triple-crested Attic helmet adorned with palmettes, a double-spiral earring and a necklace of pendant acorns with a gorgoneion at the center; across the helmet bowl, ΕΥ-Κ/ΛΕΙΔ-Α; around, four dolphins. Basel 464. Gulbenkian 282. Kraay / Hirmer 111. Rizzo pls. XLIII, 22 and XLV, 4a and 5. Tudeer 58 (all same dies). Wealth of the Ancient World 81 (this coin. Very rare. An important and innovative coin with one of the most successful facing heads in all of Greek coinage. Toned and attractive. Obverse a little off center and with some slight remains of corrosion, otherwise, very fine/extremely fine.

From the B. in B. Collection, ex Sotheby’s, 8 July 1996, 23 and from the collections of N. B. Hunt I, Sotheby’s 19 June 1990, 81, S. Weintraub and C. Gillet, Bank Leu/Münzen und Medaillen, “Kunstfreund”, 28 May 1974, 120.

One of the great coins of the late 5th century BC, this is a prime example of the kind of spectacular workmanship that the Sicilian cities used to enable their coins to advertise their wealth and power. It has been suggested that the head on this coin is not that of Athena, but of Arethusa wearing Athena’s helmet, in celebration of the Syracusan triumph over the Athenians. However, would Arethusa not only be wearing Athena’s helmet but her necklace as well? This seems really unlikely. In fact, Athena was honored at Syracuse: a sanctuary was erected to her on the Ortygia to commemorate the Syracusan triumph over the Carthaginians in 480 BC. At around the time this coin was issued Sicily was facing yet another Carthaginian invasion - which resulted in the destruction of Akragas - so a coinage honoring Athena would be quite appropriate. As for the date of this coin, it is surely late 5th century, but whether it was struck during the last years of the Democracy, or shortly after Dionysos I (405-367 BC) seized power is uncertain.