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Exceptional Bisaltai Oktadrachm


THRACO-MACEDONIAN TRIBES, Bisaltai. Circa 475-465 BC. AR Oktadrachm (33mm, 28.68 g). Horse walking right, bridle held by nude warrior in background, walking right, wearing petasos and holding two spears, 15sÅ-lT5k around / Quadripartite incuse square. Peykov A3060 (this coin illustrated); Topalov 33; HPM pl. XI, 5-6 var. (breaks in ethnic); AMNG III/2, 4 var. (same); SNG ANS –; SNG Ashmolean 2242 var. (same). Superb EF, lightly toned. Boldly struck on excellent metal.

From the America Collection. Ex Triton XVIII (6 January 2015), lot 427; Mieza Collection (Nomos 7, 15 May 2013), lot 33; Triton XI (8 January 2008), lot 100.

The Bisaltai were a tribe of Pelasgian or Thracian origin and occupied the territory between the rivers Echedoros and Strymon, including the metalliferous mountains which separate the territory of the Bisaltai from the territory of the Krestonioi and Mygonia on the west (Hdt. 7.115). At the time of the invasion of Xerxes in 480 BC, the Bisaltai were governed by a Thracian ruler who was independent of Macedonian influence, and refused to assist the Great King of Persia when his army crossed Thrace to invade mainland Greece. At some point after the Persian retreat, Alexander I of Macedon, who was in the service of Persians as early as 492 BC, annexed the territory as far as the Strymon Valley. Capturing its rich silver mines, he issued the first regal Macedonian coinage, which is indistinguishable from the Bisaltian but for the placing of his own name. The absence of Bisaltai oktadrachms in the Asyut hoard led Price and Waggoner to suggest a mintage date of circa 475-465 BC. This coinage was terminated about the same time as the disaster at Drabeskos in 465/4 BC, in which the Athenian colonists of Ennea Hodoi (later Amphipolis) were exterminated by the native Thracians, though it is unknown whether this coinage is directly related to the Bisaltai’s involvement in this conflict.