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Superb, Lustrous Messana

494989. Sold For $18500

SICILY, Messana. 425-421 BC. AR Tetradrachm (25mm, 17.33 g, 12h). Charioteer, holding reins in both hands, driving slow biga of mules right; above, Nike advancing right on reins, crowning mules with open laurel wreath held in both hands; in exergue, two dolphins confronted / Hare springing right; below, dolphin right; MEΣ-Σ-A-N-IO-N around. Caltabiano Series XIII, 488 (D199/R199); HGC 2, 787; Bement 408 (same dies); Dewing 652 (same dies); Hunterian 10 (same dies). Even deep golden tone with dark iridescence around the devices. In NGC encapsulation 4284629-01, graded Choice AU, Strike: 5/5, Surface: 5/5, Fine Style. Well centered and struck.

From the Gasvoda Collection. Ex Nomos 9 (20 October 2014), lot 52.

The designs of ancient Greek coins were carefully chosen to advance the image and civic pride of the issuing city. Messana, located on the northwest corner of Sicily and the third most populous city on the island, chose as its civic badges a chariot pulled by a pair of mules (biga) and a leaping hare. The symbolism of the mule biga is obvious: In 484 or 480 BC, a mule team from Messana won the Olympic Games in the event known as the anape (mule biga race); naturally, civic pride prompted the Messenians to advertise the victory on their coinage. The two dolphins nose-to-nose below the chariot probably refer to Messana’s military alliance with Syracuse. As for the leaping hare, this animal was sacred to the god Pan, who had a temple in Messana and was widely worshipped there. The dolphin below the hare harks back to the original name of Messana, Zankle ("sickle"), so named for its crescent-shaped harbor, of which the leaping dolphin's arched shape became a visual allegory.