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Research Coins: Feature Auction

Sale: CNG 73, Lot: 243. Estimate $25000. 
Closing Date: Wednesday, 13 September 2006. 
Sold For $28500. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

BOEOTIA, Thebes. Circa 450-425 BC. AR Stater (12.02 g). Boeotian shield / Dionysos, wearing short chiton and himation flowing behind, running-dancing right, head turned left, holding thyrsos in right hand above his head and kantharos in left hand; archaic QEBAIO-N downward on right; all within incuse square. BCD Boiotia 419 (same dies); Myron Hoard pl. A, 30 (same dies). Good VF, minor die wear on obverse. Extremely rare.

Dionysos seems to be both running and dancing on the reverse of this powerfully engraved coin. Although the coin he could examine at the time was so worn that he saw a Herakles holding a club instead of Dionysos holding a thyrsos, Head (Boeotia, p. 32) described the scene as "kneeling right and looking back" rather than "running". The writer prefers to see this posture as having some ritualistic significance connected with Dionysiac dancing, known for its controlled and syncopated movements; something like watching a movie with only a couple of frames per second. This style of dancing, always accompanied by a trance-like state (something between ecstasy and a feeling of mental and physical abandon) has been carried over to our times and can still be witnessed occasionally in today's solo male dancing at the various bouzouki places in the outskirts of Athens and other Greek cities.