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Triton XXIII – Session Two – Greek Coinage Part II through Roman Imperial Coinage Part I

Lot nuber 453

SOUTHERN ASIA MINOR, Uncertain. Circa 465-430 BC. AR Stater (20mm, 10.80 g, 4h).


Triton XXIII – Session Two – Greek Coinage Part II through Roman Imperial Coinage Part I
Lot: 453.
 Estimated: $ 1 500

Greek, Silver

Sold For $ 4 000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

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SOUTHERN ASIA MINOR, Uncertain. Circa 465-430 BC. AR Stater (20mm, 10.80 g, 4h). Crenelated city wall with three towers / Forepart of bull advancing right within incuse square. Naumann 70, lot 106 (same dies); Savoca Online Auction 30, lot 163 (same dies); Bertolami 68, lot 855 (same dies); otherwise unpublished in the standard references. Lightly toned. Good VF. Well centered. Extremely rare without subsidiary symbol on reverse.

Such staters of wall/bull forepart type were unknown until recently, with the majority having a subsidiary symbol appearing in the field on the reverse (cf. Nomos 18, lot 202). Many of these have been attributed in catalogs to Tarsos in Cilicia, based primarily on the reverse symbol, which some catalogers have connected to a similar symbol that appears on a few early issues at Tarsos (cf. SNG BN 215 and 207). Not only are these symbols slightly different, the assumption that they serve as a designator of the city of Tarsos is highly unlikely. The city ethnic, in Aramaic, is almost always found on the coins struck in Tarsos during the Persian period, even on a number of issues where this very symbol is also used (cf. CNG E-447, lot 141). What is more likely is that these controls, which Casabonne simply calls "linear symbols," is a family or personal tamgha belonging to the Syennesis kings of Tarsos; such tamghas are well-attested on coins of this period of Asia Minor under the Persians (see, e.g., Winzer 8.2 [Prokles] and Traité II pp. 90–8 [the Gongylids]).

In fact, the very symbol that appears on the early Tarsos coins is known on coins from northwestern Asia Minor that are traditionally attributed to the satrap Spithradates (cf. Winzer 19.4–5). Certainly, the catalogers who consider this symbol to be representative of the city of Tarsos would not reattribute these coins of Spithradates to Cilicia! Thus, even the use of identical symbols cannot be used in isolation as a means of attribution. Of course, the two symbols under discussion here are not identical, either. Both have a central shaft terminating at one end in a circle. On the coins of Tarsos, the other end of the shaft terminates in a perpendicular line, while the shaft on the present type typically bisects the perpendicular line, continues a short distance before ending. While this slight difference may seem trivial, such minutiae are significant when comparing tamghas.

Admittedly, the characteristics of the flan are compatible with the early issues of Tarsos, but they also are compatible with most every other city that issued contemporarily along the southern coast of Asia Minor. Typologically, there is also a similarity, but yet tangential. A bull does appear on a few early Tarsian issues, but as part of the common lion-attacking-bull motif, not as a general type that appears on any issue from that city (nor does a lion, for that matter). A similar situation exists for the wall. It appears in a couple, albeit much later, issues, but as a secondary symbol, either surrounding Baal on the obverse, or appearing below the lion-attacking-bull motif on the reverse. Like the bull, it never appears as a primary type. When looking over the full range of the early issues of Tarsos (see Casabonne pp. 124–6), though, it is very apparent that the present stater simply does not fit in with the scheme of coinage.

Another interesting aspect of the present issue is the fact that it is known both to have been overstruck by the early warrior/triskeles issues at Aspendos in Pamphylia (cf. CNG E-432, lot 82), but it also is known to have been overstruck on the same issues from Aspendos (cf. Heritage 3073, lot 30159, and Naumann 78, lot 131)! Not only does such overstriking substantiate the dating of the present issue, it suggests a strong link between the sources of the two issues. No other coins of Tarsos are known to have been overstruck on or by coins of Aspendos. Since the Aspendos series may have been struck during the time it was a member of the Delian League, c. 450 BC (if the restoration of the assessment decree of 425/4 BC is correct), it is possible that the mint of the present staters may also have been a member of the Delian League. Tarsos was never a member of the League. In any event, the only plausible time for this dual overstriking to have occurred between the two cities would be circa 401 BC, when Aspendos may have been under the control of Cilicia (cf. Xen. An. 1.2.12), but such a date would be highly unlikely for any of the issues involved.

The final winners of all Triton XXIII lots will be determined at the live public sale that will be held on 14-15 January 2020. Triton XXIII – Session Two – Greek Coinage Part II through Roman Imperial Coinage Part I will be held Tuesday afternoon, 14 January 2020 beginning at 2:00 PM ET.

Winning bids are subject to a 20% buyer's fee for bids placed on this website and in person at the public auction, 22.50% for all others.