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CNG Feature Auction 115

Lot nuber 491

EGYPT, Alexandria. Antoninus Pius. AD 138-161. Æ Drachm (33.5mm, 25.11 g, 12h). Dated RY 5 (AD 141/142).

CNG Feature Auction 115
Lot: 491.
 Estimated: $ 2 000

Roman Provincial, Bronze

Sold For $ 3 250. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Go to Live

EGYPT, Alexandria. Antoninus Pius. AD 138-161. Æ Drachm (33.5mm, 25.11 g, 12h). Dated RY 5 (AD 141/142). Laureate head right / Plowman (constellation Boötes?), wearing pileus, driving team of oxen left; L Є (date) in exergue. Köln 1407 (same dies); Dattari (Savio) 2985 (same dies); BMC 1091 (rev. only illustrated; same die); K&G 35.153; RPC IV.4 Online 14832/6 (this coin cited and illustrated); Emmett 1639.5 (R4). Smooth brown patina with traces of green. Near VF. Extremely rare, the authors of RPC Online cite only ten specimens, including this coin, with five of those in museum collections.

From the Stein A. Evensen Collection. Ex Collection CR (Classical Numismatic Group 85, 15 September 2010), lot 714.

The Great Sothic Cycle was a calendrical cycle based on the heliacal rising in July of the star Sirius (known to the Greeks as Sothis) and lasting approximately 1460 years. According to ancient Egyptian mythology, in a Golden Age, the beginning of the flooding of the Nile coincided exactly with the rising of Sirius, which was reckoned as the New Year. Only once every 1460 years did Sirius rise at exactly the same time. Thus, the coincidence of this along with the concurrent beginning of the flooding of the Nile gave the event major cosmological significance by heralding not just the beginning of a new year, but the beginning of a new eon. This event also was thought to herald the appearance of the phoenix, a mythological bird which was reborn every 500 to 1000 years out of its own ashes. According to one version of the myth, each new phoenix embalmed its old ashes in an egg of myrrh, which it then deposited in the Egyptian city of Heliopolis. So important was the advent of the new Great Sothic Cycle, both to the realignment of the heavens and its signaling of the annual flooding of the Nile, that the Egyptians celebrated it in a five-day festival, which emphasized the important cosmological significance.

In the third year of the reign of Antoninus Pius (AD 139/140), a new Great Sothic Cycle began. To mark this event, the mint of Alexandria struck an extensive series of coinage, especially in large bronze drachms, each related in some astrological way to the reordering of the heavens during the advent of the new Great Sothic Cycle. By the time that these coins were issued, the Egyptian names for the various constellations had been replaced by those more familiar to the Greeks and Romans. Among the issues struck during this time was this extremely rare type depicting a plowman, which may refer to the constellation Boötes, the mythological figure who invented the plow. Since the appearance of Sirius heralded the beginning of the Nile’s flooding, which deposited a rich alluvial layer of mud on the fields, necessary for the growing of grain, the inclusion of the constellation associated with the originator of the plow would have made perfect sense, given the agricultural significance of the Great Sothic Cycle and the importance of Egypt in providing grain to the rest of the empire.

The final winners of all CNG Feature Auction 115 lots will be determined during the live online sale that will be held on 16-17 September 2020. This lot is in Session 2, which begins 16 September 2020 at 2 PM ET.

Winning bids are subject to a 20% buyer's fee for bids placed on this website and 22.50% for all others.

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