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Feature Auction
CNG Feature Auction 117

Lot nuber 431

EGYPT, Alexandria. Antoninus Pius. AD 138-161. Æ Drachm (34.5mm, 24.71 g, 12h). Zodiac series. Dated RY 8 (AD 144/145).


CNG Feature Auction 117
Lot: 431.
 Estimated: $ 20 000

Roman Provincial, Coin-in-Hand Video, Bronze

Sold For $ 36 000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Go to Live

EGYPT, Alexandria. Antoninus Pius. AD 138-161. Æ Drachm (34.5mm, 24.71 g, 12h). Zodiac series. Dated RY 8 (AD 144/145). AYT K T AIΛ A∆P ANTωNINOC CЄB ЄYC, laureate head right / Zodiac wheel, with “Aries” at the top, around an inner circle with the conjoined busts left of Helios and Selene (with their typical attributes); not dated. Köln –; Dattari (Savio) 2983 var. (obv. bust type); K&G –; RPC IV.4 Online 16967; Emmett 1705.8 (R5). Attractive dark green surfaces with touches of red, hint of smoothing on obverse. EF. Extremely rare “Zodiac wheel” variety, none in CoinArchives, and the authors of RPC IV Online cite only one specimen, which appeared in the Leo Hamburger sale of 19 October 1925, as lot 992 (the Niklovitz collection). Our coin is certainly the finest known for this extremely rare variety, and overall one of the finest known Zodiac wheel types from Alexandria.

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 139/40), 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. This celebration would continue throughout Pius’ reign, with an immense output of coinage during the eighth year of his reign in Egypt, which included this coin type, part of the Zodiac series.

The authors of RPC IV Online question the authenticity of the Hamburger specimen, but as the photo is most likely of a cast of the coin, typical of auction catalogues of that era, it makes it difficult to condemn the coin. Our specimen is undoubtedly genuine, so the type does exist.

The final winners of all CNG Feature Auction 117 lots will be determined during the live online sale that will be held on 19-20 May 2021. This lot is in Session 2, which begins 19 May 2021 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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