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CNG Feature Auction 121

Lot nuber 378

IONIA, Uncertain. Circa 550-525 BC. EL Stater (23mm, 14.27 g). Lydo-Milesian standard. Good VF.

CNG Feature Auction 121
Lot: 378.
 Estimated: $ 5 000

Greek, Coin-in-Hand Video, Electrum

Sold For $ 7 500. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

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IONIA, Uncertain. Circa 550-525 BC. EL Stater (23mm, 14.27 g). Lydo-Milesian standard. Forepart of bridled horse left; rosette at breast, floral symbol (lotus?) at nape of the neck / Two incuse squares flanking central rectangular incuse. Fischer-Bossert, Horses, Series I, 2o (dies H2/H1-H3 – this coin); Weidauer 138–9; ACGC 56; Konuk & Lorber fig. 7; Le Rider, Naissance, pl. III, 7; SNG Kayhan 714 (same punches); Traité pl. II, 24. A couple of edge splits, some roughness. Good VF. Well centered and struck for this difficult issue. Rare.

From the JTB Collection. Ex Hess-Divo 329 (17 November 2015), lot 92 (hammer CHF 8000).

This interesting issue of electrum staters has been known for some time. Noting the similarity of the reverse punches to electrum staters at Miletos with a couchant lion, Kraay suggested it may have been one of many issues from the early period at that city with this form of punch marks, perhaps the earliest, with the city using varying types before settling on a lion as its civic badge. Nevertheless, Kraay also noted that some issues with this form of punchmarking had been attributed to cities in Caria and Lydia, so the identification of the mint as Miletos was speculative.

Until more recent discoveries, though, the subsidiary symbols on the obverse, a flower (lotus?) and rosette, were either not clearly visible or missed by catalogers. Although the configuration and style of the reverse punches suggest a date contemporary to the lion staters of Miletos, the appearance of these symbols casts doubt on such an early chronology, as subsidiary symbols do not commonly appear on electrum until much later. Subsidiary symbols on electrum staters are more common on northwest Anatolian issues of the early 5th century BC. The most prominent examples are the various electrum staters typically given to the time of the Ionian Revolt (cf. ACGC 74), and the early issues at Lampsakos (cf. Kraay & Hirmer 727). A lotus symbol is also found as a subsidiary symbol on electrum staters that may have been issued in Thrace in the late 6th century (cf. Rosen 148–9). Another example is the recently discovered staters featuring a lion lying right with a lotus flower above (cf. Linzalone 1174), typically dated to the early 5th century. Interestingly, this issue has a similar configuration of reverse punches, though they have a more uniform appearance that suggests a date later than the present specimen. The closest parallel with the current stater issue, however, is a stater with a lion lying left with lotus flower above (cf. Rosen 245). The reverse of this issue also has a similar configuration of punches, but appears closer to our piece in style. Unfortunately, that issue is known from just one example, and its date of issue is unknown.

Another factor to consider is the combination of rosette and lotus symbols. These two symbols frequently occur together, particularly on silver issues from cities in the region of northern Greece during the period that they were under Persian rule. Both the rosette and lotus are often found in Persian art. At Persepolis, rosettes of the same form as found on this stater adorn a chariot on the north face of the Apadana, they adorn the bridle of a bull fighting a lion, and frame the scene on the stairway façade of Palace H, and can be seen on parts of the façade of Palace G (now moved to Palace H). In Persian art, the rosette is often used to depict a lotus seen from above, and the same Palace G façade also features a column of lotus blossums above the rosettes. E. Herzfeld’s drawings from Persepolis often depict the lotus and rosette used in conjunction (see, e.g., Drawing, “Excavation of Persepolis [Iran]: Apadana, East Side, Ceremonial Staircases: Carvings of Palms,” 1905-1934, FSA A.6 05.0899, Ernst Herzfeld Papers, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives, Smithsonian Institution). Thus, the rosette and lotus have long connections in Persian art, and are often found in conjunction. Their use is also attested in ancient Egyptian art, but the importation of the symbols on coins in Asia Minor are more likely a result of Persian influence.

It seems thus that this coin was issued after the Persians conquered western Asia Minor in the mid 6th century, but probably not much later, as the configuration and style of the reverse punches seem closely related to the early staters of Miletos. But what of the interpretation of the design? The rosette and lotus symbols are likely to be interpreted as one, rather than two separate images, simply depicting the flower from the side and above. Their meaning in Persian art is manifold: divinity, light, heaven, or royal authority are often suggested. More perplexing is the primary type, the forepart of a horse. Like the rosette and lotus, horse protomes are well known from Persepolis, particularly as capitals. In essence, the design in total, horse forepart with lotus and rosette, can be viewed as intrinsically Persian, and probably is symbolic of Persian authority.

The final winners of all CNG Feature Auction 121 lots will be determined during the live online sale that will be held on 6-8 October 2022. This lot is in Session Two, which will begin 6 October 2022 at 2 PM ET.

Winning bids are subject to a 22.5% buyer's fee for bids placed on this website and 25% for all others.

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