Numismatica Ars Classica, Zurich   |   Auction 92 - Part I   |   23 - 24 May 2016
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Session 1, Lot 110





Estimate: 80'000 CHF   |   Starting price: 64'000 CHF Price realized: 95'000 CHF
GREEK COINS
Catana
Tetradrachm signed by Herakleidas circa 405-402, AR 16.74 g. Laureate head of Apollo, facing three-quarters l., his hair falling in loose curls around the face; in field to r., ΗΡΑΚΛΕΙΔΑΣ. Rev. Fast quadriga driven l. by charioteer holding reins with both hands; in field above, Nike alighting from flight, holding caduceus and wreath to crown the charioteer. In exergue, KATANAIΩΝ / fish l. Rizzo pl. XIV, 11 and XVI, 3 (these dies). SNG Lloyd 902 (these dies). Jameson 546 (these dies). Gulbenkian 192 (these dies). AMB 338 (these dies).
Very rare and a splendid specimen of this prestigious and important issue. A wonderful
portrait of Apollo, work of one of the most celebrated Sicilian master engravers, of
sublime Classical style. Perfectly struck and centred in high relief, unobtrusive
area of porosity on lower obverse field, otherwise extremely fine
Ex Sotheby’s sale 4 December 1990, Hunt part III, 25 and NAC 18, 2000, 83 sales.
Originally settled by native Sikels, the city of Katane was refounded c. 729 B.C. by colonists of Chalkidian Greeks from Sicilian Naxos who forced the former inhabitants to vacate. The colony was well sited, with the rich soil at the foot of Mt. Aitna supporting a thriving agriculture, and access to the sea was provided by a natural harbor. The colony flourished, and the citizens soon fortified the acropolis and the surrounding urban area with walls, and built sanctuaries to Demeter and Kore, and a theater. No doubt attracted by Katane’s prosperity, in 476 B.C. the Syracusan tyrant, Hieron I, seized the city and forcibly removed its inhabitants to Leontinoi. He then repopulated the city with Syracusans and about 10,000 Dorian Greeks, renaming it Aitna. According to different sources, in either 463 or 461 B.C. after Hieron’s death, the deported Katanians returned and expelled the Dorian Greeks, reoccupying their former homes. In 427 B.C., Katane was allied along with other Chalkidian Greek colonies with Leontinoi in its war against Syracuse, and in 415 B.C. the city served as the Athenian base of operations during their disastrous Sicilian campaign. In 403 B.C., Katane again fell under the sway of Syracuse, when Dionysios I took the city and sold the inhabitants into slavery. He resettled the city with Campanian mercenaries who only remained a short time, until 396 B.C., when the Syracusan fleet suffered a resounding defeat by the Carthaginians off the coast of Katane. Throughout the fourth to first centuries, Katane welcomed the Epeirote king, Pyrrhos, in his Sicilian campaigns (278 B.C.), submitted to Rome after the outbreak of the First Punic War (264-241 B.C.), saw conquest at the hands of slaves during the First Servile War (135-132 B.C.), had its wealth seized by C. Verres, the rapacious Roman propraetor of the province of Sicilia (73-71 B.C.), and served as the primary base for Sextus Pompey’s pirate fleet (43-42 B.C.) until his defeat by Octavian’s admiral Marcus Agrippa. Early in the Principate Katane was refounded as a Roman colony with the name colonia Catina.
Coinage at Katane only begins after the return of the exiles in the mid-fifth century B.C. Adopting the Athenian standard of c. 17.2 g, the Katanians struck their first tetradrachms to commemorate their recent return. The initial types consisted of the figure of the local river-god Amenanos, depicted by a man-headed bull, whose spirit was embodied by the small river adjacent to the city, and the goddess of Victory, Nike. Beginning in the 440s and continuing until just prior to the conquest of the city by Dionysios I in 403 B.C., the tetradrachms of Katane employ as the obverse type the quadriga, derived from contemporary issues of Leontinoi and Syracuse, and the head of Apollo or, rarely, Amenanos on the reverse. At the very end of the fifth century in the period leading up to the conflict with Syracuse, the tetradrachms of Katane underwent a significant transformation. At this time in Sicily, and especially at Syracuse, Sicilian mints were employing engravers who were given license to excel in the miniature arts. Famous master engravers such as Choirion, Euainetos, Eumenos, Exakestidas, Kimon and others, all boldly signed their works, were reaching unparalleled degrees of quality, expressing in miniature degrees of excellence previously unattained and simply astounding in their execution. The artists Choirion and Herakleidas both engraved a series of dramatic facing head Apollo dies for use at Katane, such as the remarkable specimen offered here which is signed by the artist Herakleidas. The obverse die used to strike this magnificent coin features the nearly frontal gazing portrait of the god Apollo, and is clearly inspired by the near-contemporary facing portraits of Arethusa used at Syracuse which were engraved by Kimon. The god is presented in a naturalistic form, with his hair falling gently downward around his face and his laurel crown resting atop his head as if placed without any thought of preparation, and though the whole evokes an image of a woodland entity or sprite, the countenance is clearly divine with the god’s wide-eyed gaze suggesting one is looking into the face of a living god.

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