Numismatica Ars Classica, Zurich   |   Auction 92 - Part I   |   23 - 24 May 2016 Sort by Lot-NumberSort by Estimate
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Session 1, Lot 136

Estimate: 30'000 CHF   |   Starting price: 24'000 CHF Price realized: 55'000 CHF
Double decadrachm signed by Kimon circa 400, AV 5.76 g. ΣYPAKOΣIΩN Head of Arethusa l., wearing necklace, bar and triple-pendant earring; hair elaborately waved and caught up behind in sphendone ornamented with stars. Behind head, barley grain and signature, KI. Rev. Naked young Heracles kneeling r. on rocky ground, head to front, strangling Nemean lion with both arms; on the strip of ground, barley grain. De Ciccio 2 (this coin). Jameson 1917 (this coin). Gillet 696 (this coin). Bérend IIN 1993, 2 (this coin).
Very rare and in exceptional condition for the issue. A delightful and portrait and work of
the most renowned master-engraver. Struck in high relief and exceptionally
well-centered and complete. Good extremely fine / extremely fine
Ex Naville IV, 1922, 347; Leu 61, 1995, 77 and NAC 11, 1998, 37 sales. From the Jameson and Charles Gillet collections.
Before this series, gold coinage in the Western Mediterranean was episodic, and was only issued in times of emergency. Syracuse had traditionally set trends for coinage in Sicily, so it comes as no surprise that it led the way on the issuance of gold. The need for gold coinage in such quantity must have been military, and we can speculate that these coins were used to pay the mercenaries whom Dionysios I hired to promote his ambitions.
The obverse die used to strike this coin bears the letters KI, and thus is assigned to the engraver Kimon. That he would sign this masterful die is not unexpected, for it is the original obverse die for the entire series, which in total utilized more than forty obverse dies before its exhaustion. Most of the dies do not bear signatures, but often they are assigned to Kimon or Euainetos based upon a similarity in style to signed dies. Two other engravers, who signed A and AK (or KA), also produced dies.
This coinage was probably introduced sometime around 400 B.C. and appears to have been struck in parallel with the silver decadrachms of the Kimon and Euainetos types. Though the precise date of this gold coinage is not known, the best opinions range from c.406 to c.390 B.C. as the starting point, and c.370/65 B.C. as the end. Of particular value in establishing the context of this coinage are the Avola Hoards (ICGH 2122 and 2124) found not far south of Syracuse, which contained examples of this type in superb condition. Since other gold coins were found with them, including Persian darics and Lampsacus staters, these hoards probably were deposited by c.370 or 360 B.C.
Dozens of military actions are spread over the decades of Dionysius' reign, so it is impossible to isolate one that explains the genesis of this series. However, a theory was put forth by Boehringer, who associated these coins with Dionysius' great victory over the besieging Carthaginians in 396 or 395. He suggested that because the Carthaginians were routed at their encampment on the plain at the Anapus river, to the south of Syracuse, it was meaningful that the half-denomination of this series, the gold dekadrachm (50-litra), portrays the river-god Anapus. Perhaps fortifying this idea is a report by Diodorus (14.75.1-3) that Dionysius collected 300 talents from the Carthaginian commander Himilco as a term of surrender after the defeat. That influx may have been converted into coinage to pay his troops. It is not clear why the Herakles-and-lion type was introduced with this issue, though it may be emblematic of the Greek struggle against the Carthaginians, with the lion being symbolic of that culture.

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