Numismatica Ars Classica, Zurich   |   Auction 92 - Part I   |   23 - 24 May 2016
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Session 1, Lot 165





Estimate: 50'000 CHF   |   Starting price: 40'000 CHF Price realized: 60'000 CHF
GREEK COINS
The Tauric Chersonesus, Panticapaeum
Stater circa 340-325, AV 9.08 g. Bearded head of Pan l., wearing wreath of ivy leaves. Rev. P – A – N Griffin standing l., head facing on stalk of barley, holding spear in his mouth. de Luynes 1792. Weber 2690. SNG BM Black Sea 867. Dewing 1841. Kraay-Hirmer pl. 142, 440.
Very rare and in superb condition for this issue. Well struck in high relief
and with a lovely reddish tone, extremely fine
Ex NAC sale 33, 2006, 138.
Struck at Panticapaeum, a city in the Crimea at the outer limits of the Greek world, this gold stater offers a glimpse into the conspicuous wealth and the intriguing culture of the Scythians during the age of Alexander the Great. The origins of the Scythians were a mystery to the Greeks. Herodotus offered three versions: the first suggests they arrived from the northern steppes to displace the Cimmerians, the second two describe how they were descended from Zeus and the daughter of the Borysthenes river or from Heracles and a half-woman, half-snake who lived in the woodlands. Hence we can understand why a Greek would think of the Scythians as rough and uncultured cousins. Colonists from Miletus founded Panticapaeum in about 600 B.C. to gain access to the raw materials and agricultural wealth of the Crimea, which was one of the main sources of grain for Athens. The exchanges between the cultures were substantial, as art objects of Greek manufacture are often found in the Crimea; but the Scythian-Greek relationship was sometimes hostile. Indeed, the Macedonian king Philip II caused the aggressive Scythian king Atheas to be murdered, and, perhaps about the time this gold stater was struck, the Scythians defeated a large army that Alexander the Great had sent against them under the command of his general Zopyrion. The artistry of the Scythians is unique because of its influences from nomadic, Greek and Near-Eastern cultures. It is imbued with a vitality and a fierceness that contrasts sharply with Greek art of the time, which had abandoned Archaic vigor in favor of idealized beauty. The griffin appears on Scythian art of other media which often is found in royal tombs known as kurgans. Sometimes the creature has horns – as on this coin – other times it has a row of spines along its head and neck that are connected by webbing. Though the bearded head on the obverse is clearly meant to represent a divinity – most likely Pan – the long hair and beard closely resemble depictions of Scythian men on other works of art, such as a contemporary gilt silver cup excavated from the Gaimanova Mogila kurgan and a particularly famous Greek gold vessel depicting Scythian men that was excavated from the Kul Oba kurgan.

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