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Lucania, Poseidonia. Nomos circa 530-500 BC, AR 6.49 g.
Description ΠOS Poseidon, nude but for chlamys draped over his arms, standing r., hurling trident held aloft in r. hand, l. arm extended. Rev. ΠOS The same type incuse. References
SNG ANS 604–5
Gillet 206 (these dies)
Historia Numorum Italy 1107 Condition
Very rare and in exceptional condition for the issue. Struck on unusually fresh metal and with a lovely iridescent tone. About extremely fine / good very fine Provenance
Tkalec sale 19 February 2001, 8
Triton sale XVIII, 2015, 326
The collection of the Money Museum Zürich
Poseidonia was located on a large, fertile plain along the Tyrrhenian coast at the mouth of the river Silaris. It was ideal for trade and agriculture, but was vulnerable to sea-borne attacks and raids from the inland hills. The archaeological record shows that Poseidonia had been populated by the 8th or 7th Century B.C., long before its 'foundation' by colonists from Sybaris, as related by Strabo. Though Poseidonia may have played a role in the famed trade between the Etruscans and the Sybarites, commercial ties between Poseidonia and its mother city could not have been too strong since the early coins of Poseidonia were struck to the Campanian-Phocaean standard rather than the Italic-Achaean standard used at Sybaris. Their relationship must have been reasonably strong, though, for Poseidonia accepted Sybarites who in 510 sought refuge after their city was destroyed by Croton. Incuse coinage was struck in Poseidonia from about 530 to 500 B.C. showing a heraldic figure of the sea-god Poseidon striding forward with his trident raised as if ready to be thrown. Most scholars have, with good reason, assumed that this figure was inspired by a statue, for it has a monumental quality. The reverse, though less artistic than the obverse, is no less interesting in its composition: it is a complex image with the body and corded border set incuse, yet the chlamys, hair detail, trident, and inscription are all shown in relief. The archaic qualities of this coin are a delight. The composition is stiff and formal, the hair is rendered as a series of pellets, the sculpted beard ends in a sharp point, the eye and the legs are shown in profile, yet the chest is presented frontally with the torso tapering toward the hips. Even the cord-and-pellet border is produced in a way to generate a sense of motion: one wonders if it was intended as a series of stylized waves or serpent-heads. Though the principal design of Poseidon's striding figure remained unchanged through three decades of production, there is much variance of details from one die to the next. The trident can be plain, with barbs, and with ornamentation; the long strands of Poseidon's hair can be gathered at the back of his head or, as here, shown loose; and the chlamys can be depicted in many ways depending on the design of its fabric and how its ends are formed. Even a major detail, such as whether or not Poseidon wears a cap, can vary from die to die.