Numismatica Ars Classica, Zurich   |   Auction 96   |   6 October 2016
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Lot 1013





Estimate: 60'000 CHF   |   Starting price: 48'000 CHF Price realized: 70'000 CHF
Greek Coins
Sicily, Catana. Tetradrachm circa 445 BC, AR 17.05 g.
Description Slow quadriga driven r. by charioteer, holding kentron and reins. Rev. KATAN – AION Laureate head of Apollo r. References
Rizzo pl. X, 2-4 (this obverse die)
SNG München 427 (these dies)
AMB 325 Condition
Very rare and among the finest specimens known. A magnificent portrait, possibly the most accomplished profile head of Apollo for Catana, without the usual traces of overstriking on the cheekbone. Wonderful old cabinet tone and good extremely fine Provenance
Leu sale 71, 1997, 50
NAC sale 72, 2013, 302
The collection of the Money Museum, Zürich
The town of Catana was first settled in circa 726 B.C. by settlers from nearby Naxos, itself a colony of Chalkidians from Euboea. Located on the fertile plains of the slopes of Mount Aetna in eastern Sicily along the coast and adjacent to the now dry river Amenanos, it occasionally suffered from its near proximity to the volcano, experiencing many devastating earthquakes as well as destruction from lava flows throughout its long history. During the first quarter of the fifth century B.C., Catana was conquered by Hieron I of Syracuse, who expelled its inhabitants and removed them to Leontini. He settled the town with 5000 Syracusans and 5000 Peloponnesians, and changed its name to Aetna. During the time of this short-lived Syracusan colony, the town’s mint struck a magnificent tetradrachm of which only a single specimen survives, the obverse showing the head of Silenos and a scarab beetle, and on the reverse the figure of Zeus seated right, holding a thunderbolt and sitting before a fir tree atop of which is perched an eagle. Shortly thereafter, the Syracusan and Peloponnesian settlers were ousted by the town’s former inhabitants, and the original name was restored. With the town’s re-founding as Catana, a new series of tetradrachms was struck, ones depicting the river-god Amenanos on the obverse and Nike on the reverse. These were soon replaced by tetradrachms of the type offered here, which is more on the Syracusan model with the obverse depicting a horse-drawn chariot. Unlike at Syracuse, however, the obverse omits Nike, who normally crowns either the charioteer or the horses, the field being left vacant. The reverse shows the head of Apollo similar to that employed on coins of Leontini, and combines a high degree of formalisation with a new sense of freedom and vitality which is such an endearing feature of early classical coinage. On this coin, the portrait of Apollo is particularly exceptional: the hair is composed of precisely incised lines conforming almost exactly to the shape of the head, and there is a particular expressiveness shown in the eyes and mouth.

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