Estimate: 20'000 CHF
Starting price: 16'000 CHF
Sicily, Gela. Tetradrachm circa 415-405 BC, AR 17.20 g.
Description [GELAIWN] Fast quadriga driven l. by charioteer, holding kentron and reins; above, eagle flying l. In exergue, ear of barley. Rev. GEL[AS] retrograde Forepart of man-headed bull (the river-god Gelas) r.; above, barley grain. References
SNG Lockett 778
SNG ANS 100 (these dies)
Jenkins 484 Condition
Very rare. Struck on a very broad flan and complete, wonderful old cabinet tone, unobtrusive traces of overstriking, otherwise extremely fine Provenance
Kricheldorf sale 23, 1971, 11
51 Gallery October Auction 2014, 13
Founded by Rhodian and Cretan colonists in circa 688 B.C. along the southern coast of Sicily in the fertile plains along the banks of the river Gela, the town of the same name soon became the most powerful city in Sicily. During its early history it was ruled by a succession of tyrants, who expanded the city’s reach militarily and came to dominate many of its neighbors, including Leontini, Naxos, Zankle-Messana and Syracuse. After conquering the neighboring town of Syracuse, the tyrant Gelon moved there, and left his brother, Hieron I, in charge at Gela. After Gelon’s death in 478 B.C., Hieron took control at Syracuse and left the city of Gela to Polyzelos. The new tyrant was the first to strike tetradrachms at Gela, replacing the earlier didrachms that had been the principal denomination in use in the city. While the reverse of these new tetradrachms continues the design showing the river-god Gelas in the form of a man-headed bull, the obverse features the Charioteer of Delphi, a famous bronze statue which Polyzelos himself had dedicated to Apollo of Delphi in order to commemorate the victory of his chariot team during the Pythian Games of either 478 or 474 B.C. From the time of Polyzelos down until around the mid-fifth century, the types appearing on Gela’s tetradrachms remain virtually unchanged, with only differences of style evident. However, from circa 450 B.C., the river-god takes on a more classical appearance, verging sharply from the earlier severe and archaic representation seen first on the didrachms and continued on the earliest of Gela’s tetradrachms. At the very end of the fifth century, and mirroring developments elsewhere in Sicily, the coinage changes once again. Although the figure of the river-god is essentially the same as during the preceding period, changes in the charioteer are spectacular: the slow and majestic Charioteer of Delphi has been replaced by a racing quadriga, the impression of speed and excitement heightened by details such as the broken symmetry of the horses and the slightly crouching driver. Jenkins even suggests that the obverse die used to strike this coin was possibly engraved by Kimon, the famous artist working at Syracuse. This would not be out of the ordinary: many Syracusan engravers were engraving dies for other mints, some signed and some not, at precisely this time.