Numismatica Ars Classica, Zurich   |   Auction 96   |   6 October 2016 Sort by Lot-NumberSort by Estimate
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Lot 1017

Estimate: 10'000 CHF   |   Starting price: 8'000 CHF Price realized: 18'000 CHF
Greek Coins
Sicily, Messana. Tetradrachm circa 425-421 BC, AR 17.46 g.
Description Biga of mules driven r. by bearded charioteer; in exergue, olive leaf and berry. Rev. MES – S – A – N – IO – N Hare springing r.; below, fly r. References
SNG ANS 375 (these dies)
SNG Manchester 425
Caltabiano 479 (these dies) Condition
Rare and in exceptional condition for the issue. Well-struck on an exceptionally large flan and with a lovely light iridescent tone, good extremely fine Provenance
Gorny & Mosch sale 151, 2006, 84
Gemini sale VII, 2011, 131
Goldberg sale 69, 2012, 3021
The Dr. Patrick Tan collection
One of the greatest cities of Sicily, Messana had a long and turbulent history. Founded during the sixth century B.C. as Zankle and named after its sickle-shaped harbor, the city enjoyed a burgeoning prosperity owing to its convenient position on the north-eastern coast of Sicily opposite the mainland town of Rhegion. Together the two cities controlled the flow of shipping through the Strait of Messina, and provided safe anchorage during unpredictable weather over the waters as well as a place to rest and replenish before venturing further afield. The city’s first coinage, in the name Zankle, was struck on the Euboic standard with a tridrachm stater weighing c. 17.2 g. The types featured on the obverse a dolphin leaping within the sickle-shaped harbor, sometimes adorned with buildings, and on the reverse a patterned die with the central device of a scallop shell. This issue was short-lived, however, and was soon replaced by an Attic standard tetradrachm of Samian types depicting a facing lion’s scalp on the obverse and a prow on the reverse after the city was captured by Samian fugitives from Ionia fleeing the Persian onslaught in the wake of the Ionian Revolt. These fugitives had been invited by the local Zanklaians to join them in the colonization of Kale Akte (”Beautiful Beach”), but had been encouraged in their duplicity by Anaxilas, the tyrant of Rhegion. It was not long, however, before Anaxilas tired of the Samians and drove them out of Zankle, settling a group of ethnically mixed followers in their stead and renaming the settlement Messene in honor of his ancestral home in the Peloponnese. With Messene under the political thumb of Anaxilas, the designs on the coinage were changed again. At first they imitated the types found at Rhegion, a facing lion’s head on the obverse and a calf’s head on the reverse, but these were soon replaced by types that would remain a characteristic feature of the coinage of Messene: the muleteer driving a biga on the obverse, and a bounding hare on the reverse. The depiction of the muleteer served to advertise Anaxilas’s victory in either 484 or 480 B.C. at the apane, the mule race at the great Olympic festival, while the hare depicted on the reverse was sacred to Pan, a god revered at both Rhegion and Messana. In 461 B.C. the city threw off the yolk of the Anaxilid tyrants, and soon took the Dorian name of Messana. With one brief interlude – an extremely rare tetradrachm issue depicting Zeus Ithomatas brandishing a thunderbolt on the obverse and a dolphin leaping over a scallop shell on the reverse, and also in the name of Zankle – the tetradrachms of Messana continued until the end of the fifth century B.C. the types of the seated muleteer and springing hare first introduced by Anaxilas. Around 425 B.C., the muleteer was replaced with the figure of the eponymous nymph Messana, shown standing and often being presented a fillet by the winged goddess of Victory, Nike, flying above.

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