Numismatica Ars Classica, Zurich   |   Auction 96   |   6 October 2016 Sort by Lot-NumberSort by Estimate
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Lot 1032

Estimate: 35'000 CHF   |   Starting price: 28'000 CHF Price realized: 75'000 CHF
Greek Coins
Sicily, Syracuse. 16 litrae 214-212 BC, AR 13.58 g.
Description Laureate head of Zeus l. Rev. SYPAKOSIWN Fast quadriga driven r. by Nike holding reins in both hands and kentron in l. ; below horses' forelegs, ΞI. References
Gulbenkian 358 (these dies)
Kraay-Hirmer 145
Burnett, SNR 62, pl. 8, D3 Condition
Extremely rare and among the finest specimens known. A spectacular portrait of the finest Hellenistic style perfectly struck on a full flan. Wonderful old cabinet tone and good extremely fine Provenance
NFA sale XII, 1983, 30
Ira & Larry Goldberg sale 72, 2013, 4033
The Hunter collection
When Hieron II died in 215 B.C., he left his kingdom to his fifteen-year-old grandson, Hieronymos. Knowing that Hieronymos’ character was essentially debauched, Hieron made provisions for a council of fifteen guardians to supervise the young king and act as his regents, providing guidance until Hieronymos was of an age and maturity to rule in his own stead. One of the counselors who also happened to be the son-in-law of Hieron, Adranodoros, however, desired power for himself. Adranodoros connived to have the other guardians dismissed, thereupon becoming the young king’s chief counselor, and in the wake of the Roman disaster at Cannae, he convinced Hieronymos to change Syracuse’s allegiance from Rome to that of Carthage. This brought Rome and Syracuse into direct conflict, and in 214 B.C. the Romans under Marcus Claudius Marcellus began besieging the city. Hieronymus was assassinated after a reign of only thirteen months, and a republican government known as the Fifth Democracy was restored. The city failed to change its Carthaginian allegiance, however, and despite a protracted siege of two years in which the Romans had to contend with uprisings throughout Sicily as well as the mechanical defenses of the great Archimedes, the city finally fell in 212 B.C. Despite the political turmoil at Syracuse during the Roman siege after Hieronymos’ elimination, the mint managed to issue a remarkable series of coinage, the dies of which were engraved by some very talented artists. The largest and rarest denomination was this most impressive 16-litrae piece showing an exceptionally handsome portrait of Zeus that exhibits a rare grace and vitality for the period, and which has artistic parallels with the contemporary Carthaginian-allied Brettian League issues produced probably at Lokroi. The reverse depicting the goddess Nike driving a galloping four-horse chariot is rendered expressively, and alludes to the forlorn desire that Syracuse could yet withstand the might of the Romans.

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