Numismatica Ars Classica, Zurich   |   Auction 96   |   6 October 2016
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Lot 1042





Estimate: 30'000 CHF   |   Starting price: 24'000 CHF Unsold
Greek Coins
Macedonia, Acanthus. Tetradrachm circa 470-430 BC, AR 16.92 g.
Description Lion r., attacking bull kneeling to l. and biting into his hind quarters; above, floral ornament. In exergue, stylised acanthus flower. Rev. Quadripartite incuse square. References
Desneux type G, cf. 48-68
SNG ANS cf. 10 Condition
An apparently unrecorded variety of a very rare type. Perfectly struck and centred in high relief on a very large flan. Old cabinet tone and good extremely fine Provenance
Goldberg sale 72, 2013, Hunter, 4039
Heritage sale 3037, 2015, California collection, 30891


Along with Mende, the city of Akanthos was one of the two principal mints of the Chalcidice, the three-pronged peninsula occupying the eastern half of Macedonia and bordering on Thrace. The city first struck silver coinage in the last quarter of the sixth century B.C., which was probably used for trade and perhaps also for tribute payment to the Persians who occupied much of the northern Aegean littoral during this period. Tetradrachms of Akanthos, along with coins from several neighboring mints such as Mende, Abdera, and various Thraco-Macedonian tribes, are often found in hoards in the Near East and Egypt, attesting to the fact that they served as a means for exporting Akanthos’ rich reserves of silver bullion. The output of the mint appears to have been enormous, yet the paucity of noted die-linkage today suggests that the bulk of the coinage was melted in antiquity. Unlike its neighbours, no denominations larger than the tetradrachm were struck at Akanthos. The scene of the lion attacking the bull used at Akanthos shows the strong influence of Persian motifs that were being adapted in archaic Greek art. This orientalizing influence often presents puzzling yet powerful scenes combining a curious mixture of the real along with the abstract. Here, however, the engraver represents his subject with a high degree of clarity, with both the lion and bull having realisitic features. Perhaps the sight was not unfamiliar to Akanthos’ citizens: unlike today, in antiquity lions abounded in the region, and cows were a staple of the region’s pastoral lifestyle. The reverse design of a simple square punch divided into quarters is neat and well defined, and foreshadows the adoption of proper reverse designs which were gradually taking place during this period.

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