Numismatica Ars Classica, Zurich   |   Auction 96   |   6 October 2016
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Lot 1056





Estimate: 40'000 CHF   |   Starting price: 32'000 CHF Price realized: 70'000 CHF
Greek Coins
Thrace, Aenus. Tetradrachm circa 402-399 BC, AR 15.61 g.
Description Head of Hermes, facing slightly to l., wearing brimless petasus. Rev. AINION Goat standing right; in r. field, eagle r. with closed wings. All within partially incuse square. References
De Luynes 1761 (this obverse die)
AMNG I, 318
May Aenus A259/P– Condition
Very rare an among the finest specimens known. In exceptional condition for the issue. A spectacular portrait perfectly struck in high relief and with a magnificent old cabinet tone. Good extremely fine Provenance
Leu sale 77, 2000, 137
Tkalec 19 February 2001, 67
NGSA sale 8, 2014, 34


Aenus was the principal Greek settlement of eastern Thrace located along the eastern bank of the river Hebrus. The city only began striking coinage late, sometime around 474 B.C. in the aftermath of Xerxes’ failed invasion of Greece and subsequent withdrawal from the region. The first tetradrachm issues were struck on a standard of three Persian sigloi, certainly due to the fact that Aenus lay within the recently-occupied Persian regions of Thrace but also in part due to the city’s proximity to Asia Minor where the Persian standard was widely in use. Without the constraining tradition of an established coinage depicting archaic coin-types such as existed elsewhere in the region, Aenus was free to experiment, and its first artist commissioned to engrave dies for the city’s coinage made unparalleled use of this freedom. On the obverse, he placed the head of the city’s patron deity, Hermes, in profile, depicting the god wearing the felt cap or petasos, and on the reverse he placed the god’s caduceus surrounded by the city’s name within an incuse square. The nearest parallel to this obverse was the head of Athena on the coinage of Athens, but the quality of the work at Aenus is far superior to most contemporary designs from Athens. After this short-lived initial issue of tetradrachms, the caduceus of the reverse was replaced by a goat, a reference to Hermes’ role as the divine goatherd, and this type would continue for all subsequent issues of tetradrachms from the city. In addition to the goat, the field usually contained a symbol to identify each particular issue of tetradrachms, such as the eagle on the reverse of the coin offered here. After two-and-a-half decades of uninterrupted production, and as elsewhere at a number of other mints, sometime shortly after 450 B.C. coinage at Aenus ceased to be struck for a period of about fifteen years. This interruption has been attributed to the Athenian Coinage Decree, which imposed Athenian silver coinage, weights and measures on all of its allies. From c. 435 B.C. until the end of the Peloponnesian War, Aenus struck tetradrachms only sporadically. The end of the fifth century saw fundamental changes in both weight and design: the old Persian standard was replaced by the Chian of about 15.5 g, and which was in use by many of Athens’ enemies. At the same time, the profile head of the city’s patron deity was changed to a facing portrait, following the precedent set by Kimon in Syracuse and that had become fashionable at other mints, such as Amphipolis, Klazomenai and Rhodes.

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