Numismatica Ars Classica, Zurich   |   Auction 96   |   6 October 2016 Sort by Lot-NumberSort by Estimate
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Lot 1067

Estimate: 25'000 CHF   |   Starting price: 20'000 CHF ---
Greek Coins
Attica, Athens, Civic Mint. Tetradrachm circa 510-500 BC, AR 16.79 g.
Description Head of Athena r. wearing crested Attic helmet. Rev. AQE Owl standing r. with closed wings, head facing; olive sprig behind. References
Svoronos pl. 6, cf. 8-10
Seltman group L
Asyut pl. 14, cf. 261-265
Prospero 367 Condition
Very rare and in exceptional condition for the issue. Of wonderful late Archaic style and with a spectacular portrait struck on very fresh metal. Good extremely fine Provenance
Roma sale 10, 2015, 268
Previously purchased from Gorny & Mosch

Following Seltman's stylistic criteria, which have sometimes been criticized by more recent scholarship, this archaic Athenian tetradrachm is probably slightly later in date than the previous specimen, but it is equally attractive and the types are again extremely well centered on the planchet. Athena's crest pleasingly bends into the edge of the coin and the rendering of the owl is especially charming; the engraver has made the feathers around the eyes look so soft that they almost beg to be touched. This beautiful coin was struck at about the same time that the Persian Empire was extending its power into Thrace and crushing the Ionian Revolt (499-493 B.C.). Athenian support for the rebels and their burning of the Persian capital at Sardis earned Athens the enmity of the Persian kings, Darios I and his son Xerxes I, guaranteeing that they would need a solid supply of owls to fund their naval defense when Persian forces later came seeking revenge at Marathon in 490 B.C. and again a decade later when they invaded mainland Greece. The ultimate defeat of the Persian invasion at the battles of Salamis and Plataia (479 B.C.) and the subsequent formation of the Delian League created the conditions for Athens to become the center of an Aegean empire in which the owl would reign supreme.

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