Syracuse. Tetradrachm signed by Euth… and Phrygillos circa 405, AR 17.38 g. Fast quadriga driven r. by naked and winged daimon holding reins with both hands; above, Nike flying l. to crown him. In exergue, Scylla, dog-girdled, followed by dolphin and with trident over l. shoulder, pursues r. fish which she tries to seize with oustretched free hand; above fish, EYΘ. Rev. ΣΥ - ΡΑΚ - ΟΣ Ι - ΟΝ Head of Demeter l., hair rolled up in a wreath composed by corn ears, oak leaves and a poppyhead; she wears a double-hook earring and a plain necklace with a pendant in the form of a small vase; below, signature ΦΡΥΓΙΛΛ/ΟΣ. Around, four dolphins. Rizzo pl. 43, 12 (these dies). Giesecke, Sicilia Numismatica, 1923, pl. 13, 10 (thid coin). Kent-Hirmer pl. 37, 107 (these dies). Gulbenkian 280 (these dies). SNG ANS 274 (these dies). Tudeer 47g (this coin).
Estimate: 60'000 CHF
Starting price: 48'000 CHF
Price realized: 60'000 CHF
Very rare and possibly the finest specimen known of this desirable issue, the work of two
excellent master engravers. Struck in high relief and with a beautiful old
cabinet tone. Good extremely fine
Ex Hirsch VIII, 1903, 988; Leu-M&M 28 May 1974, Kunstfreund, 116; NAC 8, 1995, 163; The New York sale III, 2000, 101 sales. From the Giesecke and Gillet collections.
The signed tetradrachms of Syracuse are easily one of the most celebrated coinages of the fifth-century Sicilian series. Struck during the Second Democracy (ca. 466-405 BC), these coins represent the pinnacle of classical numismatic art in Sicily. Most contemporary (and later) Greek dies are anonymous, leaving no indication as to the artists who engraved them, but the Syracusan engravers of this period seem to have been well aware of the extreme beauty of their miniature artworks and were justifiably proud. They therefore added their names (in full or abbreviated) to their dies.
This particular tetradrachm is signed by Euth… (probably to be completed as Euthydemos) on the obverse and by Phrygillos on the reverse. One can fully understand the pride of these engravers in their exemplary work. The treatment of Euth[ydemos]’ quadriga is reminiscent of the horses found on the very best of Classical Greek architectural monuments, like the Parthenon of Athens. It is also worth pointing out that it is driven not by a mortal charioteer or by Nike (often the driver on Syracusan tetradrachms of the period), but by an uncertain winged male deity — possibly Agon, the personification of competition. Nike flies above to crown him while the sea monster, Skylla, swims in the exergue. According to Greek tradition, she inhabited the Strait of Messina between Italy and Sicily opposite the home of the equally monstrous Charybdis. Between the two of them they ground to splinters many a ship passing through, sending their cargo and crews to the watery depths.
Likewise, Phrygillos’ treatment of the head of Persephone on the reverse reflects the highest level of Classical idealism. This grain goddess — here probably assimilated with Arethusa, the patron nymph of Syracuse, as indicated by the surrounding dolphins — symbolized the importance of Syracuse (and indeed all of Sicily) as an important grain producer and exporter to the rest of the Greek world.
This tetradrachm series may have been struck during the struggle of Syracuse against the Athenians in 415-413 BC or in the years that followed the resounding victory of the Syracusans over the Athenian fleet at the Assinaro River (413 BC). The cost of defending Syracuse and the wars against the neighboring Chalkidian cities that followed the withdrawal of the Athenians required money to fund them. Likewise, the victory at the Assinaro River must have put plunder into the hands of the Syracusans that would have been most useful melted down and restruck as Syracusan coin.