Syracuse. Decadrachm signed by Kimon circa 404-400, AR 43.33 g. Fast quadriga driven l. by charioteer, holding reins and kentron; in field above, Nike flying r. to crown him. On the exergual line, to the l., in minute letters, [KΙΜΩΝ]. In exergue, display of military harness set on two steps and beneath, ΑΘΛΑ. Rev. ΣΥΡΑΚΟΣΙΩN Head of Arethusa l., wearing earring with pendant and beaded necklace; wavy hair bound in front with ampyx, on which the signature K, and caught up behind by net. Around three dolphins, while a fourth makes dorsal contact with neck truncation; on its body, the signature ΚΙΜΩΝ. Regling Syrakus 3. Rizzo pl. LII, 3 (these dies). SNG Lloyd 1409 (these dies). Gulbenkian 303 (these dies). Dewing 869 (these dies). Kraay-Hirmer pl. 42, 118 (this reverse die). AMB 479 (these dies). Mildenberg, Essays Kraay-Mørkholm, pl. XLIV, 6 (these dies). Jongkees 3.
Estimate: 100'000 CHF
Starting price: 80'000 CHF
Price realized: 80'000 CHF
Extremely rare. An attractive specimen of this celebrated issue with the usual
reverse die break on the eye at a very early stage. Struck on a very broad
flan with the obverse slightly off-centre, otherwise extremely fine
Ex NFA XXX, 1992, 21 and Ira & Larry Goldberg 72, 2013, Hunter, 4021 sales.
Scholars have long attempted to ascribe Kimon's decadrachms to an historical event as they seem in every way to be commemorative medallions. The Syracusan defeat of the Athenian navy in 413 at first seems an ideal choice, though current thought on the dating of this issue favours the victorious actions of Syracuse in the otherwise devastating invasion of Sicily by the Carthaginians from 406 to 405 B.C.
The most compelling reason to associate the Kimonian decadrachms with a military victory is the display of armour and weaponry that appears in the exergue along with the inscription ΑΘΛΑ, which indicates ‘prizes’, or at least ‘agonistic contests’. Since it was a common practice of Greek soldiers to engrave dedicatory inscriptions on captured armour, a connection might be drawn between that practice and what we observe here.
The obverse scene of a charioteer guiding his team through a bend is devoted entirely to victory. Despite their inherent dissimilarities, the four elements of the scene exist in harmony: the driver is calm and composed, the horses toss their heads wildly as they charge forward, Nike floats above as if undisturbed by the great contest below, and the display of arms and armour is fixed, as if monumental. If possible, the head of Artemis-Arethusa on the reverse is even more impressive. This die is especially important, as it is signed twice by Kimon: his initial K on the ampyx near her forehead and his full name ΚΙΜΩΝ on the body of the dolphin below her neck. Considering his signature also occurs in miniature letters on the exergual line on the obverse, we have a coin that the artist must have considered to be among his best creations.