Numismatica Ars Classica, Zurich   |   Auction 106 Part I   |   9 - 10 May 2018 Sort by Lot-NumberSort by Estimate
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Lot 157

Estimate: 25'000 CHF   |   Starting price: 20'000 CHF Price realized: 30'000 CHF
Lucania, Metapontum. Nomos circa 340-330, AR 7.76 g. Laureate head of Apollo, facing three-quarters l.; behind the neck, KAΛ. Rev. ΦΙΛΟΞ Ear of barley with leaf on l., on which coiled snake; to r. [M]ETA. Jameson 290 (these dies). Gulbenkian 70 (these dies). Kunstfreund 180 (these dies). Johnston-Noe A6.6.
Exceedingly rare, only very few specimens known. A portrait of enchanting beauty,
work of a very skilled master-engraver. Wonderful old cabinet tone, minor
areas of weakness, otherwise good very fine

From the A.D.M. collection.
In around 720 B.C. Metapontum was founded in southern Italy by Achaean colonists escaping hard times in the Peloponnesos. In time all of southern Italy came to be known as Magna Graecia (”Greater Greece”) because of the extensive Greek colonization there. Jealous of the fertility of the surrounding region and nursing ethnic hatreds, the Metapontum joined with the neighbouring Achaean cities of Kroton and Sybaris in destroying the Ionian colony of Siris (ca. 550 B.C.), but when conflict arose between these allies, Metapontum did nothing to save Sybaris from destruction at the hands of Kroton in 510 B.C. The city did, however, provide a safe haven for the ascetic philosopher Pythagoras and his followers after they were driven out of Kroton. In the fifth century B.C. Metapontum supported the disastrous Athenian expedition against Syracuse (414-413 B.C.) and resisted attack by Dionysios I of Syracuse, but gradually seems to have fallen into decline. By the fourth century B.C., Metapontum and other neighbouring cities were threatened by the rise of the Italic Lucanians. Although there is no evidence of direct Lucanian attack on Metapontine territory, the menace was serious enough that Metapontum entered into alliance with its long-time rival, Taras, and the Molossian king, Alexander I, with a view to breaking Italic power in 334 B.C. Unfortunately, despite several victories, Alexander was treacherously killed at the Battle of Pandosia (331 B.C.), leaving Metapontum and the other cities of Magna Graecia to face the Italic threat on their own. This stater may have been struck in the context of Metapontum’s alliance with Alexander the Molossian and his wars against the Lucanians and Bruttians. The three-quarter facing depiction of the young Dionysus may be counted among the rarest depictions of the god in Greek numismatics. Unlike other Greek deities, particularly Apollo, Athena, and Arethusa, who are depicted facing from time to time on coins, the facing head format was not popular for representations of Dionysus, and on the rare occasions when he was depicted this way it was almost always the older, bearded form of the god that was used. The youthful aspect and relatively short, curly hair here gives the head the appearance of Apollo, and the type has often been misdescribed as such (e.g., HN Italy 1559; Gulbenkian 70). Only the ivy wreath makes it clear that the god in question is actually Dionysos. The artful and novel image of the wine-god is signed by the artist Kal.., who also engraved dies for other cities of Magna Graecia. The grain ear reverse was the civic badge of Metapontum, alluding to the city’s rich agricultural territory and its involvement in the grain export trade. It had appeared as the emblem of the city on coins already in the sixth century B.C. The unusual width of the reverse flan allows the full reading of name of the magistrate name (ΦΙΛΟΞ).

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