Numismatica Ars Classica, Zurich   |   Auction 106 Part I   |   9 - 10 May 2018 Sort by Lot-NumberSort by Estimate
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Lot 160

Estimate: 25'000 CHF   |   Starting price: 20'000 CHF Price realized: 20'000 CHF
Poseidonia. Nomos circa 520-500, AR 7.46 g. ΠΟΣ Poseidon bearded, diademed and naked but for chlamys over shoulders, advancing r., hurling trident in upraised r. hand. Rev. The same type incuse. de Luynes 525. Gillet 206 (these dies). E. Pozzi AIIN 9-11, pl. II, 7. Gulbenkian 80 var. AMB 158 var.
Very rare. A superb specimen struck on unusually good metal and with a lovely old cabinet
tone. Minor areas of weakness on obverse, otherwise about extremely fine

Ex Morton & Eden 51, 2011, 11 and NAC 88, 2015, 357. Previously privately purchased from Spink & Son in 1973.

Poseidonia was located on a large, fertile plain along the Tyrrhenian coast at the mouth of the river Silaris. It was ideal for trade and agriculture, but was vulnerable to sea-borne attacks and raids from the inland hills. The archaeological record shows that Poseidonia had been populated by the 8th or 7th Century B.C., long before its 'foundation' by colonists from Sybaris, as related by Strabo.
Though Poseidonia may have played a role in the famed trade between the Etruscans and the Sybarites, commercial ties between Poseidonia and its mother city could not have been too strong since the early coins of Poseidonia were struck to the Campanian-Phocaean standard rather than the Italic-Achaean standard used at Sybaris. Their relationship must have been reasonably strong, though, for Poseidonia accepted Sybarites who in 510 sought refuge after their city was destroyed by Strabo.
Incuse coinage was struck in Poseidonia from about 530 to 500 B.C. showing a heraldic figure of the sea-god Poseidon striding forward with his trident raised as if ready to be thrown. Most scholars have, with good reason, assumed that this figure was inspired by a statue, for it has a monumental quality. The reverse, though less artistic than the obverse, is no less interesting in its composition: it is a complex image with the body and corded border set incuse, yet the chlamys, hair detail, trident, and inscription are all shown in relief.
The archaic qualities of this coin are a delight. The composition is stiff and formal, the hair is rendered as a series of pellets, the sculpted beard ends in a sharp point, the eye and the legs are shown in profile, yet the chest is presented frontally with the torso tapering toward the hips. Even the cord-and-pellet border is produced in a way to generate a sense of motion: one wonders if it was intended as a series of stylized waves or serpent-heads.
Though the principal design of Poseidon's striding figure remained unchanged through three decades of production, there is much variance of details from one die to the next. The trident can be plain, with barbs, and with ornamentation; the long strands of Poseidon's hair can be gathered at the back of his head or, as here, shown loose; and the chlamys can be depicted in many ways depending on the design of its fabric and how its ends are formed. Even a major detail, such as whether or not Poseidon wears a cap, can vary from die to die.

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