Numismatica Ars Classica, Zurich   |   Auction 106 Part I   |   9 - 10 May 2018 Sort by Lot-NumberSort by Estimate
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Lot 172

Estimate: 75'000 CHF   |   Starting price: 60'000 CHF Price realized: 130'000 CHF
Gela. Tetradrachm circa 475-465, AR 17.36 g. Naked, bearded rider wearing conical helmet, on horse prancing r., spear in r. hand, l. holding reins. Rev. Bearded, man-faced bull (the river-god Gelas) prancing r.; beneath, CΕΛΑΣ. G.E. Rizzo, I cavalieri di Gela, Numismatica 4, 1938, 93, 6 pl. A1 (this coin). Rizzo pl. XVII, 5 (this coin). Gulbenkian 195 (these dies). Kraay-Hirmer 154 (these dies). AMB 280 (this coin). Jenkins 101.4 (this coin).
Of the highest rarity, only four specimens known and the only one in private hands. A very
interesting and fascinating issue. Lovely old cabinet tone and about extremely fine

Ex NAC sale 13, 1998, formerly exhibited at the Antikenmuseum Basel, 280. From the A.D.M. collection. From the Harald Salvesen collection.
Founded by colonists from Rhodes and Crete in 689 B.C., Gela grew to become the most influential city of Greek Sicily in the early fifth century B.C. In 505 B.C., the oligarchic constitution of the city was subverted by a certain Kleander, who set himself up as the first tyrant of Gela. He was assassinated in 498 B.C. in the hope that a democratic constitution would be established, but instead, Kleander’s son, Hippokrates, succeeded in the tyranny. Under Hippokrates, Gela expanded its territory and power, conquering neighboring cities like Kallipolis, Leontini, Naxos, and Zankle, and forcing Syracuse to cede the former territory of Kamarina. Much of this success was thanks to Gelon, Hippokrates’ skilled cavalry commander. When Hippokrates was killed fighting against the native Sicels in 491 B.C., Gelon posed as the defender of his sons against a populace desirous of returning to constitutional government, but then used the support of the army to install himself as tyrant. He went on to capture Syracuse and establish his tyranny there, making the city his new capital in 485 B.C. These rare coins represent the very first tetradrachms struck by Gela, probably at the beginning of Gelon’s tyranny. Unlike all subsequent tetradrachm issues of the city, the obverse does not feature a victorious charioteer, but rather an armed horseman on the charge. This militaristic type may perhaps reflect Gelon’s origins as a cavalry commander. The later replacement of the horseman with a charioteer seems to be a conscious attempt to move away from an image underlining Gelon’s use of force to seize power in favour of a popular type emphasizing aristocratic ideals and the intense spirit of competition that was always at work between cities and between tyrants in fifth-century Sicily. The reverse type depicts a playfully leaping man-faced bull who represents the local river Gelas. These early tetradrachms represent the first time that this important patron of the city was depicted on coins and one of the only times that he appears as a full figure. With the exception of these early coins and a tetradrachm issue struck ca. 415-405 B.C. (Jenkins, group IX, 485), only the forepart of Gelas is ever depicted on coins of Gela.

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