Numismatica Ars Classica, Zurich   |   Auction 106 Part I   |   9 - 10 May 2018 Sort by Lot-NumberSort by Estimate
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Lot 244

Estimate: 15'000 CHF   |   Starting price: 12'000 CHF Price realized: 24'000 CHF
Crete, Cnossos. Drachm circa 300-270 BC, AR 5.42 g. Head of Hera l., wearing stephane decorated with palmettes, earring and pearl necklace. Rev. A – P Square labyrinth; in exergue, KNΩΣΙ. Traité III, 1548 and pl. CCL 14. Svoronos Crète, pl. VI, 7. SNG Copenhagen 374.
Very rare. A very interesting and fascinating issue, light old cabinet tone and good very fine

Ex Naville 5, 1923, 2266; Hess-Leu 31, 1966, 366; Gorny & Mosch 129, 2004, 131 and Gorny & Mosch 236, 2016, 209 sales.

Although it had been inhabited since the Neolithic period, in the Bronze Age Knossos grew into a major city centred on a palace complex that may have been home to as many as 100,000 people. Knossos served as a political and cultural capital for Minoan civilization — the distinctive culture of Bronze Age Crete named after the mythological King Minos of Knossos. The impressive remains of the Minoan palace complex of Knossos was excavated by Sir Arthur Evans beginning in 1901 and resulted in the discovery of two previously unknown early Greek scripts, Linear A and Linear B. The invasions and natural disasters that brought about the collapse of many Bronze Age states around 1200-1100 B.C. also ended Minoan civilization. Nevertheless, while the age of the palace was gone, Knossos survived to become one of the most important cities of Crete in the Iron Age. In the Classical and Hellenistic periods, Knossos was frequently at war with neighbouring Cretan cities, especially Lyttos and Polyrrhenia. This coin may have been produced in the context of these inter-city struggles. The glory days of Minoan civilization were far in the past when this drachm was struck, nevertheless, the reverse type harks back to the time when King Minos ruled from Knossos and the Greeks of both the surrounding islands and even the mainland paid him tribute. Here we see an aerial view of the famous Labyrinth. Minos ordered this maze-like prison constructed to contain the monstrous Minotaur, a cannibalistic half-man, half-bull creature born from the unnatural love of Minos’ queen, Pasiphae, and the Cretan Bull. Minos demanded youths and maidens to be sent to Knossos as tribute by subject cities. These were sent into the Labyrinth and soon became hopelessly lost in its winding passages before they were devoured by the Minotaur. This horrific custom only came to an end when the hero Theseus had himself included among the human tribute from Athens. With the help of Minos’ daughter, Ariadne, Theseus killed the monster and found his way out of the Labyrinth thanks to a ball of string he had unwound as he advanced.

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