Numismatica Ars Classica, Zurich   |   Auction 110   |   24 September 2018 Sort by Lot-NumberSort by Estimate
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Lot 16

Estimate: 15'000 CHF   |   Starting price: 12'000 CHF Price realized: 28'000 CHF
Syracuse. Tetradrachm circa 310-305, AR 17.04 g. KOPAΣ Head of Kore-Persephone r., wearing barley wreath, earring with drop pendant and necklace; hair flowing freely over neck in loose curls. Rev. AΓAΘOKΛEOΣ Nike, naked to hips standing r. holding nail in l. hand and hammer in lowered r., about to affix conical helmet to top of trophy of arms consisting of cuirass, shield and greaves. In field, monogram AI and in r. field, triskeles. Gulbenkian 334 (this obverse die). SNG München 1267 (this reverse die). Ierardi 91.
A portrait of superb style struck on a very broad flan and exceptionally well-centred. Lovely
light iridescent tone, minor area of weakness on obverse, otherwise extremely fine
Ex NAC 4, 1991, 75 and NAC 82, 2015, M.L., 65 sales.
When Agathocles began to issue his tetradrachms it was a novel act, as no such coins had been produced at Syracuse for around seventy years. Prior to about 385 B.C. they had been struck in enormous quantities, which apparently had been sufficient to service the local economy ever since. With his Arethusa/quadriga type, Agathocles not only re-introduced large denomination silver coinage at Syracuse, but he also revived the familiar Arethusa-quadriga design type using a portrait of the goddess that was modelled after the renowned composition of Euainetos. He did, however, update some aspects of the style and fabric, perhaps most significantly in moving the portrait from the reverse to the obverse, just as he eventually did with his Corinthian-style staters. The subsequent issue, to which this coin belongs, bears an innovative type. The portrait of Kore-Persephone is of a decidedly 'modern' style, and is accompanied by the epithet KOPAΣ, identifying her as Kore ('the Maiden'). The reverse composition of Nike erecting a trophy must be seen as an allusion to victory– either achieved or anticipated. Of interest both visually and academically is the development in style and fabric within this series, which quickly erodes from a small group of exceptional dies to a much larger selection of 'barbarous' ones. The present coin was struck by two of the earliest dies in the series, which clearly were the work of gifted Greek artist(s). Not long afterward the series devolves into a coinage that scarcely resembles the inspired artworks of the early strikings, even though the design composition had not changed. The quality differential is so great that it often has been suggested that they were struck at different mints, with the fine-style pieces being produced in Syracuse and the poor style coins emanating from a mint that travelled with Agathocles' army during his North African invasion of 310-307 B.C. The preliminary die-study of Michael Ierardi (AJN 7-8) does not preclude the idea that the fine-style and barbarous issues were separated by time, minting location, or both, as he was unable to find a die link between the two issues. However, if the barbarous examples had been struck in Africa, it would be difficult to explain why they are found principally – if not exclusively – in Sicily, especially since Agathocles had left his army to fend for itself in Africa when he secretly returned to Syracuse in 307 B.C. Thus, it seems more likely that both issues were struck at Syracuse, perhaps in response to different needs.

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