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Lot 9





Estimate: 400'000 CHF   |   Starting price: 300'000 CHF Price realized: 320'000 CHF
Grèce - Attique - Athènes

Décadrachme (467-465)

D’une frappe parfaitement centrée, d’un style remarquable et d’un haut relief exceptionnel - Un des plus beaux exemplaires connus - Entaille de changeur.

Exemplaire illustrant le Fischer-Bossert.

42.67g - Fischer/Bossert Athens 6b (cet exemplaire) - Kraay/Hirmer 358

Superbe - AU *



This coin is arguably the most important Greek coin ever struck; its type is much more recognizable and more iconic than the artistic gems engraved by a few masters in Sicily – such as the contemporary Demareteion Master, and it is a sign of its great rarity that is lacking in almost all major collections. Despite the discovery of thirteen dekadrachms in the “Elmali hoard” of 1984, only thirty-seven specimens are known, with eighteen in museum collections, struck with 16 obverse dies and 26 reverse dies. This coin is one of only two examples struck with the dies O4-R6, as numbered in the book by W. Fischer-Bossert (The Athenian Decadrachm, New York 2008, pp. 36-37), who then published an addenda (“More Athenian Decadrachms”, Schweizerische numismatische Rundschau 88 (2009), pp. 117-122, pls 7-8). It is an example of the luxury that could be found amongst the aristocrats of Athens, in the milieu of the strategos Kimon (son of the victor of the battle of Marathon), who excessively multiplied entertainments and donatives – leading to his trial on bribery charges in 463 BC, caused by the hostility of the democrats. It is tempting to assume that these dekadrachms were struck at the occasion of a donative evoked by Herodotus: “The advice of Themistocles had prevailed on a previous occasion. The revenues from the mines at Laurium had brought great wealth into the Athenians’ treasury, and when each man was to receive ten drachmae for his share, Themistocles persuaded the Athenians to make no such division but to use the money to build two hundred ships for the war, that is, for the war with Aegina” (Histories 7.144.1), but the current hoard evidence does not support such a minting date shortly after the victory at Marathon in 490 BC. It has also been believed, notably by E. Babelon (Traité II col. 770), that these coins were struck around 480-478 BC in commemoration of the battle of Salamis. In fact, they appear to have been issued around 467-465 BC, after the Athenian victory at the battle of the Eurymedon River when an enormous Persian booty was captured and distributed (Plutarch Vit. Cim. 13.6-8), or after the capture of Thasos and its rich mines in 463/462 BC (Plutarch 14.2). Whatever the exact striking date and reason, and whether or not B. V. Head was correct to write that they were ‘‘chiefly issued on special occasions or for the personal gratification of Tyrants or Kings, and not for common currency’’, it is obvious that these dekadrachms were an exceptional emission, as very few examples survive – whilst tetradrachms are known in many thousands. This suggests that these were not trade-coins made for export, though the fully facing depiction of the owl with its wings spread on those massive dekadrachms, as opposed to the owl in profile on the tetradrachms, gives a powerful statement of the strength of Athens as a victorious military force and leader of the Delian League.

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