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Electrum Stater from Miletos, Ionia, c. 560-545 BC

The reverse of this very rare issue has 3 ornamental incuse punches, the left of which is a square punch containing a stag’s head facing to right, the center a rectangular punch containing a fox running to left (here downwards) and an ornament, the right a second square punch containing a star of five pellets connected by lines. The obverse shows a roaring lion seated to the left, its head turned.

This is one of the earliest of all coin types than can be attributed to a particular city. The lion was a civic symbol of Miletos (aka Miletus) and in the 3rd century BC two large, iconic Hellenistic lion statues were added to the edges of the busy harbor at Miletus. Unfortunately the harbor silted up around the 4th century AD, leading to the decline and ruin of this great city. The mighty statues however can still be seen in the ruins today. (photo)

Ionian Greeks arrived in Miletus around 1000 BC, but the site had been occupied since Neolithic times by various peoples such as Minoans, Leleges, Cretans and Carians.  In the 6th century BC, Miletus was one of the first Greek cities to mint coinage before coming under Persian domination. The city was prosperous and it established numerous colonies throughout the Greek world. It has been called the birthplace of the modern world because Miletus was the intellectual and commercial capital of the Greeks a century before Athens rose to power. It was the home of Thales (c. 624-546 BC) and his followers Anaximander and Anaximenes. Thales is known as the father of philosophy and one of the Seven Sages of Greece.

The ruins of Miletus are located near the mouth of the Maeander River near the modern town of Balat in Aydin Province, Turkey.