18 25mm

PHOKIS, Delphi. 5th century BC. AR Tridrachm (25mm, 18.26 g). Two rhyta (drinking vessels) in the form of ram’s heads; above, two dolphins swimming toward each other; ΔAΛΦ-I-KON in small letters below; all within beaded border / Quadripartite incuse square in the form of a coffered ceiling; each coffer decorated with a dolphin and laurel spray.

We come this week to a coin that is considered to be one of the most important historical, religious, and architectural artifacts from the Greek world. Struck in Delphi, the so-called “navel of the world,” this coin is thought to show two drinking vessels shaped like the heads of rams on the obverse, and is commonly associated with the Greek defeat of  the Persians in 479 BCE. The reverse is thought to show the actual ceiling of the temple of Apollo at Delphi on the reverse.

This attribution has raised some questions, but it is believed that the Persian treasure from the campaign was dedicated at Delphi and the frequent repetition of dolphins, associated with Apollo Delphinios, the particular god of Delphi, has strengthened these claims.

This is a very rare denomination (tetradrachms are most  common, along with didrachms and drachms) and a very rare coin. Less than twenty are known to still exist.