didrachm

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Didrachm Imitating Kimon, from Larissa, Thessaly, 350-340 BC

Obverse: Head of the nymph Larissa facing three-quarters left wearing an ampyx (headband), earring and necklace. Reverse: Horse walking right with the inscription ΛΑΡΙΣΑΙΩΝ.

Larissa was was represented on the obverse of common drachms produced by the city of Larissa (map) between 400 BC and at least 340 BC, as a three-quarters face with outward flowing hair. This style was copied from the head of Arethusa by Kimon (Cimon), depicted on Syracusan tetradrachms (example). According to hoard evidence from Thessaly, this coinage was produced down to c. 320 BC. Other coins depict Larissa seated, holding a hydria and with a spring nearby, confirming her status as a nymph.

More about Kimon

Rare Jewish treasure from Hasmonean period unearthed

The Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) revealed on Tuesday that it unearthed a hoard of silver coins from the Hasmonean period (126 BCE) back in April, during ongoing excavations near Modi'in with the participation of local youth.

The dig is being held ahead of the construction of a new neighborhood at the initiative of the Modi‘in-Maccabim-Re‘ut municipality.

Archaeologists found the ancient coins hidden in a rock crevice, against a wall of an impressive agricultural estate found during the excavation. The estate took part in the Jewish revolt against Roman occupation, and revealed numerous intriguing finds.

“This is a rare cache of silver coins from the Hasmonean period comprised of shekels and half-shekels (tetradrachms and didrachms) that were minted in the city of Tyre and bear the images of the king, Antiochus VII and his brother Demetrius II,” explained Avraham Tendler, director of the IAA excavation. Read more.

One of the first owl coins of Athens: A Silver Didrachm, c 545-515 BC

This coin is in an exceptional state of preservation for this issue and is extremely rare. This  important didrachm was produced in the earliest phase of Athens’s minting, during the period of its “heraldic coinage” or “Wappenmünzen” series. These types of coins were thought to have been issued by different Athenian aristocratic families, with each type using a different animal or symbol, representing their family like a family crest. However it is possible that these were state-issued coins referring to different religious festivals. This type of owl was the predecessor to the famous coins known as “Athenian Owls”. It was the addition of Athena to the obverse, pairing her with that of her owl on the reverse that turned Athenian coins into “Owls.” This iconography continued on Athen’s silver coins for nearly 500 years.

Silver Didrachm from Neapolis, Campania, C. 350-325 BC

Obverse: Head of nymph facing to right, her hair bound with a broad band decorated with a meander pattern. Reverse: [NE]OΠOΛITH[Σ] (in the exergue), man-headed bull standing to right, Nike flies above to right to crown the bull.

Struck from dies of the finest style, excellent metal, attractively toned and good extremely fine, one of the finest known examples and a superb piece of ancient art.

(Map of ancient Neapolis)

Didrachm from Akragas, Sicily, c. 495-478 BC

A sea eagle standing left with folded wings; ΑΚΡΑ inscribed behind. On the reverse, a crab within an incuse circle.

Akragas was one of the leading cities of Magna Graecia during the golden age of Ancient Greece. Its establishment took place around 582-580 BC and is attributed to Greek colonists from Gela, who named it Akragas.

Didrachm from Selinos, Sicily, c. 480-460 BC

A Selinon leaf (parsley leaf) with a dekapartite incuse punch on the reverse.

The coinage of Selinos regularly featured a wild parsley leaf, since the ancient Greek name for this, selinos, provided an allusive pun on the town’s name. Situated on the southwest coast of Sicily at the mouth of the Selinunte River, Selinos was founded by colonists from Megara Hyblaia, a town on the eastern coast of the island.

An incredibly rare coin from the land of the Golden Fleece

This didrachm from Kolchis (Colchis), Black Sea region, c. late 5th - early 4th century BC, shows the head of Artemis Dali facing to the right, her hair flowing down her neck. On the reverse, two female heads facing inwards towards each other, each within an incuse square. Fantastic archaic style, incredibly rare and historically important.

Ancient Colchis was located on the eastern coast of the Black Sea at the foot of the Caucasus mountains. In mythology, it was the destination of Jason and the Argonauts’ quest to retrieve the Golden Fleece.  Aeëtes, the king of Colchis, promised to let Jason have the fleece if he could first perform three tasks.

While he was carrying out his tasks, Aphrodite had caused Medea, the daughter of king Aeëtes, to fall in love with Jason, and she helped him to succeed in his quest. The first task was to plow a field with fire-breathing oxen, in which Medea aided Jason by providing him with ointment to protect him from the flames. The second task was to sow the teeth of a dragon that sprouted into an army of warriors which Jason had to overcome. Again Medea helped him by advising him to throw a rock into the crowd of warriors that caused them to attack each other rather than Jason. His last task was to defeat the sleepless dragon which guarded the golden fleece, and Medea caused the dragon to sleep while Jason retrieved the fleece.

After his tasks were completed, Jason and Medea then fled to Corinth, where they lived together until Jason became engaged to Kreusa, the daughter of Kreon. Medea was so angered by this betrayal that she took her revenge by killing the two sons she bore to Jason, as well as his new bride.

It would be almost overwhelmingly tempting to associate the two archaic heads on the reverse of this coin with those of Jason and Medea. However, they do appear both to be female in appearance and, in the absence of any evidence, their identity remains unknown.

Silver Didrachm from Velia,  Lucania, c. 293-280 BC

The coin shows the head of Athena wearing a crested Attic helmet decorated with a griffin, Φ on the neck-guard, and a monogram behind her. On the reverse is a lion, a caduceus with a fillet above and  YEΛHTΩN written below.

According to Herodotus, in 545 BC Ionian Greeks fled Phokaia in modern Turkey, which was besieged by the Persians. Settling at Alalia in Corsica, the Phokaians were soon attacked by a combined force of Etruscans and Carthaginians, who dispatched a fleet of 120 warships to root out the Phokaians. Despite prevailing at the Battle of Alalia against a force twice their size, the Greek victory came at such a cost that they were left unable to defend themselves further, and the 6000 or so surviving citizens took to the sea, briefly stopping in Rhegion, before moving north along the coast to found the town of Hyele, later to be renamed Ele, and then, eventually, Velia. The location is nearly at the same latitude as Phokaia.

Velia began minting coins on the Phokaian standard soon after its foundation, and continued to do so until it joined Rome in 273 BC, having successfully maintained its independence against the aggressive Lucani.

According to Virgil’s Aeneid, Velia is the place where the body of Palinurus washed ashore. The ruins of Velia are located near the modern village of Velia in the Cilento region of Campania, Italy.

Silver Didrachm from Eretria, Euboea c. 500-465 BC

Cow standing right, scratching head with its right hind foot, E below / Octopus in incuse square.

Eretria counts among the first cities in Greece proper to strike their own silver coins along with Athens, Chalkis and Karystos. Analysis of several hoards has shown that the earliest coins struck in Eretria were contemporary with the first Athenian Owls. This Eretrian coinage is dated circa 520-510 BC, at the time of the fall of the Pisistratids and the end of the Athenian heraldic coins. On their obverse, Eretria’s coins bear an image of a standing cow, the head turned back, licking a rear hoof or scratching its nose; on the reverse there is an octopus in an incuse square.

The representation of a cow recalls the myth of Io. The young woman, after the birth of her son Epaphos by Zeus, was changed into a cow by Hera who wanted to take revenge on her unfaithful husband. According to one tradition, Epaphos was born in Euboea. As for the octopus, it probably alludes to the city’s maritime activities.


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Silver stater from Thasos, Islands off Thrace, c. 412-404 BC

This coin shows a bald headed and nude Satyr in kneeling-running stance to right, carrying off a protesting nymph; Α in right field. The reverse is a quadripartite incuse square.

Thasos, a large island off the western coastal region of Thrace, gained its enormous wealth by virtue of its local silver mines as well as mines it controlled on the Thracian mainland opposite the island city-state. According to Herodotos (VI, 46), the city derived 200-300 talents annually from her exploitation of this mineral wealth. Additionally, Thasos gained much material wealth as a producer and exporter of high quality wines, which was tightly regulated by the government, and it was perhaps due to this trade in wine that her coinage spread throughout the Aegean making it a widely recognized and accepted coinage in distant lands.

The artistry of this coin is exceptional, and belongs to the very end of the 5th century BC before the end of the Peloponnesian War. Earlier didrachm staters struck to a local Thracian standard originally of 9.8 g and subsequently to 8.7 g are quite crude in style, portraying a vigorous and beastly satyr forcibly abducting a very unwilling nymph. By contrast the nymph on this coin seems to barely protest the abduction, and the satyr is imbued with almost wholly human qualities. The engraving is by a superior artist and is in a very lovely style, the head of the satyr reminding us of the miniature masterpieces from Katane in Sicily depicting a satyr’s head facing, while the head of the nymph here is strongly reminiscent of the head of the nymph found on the coins of nearby Neapolis in Macedon.

There is no explanation in the relevant literature of the letters A, Σ, or Φ which sometimes appear in the obverse field of these later staters (they never appear on the earlier staters). They cannot be the signatures of the artists as the staters with the same letter often show a markedly different hand at work, so they most probably simply identify the magistrate responsible for the issue, a commonplace feature on other coinages from a number of mints during this and subsequent times.