The Ancient Cypriot King Who Commited Suicide
This is an excessively rare Greek silver distater from Paphos (Cyprus), struck under King Nikokles and is among the finest of all Cypriot coins. Only four genuine coins of this type are known.
Nikokles was one of the most powerful of the late kings in Cyprus, but
he, like all the others, was overthrown by Ptolemy I. As a result of his failure, Nikokles and his entire
family all committed suicide. Clearly, he had been chafing under
Ptolemaic suzerainty at that time and producing such flamboyant
coins might be seen as a way of attempting to emphasize his own
importance. If this were the case, it resulted in his downfall, and the
clear probability that the Ptolemaic authorities in Cyprus made a
conscious effort to melt down all the coins of this type
they could find; thus helping to explain its enormous rarity today.
The coin was struck circa 325-309 BC in the Persic standard with the head of Aphrodite on the obverse. She is wearing an elaborate tiara composed of a mural crown with four towers, a disc earring with a triple pendant and a pearl necklace; behind her neck, π∫Å. The reverse shows Apollo, wearing a laurel wreath and nude but for a cloak over his shoulders, seated left on an omphalos, holding an arrow in his right hand and a bow, the bottom of which rests on the ground, in his left; to left, laurel branch.
Aphrodite was the most prominent deity at Paphos (her sanctuary was famous), and her importance is emphasized by the letters on the obverse: Π[αφου] ΒΑ[σιλισσα] = Queen of Paphos. This is emphasized by the mural crown she wears as well, since it symbolizes the powerful walls of Old Paphos (the city of New Paphos was almost certainly founded by Ptolemy I), of which she was the protectress. On the reverse we find Apollo, the syncretized version of Hylates, a similar god originally worshiped on Cyprus (nearby Kourion, a town not far away from Paphos on the west coast of the island, was famous for its sanctuary to Apollo Hylates). It has been suggested that the figure on the reverse of this coin represents a statue that was erected in Paphos, perhaps by Nikokles, and that it was later carried off to Antioch where it was used as a prototype for the seated figure of Apollo that appeared on Seleucid coinage.