east frieze

the Nile-God of Bousiri (capital city of the IX nome of Lower Egypt, “Bousirites”), wearing papyrus reeds on His head, kneeling and bringing an offering table with ewers and the ‘Uas’-scepter.
Temple of Osiris and Opet at 'Ipet-Sut’ (“Karnak”), the highly sacred Precinct of Amon-Ra at 'Uaset’-Thebes,
scene from the east exterior wall, lower frieze, first register (north)

$700,000 Amphipolis Tetradrachm of the ‘Parthenon Group’

The present coin, along with the few other known examples of the “Parthenon Group” within the Amphipolis coinage, represents perhaps our closest approach in numismatics to the finest art of classical Athens.

This coin, minted in Amphipolis, Macedon c. 357/6 BC, is a silver tetradrachm with the head of Apollo wearing a laurel wreath slightly facing the right. On the reverse is the inscription AMΦ-IΠO-ΛIT-ΩN around a raised linear square enclosing a race torch; to the inner right, is a small sphinx seated left; all within broad shallow incuse square. This is a masterpiece of classical numismatic art and is extremely rare, only the second example known from these dies, the other is in the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin Münzkabinett.

The Thracian city of Enna Hodoi (“Nine Roads”) on the Strymon River was conquered and re-founded by Athens in 437/6 and was re-named Amphipolis (map). The Athenian colonists were led by Perikles’ close friend Hagnon, son of Nikias. While Athens continued to issue coins that were the recognized standard trade currency of the eastern Mediterranean, with the traditional designs and style that had come to be widely accepted, the colony of Amphipolis was not so constrained by convention in the style of its coinage, and produced coins that come closest to representing in miniature the artistic style of Athenian sculpture of the period.

This coin, despite its serene beauty, emanates from a moment of great turmoil in Amphipolis. Philip II of Macedon declared war on the city early in 357 BC. The anti-Macedonian party, in desperation, dispatched a legation to Athens to ask for help. Athens refused the offer for reasons that are not entirely clear today. Philip promptly placed Amphipolis under siege and – aided by allies within the city – breached the walls and captured the city late in 357 BC. The coins of the Parthenon Group can be precisely dated to the time of these events.

This series of Amphipolis’ coinage is called the Parthenon Group because the obverse head is inspired by the seated Apollo of the east frieze of the Parthenon. It has been suggested the reference on the coinage to a famous sculpture created by Phidias in the 430’s BC – harkening back to the city’s re-foundation by Perikles in 437/6 BC – reflects pro-Athenian feeling at a critical moment when Amphipolis desperately sought Athens’ military assistance. Philip, while he retained the Parthenon reference following his victory, introduced a subtle change to a freer and more individual style of Apollo’s head and at the same time changed the ethnic on the coinage from the Ionic form (AMΦIΠOΛITEΩN) to the Attic form (AMΦIΠOΛITΩN), reflecting the administrative language of the Macedonian kingdom and the language that Philip used on his royal coinage. This coin, one of 13 known tetradrachms of the Parthenon Group and one of only five in private ownership, represents the magnificent tradition of classical Athenian art, and, at the same time, reflects the rising power of Macedon.

Amphipolis is also the site of the ongoing excavation of the  Amphipolis Tomb, a previously unknown Alexander the Great-era tomb that may have been built for Alexander’s mother, Olympias.