Gold Ivy and Fruit Wreath found in Chalkidike, Macedonia, Greece, late 4th century BC
From the era of Philip II of Macedon, Alexander the Great’s father. It consists of 30 gold leaves and two sets of fruit. Archaeologists have unearthed only two similar Macedonian wreaths. They claim that they were used by priests during Dionysus’ feast.
In ancient times real wreaths of ivy were worn during the festival of Dionysus. The god Dionysus (Roman Bacchus) was usually depicted wearing an an ivy wreath in ancient Greek and Roman art. A wreath such as this one was probably used as funerary goods for a wealthy individual.
This stater is worth about $211,000 and is the finest example of this type known. It’s from the ancient city of Thebes in Boeotia from around 405-395 BC. On the obverse is a Boeotian shield with the reverse side displaying an image of Dionysos wearing an ivy wreath with the letters Θ and Ε.
The mint of Thebes produced a number of unusually fine representations on the reverses of its staters, but this one must be the most startlingly impressive of them all. Dionysos, the god of wine, is clearly a figure of great power and emotion; his eyes are fully open and stare out at us, and his lips are parted so that we can see the teeth within his mouth. The brilliant engraver who created this astonishing head has let us imagine the flush moving over the god’s cheeks, as he gets redder and redder with all the sacred wine he has drunk. This is unquestionably one of the finest facing heads in all Greek numismatic art.