The Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio world and ancient coin auction at the ANA World’s Fair of Money is rapidly approaching. This week we showcase an excellent Electrum piece from a tyrant of ancient Syracuse. The city of Syracuse, on the island of Sicily (situated off the coastal toe of Italy in the Mediterranean Sea), was the most important city in Magna Graecia. Syracuse was a major power in the ancient world, and rivaled Athens in size during the fifth century B.C. During the Magna Graecia period when Syracuse exercised the most power, there were a series of tyrants who displayed varying degrees of autocracy and cruelty. This period also saw small portions of democracy and oligarchy as well. One of these tyrants, Agathocles, was considered by the Italian Renaissance writer Machiavelli in The Prince as a particularly criminal yet effective ruler. Agathocles won his right to rule by repelling the Carthaginians. His deeds saved Syracuse and cemented his rule, yet damned his legacy. This particular coin was minted during the reign of this prominent Sicilian tyrant.
The coinage of ancient Syracuse is famous for a highly artistic style and the piece we describe here is no exception. The obverse displays the left facing head of the Greek sun god Apollo, with his flowing hair bound in a laureate crown. The “ethnic” for Syracuse appears along the left hand side. A tripod altar appears behind Apollo’s head. A fine hairline planchet crack is present from the six o’clock position straight up a portion of Apollo’s neck. This planchet crack is frequently encountered with this type, and does little to detract from the overall quality of the piece. The reverse design displays the right facing head of Apollo’s sister Artemis, the Greek goddess of the moon. Her effigy wears a triple-pendant earring and a diadem, with her long hair bound up in a knot behind and over the diadem. Artemis was primarily the Moon-goddess, but also presided over hunting, as represented by the quiver of arrows present over her shoulder. Behind her head is a tripod altar of a slightly different design than the obverse. The reverse legend refers to Artemis as “Artemis the Savior.” The planchet is nice and round, allowing for good centering and full legends on both sides. A rare piece with exceptional beauty, this coin would increase the prestige of any cabinet.
Look for this and other ancient and world numismatic rarities in our upcoming August ANA World’s Fair of Money Auction, August 5-9, 2014. Preview this impressive coin along with the rest of our auction this July at the Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio office located in Irvine, California. For details please refer to the Events Calendar on our website. To schedule an appointment, please call 800.458.4646. While our Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio August ANA World’s Fair of Money Auction is closed for further consignments, we are currently taking consignments of world and ancient coins for our November 2014 Baltimore and January 2015 New York International auctions. If you are interested in consigning your coins and paper currency (whether a whole collection or a single rarity) be sure to contact one of our consignment directors.