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Ancient Coin Profile – The First Facing Portrait of a King

Ancient coin profiles - LYCIA. Dynasts of Lycia, Perikle (c.375-360 BCE), Silver Stater

Ancient Coins – LYCIA. Dynasts of Lycia, Perikles (c.375-360 BCE), Silver Stater


Ancient Coin Profiles by Russell A. Augustin, AU Capital Management, LLC ……

Lycia was a mountainous region in Anatolia with dramatic slopes that plunge into the sea. Many of its cities left the Delian League as Athens and Sparta fought the Peloponnesian War but in 429 BCE, Athens sent an expedition to Lycia to attempt to force it into rejoining.

Lycia defeated the Athenian general, leaving them under Persian control. The Persians ruled at an arm’s length, having local governors in the province but allowing the local dynasts to continue working somewhat autonomously.

Lycia was among the first to depict their rulers on coinage. Originally portraying them statically and devoid of individual characterization, Lycia progressively improved their approach toward realism.

They reached the pinnacle of classical portraiture with the coinage of Perikles, for the first time moving the portrait of a living person to the obverse of the coin and depicting it in a challenging front-facing style, rather than the conventional profile.

These innovations were likely inspired by the contemporary coinage of Syracuse but never before had a living king been depicted front-facing. Here, Perikles is shown in a superb style, looking out from the coin with serene majesty. While the engraver stayed true to his facial features, Perikles’ hair is engraved in such a way that it appears to be blowing freely in the wind, hinting of his status as more than a mere mortal.

He is also depicted without any headdress as was included on earlier portraits from Lycia, perhaps indicating their independence from Persian rule.

These innovations in coin artistry came to an end when Mausolus of Caria conquered Lycia in 360 BCE as part of the Revolt of the Satraps.

Lycian rock cut tombs of Dalyan

Lycian rock cut tombs of Dalyan

The Prospero Collection of Ancient Greek Coins. LYCIA. Dynasts of Lycia, Perikle (c.375-360 BCE), Silver Stater, 9.84g. Phellus mint, c.370 BCE. Head of dynast facing, inclined slightly to left, wearing a laurel-wreath, and with drapery round neck, a small dolphin swimming downwards on right. Rev. Lycian legend (‘PERIKLE’), warrior, naked but for a crested Corinthian helmet, advancing to right, brandishing a short sword and holding a round shield, triskeles on upper right, a sea-shell (?) on lower right, all within an incuse square (SNG von Aulock 4250 (this coin); Olçay & Mørkholm, ‘The Coin Hoard from Podalia’, NC 1971, 398 (A1-P3) (this coin); Vismara, pl. XXIII, 215 (these dies); L. Mildenberg, Mithrapata and Perikles, Proceedings of the 8th International Numismatic Congress, Rome 1961 (1965), 21). Reverse die a little worn, a wonderful portrait of exceptional classical style, good very fine. This coin published in ‘The Coin Hoard from Podalia’, Olçay & Mørkholm, NC (1971), 398; and in SNG Sammlung Hans von Aulock, 4250. From the Podalia Hoard (IGCH 1262) Ex Hans von Aulock Collection, 4250 Purchased from Spink & Son Ltd., London, 31 March 1988

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Russell A. Augustin
Russell A. Augustinhttps://www.aucm.com
Russell Augustin entered the numismatic profession in 1982. He specializes in U.S. gold, Pioneer and Fractional gold coinage, Early Type and Early Dollars and ancient Roman and Greek coinage. Russell attended both Ohio Wesleyan and Harvard Universities. Thereafter, he served as Vice President and Director of Numismatics at two national coin companies. He founded NumisTech Consulting, and has been an appraiser for the federal government, price consultant for a rare coin fund, and advisor to a major New England advertising agency. In 2005, Russ established AU Capital Management (AUCM), LLC, where he is currently owner and president. In 2016, AUCM became an affiliate of the numismatic powerhouse, RARCOA, and relocated its fulfillment center to Illinois.

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