A simple yet intriguing design from the ancient Mediterranean
By CoinWeek ….
In Classical Antiquity, the southern part of Italy (including Sicily) was known by the Romans as Magna Graecia (“Great Greece”). Beginning some time before or after the founding of Rome in 753 BCE, settlers from different areas of Greece thoroughly colonized the area, lending the region a unique character that is plain even to this day in such great Italian cities as Naples (Neapolis) and Palermo (Panormus).
The ancient city of Caulonia (or Kaulonia) was located in the Lucanian region of Magna Graecia, near the “toe” of the Italian peninsula. It was founded by greeks from the Achaean region of the Peloponnese, which is the northern neighbor of Arcadia, home to Athens. It was founded over 50 years after Rome and was ultimately destroyed by the Eternal City in 200 BCE during the Second Punic War.
But before that, and as early as the sixth century BCE, Caulonia minted its own coinage, including the example below.
Apollo and the Daimon
On their MA-Shops online store, Fritz Rudolf Künker GmbH is offering a silver stater from Caulonia dating to around 500 BCE. On one side of the coin is a relief depiction of the sun god Apollo, whose famous oracle at Delphi was to be consulted to determine the ritual founder of a new colony and a portentous geographic location upon which to establish it. Standing in an almost Egyptian pose, the god holds a branch behind him in his left hand, while a small Greek daimon or spirit is found above his extended right arm and open palm. His face turned to look back at Apollo, the daimon also appears to be holding objects in both hands (presumably of ritualistic significance). A well-antlered deer, its head turned to face the god, is in front of Apollo.
And while the design does appear primitive and archaic, the abstractly muscled naked form of the deity does exhibit a certain sense of proportion and unexpected naturalism. The same can be said for the homuncular daimon and the long-necked deer.
The Greek letters “ΑΥΛ” (“AUL”) are visible on the left side of the coin, though they are very worn. If one looks hard enough, a “K” can be seen in front of the “A”, which would make sense if the inscription is an abbreviation of the city’s name.
The entire design is encircled by a relatively thick rim with a repeating, semi-meander-like pattern. Various combinations of Apollo, the daimon and the deer–as well as versions of the overall design–appear on other coin types issued by the city.
The reverse presents an incuse depiction of the god Apollo and the deer, with the daimon and the inscription missing from the field. The back side of the rim is also incuse, with a crenelated ring of dentils surrounding the simple yet effective design.
The Silver Stater
The stater as a standardized trade denomination originated in the Greek world of the eastern Mediterranean. Adapted from the Middle Eastern shekel, the name stater simply means “weight”, though not necessarily of silver as the first staters known to history consisted of electrum, a mixture of gold and silver that can occur in nature. Indeed, the first coins minted in Europe were struck on the Greek island of Aegina. Over time, the great cities of Greece adopted the stater as their own and spread its use around the Greater Mediterranean.
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