Our upcoming Long Beach Auction of World and Ancient Coins features one of two known gold staters from Magnesia. This is a completely unrecorded denomination and type for this city, and of immense numismatic importance! Struck from a somewhat rusty obverse die and displaying corresponding granularity, otherwise a highly attractive type from dies of fine style. NGC has seen fit to grade the coin Choice AU, with ratings of 5/5 for strike and 4/5 for surfaces.
Magnesia ad Meandrum was founded on the banks of the Lecathus, a tributary of the Meander river, in south-western Ionia icirca the mid-700s BCE by a tribe from Thessaly known as the Magnetes, plus colonists from Crete. In the mid-second century BCE, Magnesia was among the cities that enjoyed a Renaissance of classical Greek coinage, issuing large and beautiful stephanophoric (“wreath bearing”) silver tetradrachms bearing a lovely head of the city’s patron goddess Artemis and a reverse depicting her brother Apollo standing atop a meander pattern.
These coins carried the names of a series of magistrates (or, as suggested by Nicholas F. Jones, wealthy civic patrons who financed the coinage), including probably the same Euphemos and Pausanius named on our unique gold stater, allowing us to date this remarkable piece to the same era as the stephanophoric tetradrachms, circa 155-145 BCE.
While Artemis graces the obverse, the reverse depiction of Nike driving a biga (a two-horse chariot) is otherwise unknown on any coinage of Magnesia and suggests that the issuance of our stater was in honor of a military victory of some kind, or perhaps the anniversary of a great victory. Since Magnesia was not itself a military powerhouse, the occasion must remain an open question, although the 40th anniversary of the Battle of Magnesia, which fell in December 150 BC, is a possibility. Although the battle between the Roman Republic and the Seleucid Kingdom occurred near a different Magnesia (ad Sipylum in Lydia), it effectively freed western Asia Minor from Seleucid control and gave the cities therein a large measure of autonomy within the loosely controlled Pergamene Kingdom.