By Chris Chatigny, Numismatist & Cataloger – Stacks Bowers ……
The inaugural preview for the Stack’s Bowers Galleries August ANA World’s Fair of Money Auction features a very exciting coin.
The Decadrachms of Syracuse are widely considered to be among the finest pieces of numismatic art in antiquity, if not in the entire history of numismatics. This is especially evident when viewed in person, as the detail and style are marvelous. The Syracusan engravers Kimon and Euainetos led the period of high artistry in ancient numismatics, with this piece having been engraved by Euainetos, and signed by him, attesting to his personal pride in these dies.
The obverse and reverse designs for Syracuse most commonly depict a quadriga (a four-horse chariot) and the water nymph Arethusa.
The quadriga design honored the tyrants of Syracuse. These men were abundantly wealthy, and would frequently host chariot races and typically sponsored multiple teams within each race. These contests were great public relation events that boosted the reputation and esteem of the autocrat of the city, as more often than not one of their teams was victorious.
The nymph Arethusa was a maiden who attracted the desire of a river deity. He pursued her through the woods until she beseeched Artemis, goddess of the hunt, for aid. Through divine intervention Arethusa was transformed into an underground stream and directed to emerge as a fountain on the island of Ortygia, the historical center of the city of Syracuse.
This particular coin displays a quadriga being pulled by galloping horses driven left by a female charioteer leaning forward with a kentron in her right hand and the reins in her left. Nike (Greek goddess of Victory) is seen flying above the horses heading right and attempting to crown the charioteer. A heavy exergual line appears, separating the quadriga and various military implements, including an aegis, greaves, helmet and spear.
The reverse design bears the head of the above-mentioned water nymph Arethusa, facing left wearing a barley wreath necklace and earrings. The detail found in the curls of her hair is truly astonishing. The Greek ethnic for Syracuse appears only partially behind her head. Four dolphins appear around her head, with the signature of Euainetos under the lowermost dolphin (below Arethusa’s neck). Unfortunately the signature is off the flan.
Still, it is a wonderfully rendered example of this scarcely seen signature type. By applying his mark, Euainetos certainly proclaims his pride (deservedly so) in this exceptional piece of numismatic art. This decadrachm offers great eye appeal and is certainly worthy of the most sophisticated collection.
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We are still accepting consignments for our August 2017 Official Auction of the ANA World’s Fair of Money through late May. We are also accepting consignments of Chinese and other Asian coins and currency for our August 2017 Hong Kong Showcase Auction. In addition to this, we are currently taking consignments of world and ancient coins and world paper money for our January 2018 New York International (NYINC) Auction. 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 at 800-458-4646 or [email protected].