Ancient silver coin marking a moment in the history of Sicily may bring $82,000



2015-06-26 12:25:47

Ancient silver coin marking a moment in the history of Sicily may bring $82,000

The extremely rare drachm dating back to 470BC will go under the hammer at Morton & Eden

We've already reported on the sale of Russian medals which is taking place at Morton and Eden on Friday June 10, but ahead of that there is a sale of Ancient, British, Islamic and World Coins, Historical Medals and Paper Money taking place tomorrow, June 9 in London.

One of the key highlights is a silver drachm from Aitna, Sicily dating back to 476-470 BC. It comes from the reign of Hieron of Syracuse.

In 476/5 BC the tyrant moved his capital to Katana, expelling the indigenous population and renaming it Aitna because of its close proximity to Mount Etna.

The occupation lasted some 15 years until 460 BC when, after Hieron's death, the Katanians retook their city, in turn expelling the former Syracusans who resettled at nearby Inessa.

Aitna Sicily silver drachm coin The obverse of thecoin recalls Syracusan coins

The present coin stems from Aitna's first coinage of 475-470 BC and, together with a unique tetradachm (Antikenmuseum Basel 250), they are today the only recorded specimens of this coinage.

Their obverses are copied from Syracusan prototypes, the tetradrachm with its quadriga (although driven here by Athena) and the present drachm, with its naked youth on horseback, which is virtually identical to a Boehringer (Syracuse) obverse die.

However both display on their reverses a new type of the enthroned Zeus Aitnaios, the patron god of Mount Etna, and of the two, the drachm is the better preserved in terms of revealing the entirety of the design.

Both show traces of overstriking suggesting a brief issue when old coins were re-struck rather than using new flans manufactured for the coining process.

Aitna Sicily silver drachm coin reverse Zeus sits in contemplation on thecoin's reverse

Besides its great rarity, the importance of the present coin lies in the iconography of the enthroned Zeus for it must have acted as an inspiration for the famous and unique tetradrachm of Aitna of circa 460 BC now in the Brussels cabinet by the so-called Aitna Master, who is also considered to have been the author of the Naxos tetradrachm of the same date.

It has been suggested that the reverses of the coins of Aitna may be evidence of the existence of a cult statue of Zeus erected on the summit of Mount Etna, now lost.

Given the coin's extreme rarity, surprisingly good condition and historical importance, the estimate of 40,000-50,000 (up to $82,000) is justified as the piece makes an exceptional alternative investment.

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