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Rare and Wonderful Olympia StaterELIS. Olympia. Ca. 336 BC. AR stater (26mm, 12.11 gm, 10h). Hera Mint, 111th Olympiad. Head of Hera right, wearing pendant earring and stephane inscribed FΑΛΕΙΩΝ ( 'of the people of Elis'), F behind neck / Eagle, with open wings, standing left on rock with head reverted; all within olive wreath. Seltman -. cf. 339-340 for obverse and 341-345 for reverse. BCD Olympia-160 (same obverse die, and BCD coin attributed to 113th Olympiad). Extremely rare, with a beautiful head of Hera in the finest Olympic style. Choice Very Fine.
Ex Heritage - Gemini CICF (14 April 2011), lot 62. Ex NGSA 4 (11 December 2006), lot 82.
Olympia, located in the precinct of Elis in the western Peloponnesus, was less of a city than a religious sanctuary dedicated to Zeus where the all-important Olympic Games were held. The games commenced in 776 BC and continued uninterrupted at four-year intervals until AD 394, when they were abolished by the Emperor Theodosius as being too 'pagan' in spirit. Starting about 470 BC, Olympic coins were struck during the games to provide attendees with currency for the local markets, and to provide income for the shrine (a small fee was charged for changing other civic coinages into Olympic coin). Each coin type thus became a keepsake of the games in which they were issued, much as modern commemorative currency is tied to specific events. After 420 BC, two mints were active -- a "Zeus" mint striking coins with images of Zeus and his avatar, the eagle, and a "Hera" mint striking coins with imagery of, and associated with, his wife. This is one of the later issues of Elis not known to Seltman, attributed to the 111th Olympiad in 336 BC, the year of Alexander the Great's accession. The portrait of Hera is very delicate and beautiful and her stephane is inscribed "of the people of Elis."
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