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    Earliest Relief Map?

    ACHAEMENID PERSIAN EMPIRE. Artaxerxes III - Darius III (ca. 350-333 BC). AR tetradrachm (25mm, 14.90 gm, 9h). NGC XF 5/5 - 3/5. Mint in western asia Minor (Ephesus?), Chian standard, ca. 336-334 BC. Persian Great king, wearing kidaris and kandys, in kneeling-running position to right, holding transverse spear with round rear terminal in right hand and bow in left / Rounded rectangular incuse, the granulated interior depicting a possible relief map of the region around Ephesus.  A.E.M. Johnston, The Earliest Preserved Greek Map: A New Ionian Coin Type, (JHS, 1967), 12 (same dies)BMC Ionia p. 324, 3 and 6. Rare and historically important!

    This rare and highly unusual coin type, matching an obverse derived from the silver sigloi and gold darics of Achaemenid Persia, with an incuse reverse of a distinctive pattern, was subjected to an insightful analysis by scholar A.E.M. Johnston in 1967. He concluded the reverse design was actually a relief map of the hinterland around Ephesus, where the coin was struck, depicting the mountains and river valleys of western Ionia with remarkable fidelity. He postulated these coins were struck by the Satrap Memnon circa 336-334 BC to pay his mostly mercenary Greek army as war with Macedon loomed. The relief map theory has been dismissed as fanciful by other numismatists, chiefly Leo Mildenberg; however, no other plausible explanation for the highly distinctive incuse pattern, which is repeated across several different dies and even denominations, has yet been presented. 


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    Auction Dates
    August, 2017
    3rd Thursday
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