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    Description

    Silphium: Wonder Drug?

    CYRENAICA. Cyrene. Ca. 480-435 BC. AR drachm (15mm, 3.26 gm, 12h). NGC Choice XF 5/5 - 3/5, Fine Style. Silphium plant with striated stem, four leaves and large ball at top /  K - V - P- A in outer circle around dotted inner circle containing head of Zeus-Ammon right, with ram's horn. SNG Copenhagen 1177. Boston 1313. Very rare and in exceptional condition for issue.

    Silphium, a rather mysterious plant that grew wild in the environs of Cyrene, was widely used as an all-purpose seasoning and medicament in the classical ancient world. Important to the local economy, it was frequently shown on the coins of Cyrene, including this splendid drachm. It was said to be something of a wonder drug, used to treat cough, sore throat, fever, indigestion, and other maladies, in addition to its alleged use as a contraceptive (or abortifacient), or perhaps even an aphrodisiac. Its heart-shaped seed pod or fruit may have originated the attachment of that shape to love and romance. Modern herbalists suspect it was a type of giant fennel belonging to the gens ferula. Ancient writers were convinced silphium had gone extinct due to over-harvesting and over-grazing by animals. Pliny the Elder reported that the last known stalk of silphium found in Cyrenaica was given to the Emperor Nero "as a curiosity."


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    January, 2018
    7th-8th Sunday-Monday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 2
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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