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    Description

    Rare Silphium Tetradrachm

    CYRENAICA. Cyrene. Ca. 480-435 BC. AR tetradrachm (25mm, 17.16 gm, 5h). NGC Choice AU 4/5 - 4/5, Fine Style. Silphium plant / KVPA, head of Zeus Ammon right in all within prominent dotted border, outline of round die visible. Jameson 1350 (this obverse die). Weber 8425. SNG Copenhagen 1174. A choice example with choice detail and of good quality silver.

    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 tetradrachm. 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, 2019
    6th-7th Sunday-Monday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 4
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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