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    Description

    Rare Silphium Tetradrachm

    CYRENAICA. Cyrene. Ca. 480-435 BC. AR tetradrachm (25mm, 17.31 gm, 1h). NGC Choice XF 4/5 - 4/5, Fine Style. In alliance with Euhesperides. Ε-Υ-Ε-Σ (partially retrograde and off flan), silphium plant / KVPA, laureate, bearded head of Zeus Ammon right; all within prominent dotted border within incuse circle. Cf. BMC p. xlii, 60e and pl. VII, 19. SNG Copenhagen 1174 var (no ethnic on obverse). Beautiful style and lovely surfaces with areas of bright luster. Very attractive in hand.

    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
    August, 2019
    15th Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 18
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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