DescriptionCarthage. Time of Hannibal Barca (ca. 221-201 BC). AR shekel (6.07 gm). Second Punic War issue. Carthage or uncertain mint in Sicily, ca. 213-210 BC. Male head left, with long sideburn (Hannibal as Herakles-Melqart?) / Elephant advancing right; in exergue, Punic aleph. A. Burnett, "The Enna hoard and the silver coinage of the Syracusan democracy," SNR 62 (1983), 114-5. P. Visonà, "Carthaginian Coinage in Perspective," AJN 55. E. S. G. Robinson, "Punic Coins of Spain and their Bearing on the Roman Republican Series," Essays Mattingly series 8a, pl. III (Gades). SNG Copenhagen 382. Extremely rare- only two specimens in the Enna hoard; one of perhaps five or fewer in existence. Hairline flan crack. Well struck from dies of exceptional style and attractively toned. Good extremely fine.
This coin is a famous type featuring an elephant, the animal used by the great general Hannibal Barca to bring the Second Punic War over the Alps and into Rome's backyard, and a mysterious and quite distinctive laureate head. The head has been variously described in the literature as a depiction of Herakles-Melqart, a Semitic deity inherited by the Carthaginians from their Tyrian mother city, or Hannibal in the guise of the god. Modern scholarship, which tends to be suspicious of early claims to see portraits in images of gods tends to interpret the head as that of Herakles-Melqart. However, the distinct physiognomy of the nose and other facial features, as well as the sideburns, seem to suggest an attempt at portraiture. In such a case it is difficult to avoid the possibility that Hannibal is actually depicted here - remarkable considering that no other portraits of the great Carthaginian general survive from his lifetime.
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