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    Rare Depiction of the Labyrinth

    CRETE. Knossos. Ca. 450-375 BC. AR stater (25mm, 10.99 gm, 2h). Head of Ariadne left, wearing earring and necklace, hair rolled and bound with corn-wreath / Meander-pattern Labyrinth, five pellets in center, incuse square punch in each corner; all within shallow incuse circle. BMC Crete 9. Svoronos 39. Le Rider, Monnaies Crétoise, 23. Very rare! Struck on an exceptionally broad flan, with a complete Labyrinth and all four incuse squares. Slight weakness at high points of obverse, otherwise an attractively toned Extremely Fine.

    According to legend, the Cretan artisan and scientist Deadalus built the Labyrinth on orders from King Minos, who needed a place to keep his wife Pasiphae's monstrous son, the Minotaur. Pasiphae had fallen in love with a beautiful sacrificial bull and the half-man, half-bull Minotaur was the result of her cross-species passion. The Latin poet Ovid, drawing from tradition and oral history, said Deadalus built the Labyrinth so cunningly he nearly trapped himself within its winding passages. The Minotaur was placed at the center and Minos ordered that seven youths and seven maidens be sent by Athens, then subject to Crete, each year as a sacrifice offering to feed the beast. The Athenian hero Theseus volunteered as one of the victims and, with the help of Minos' daughter Ariadne (depicted on the obverse of this piece), smuggled in a sword, which he used to slay the Minotaur, and a ball of twine to help him navigate the Labyrinth. The Labyrinth soon became the very symbol of Crete and is shown on the reverse of coins struck by Knossos, its largest city and Minos' capital. Some coins show the Labyrinth in a circular form, while others, such as this early example, depict a series of interlocking meander patterns. Archaeologists have found considerable evidence that the Labyrinth was not entirely mythical. Sir Arthur Evans proposed that the huge, sprawling Minoan palace complex of Knossos would have been viewed as an inescapable maze by anyone from backwards mainland Greece; more recently, an underground warren of tunnels and caves, some natural and others man-made, has been explored under Gortyna, providing another strong candidate for the Minotaur's home.

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    Auction Dates
    September, 2012
    6th-11th Thursday-Tuesday
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