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    Description

    Soaring Olympian Eagle

    ELIS. Olympia. Ca. 450-440 BC. AR stater (25mm, 12.45 gm, 11h). Choice XF, countermarks.  Eagle flying right, wings spread above and below body, grasping hare in its talons and tearing at prey's neck with beak; in field to right, two countermarks / F - A, thunderbolt adorned with wings below and volutes above. BCD 31 (this coin). Seltman 59 (AK/). SNG Berry 821. Very rare! A simply stunning piece, deeply struck from fresh dies and beautifully toned, with a remarkably lifelike eagle rendered in exquisite detail.

    Ex LHS Numismatik 102 (29 April 2008), lot 210; Star-BCD collections (Leu 90, 10 May 2004), lot 31; R. Pflieger Collection (Vinchon, 13 April 1985), lot 307. 

    Located on the northwest corner of the Peloponnesos, the sacred shrine of Olympia became established as the site of the most important Greek festival of athletics in the eighth century BC. The first Olympic Games were held in 776 BC, consisting solely of a foot race, or stadion, won in that year by Koroibus of Elis. As time went on, more events were added, including wrestling, boxing, long jump, javelin, discus, and chariot races. The contests became so important that Greek cities at war would declare a truce for the duration. Soon a permanent complex was built to house the games, and a magnificent temple of Zeus containing a statue ranked as one of the Seven Wonders of the World was completed in 463 BC. The first coins of Olympia date to the games of 468 BC, and new types were issued at four year intervals (to coincide with the games) thereafter. Three basic types were struck, depicting a head of Zeus, Hera, or an eagle at rest or in flight, attacking a hare, as seen on this specimen. The finest die engravers were employed in their production and coins of Olympia rank as some of the greatest masterpieces of Greek coinage.


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