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    The Sphinx of Thebes

    MYSIA. Cyzicus. Ca. 550-450 BC. EL stater (18mm, 16.12 gm). Crouching sphinx left; below, tunny fish left / Quadripartite incuse square. Von Fritze I 72. Very rare. NGC XF 4/5 - 4/5.

    From The Lexington Collection of Jonathan K. Kern.

    Cyzicus was an important city on the northwestern coast of Anatolia, well positioned to take advantage of trade across and through the Sea of Marmara. Its coinage was in more or less continuous production from about 550 BC to circa AD 630, a nearly 1,200 year span unmatched by any other ancient mint. The tunny (tuna) fish was the symbol of Cyzicus from mid-6th century BC, when the city began striking electrum staters and fractions that circulated so widely the generic term for a stater became a cyzicenus.  The fishing trade was critical to the economy of Cyzicus and it is likely the tunny fish became a form of pre-coinage currency. The sphinx, which appears frequently on the early electrum coinage of Cyzicus, had its origins in ancient Egypt (and is here perhaps symbolic of the lucrative trade between Egypt and mainland Greece), but the Greeks quickly developed their own version of the creature, which in their variant had the body of a lion, the wings of a bird and forepart of a woman. The most famous of these was Sphinx of Thebes (the Greek city, though interestingly there is also an Egyptian Thebes), who queried travelers with a riddle, then devoured them, when they could not answer. This went on until she encountered Oedipus, who successfully answered the riddle, whereupon the Sphinx flung herself from a cliff. 




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    Auction Dates
    September, 2014
    3rd-10th Wednesday-Wednesday
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