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    'The Lock of Berenice'

    PTOLEMAIC EGYPT. Berenice II, wife of Ptolemy III (246-222 BC). AV mnaieion or octodrachm (27mm, 27.78 gm, 11h).  Alexandria, 244/3-221 BC. Veiled and draped bust of Berenice II right / ΒΕΡΕΝΙΚΗΣ ΒΑΣΙΛΙΣΣΗΣ, cornucopia bound with diadem. SNG Copenhagen 169. Svoronos 1113. Very rare and seldom offered! Edge marks, area of smoothing / repair, otherwise deeply struck and attractive, with a high-relief portrait of this bold queen. NGC Choice AU 5/5 - 1/5, Fine Style, repaired.

    One of the most formidable Ptolemaic queens, Berenice II's family background was unusually convoluted and bloody even by Macedonian standards. Born in 267 BC, she was the daughter of the Cyrenaican king Magas and his wife Apama. In 249 BC, upon the death of Magas her mother married her off to Demetrius the Fair, son of Demetrius Poliorcetes, who was invited to become king of Cyrenaica. Demetrius, however, was more interested in Apama than her daughter and, catching him in her mother's bed, Berenice stabbed him to death. Despite this, her legendary beauty prompted Ptolemy III of Egypt to marry her in 244/3 BC and the duo became the foremost "power couple" in the world. Berenice appears to have ruled Egypt quite capably during her husband's long campaigns of conquest. During one such campaign she cut off her hair and dedicated it to Aphrodite for her husband's safe return. The hair mysteriously disappeared and was "discovered" in the heavens forming the constellation Coma Berenices. The tale entered legend as "The Lock of Berenice." She had six children, one of whom, Ptolemy IV, succeeded to the throne in 221 BC. Berenice originally ruled jointly with him but was soon murdered, probably at the instigation of her son. Gold and silver coins were minted in her name on both the Ptolemaic and Macedonian standards. Her gold mnaieions were all struck during her lifetime and are orders of magnitude rarer than those of the her predecessor Arsinöe II, lacking the latter's extensive posthumous coinage.

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    Auction Dates
    August, 2015
    13th Thursday
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