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    Description

    A Second Resplendent Decadrachm

    SICILY. Syracuse. Time of Dionysius I (405-367 BC). AR decadrachm (31mm, 43.47 gm, 8h). NGC AU 5/5 - 4/5, Fine Style. Struck ca. 400-370 BC. Unsigned dies by the "shell engraver" in the style of Euainetos. Charioteer, in flowing chiton and holding goad and reins, driving racing quadriga left; above, Nike flying right, about to crown charioteer with wreath; in exergue, panoply of arms: cuirass between two greaves, with Phrygian helmet to right; all within a border of dots / Head of Arethusa left, wearing wreath of reeds, triple-pendant earring, and necklace; [ΣΥ-Ρ-Α-Κ-ΟΣΙΩΝ] above, scallop shell behind neck, four dolphins swimming around. Gallatin RXVII / FVIII. SNG ANS 372. Dewing 907-8. Obverse (chariot) die clean and free of the usual rust; reverse bearing a few nicks on Arethusa's cheek and minor dings on nose and lips. Otherwise a splendid decadrachm, deeply struck in remarkable high relief and boasting attractive iridescent toning of light orange hue.

    Under the brutal but capable Tyrant Dionysius I (406-367 BC), Syracuse became the wealthiest and most powerful city-state in the Greek world, and introduced the most extravagant coins yet seen, the stunning series of silver decadrachms. These huge, impressive coins were mainly struck to pay the Greek mercenaries who flooded Sicily to fight the expanding power of Carthage. The magnificent design of the master engraver Euainetos have become a paradigm for classical beauty in the 24 centuries since their creation. His Arethusa is the very ideal of feminine beauty, both human and divine, her hair interwoven with a wreath of grain ears symbolizing the agricultural bounty of Sicily. Likewise, the horses pulling his chariot seem to levitate above the ground line, perhaps preparing to draw the charioteer into the heavens themselves. As noted for the previous lot, some decadrachm dies carry the master engraver's signature, while others have a symbol (in this case, a scallop shell) in its place. It is not known for certain whether these dies were executed by Euainetos himself, or by other engravers under his supervision, closely copying his original design. His decadrachm design became a prototype copied on later coins of Syracuse (see the following lot), by the Carthaginian paymasters occupying parts of Sicily, and throughout the Greek world. 




    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    August, 2017
    3rd Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 12
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