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    Phrygia, Ancyra. Philip I. A.D. 244-249. AE 35 (16.63 g, 12 h). P. Aru. Zoilos as the First Archon of Ankyra. Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust of Philip I right seen from behind / Hephaistos seated right, holding hammer and tongs, and Cyclops standing left, holding hammer; between them anvil; behind anvil, Athena standing left, raising arm and holding shield. J. Nollé, "Athena in der Schmiede des Hephaistos," JNG XLV (1995), abb. 1 = U. Werz, "Zu einer unbekannten Praegedarstellung," SM 44, 175/176 (December 1994), 1 = Leu 50, 350. XF, wonderful dark green patina, the reverse with a reddish sandy wash. Extremely rare with only three specimens known, this being the only one not in a museum collection, and an amazing mythological reverse taken directly from Homer's Iliad.

    This dramatic large diameter issue of Phrygian Ancyra is extremely rare today. In 1990, an example with the same reverse die was sold by Leu, and at the time it was believed by the cataloguer to be unique. It was purchased at the sale either by or on behalf of the Winterthur collection (inv. G6997), where it now resides, although a further specimen is in the collection of the American Numismatic Society (inv. 1974.226.101). Our coin represents the third known example of this remarkable issue and, seemingly, the only one available to the public.

    The obverse carries a superb military portrait of Philip I 'the Arab' while the reverse depicts a scene derived from Homer's Iliad (Book 18). The lame blacksmith god, Hephaistos is seated on the left and a Cyclops on the right, and together they hammer an object held by tongs on the anvil between them while Athena looks on from behind and holds a shield. They are not just forging any new trinket for the Olympian gods, but rather a set of new weapons and armor ordered to replace the equipment lost by the Achaean hero Achilles. While sulking at the abuses of Agamemnon, Achilles' friend Patroklos had donned his armor and joined the battle around the walls of Troy, where he was slain by the Trojan prince, Hektor. The armor and weapons were claimed by Hektor as booty, thereby leaving Achilles unable to avenge the death of Patroklos and bring Troy closer to its long-prophesied destruction. Seeing her son's plight, Thetis begged the Olympian gods to provide Achilles with new weapons and armor. This request was granted and Hephaistos forged new equipment for Achilles. Although Homer does not explicitly mention the presence of Athena at the forge of Hephaistos, she appears here as the patron goddess of Achilles and of warfare. It is unclear whether the shield carried by Athena on the coin is intended to represent her own or perhaps more likely, the fabulous shield made for Achilles, which was decorated with scenes drawn from all facets of ancient daily life. The scene is probably derived from a sculptural model, as a first century frieze depicting a similar scene is known from Rome. In the frieze the work of Hephaistos is overseen by both Athena and Thetis.

    According to the reverse inscription, the coin was issued during the second tenure of P. Aru. Zoilos as the First Archon of Ancyra. Few details are known about this individual other than that he was a prominent local figure who held the highest civic office twice in the mid third century. He is known to have signed several other coin series of Ancyra during his second archonate under Philip I.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    May, 2009
    28th-31st Thursday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 3
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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