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Roma Numismatics Ltd
Auction XIII  23 March 2017
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Lot 118

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Estimate: 35000 GBP
Price realized: 28000 GBP

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Elis, Olympia AR Stater. 'Zeus' mint, 107th Olympiad, 352 BC. Laureate head of Zeus to left; behind, vertical thunderbolt with wings above and volutes below / Eagle, with closed wings, standing to right on Ionic column capital; F-A across fields. Käppeli F84 (this coin) = BCD Olympia (Leu 90) 133; Seltman - (cf. obverse CE). 11.73g, 24mm, 6h.

Near Extremely Fine. Unique.

Ex Hess-Divo 311, 22 October 2008, lot 379;
Ex BCD Collection, Leu 90, 10 May 2004, lot 133;
Ex R. Käpelli Collection, Lucerne 1963, F84;
Ex R. Jameson collection (not in catalogue);
Ex Jacob Hirsch stock, Naville - Ars Classica XVI, 3 July 1933, lot 1292.

The obverse of this coin displays the subtly placed letters F-A before and behind the neck of Hera, an abbreviation of FAΛΕΙΩΝ, i.e. [coin] of the Eleans. Yet Olympia had not always belonged to Elis; though it had been theirs since the beginning of the eighth century BC and they had organized the first of the Olympic festivals, their power diminished and it fell into the dominion of the nearby city of Pisa. It was during this time that the first temple of Zeus was constructed at Olympia by the Sikoudians, allies of the Pisatans, which was built of limestone, brick and wooden columns. With Spartan assistance, the Eleans reconquered Pisatis in 580 BC and destroyed the city of Pisa, thus also bringing the sanctuary of Olympia back under their control. Yet The Eleans, much as they might have wished it, could not destroy all traces of the former inhabitants. The sacred temple of Zeus at Olympia could not be pulled down and so remained as a reminder of the occupation of Olympia which had lasted for nearly a whole century.

In 476 the Greeks convened an arbitration court in Olympia to act as a mediator between the cities of the Greeks in cases of disputes to try to end the inter-city warfare that kept the Greeks divided and fractious. In commemoration of this newly found place at the heart of Greek politics the Eleans erected a massive new temple to Zeus built of marble (which would later house the gold and ivory statue by Phideas), which became the primary 'Zeus' mint of Olympia. The humble old temple of the Pisatans was rededicated to Hera, who had no important cult at Olympia until then. It was in this rededicated temple that the 'Hera mint' coins were supposedly struck.

The impressive obverse head of Zeus shares many stylistic similarities with that found on the famous coins of the Arkadian League; some of the dies from that issue are nearly identical to the present one (see BMC 48, Boston MFA 1260 and Käppeli 85). It is also reminiscent of some of the early tetradrachms of Philip II of Macedon, though it surpasses all of these in elegance.
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