Naxos. Tetradrachm, circa 415, AR 17.14 g. Bearded head of Dionysus r., hair bound with stephane adorned with ivy-wreath. Rev. Bearded, naked Silenus, with pointed ears, ruffled hair and long tail, squatting on rock, facing; r. leg raised and l. folded to the side. He turns l. towards cantharus in his r. hand, while holding thyrsos in his l. In l. field, ivy plant creeps upward, behind which his long tail is visible; to r., NAΞION. Rizzo pl. XXX, 1 (this reverse die). Jameson 677 (these dies). Gulbenkian 232 (these dies). SNG Fitzwilliam 1113 (these dies). Dewing 663 (this obverse die).
Very rare and among the finest specimens known of this spectacular and desirable issue.
A wonderful portrait in full Classical style and a very appealing reverse
composition. Perfectly struck and centred on a full flan and with a
magnificent old cabinet tone. Extremely fine
Ex Triton XV sale, 2012, 1007.
Founded in 736 BC by colonists from Euboian Chalkis, Naxos was one of the oldest Greek settlements on Sicily. As time progressed, Sicily came to be home to many Chalkidian and Dorian Greek colonies, which often came into conflict with one another. Thus, when the Athenians determined that an assault on Dorian Syracuse could be a key to victory in the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC) the Naxians lent their enthusiastic support. Upon their arrival in 415 BC, the Naxians furnished the Athenians with supplies and the use of their city as a base for prosecuting the war against Syracuse. They remained staunch supporters of the Athenian cause through the Syracusan campaign until the defeat and massacre of the Athenian fleet at the Assinaro River (413 BC) brought it to a horrific end.
This particular Naxian issue was probably struck at the beginning of the disastrous campaign and is very highly regarded in the Sicilian series for the quality of its artistry. The exceptionally well-preserved Hirsch specimen in the collection of the Royal Library of Belgium has been described and published as "the Coin of Coins."
The types follow established models in the coinage of Naxos, but are now infused with the dynamism of a high classical style, throwing off the stiffer archaic-influenced style of earlier issues. The head of Dionysos is more naturalistic and human, whereas his visage on earlier issues tended to include elements familiar from the masks of Greek tragedy. The squatting Silenos, however, is a skillfully-executed masterpiece of Greek numismatic art.