Italy. Sicily, Akragas.
Tetradrachm, c. 460 - 450/446 BC. (Silver, 17.47g., 24.4mm). AKRAC – ANTOΣ (the N retrograde) Eagle with closed wings standing left on Ionic column capital / Crab; below, two lotos flowers on long stems that form a double spiral. Kraay-Hirmer 172. Rizzo pl. I, 6 (same dies). SNG ANS 982 (same dies)."
The city of Akragas (IACP 9) was founded c. 580 BC by colonists from Gela and from Rhodes (Gela’s own mother-city); c. 570 a certain Phalaris made himself tyrant (570-554) and the city became both increasingly prosperous and powerful. He was also famous for having Perillos of Athens make him a hollow bronze bull in which prisoners were enclosed and then roasted alive (an acoustic apparatus with the bull supposedly turned their screams into bull’s bellows). In any event, by the 5th century BC Akragas was by far the richest and most powerful city in west-central Sicily, able to hold its own against all the others. However, in 406 the city was completely destroyed and pillaged by the Carthaginians. The Akragantines celebrated the natural world that surrounded them on their coinage. On this one we have the eagle that lived on the crags of the acropolis; and the crab that was found in abundance in the rivers Hypsas and Akragas, which surrounded the city on the west and east and then joined to form an estuary to the sea. On later coins these creatures are joined by shellfish, hares, fish (mero, grey and red mullets) and plants; the late Silvia Hurter used to say that some of the coins were virtually a recipe for fish stew! The present piece is beautifully struck on a broad flan: we have an eagle, who seems to be resting prior to the hunt, a lively crab and a pair of lotos flowers.
Grading/Status: Very rare both for the ornament on the reverse below the crab and for being in such superlative condition. Good extremely fine.
Hess-Divo 309, 28 April 2008, 12 (cover coin).