Italy. Sicily, Katane.
Tetradrachm, c. 405 BC. (Silver, 17.05g., 26.4mm). Laureate head of Apollo facing, slightly turned to the left, his hair in curls that are apparently blown by the wind; to right, in small letters, the signature ΗΡΑΚΛΕ[ΙΔΑΣ] / ΚΑΤΑΝΑΙΩΝ Quadriga rushing to left, driven by a charioteer who holds the reins in both hands; before him, Nike hovering right, alighting on the reins, holding kerykeion in her left hand and raising her right to crown the driver; in exergue, below legend, grey mullet swimming to left. Basel 338 (same dies). Gulbenkian 192 (same dies). Rizzo pls. XIV, 11 and XVI, 3 (same dies). SNG Lloyd 902 (same dies).
Katane (IACP 30) was founded in 729 by Chalcidians from Naxos, at the same time as the foundation of Leontinoi. In 476, Hieron of Syracuse moved the original inhabitants to Leontinoi and refounded the city under the name of Aitna with colonists from the Peloponnese and Syracuse. After Hieron’s death in 466 the Katanaians returned and threw out the Aitnaians; this was reversed when Dionysios I captured the city in 403 and sold the inhabitants into slavery, replacing them with Campanians. Despite all these upheavals Katane produced some of the finest coins minted in Sicily, with this one being a true masterpiece. It bears one of the most elegant facing heads of Apollo ever to appear on a Greek coin: his facing head also appears at Amphipolis, Klazomenai, Rhodes and on the coinage of the Carian satraps minted at Halikarnassos, but here we have him shown as a young man of almost supernatural beauty. Yet he was no ordinary ‘mortal’ – he has the poise we find in the faces of the young 15th century Florentine noblemen in Gozzoli’s Adoration. This coin also testifies to the rivalry between the cities of Sicily, a rivalry that was played out on their coinages: each city sought to use the finest artists of the age (several worked for more than one city) in order to produce the most impressive coinage. One must imagine the pride with which these coins were paid out, and the amazed astonishment with which they were received.
Grading/Status: An extraordinary three-quarter facing portrait.Very rare and most important, a coin of great elegance struck in high relief. Extremely fine.
Leu 72, 12 May 1998, 74.
Tkalec, 23 October 1992, 36.