Central Greece. Thessaly, Pharsalos.
Drachm, late 5th – early 4th century BC, signed by the engraver Telephantos, with his initials on the obverse and on the reverse. (Silver, 6.16g., 18.6mm). Head of Athena to right, wearing crested Attic helmet with raised cheek pieces and spiral ornament at the back of the bowl; in tiny letters behind neck, ΤΗ / Φ-Α / Ρ-Σ (last two letters retrograde) Thessalian cavalryman riding horse prancing to right, wearing petasos, chlamys and chiton, and holding a lagobolon over his right shoulder; below, ΤΗ. BCD -. Lavva 99d, O49/R57.
Pharsalos (IACP 413) was one of the major Thessalian cities: its site has been inhabited since Neolithic times. Beginning in Archaic times and continuing on into the 4th century Pharsalos was ruled by a succession of narrow oligarchies. It was allied with Athens against the Persians; in the mid 5th century Athens tried to capture the city but they then became allies again. Pharsalos, along with Pherai and Larissa, spent much of the 5th and 4th century vying for the overlordship of Thessaly as a whole: for a while Pherai emerged as the paramount city but after its defeat by Philip II Pharsalos had a final period of glory. After the city’s revolt against Macedonian hegemony following the death of Alexander it was captured by Antipater and lost its independence. The cavalryman on the reverse of this coin testifies to the importance of horses for the aristocratic Thessalian world. The area was famous for its horse-breeding and cavalry were, thus, an especially important part of the local military forces.
Grading/Status: A lovely, toned coin – unusually well-centered and perfectly struck. With a splendid head of Athena and a superb horse and rider. Good extremely fine.
Acquired privately from Numismatica Genevensis SA in October 2009.