Asia Minor. Islands off Caria, Rhodos.
Rhodes, Tetradrachm, c. 404 - 385 BC. (Silver, 15.26g., 25.7mm). Head of Helios facing, turned slightly to the right / ΡΟΔΙΟΝ Rose with bud to left; to left, Φ; to right, bunch of grapes on vine branch. Ashton 40 (this coin illustrated). Bérend 62 (this coin).
The city of Rhodes (IACP 1000) – its ancient name was Rhodos, the same as the island on which it was built – was founded through a synoecism of the cities of Ialysos, Kamiros and Lindos in 408/7 BC. This city, the coinage of which always bore a head of Helios on the obverses and a rose as a punning type on the reverse, rapidly became one of the most important Greek cities in the eastern Mediterranean. It served as major transshipment point for cargoes coming from the east and south, and its navy also defended merchant shipping from piracy. Facing heads can be very difficult to produce on coins, and only the very best Greek engravers were successful with them (perhaps the very greatest of them all was Kimon’s head of Arethusa on a Syracusan tetradrachm of c. 405 BC - see Kraay-Hirmer 122). Male heads were an especial problem since they could easily turn out looking insipid, foolish, effeminate (or worse), as some did at Ainos, Amphipolis and Rhodes (among other places). However, when they were well done they could, like the present piece, have remarkable power and intensity. This portrait of Helios shows him as being so far above any normal human emotion that he appears ‘otherworldly’, thus making him very different, indeed, from the way Apollo appears on the preceding tetradrachm of Pixodaros.
Grading/Status: A spectacular coin with magnificent and impressive head of Helios. Good extremely fine.
Numismatica Genevensis SA V, 2 December 2008, 126.
Leu 71, 24 October 1997, 217 (cover coin).
Bank Leu 20, 25 April 1978, 136.
Marmaris Hoard of 1970 (IGCH 1209).