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Christmas present - a new animal


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Yep, I remained completely poor before Christmas because I wanted to offer a present to a guy I am forced to live with, even if often I can't stand him - I made a Christmas present to me.
(note - I accept donations, please don't be shy).

On a serious note, the only material thing I wanted for Christmas was a series of coins, especially since I saw some very interesting ones in an auction and I hoped nobody else was that interested.
Even if when I created my top 10 with provincial and Greek coins I was convinced I will not buy a Greek coin to make it in my top 10 this year, now seeing this I am convinced I would have added it.


Lesbos, Methymna AR Hemiobol. 7 mm 0.30 g Circa 350-240 BC. Facing head of Silenos / Tortoise within dotted square border, all in incuse square. Franke 18a; HGC 6, 90

A lot of reasons I wanted this coin for. First, a coin from Lesbos area (my 2nd) - a region that was very important for the Greek ancient culture.
Second, a small coin showing serious artistry and talent (I often find myself wondering how were they able to create such gems)
Third, a coin with Silenus - as I am interested in mythology, this was a character I wanted to have on a coin. The teacher and companion of Dionysos, probably the first being that got drunk, a discipline he was very skilled in, and usually requiring support from other satyrs to be able to walk or riding a donkey.
I also remember, when I was very young and I read Ovidius' Metamorphoses, the story where Silenus grants king Midas any wish. Midas wanted everything he touched to be turned into gold. Cool, right? Well, this didn't go as expected.

Last, and the most important reason, is the turtle reverse. This is one of the most favorite themes in my collection (animals) and I am always glad when I manage to add another example in my "Zoo". I had no turtles, the most classic example I know with turtles are the Aegina coins, but they are quite pricy, especially in a decent condition, so I was not able to snag one. To be honest, I prefer this depiction of the turtle!

Please post coins with Silenus, or from Lesbos, or turtles!

Edited by ambr0zie
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Nice coin. I would love to have a turtle, but those Aeginas are really expensive.

A very tiny Silenos:

Lydia, Tralleis/Tralles, AR Cistophoric Tetradrachm, 78/77 BCE, Magistrate ΠTOΛ (Ptol-). Obv. Cista 350 an with lid ajar and serpent emerging; all within ivy wreath / Rev. Bowcase (gorytos) with two serpents (one to left and one to right, heads at top); H [= date = Year 8 = 78/77 BCE, based on Year 1 of the Sullan era being 85/84 BCE*] over ΠTOΛ [PTOL] above, between serpents’ heads, TPAΛ [TRAL] in left field; to right, Dionysos in short chiton standing facing, head left, holding thyrsos in right hand and mask of Silenos in left hand. SNG Copenhagen 662-663 var. [different year] [Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, Copenhagen, The Royal Collection of Coins and Medals, Danish National Museum, Part 28, Lydia Part 2 (Copenhagen 1947)]; BMC 22 Lydia 46-48 (p. 333) var. [different years] [Head, B.V., A Catalogue of Greek Coins in the British Museum, Vol. 22, Lydia (London, 1901); SNG von Aulock 3262-3264 var. [different year] [Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, Deutschland, Sammlung Hans Von Aulock, Vol. 2: Caria, Lydia, Phrygia, Lycia, Pamphylia (Berlin, 1962)]; Pinder 159 [same year -- “H”]; see also id. 157-158 [different years] [Pinder, M., Über die Cistophoren und über die kaiserlichen Silbermedaillons der Römischen Provinz Asien (Berlin, 1856) at pp. 565-566]. 24 mm., 12.64 g. [probably = 3 drachms, not 4], 1 h. Ex: CNG Auction 225 (13 Jan. 2010), Lot 144.  [Footnote omitted.]


A slightly larger Silenos:

Roman Republic/Imperatorial Period, C. Vibius Varus, AR Denarius, 42 BCE, Rome Mint. Obv. Head of Bacchus (or Liber)* right, wearing earring and wreath of ivy and grapes / Rev. Spotted panther [leopard]** springing left towards garlanded altar on top of which lies a bearded mask of Silenus or Pan,*** and against which leans a thyrsus with fillet (ribbon); C • VIBIVS in exergue, VARVS upwards to right. Crawford 494/36, RSC I Vibia 24, Sear RCV I 496, Sear Roman Imperators 192 (ill. p. 116), Sydenham 1138, BMCRR 4295. 17 mm., 3.60 g.  Purchased from Edward J. Waddell, Ltd., Nov. 2020; ex Numismatica Ars Classica NAC AG, Auction 83, May 20, 2015, Lot 83; ex Frank Sternberg Auction 17, Zurich, May 1986, Lot 519.


*The identification of the obverse head as Bacchus or Liber is essentially immaterial. See Jones, John Melville, A Dictionary of Ancient Roman Coins (Seaby, London, 1990) at p. 33 (entry for “Bacchus”): “For the Romans . . . . [Bacchus] was generally identified with the Italian deity Liber, whose name is probably derived from the same root as the word ‘libation,’ suggesting that in Italy he was an earth or vegetation spirit who could be worshipped by pouring offerings upon the ground. . . . Bacchus appears rarely upon Roman imperial coins (and when he is given a name, he is called Liber). He is shown as a youthful male figure, nude or partly draped, perhaps with a wreath of ivy leaves. He may bear a thyrsus and be accompanied by Ariadne, a bacchant or maenad, or a panther.”

[2nd fn, re panthers vs. leopards, etc., omitted.]

***The mask has more frequently been identified with Pan than with Silenus, but because the moneyer’s branch of the gens Vibia lacks the cognomen “Pansa” (a reason for the appearance of Pan on the coins of moneyers with that cognomen, as a pun), Silenus appears to be a more likely identification, given the association of Silenus with Bacchus. See Jones, supra at p, 289, identifying Silenus as “[a]n elderly attendant of Bacchus.” See also id. at p. 234 (entry for “Pan”), noting that “[a] bearded head which appears on [the obverse of] a silver sestertius of T. Carisius [46 BC), with a reverse type of a panther bearing a thyrsus, has been identified as Pan but is more likely to be a Silenus, matching the Bacchic reverse type.”

A great big Silenos:

Hellenistic molded Pottery Mask of Silenos (an attendant of Bacchus/Dionysos, usually depicted as elderly), ca. 3rd century BCE, grapevines in hair, traces of original black and white pigment. 5" H. Purchased from Artemis Gallery, Colorado USA, May 31, 2011; ex Collection of Harvey Sarner, Palm Springs, CA (1934-2007), acquired 1984*:

Hellenistic Pottery Mask of Silenos (Silenus), 3rd Century BCE.jpg

*See this link to descriptions of the 13 antiquities in the Getty Museum collection acquired from Harvey Sarner:  .http://www.getty.edu/art/collection/search/?view=grid&query=YToxOntzOjEzOiJwcm92ZW5hbmNlLmlkIjthOjE6e2k6MDtpOjM5MDg7fX0=

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8 hours ago, AETHER said:

Let's see the relief on the shell!

If you meant on my coin, the relief is not impressive, certainly not comparable to an Aegina coin. But the details are decent for the tortoise. What pleased me was that the corrosion is very discrete in hand, much better than I was expecting from the original pics.


A photo showing the height of the turtle


Edited by ambr0zie
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Nice addition! I like the coins of Lesbos due to the great variety, take a look at the hektes for example. The coin type you have is still on my wishlist. I do have another silenos coin from Lesbos. Very tiny but nice details.


Islands off Mysia, Lesbos, Methymna. AR Tetartemorion. Circa 500/480-460 B.C.

Obverse: Facing head of Silenos.

Reverse: Quadripartite incuse square.

Reference: Hauck & Aufhäuser 14 (1998), 75. Leu Web Auction 11 (2020), 859.

0.31g; 6mm

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