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A Kroton Nomos with a Wonderful Old Provenance


Curtisimo
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I am excited to share this coin with you all because I think it has a lot going for it, particularly in regard to historic interest and provenance.  I don’t currently have access to the SNG ANS reference for Bruttium so in the future I may need to update this write up accordingly. Hopefully you will all enjoy reading about my newest coin from Magna Greacia.

Kroton_Nomos.jpeg.9cf1e6e1735c926a73ec688eb29f3605.jpeg

BRUTTIUM, Kroton
AR Nomos, dumpy incuse type, struck ca. 475-450 BC
Dia.: 18.5 mm
Wt.: 7.39 g
Obv.: Tripod with legs terminating in lion's feet; to left, crane standing right.
Rev.: Incuse tripod. 
Ref.: HN Italy 2102; SNG ANS 259; CMG Class IV No. 2
Ex J. G. Le Breton Collection (1884-1968) (Glendining, 30 October 1963), lot 457 (part of; Seaby listed as buyer); Ex Seaby Coin and Medal Bulletin 548 (January 1964), no. A1014; Ex CNG E-Auction 462, lot 11 (Feb. 26, 2020)

 

1. Foundation Myth of Kroton

According to a story told by Ovid in the Metamorphoses, there was a hero named Kroton living in southern Italy during the time of Heracles. When Heracles was on his way back to Greece after capturing the Cattle of Geryon, he landed in southern Italy and was given hospitality by Kroton in his home.  In his gratitude, Heracles prophesied that there would one day be a great city named in Kroton’s honor where his people would prosper.

Later, after becoming a god, Heracles visited the hero Myscellus in a dream and commanded him to found a city on the Aesar River.  The laws of Myscellus’s homeland forbade citizens from immigrating to other lands and from moving the statues of their household gods.  When Myscellus removed his household gods in preparation for his journey he was denounced and arrested. He prayed to Heracles for help.  In response the god turned the stones used by the jurors to vote during Myscellus’s trial from black (condemn) to white (absolve).

Myscellus was thus allowed to leave and found a city.  He sailed to the mouth of the Aesar River where he discovered the burial mound of the “far-famed” Kroton.  Around this mound he built his city and named it after the hero who had befriended Heracles. [1]

2. The Historical Kroton

Kroton was founded by Achaean Greeks ca. 710 BC during a period of extensive colonization by Greek settlers in Italy.  The city was situated at a promontory near the mouth of the Aesar River that provided an area for a port.  Though small, this port was the best available between Taras and Sicily in ancient times and so provided for considerable commerce.

Kroton_Map.jpg.665731dc8622feaf488ece7cf7f88fcf.jpg

Left: Situation of Kroton within Southern Italy. Right: The site of the current city is the same as that of the original city.

In the early part of its history the city had good relations with the other Achaean cities of Southern Italy, particularly Sybaris, which allowed it to expand and gain control of its hinterland.  Kroton rivaled Sparta in its fame for the development of athletes. Its most famous athlete was the wrestling legend Milo (who won the Olympic wrestling title 6 times between 540 and 520 BC.

Kroton was an oligarchy run by a Great Council of 1000 members who supposedly descended from the original settlers [6]. In approximately 560(?) BC Kroton suffered a humiliating military defeat against Locri at the Battle of Sagra.  The Locrians used the narrow terrain of the site to their advantage to overcome the numerical superiority of the army of Kroton. The city recovered and in about 530 BC Pythagoras moved to Kroton and set up a school there which had great fame in the wider Greek world.  In about 510 BC, relations with the fellow Achaean colony of Sybaris broke down and in the ensuing conflict Kroton completely destroyed and depopulated Sybaris.  Perhaps because of the reputation for austerity that Pythagoras brought to Kroton, this conflict is sometimes depicted in the sources as an example of the superiority of discipline and austerity over opulence and excess.  It could just as easily be looked at as an example of how bloody inter-kinship conflict can get.  In around 495 BC, supporters of democracy in Kroton rioted against the influence of the Pythagoreans (who were pro-Oligarchy) and started a fire in which Pythagoras may have died.  The oligarchy-democracy conflict led to a highly destabilizing period politically in which few details have survived.

In 480 BC Kroton was the only Greek city in Italy to send a ship to fight the Persians at the Battle of Salamis.  Starting around this time the city went into a slow decline because, like the other cities of Greek Italy, it was sandwiched between the growing power of Syracuse and the increasingly organized tribes of the hinterland.

The end of Kroton’s prosperity was brought about through conflict with Dionysius I of Syracuse.  In 405 BC mercenaries from the Greeks cities of Italy deserted Dionysius I during an insurrection against his tyranny [2].  The tyrant overcame the resistance to retain his power and as a result the diplomatic relations between Greek Italy and Syracuse deteriorated quickly.  Kroton was chosen as the headquarters of an Italiote League to defend against the retribution of Syracuse and the aggression of the native tribes allied with it.  The league was defeated by Syracuse and its allies.  In 379 BC Kroton itself was captured.  The city was subjected to 12 years of foreign rule before it regained its independence.  It never recovered its former influence.

3. Coin Fabric and Relative Dating

There is far more written about the earliest coins of Magna Graecia than these later thicker issues.  I will only touch briefly on the early coins here.  The cities of Magna Graecia began minting coins sometime around 550 BC.  The early coins are unique in the Greek world in that they are thin, flat and have on one side the city’s type in relief and on the other side the same design reversed and incuse.

The main type of Kroton was the tripod.  This design appears on the obverse and incuse reverse from 550 BC to 500 BC.  From ca. 500 BC to 480 BC the incuse tripod on the reverse is replaced with an incuse eagle or incuse Corinthian helmet.

My coin belongs to the period from 480 BC to 420(30?) BC. The coins of this period are described as “dumpy” in the literature. Overall, they are thicker with a much smaller diameter flan and a noticeable drop in production quality in terms of strike, centering and die alignment. Evidence for dating the transition from flat and broad flans to thick and tight flans to ca. 480 BC comes from studying the coins of Metapontum [3].  Since the fabric of the coins from southern Italy is unique to that region, and changes to the fabric tended to spread to all cities there through commercial necessity, we can extrapolate trends at one mint to changes at other mints within a reasonable transition period. Metapontum had a high number of foreign coins re-struck at its mint.  The later thicker coins are often re-struck on coins of Hieron I of Syracuse who was tyrant from 478 BC to 467 BC.

4. The Coin Type and Design

Each of the cities of Magna Graecia in Southern Italy had a distinctive coin type that distinguished the coins from that city.  The tripod was the type chosen at Kroton.  In addition, there were additional design elements that were sometimes added.  I will discuss a few that relate to this coin below.

4.1 Tripod

The tripod was the most important badge of the city for its entire history.  Below are the two interpretations I find most compelling for the meaning of the symbol.

4.1.1 Association with Apollo and Delphi

According to Strabo’s rationalized account of the mythical story of Myscellus, the hero sets out to found Kroton on the instructions of the Pythia but returns to question his instructions when he comes to believe that the site of Sybaris is better [7].  Apollo basically tells him to do as he is told and not ask questions.

The practice of Greek settlers seeking advice from Delphi before founding a colony is well attested in Greek history and almost all cities that were founded in this way held Apollo in especial reverence.  Apollo’s association with the tripod comes from the fact that the Pythia gave her prophesies while seated on… a tripod.

Delphi.jpg.24f3647ffdb47fda6759ef82cc0f017c.jpg

The Temple of Apollo at Delphi (Author’s photo)

4.1.2 Association with Athletic Victory

Tripods were associated with prizes for athletic victory from the earliest history of the Greeks.  In the Iliad they are explicitly set aside as prized for the victors in the funeral games held for Patroclus with tripods only going to the first-place winners.

  • “Then the son of Peleus forthwith ordained in the site of the Danaans other prizes for a third contest, even for toilsome wrestling – for him that should win, a great tripod to stand upon the fire, that the Achaeans prized amongst them at the worth of twelve oxen” [8] (23.700-704)

A tripod was also the prize for the winners in games held to honor Triopian Apollo.  The victors were expected to dedicate the tripod immediately at the temple of Apollo.  Herodotus tells the story of a citizen from Halicarnassus, named Agasicles, who took the tripod home instead of dedicating it. As punishment, Halicarnassus was barred from using the Triopian Temple of Apollo and kicked out of an alliance with 5 other cities [9].  

When we consider that Kroton produced its best athletes in the period from ca. 580 BC – 500 BC we see that the coinage starts right at the height of this success.  It seems reasonable that on a badge that represents the city the citizens would choose a symbol that both honored an important god (Apollo) AND reinforced their own prestige in athletics.

Tripod.jpg.14df58c5d9e05c5187571fbf8a258110.jpg

Mycenean era tripod (Author’s photo)

4.2 Crane

Hand [2] notes that the coins with a crane to the side of the tripod on the obverse can be dated to 475 BC to 450 BC (unclear how). He associates the appearance of the crane on the coinage to a story that supposedly happened at Kroton. In the story a group of children were murdered and thrown into the sea at the same time that a flock of cranes flew overhead.  Later, while the murderers were gathered in the agora of the city another flock of cranes flew overhead. One of the murderers rashly boasted to his companions by loudly exclaiming “behold the witnesses” and pointing to the cranes.  A citizen in the agora overheard the exchange and denounced the group to the Great Council, leading to all the murderers being brought to justice [2].

5 From the J. G. Le Breton, Esq. Collection

Glendining_JGLB.jpg.87f0a871b04470cf20da669fdd527783.jpg

John Glossop Bythesea Le Breton was born in Jersey, Channel Islands, in October of 1884 to Georgemma and Edward Le Breton.  He had three siblings; an older brother, a younger brother and an older sister.  His father, Edward, served in the British army and retired as a Lt. Colonel in 1887.  The Le Bretons were a distinguished family with deep roots on the island of Jersey.

He went to boarding school at Radley and then attended Balliol College, Oxford from 1904-1909 where he studied history and earned a B.A.  In 1909 he joined the Government Service as an Administrative Officer and Magistrate in what is now Kenya. In 1911 he purchased farmland and eventually owned an estate of over 9000 acres near Lumbwa.

At the outbreak of World War I in 1914 he joined the East African Mounted Rifles as a Private. In November of 1914 he fought in the Battle of Kilimanjaro at Longido against the German forces in East Africa which resulted in a British defeat. He transferred to the King’s Mounted Rifles later in the war and rose to the rank of Captain.  After the war he continued farming for a time but eventually returned to Britain in 1924 for health reasons.

In Britain, he took up a career in education and taught at various institutions and colleges, including Glenalmond College-Perth during World War II.  He was also an author of several published articles and books including a book titled “Kenya Sketches” where he discusses his experiences of life in early 20th century East Africa.

In 1946 he purchased a hotel in Rye, Sussex.  He married Evelina Byrne in 1950 and had two children.  John Le Breton died on June 22, 1968.

I was unable to find much detailed information on when and how his collection was formed or how broad his interests were.  He is noted as having donated at least one item (an African shield) to the Pitt Rivers Museum at Oxford in 1933 so his collection probably extended beyond just coins.

The J. G. Le Breton Collection was sold at auction by Glendining on October 31, 1963. The collection was made up of ancient Greek and British coins.  Seaby was listed as the buyer for the above example at that sale and it was sold again in Seaby Coin and Medal Bulletin 548 in January of 1964.

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References

[1] Ovid, Metamorphosis: https://www.theoi.com/Text/OvidMetamorphoses15.html

[2] Hands, A. W., The Coins of Magna Graecia; Spink & Son Ltd; London, 1909

[3] Gardener, Percy, A History of Ancient Coinage 700-300 B.C.; Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1918

[4] History of Steep: https://historyofsteep.co.uk/portfolio/mrs-gemma-falconer-of-island-steep/

[5] Historia Numorum (Digital): https://www.snible.org/coins/hn/index.html

[6] Smith, William; Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854): https://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.04.0064:entry=croton-geo

[7] Strabo: http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/e/roman/texts/strabo/6a*.html

[8] Homer: https://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0134%3Abook%3D23%3Acard%3D700

[9] Herodotus: https://anastrophe.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/perseus/citequery3.pl?dbname=GreekNov21&query=Hdt.%201.144.2&getid=1 

PLEASE POST YOUR;

  • COINS FROM KROTON
  • COINS FROM MAGNA GREACIA (flat or dumpy!)
  • COINS WITH A TRIPOD
  • CRANES AND THE LIKE
  • FUN PROVENANCES
  • ANYTHING ELSE!!!
Edited by Curtisimo
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Posted · Supporter

WoWiE!!! Coingrats and please be careful where you point that thing!

reaction-blownaway.gif.781c264f43236f0988b80a386706538d.gif

To say the least, that thing blew me away:

blown-away-tent.gif.dfa484d207cfea5881fcc81e1fe2bca9.gif

Here's a new(ish) Magna Graecia in my collection:

856614602_Screenshot_20220621-193809_PicCollage-removebg-preview2.png.907df4530659b5c8303b3022ea7ebfb5.png

Magna Graecia

Lucania

Metapontum

Triobol, 470. Ear of barley; border of pellets within two concentric linear circles. Rev. Bull’s head facing, incuse; rayed border. HN III 1487. Noe 277. SNG ANS 263 ff.

Edited by Ryro
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4 hours ago, Ryro said:

WoWiE!!! Coingrats and please be careful where you point that thing!

reaction-blownaway.gif.781c264f43236f0988b80a386706538d.gif

To say the least, that thing blew me away:

blown-away-tent.gif.dfa484d207cfea5881fcc81e1fe2bca9.gif

Here's a new(ish) Magna Graecia in my collection:

856614602_Screenshot_20220621-193809_PicCollage-removebg-preview2.png.907df4530659b5c8303b3022ea7ebfb5.png

Magna Graecia

Lucania

Metapontum

Triobol, 470. Ear of barley; border of pellets within two concentric linear circles. Rev. Bull’s head facing, incuse; rayed border. HN III 1487. Noe 277. SNG ANS 263 ff.

That tent in the wind gif is hilarious. 😂 That guy got catapulted. Hope he is alright. 😆 

Also love the Metapontum! The ear of barley design is iconic. I was at a local coin shop a few years ago and came across this coin in a junk bin for like 50 cents. The connection to ancient coin design meant I happily snagged it.

B8011EE6-3B8C-4D13-9085-628336B58199.jpeg.3ebb14de150a24652a83fa4adb2f17c3.jpeg

 

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Posted · Supporter

I enjoyed reading your write-up and very much like the beautiful toning on your example. And, of course, the coin has a fantastic provenance.

Here is my Kroton stater:

1771073324_GriechenBruttumKrotonStaterDreifuss.png.6c35301705600b906ec3a30aedb4e627.png

Bruttium, Croton, AR nomos, ca. 480–430 BC. Obv: retrograde ϘPO; tripod with legs terminating in lion’s feet; to left, heron standing r. Rev: incuse tripod with central pellet. 18mm, 7.92g. Ref: HN Italy 2102; SNG ANS 261-2.

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Nomos of Kroton 530-520 BC Spread fabric Obv Tripod with legs terminating with lions feet two snakes in bowl. Rv The same but incuse.  SNG ANS 227 HGC 1444  8.13 grms 28 mm Photo by W. Hansencroton8.jpg.d75bb1d9c0ebb82f28e6354574c60f06.jpg

This coin does not have as illustrious a pedigree as the one cited by @Curtisimo So far the best I have been able to do is a Sternburg Auction back in 1985. Kroton is one of the more important mints striking coins using this rather novel minting technique. 

 

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Well that is a @Curtisimo coin if I ever saw one!  And a Curtisimo photo too... look at that yummy iridescent toning!  I love how it resides tantalizingly beyond reach in the recesses of the coin.  Very beautiful.  (When's it coming out of the slab?  Or are you hoping the slab will preserve the toning?)  Great writeup too, including your presentation of the neat provenance.

I was mostly grateful for the history and dating stuff you wrote, though, as I've been wanting to get a Kroton somehow connected with Pythagoras.  Sometimes dealers mention that the incuse design of the coins has something to do with him.  But given what you say, namely that the incuse types began c. 550 but Pythagoras didn't arrive until c. 530, that sounds rather unlikely!  Anyway, I read around a bit and here are a couple more things that tickled my fancy and might do the same for you... though I suppose it's likely old news given all the reading you did!

First, a little tidbit relevant to your coin: Pythagoreanism continued at Kroton despite the expulsion (or death?) of Pythagoras himself in 510, and the date of your piece places it at the time that the leading Pythagorean Philolaos was growing up and coming into his own there.  (Then he moved to Greece to spread Pythagorean ideas.)  He was probably the one who started adding all the math, as it doesn't seem Pythagoras himself had much to do with that bit, ironically!  Pythagoras was all about ascetic living, vegetarianism, and mystical theories about reincarnation.  Anyway, your coin still has a neat connection to Pythagoreanism even if Pythagoras wasn't around any longer.

On 6/26/2022 at 5:38 PM, Curtisimo said:

Kroton was an oligarchy run by a Great Council of 1000 members who supposedly descended from the original settlers [6].

That's pretty damn huge for an oligarchy!!  Re: the oligarchist-democrat conflict, I wonder what the population of adult males was and so how much this was really different?  Probably the "democrats" just wanted to be admitted to the ranks of the elite but then would have been perfectly happy to exclude later newcomers.  Isn't that how it usually works? 

On 6/26/2022 at 5:38 PM, Curtisimo said:

Hand [2] notes that the coins with a crane to the side of the tripod on the obverse can be dated to 475 BC to 450 BC (unclear how).

Looking on acsearch, it seems there are some spread-fabric cranes/herons dating earlier?  No doubt Hand (1909!) is outdated now.  (I realize you were focusing on the meaning, not the dates.)

I don't have much from Magna Graecia, but I do have one that's a bit related to your coin.  The Kroton-Sybaris conflict continued beyond the first destruction of Sybaris that you mentioned (the Sybarites kept trying to come back) but eventually around 445 they left for good and founded Thurii/Thurium, with the backing of Perikles from Athens, as a democracy. One of the original colonists was the historian Herodotos!  Here's my diobol of Thurii from around that time (ex. E.E. Clain Stefanelli collection):

image.jpeg.63dfe7f43de2cd54987a5c1013a7fde4.jpeg

And here's my latest tripod!  A Domitia from Thyateira (17mm, 2.75g):

image.jpeg.a3af493094b8149aea729f3d740a714c.jpeg

Coingrats and thanks again for the super writeup!

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8 hours ago, Severus Alexander said:

Well that is a @Curtisimo coin if I ever saw one!

Hah, that's almost exactly what I said to Curtis when he showed it to me!  And now we have a classic Curtis post to accompany it. :classic_smile:

Your photos are much better than the auction pics, Curtis.  Great coin, and beautifully toned!  I definitely want one of these some day.  For now, there's my little triobol...

385827492_BruttiumKroton-Triobol576.jpg.e238610f20c508f58c876d7fcb4d5815.jpg

BRUTTIUM, Kroton
AR Triobol. 1.21g, 11.4mm.
BRUTTIUM, Kroton, circa 525-425 BC. SNG ANS 327; HN Italy 2127.
O: KPO (retrograde), tripod terminating in lion's feet.
R: Pegasos flying left; koppa below.

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1 hour ago, zumbly said:

triobol...

385827492_BruttiumKroton-Triobol576.jpg.e238610f20c508f58c876d7fcb4d5815.jpg

BRUTTIUM, Kroton
AR Triobol. 1.21g, 11.4mm.
BRUTTIUM, Kroton, circa 525-425 BC. SNG ANS 327; HN Italy 2127.
O: KPO (retrograde), tripod terminating in lion's feet.
R: Pegasos flying left; koppa below.

Doug was just asking about these in the Magna Graecia thread, @zumbly… I took an amateurish stab at answering his historical context question, but maybe you actually know something!  Here’s his comment:

 

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40 minutes ago, Severus Alexander said:

Doug was just asking about these in the Magna Graecia thread, @zumbly… I took an amateurish stab at answering his historical context question, but maybe you actually know something!  Here’s his comment:

 

The 525-425 BC date I have for it is what's in HGC.  In the brief discussion there about Kroton's coinage of the period, there's no mention of it being one of Kroton's alliance issues.  I think Kraay answers it

Clipboard01.jpg.766a771f199679be6ea61bc630773064.jpg

Edited by zumbly
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Another great writeup about a great coin by our ow great @Curtisimo. Thanks for the effort and the sharing Curtis

The only tripod I can contribute with is the following

058001a7e66d483aaca674f4d7adcf40.jpg

Vitellius, Denarius - Rome mint, July - December 20, AD69
A VITELLIVS GERMAN IMP TR P, Laureate head of Vitellius right
XV VIR SACR FAC, Tripod-lebes with dolphin lying right on top and raven standing right below
3.43 gr, 16-18 mm
Ref : RCV # 2201var, Cohen cf # 110 et suiv, RIC I # 86 (this example illustrated in Wildwinds)

Q

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congratulations @Curtisimo nice coin and great writeup !

Here is one of my favorite coin of Kroton with a pretty nice golden/chocolate patina. 

 

crotone4big.jpg.d1e989b2772548ab4e2a8c46dd8b3450.jpg

Bruttium. Croton. 530-500 BC. Stater, 7,18g (12h)
O/ ϘΡΟ - TON. Tripod, legs surmounted by wreaths and terminating in lion's feet, two serpents emerging from the bowl, set on basis of three lines, the center dotted ; cable border.
R/ Same type, incuse ; striated border
HGC Italy 1444, HN Italy 2075, SNG ANS 235 (same obv. die), Gorini p.21 5 var.

Edited by Brennos
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9 hours ago, Qcumbor said:

Another great writeup about a great coin by our ow great @Curtisimo. Thanks for the effort and the sharing Curtis

The only tripod I can contribute with is the following

058001a7e66d483aaca674f4d7adcf40.jpg

Vitellius, Denarius - Rome mint, July - December 20, AD69
A VITELLIVS GERMAN IMP TR P, Laureate head of Vitellius right
XV VIR SACR FAC, Tripod-lebes with dolphin lying right on top and raven standing right below
3.43 gr, 16-18 mm
Ref : RCV # 2201var, Cohen cf # 110 et suiv, RIC I # 86 (this example illustrated in Wildwinds)

Q

I guess we should learn to Just Ask @zumbly, eh @dougsmit? 😆 Thanks, Z!  (Colin Kraay was pretty smart, methinks!)

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