Benefactor kirispupis Posted July 3, 2022 · Benefactor Benefactor Share Posted July 3, 2022 (edited) I find it a bit ironic that I purchased this stater of Elis for the 111th Olympiad at a baseball game. My son is a huge sports fanatic, so I went. However, baseball isn't always the most exciting game so I began checking my phone between the innings, then started perusing an auction that was happening the next day, when I noticed this coin. A stater from Elis had been on my list for some time, with a note to figure out which one to pursue before purchasing one. However, the year made that decision trivial. 336 BCE. This was the Olympiad when Philip II was assassinated and Alexander the Great became king. Granted, I'd always thought to go for one of the Games where Philip's chariot won, but this one seemed far more critical. No one had bid on it. My eyes popped when I researched the going prices, but this one was in rough condition so I put a lowball bid even with that factored in, and resumed watching the game. The next day, I honestly didn't pay attention to the auction. This was the only coin I bid on, and I figured it wasn't worth checking since I was certain to lose. I worked away on my computer and expected the notification that I was outbid, but it never came. Had the auction started yet? It did, and to my stunned excitement, I'd won. ELIS, Olympia. 111th Olympiad 336 BCE AR Stater 22mm, 11.63 g, 6h Hera mint. Head of Hera right, wearing ornamented stephanos inscribed [FAΛEI]Ω[N] / Eagle standing left, head right, wings spread, on rock; all within wreath. Seltman, Temple 341–5 var. (dies FG/–); BCD Olympia 159 (same obv. die); HGC 5, 394. Ex CNG So, now on to this stater that's become a jewel in my collection. Nearly the entirety of these coins were used for the Olympic festival and for pilgrims to the two temples, based on the fact that very few large coins of Elis have been found in Olympia. Elis itself was primarily rural with little need for such a vast coinage. At the festivals, visitors were required to convert their currency to the special coins minted for that purpose, with the conversion fee renumerating the Eleans for the upkeep of the games and the temples. Most Olympiads had their own coinage minted for that festival, which explains the large number of varieties. The top engravers in Greece were hired for the purpose. It's believed that few coins had much purpose save as souvenirs after the festivals, though the existence of countermarks on some coins had led to speculation that coins from previous years were permittable once they were stamped . This particular coin comes from the Hera mint. Seltman was one of the first to realize that there were two different mints that issued coins simultaneously - called the "Zeus" mint and the "Hera" mint. We don't know for sure that the mints were based at the corresponding temples, but the entirely separate lineage of dies strongly suggests two separate mints, and these were the two dominant temples at the time. The Hera temple was the older, having been built roughly a hundred years before that of Zeus, though the Zeus coinage predates that of Hera. Seltman lists the end of the Hera mint around 323 BCE, which of course was the same year Alexander the Great died. The temple itself was destroyed in an earthquake in the 4th century CE, which may have saved its ruins from the fate of the more famous Zeus temple - whose eponymous statue was one of the seven ancient wonders of the world, and was demolished as a pagan relic. Today, the Olympic flame continues to be lit on the ruined Temple of Hera's altar before being carried to the rest of the world. Elis and Olympia are actually two separate places, but Elis controlled the mints of Olympia and the Olympiads themselves. This hegemony was disputed with nearby Pisa, but for most of ancient history Elis had the upper hand. In terms of the symbols on the coin, the eagle is a natural symbol of Zeus . Per Gardner, the symbol of an eagle flying symbolizes Zeus the Cloud-gatherer, while one with a serpent or hare indicates Zeus as the "giver of victory." This coin shows neither. Instead, the eagle is on a rock with its wings spread. Perhaps this may instead remind the visitors that eagle rising from the altar signified the start of the chariot race, which would have been keen in the minds of the Macedonians - who were the Eleans' chief benefactors at the time. I took this photo yesterday. The eagle was evidently excited to be included in this post. The wreath, of course, is what was given to the victors at the games. We all learned that as schoolchildren. As for the image of Hera, interestingly there was a separate Olympic festival for young (unmarried) women called the Heraean Games. Adult women, however, weren't allowed to even attend the mens' games, and the Heraean Games seem to have been held shortly before the mens'. To be honest, while both Leu and CNG state that Seltman assigns this stater to the 111th Olympiad in 336 BCE, from my reading of Seltman I don't see where he states this. He does confidently mark it as between 364 and 323 BCE, and suggests that it occurred before the last group, which came at the very end of the mint. Four obverse dies are in his series XXX, named FG to FK (this is FG). So, I'll just defer to CNG and Leu's experts. That's the history, but now comes the fun part: speculation. Who could have touched this coin? The obvious answer is someone who attended the 111th Olympic Games did. This was more likely multiple someones, as the festival was a major market for trading commodities. While we'd like to think someone spent it on popcorn and Cracker Jacks in the stands, or for a Dioxippos action figure to take home to the kids, it was more likely purchased on something from another corner of Greece that wasn't readily available in the owners' area. That's all nice, but given the year, we obviously want to know the odds of Alexander or Philip holding it. For Philip II, the Olympics were a major vehicle to elevate him to the hegemony of Greece. His chariots won in 356, 352, and 348 and the victories were depicted on his coins.  The famous Philippeion, containing statues of Philip, Alexander, and Olympias, was built at Olympia itself. It is believed that Alexander himself never attended the games, but it did use the 114th Olympiad in 324 BCE to announce his exiles decree.  Macedonian Kingdom, Philip II AR Tetradrachm. Pella mint, ca 354-349 BC. 22-24 mm., 13.68g. Laureate head of Zeus right / ΦIΛΛIΠOY, Philip II, diademed & in kausia, on horseback left, raising right hand Ex N&N Collection It seems extremely likely that neither Alexander nor Philip attended the 336 BCE games, so my next question was: how likely was it held by one of the attendees of the wedding between Philip's daughter and Alexander's full sister Kleopatra, and Alexander I of Molossos (Olympia's brother)? To answer that, we need to look at logistics. The festival was held roughly from August 6th to September 19th. Philip was assassinated at his daughter's wedding in October. I could find no more precise date there. Kleopatra and Alexander's wedding was a big affair. This was a grand spectacle for Philip II and everyone who was someone throughout Greece was invited. Given that the Olympics were also a big deal, I'm certain that some attended both. From Olympia, had they taken the A5, they would have reached Vergina after 525 km. Therefore, at the leisurely 30 km per day, one could have reached Vergina in 17 days. Had they travelled part of the way by boat or packed lighter, they could have made it in less time. Therefore, it was certainly possible. Epeiros.The Molossi AE Circa 360-330/25 BCE Ex Bertolami Auction 44 (Sep 2017) Ex Catawiki One person who was both at the these Games and known to Alexander was the Athenian boxer/wrestler Dioxippos. So feared was he, that no one would oppose him at the Games, so he won by default. He then accompanied Alexander's army into Persia. Both Quintus Curtius Rufus and Diodorus recall the bout between him and the Macedonian Coragos. Dioxippos, despite being naked compared to Coragos' armor, easily dispatched the Macedonian. This stunned the Macedonians, including Alexander, and raised their jealousy to the point that they tried to frame the Greek with theft. Dioxippos, feeling dishonored, wrote a letter explaining his frustrations to Alexander, then committed suicide. Alexander was reported as very distraught over the tragedy. Sadly, I know nothing about where this coin was found, so this is only speculation. The coin is well-worn, so it definitely had a history after the Games. In the center of the obverse is a test cut. When seen with the naked eye, it looks more like a hole - perhaps used to attach the coin to something. However, upon seeing the mark at large on my monitor, I'm inclined to agree with the CNG listing that it's a test cut. Perhaps it was brought back to a later Olympic Games? Gardner mentions that fewer of the later coins have countermarks so perhaps customs just made this small cut to verify that the coin was real without causing too much damage to a potential souvenir. I'm very proud to be the new owner of this precious artifact, and it will serve a key place in telling a story.  Seltman, Charles T. (1921) The Temple Coins of Olympia  van, A. P. G. (2004). A simple souvenir: Coins and medals of the Olympic Games. American Numismatic Society.  Gardner, Percy. (1879). The Coins of Elis. Numismatic Chronicle, Vol XIX ps 221-273.  Scanlon, Thomas F. (6 April 2004). "Games for Girls". "Archaeology". Archaeological Institute of America.  Adams, Winthrop Lindsay. “Other People’s Games: The Olympics, Macedonia and Greek Athletics.” Journal of Sport History, vol. 30, no. 2, 2003, pp. 205–17. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/43610327. Accessed 3 Jul. 2022. Edited July 4, 2022 by kirispupis 14 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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