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Plato's burial site pinpointed


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...Thanks to the wild and crazy new technology they have for reading carbonized manuscripts --even on papyrus. 


This had to call for a repost of my prized archaic-style Athenian tetradrachm, magnanimously priced by @CPK, which was the first purchase from the Cabinet.  Earlier than Plato, but not as much so as the papyri in Herculaneum are later.  And with enough honest wear to demonstrate a good interval of circulation.


...If anyone felt moved to post anything more nearly contemporaneous to Plato, it would be fun to see.

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Plato visited Syracuse 3 or more likely 4 times, under Dionysius, Dionysius the Younger and Dion, with whom he was very close. 
This coin is highly likely contemporary (it as close as can be) with his first visit. 

Syracuse, Ae drachm, c. 380 BC, [ΣΥΡΑ], head of Athena left wearing olive-wreathed Corinthian helmet, rev., sea star between two dolphins, 33.8g




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Thanks for sharing this story and coin @JeandAcre.  Although I've been following the Carbonized Library story, I hadn't heard about finding Plato's grave. 

This gave me an excuse to post a collecting milestone - I just got my first Athenian Owl this month - I'm still attributing it, but I think is is one of the Mass Issue types, with a couple of probably Phoenician countermarks obverse and reverse.  I've wanted one of these for a long time, of course, and was willing to settle for a lower-grade one.  Since they've become so common these past couple of years, I felt this was about as good as it gets for the price.  It was not a disappointment except for the area of crystallization behind Athena's head, which seems to be on the obverse surface only - this seems odd to me - I recently came across the term "hoard contact" which may explain it - most crystalized silver coins I've encountered are through-and-through, or throughout the interior.  At 16.9 grams, the weight is okay for one of these, and the edges look healthy, so I'm hoping it won't shatter.  Meanwhile, I'll try not to drop it. 


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In reading up on him at Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plato, Plato (Πλάτων, né Aristocles) was born in Athens or Aegina, lived c. 427-348 BC, and may have travelled to Italy, Sicily, Egypt and Cyrene.

If you search the internet, you’ll find that Plato issued coins!  Only, of course, it’s the other Plato (of Baktria, c. 166 BC, the one that lingers on my Want List).

Here’s a stater of Aigina that may overlap with Plato’s lifetime. The use of the land tortoise rather than the traditional sea tortoise on the coinage could, some suggest, reflect Aigina’s conquest by the Athenians, just before the Peloponnesian war.  It was sold to me with the date 404-340 B.C. 

Aigina. AR Stater (12.16 gm, 21.0mm). Land tortise with segmented shell of 13 plates. Indistinct countermark in center. / Skew pattern incuse square w/ five
compartments (three squares and two triangles) divided by three thin bands. aVF. SNG Delepierre 1775 (same rev. die); BMC p.137 #146; Dewing 1683;
HGC 6 #437; McClean II #6040-6044; Meadows Aegina Gp IIIb; Milbank pd.V pl.2 #12; SNG Cop 3 (Attica-Aegina) 516-517; SNG Munich 561-562.

Edited by Anaximander
Fixed line break before photo.
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This coin was actually handled by Plato himself while visiting Syracuse. This has been confirmed by fingerprint analysis, DNA testing and radiocarbon dating.

No, really!

Syracuse, Reign of Dionysius I

405-367 BC
AE Hemilitron (18mm, 4.12g)
O: Head of Arethusa left, hair in sphendone and wearing earring and necklace; dolphin behind.
R: Wheel of four spokes; ΣΥ-ΡΑ in upper quadrants, two dolphins in lower quadrants.
HGC 2, 1479; Calciati 20; SNG ANS 404-10; Sear 1186
ex Jack H. Beymer

~ Peter 


Edited by Phil Anthos
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Posted (edited)

@Marsyas Mike, Congratulations on the tetradrachm!  You certainly walked into that with a lot more background knowledge than I had.  It's fun that the countermarks are probably Phoenician.  ...And, elephant in the room time, Very Best of luck with the thankfully minimal crystalization.  Knowing nothing about the technicalities of that, here's hoping there's some safe way of addressing that, even if (eventually?) by a specialist.

...Oh, right, I started this, so you're all owed.  Sorry.  @Deinomenid, the Syracuse AE is Fantastic.  The level of contemporaneity is truly great.  And on a philosopher's budget, he could easily have spent it!

@Anaximander, I've always liked Aeginan staters, but had no idea that the transition to land tortoises was occasioned by an Athenian conquest.  Cool!  RIght, even if Plato wasn't born there, you've got that much more happening in the way of historical context, along with the (also impressive) contemporaneity.

Another solid one, @Phil Anthos.  ...Nope, don't think the technology has advanced quite to that level....

Edited by JeandAcre
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Posted (edited)

PLATO TIME (well, a bit after when folks were lamenting…)

SICILY. Syracuse. 
Timoleon and the Third Democracy (344-317 BC). 
AE Hemidrachm, 
23mm, 17.2g
Obv: ZEΥΣ ΕΛΕΘΥΕPΙΟΣ; Laureate head right.
Rev: ΣYPAKOΣIΩN; Thunderbolt, barley grain to right.
Reference: SNG ANS 472 ff

Edited by Alegandron
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