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A Gortynian stater from the collection of Ioannis Photiades Pasha (†1892)


Nikodeimos

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Posted (edited)
Apparently, it’s Europe Day today, so I thought I’d share my own Europa I acquired recently. I find Cretan coinage to be some of the most interesting struck in Antiquity, and I’ve often told my collector friends that, if I had the money, I’d collect Crete exclusively. Alas, my pockets aren’t that deep, but this coin at least fulfills a longstanding desideratum in my collection.
 
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CRETE. Gortyna. Circa 330-270 BC. Stater (Silver, 33 mm, 11.63 g, 8 h). Europa seated half-right in plane tree, leaning her right hand on branch and propping her head on her left. Rev. Bull standing right, turning its head back to left to lick its flanks. Le Rider, Monnaies crétoises, 14b & pl. XII, 9 (this coin). Pierced, heavy traces of overstriking and with light marks, otherwise, good fine.
 
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Privately acquired from Lugdunum, ex Lugdunum 23, 14 December 2023, 43, Burgan January 2021 Auction, 15 January 2021, 23, From the collection of Robert Feuardent (1877-1966) (?) and that of Ioannis Photiades Pasha (†1892), Hoffmann, 19 May 1890, 1273 (not illustrated, purchased for 26 francs)
 
Gortyna was one of the chief cities of Crete, with archaeological evidence stretching back into Neolithic times. Gortyna survived the various wars that plagued Crete during the 3rd century BC and eventually became the island’s leading city under the Romans as the capital of the province of Crete and Cyrenaica. From the Roman period in particular, many ruins still survive at Gortyna, which remains an important site on the island. The town is also known for its law code, surviving in a truly massive inscription of which the oldest part belongs to the archaic period, and which continued to be codified and amended well into the classical period.
 
As for Cretan coins in general, it is a deeply fascinating and complex coinage. Probably due to their relative isolation, the Cretans were relatively late when it came to coin production, with the earliest issues belonging to the middle of the 5th century. The heyday of its coinage was certainly the end of the 4th and the early 3rd century, however, when the Cretan cities produced some of their finest coinage. The issues consist of beautiful pieces of the best style Greek coinage has to offer on the one hand and crude types that seem nearly barbarous on the other. Likewise, Cretan coinage sometimes directly copied foreign issues, such as those of Aigina and Athens, and at other times came up with highly original designs inspired by the rich mythology of the island.
 
In the case of my coin, we see Europa on the obverse, sitting in the branches of a plane-tree. This tree stood near Gortyna and was believed to have covered the marriage bed of Europa and Zeus after the latter abducted her. The reverse shows a bull in reference to the same myth. In this, the Gortynians had something of a rivalry with the Phaistians, both cities claiming the legend on their coinage. Indeed, the Gortynian coin is overstruck on a rare (and beautiful) issue of Phaistos likewise featuring Europa and the bull on one side and Hermes on the other, which can be seen by turning the coin 90° to the left. Especially on the reverse, one can see the outline of the bull of the former coin and part of the old legend is still clearly legible, [ΦΑΙ]ΣΤΙΟΝ, written in a very archaic script. Such overstrikes are particularly common at Gortyna, who apparently did not care much for producing their own flans during this time.
 
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Finally, the coin has a very old pedigree, coming from the collection of Ioannis Photiades Pasha, an Ottoman Greek who was governor of Crete from 1879 to 1885 (likely, the coin was acquired during this time), and ambassador to various European countries, including Greece, Italy and Belgium. He built up a spectacular collection of Greek and Byzantine coins, which he mostly bought in Athens and Constantinople. Although the coin is not illustrated in the Hoffmann catalogue of 1890 (sadly, only a fraction of Photiades’ coins were!), the provenance is given by Le Rider, and the time of the publication of his Monnaies crétoises, it was in the collection of one of the Feuardent brothers, who I assume to be Robert Feuardent, who was still alive in the 60s. Cretan coins with good provenance are not exactly common and such an old and distinguished one is truly the cherry on the cake.
Edited by Nikodeimos
Changed 1890 purchase price
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Posted (edited)

@Nikodeimos welcome! I completely agree with you on the enchanting qualities of Cretan coins. Would that there were more! The Europa or Britomartis ones like  yours are fantastic. There's something about them that not even Becker could reproduce.

Here's a Gortnya to keep yours company -

Gortyna AR Drachm.  4th century BC. Head of Persephone to right, hair bound with barley wreath, wearing triple pendant earring and necklace / ΓΟΡΤΙΝΙΩΝ, Cretan bull standing to right, head reverted.  

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Edited by Deinomenid
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Posted (edited)
20 hours ago, Nikodeimos said:

overstrikes are particularly common at Gortyna, who apparently did not care much for producing their own flans during this time.

Amazing provenance on that stater!  Europa, the Phoenician princess!

I have only one Greek coin, but it is this type.  I was attracted to it because of the link to pre-history, the ancient myth describing the origin of Europe.  Scientists are continually revising the description of the process of European development, but some of the outline is commonly accepted.  Most agree that agriculture as well as many typical crops,  domestication of animals, metallurgy, and the vast majority of modern European languages all spring from origins in the Near East which spread to the hunter-gatherer peoples of Europe.  

Europe’s brother Cadmus was believed to have brought the alphabet to Ancient Greece.

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The stater of Lyttos on which my coin is overstruck.

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Edited by Hrefn
Hit post prematurely.
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Very nice! Here's my only coin from Gortyna.

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Crete, Gortyna
Circa 250-221 BCE
Æ 17mm 4.1g
Europa seated right in tree, lifting her drapery; to left, eagle standing left, head right; border of rays /
Europa seated right, lifting her drapery, on bull running left; all within wreath.
Jackson pl. 12, 2; Svoronos, Numismatique 109; Joy 466; SNG Copenhagen 447; BMC 45

 

Here's my most recent Cretan acquisition.

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Praisos, Crete
300-270 BCE
AR Stater 9.69g
Zeus Diktaios sitzt l. auf der Rechten Adler, in der Linken Zepter, die Hüften von Himation bedeckt
In Punktkreis: Protome eines kretischen Ziegenbockes l. zurückblickend.
Le Rider Pl. XXX, 18; Svoronos 25, Pl. XXVII, 25; Slg. Traeger -, vergl. 342

 

You can see all my Crete coins here.

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46 minutes ago, Nikodeimos said:

Are those the same dies as mine?

I am no expert in the series.   And the coins being overstrikes doesn’t help.  But I was immediately thinking the same thing when I first viewed your post.  

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@Nikodeimos there's a specialist overstrike site that has a good number of your type of coin with the various understrikes shown if you click the coin (if known). I don't think it is currently taking new submissions, but may be wrong. My coin is there,  but listed as undertype  unknown.

https://silver.knowledge.wiki/Special:BrowseData/Overstrike?title=Special%3ABrowseData%2FOverstrike&_search_Mint[0]=Gortyn

Gortyn is one of their main sources -

 

 

Screenshot 2024-05-11 at 20-25-55 Greek Overstrikes Database - SILVER.png

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On 5/10/2024 at 2:24 PM, Nikodeimos said:
Apparently, it’s Europe Day today, so I thought I’d share my own Europa I acquired recently. I find Cretan coinage to be some of the most interesting struck in Antiquity, and I’ve often told my collector friends that, if I had the money, I’d collect Crete exclusively. Alas, my pockets aren’t that deep, but this coin at least fulfills a longstanding desideratum in my collection.
 
11954798.jpg.e9b3da18e0f9d33a0c0c6864755ae669.jpg
 
CRETE. Gortyna. Circa 330-270 BC. Stater (Silver, 33 mm, 11.63 g, 8 h). Europa seated half-right in plane tree, leaning her right hand on branch and propping her head on her left. Rev. Bull standing right, turning its head back to left to lick its flanks. Le Rider, Monnaies crétoises, 14b & pl. XII, 9 (this coin). Pierced, heavy traces of overstriking and with light marks, otherwise, good fine.

Lovely provenance and an interesting coin @Nikodeimos - sadly, I have no coin of Gortyna to share, but I do have a couple of coins depicting Europa which are shared here:

https://www.sullacoins.com/post/the-naming-of-europe along with more notes.

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Imperatorial Rome, L. Valerius Acisculus, 45 BC, AR Denarius, (19.8mm, 3.95g, 12h), Rome mint

Obv: ACIS-CVLVS, diademed head of Apollo Soranus right, surmounted by star; acisculus to left

Rev: L. VALERIVS, Europa riding bull right, holding a billowing veil above

Ref: Crawford 474/1a; CRI 90; Sydenham 998; Valeria 17; RBW 1656

Note: the asciculus (a stone mason's pick) shown behind Apollo on the obverse is a pun on the moneyer's name. 

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Posted (edited)

Fantastic piece and superb provenance, consider me very much jelly. I love Cretan coinage as well but am yet to own a piece. The obverses of Europa always get to me, I have not seen any coinage which capture despair and dejection as “life like” as Gortyna, they remind me of Goya's prints. Big congrats!

Edited by Jabes
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The hole in your coin is fascinating, @Nikodeimos. The pedigree and type are both excellent - and I agree that it would be possible to build a fulfilling collection solely from the coinage of Crete.

Two of my favorite coins are Cretan:

Half stater from Gortyna, ex Prospero:

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And this stater, sold by Ed Waddell in the 1980s:

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And, to pay homage to the archaeologist who excavated (and short-sightedly damaged) Knossos, here's my favorite ex-Sir Arthur Evans coin:

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Ex. Sir Arthur John Evans, Ars Classica XVII, Oct 13, 1934, lot 1365

Ex. Magnaguti III lot 86, June 26, 1950

Ex. Munzen & Medallien AG Auction 28 lot 327 (June 19, 1964)

Ex. Spink, 8 August 1964, £275 - "very rare"

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