Crete, Axos - Apollo Axios

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The ancient city of Axos occupied the hill above the modern village of the same name. The protecting deity of Axos was probably Apollo, perhaps called Axios, whose son Oaxos was according to tradition the eponymous founder of the city. Two archaic temples have been excavated at Axos, one on the acropolis and a second below it to the east. Temple I is attributed to Apollo and Temple II has been attributed to Aphrodite on the basis of votive figurines. The young and beardless male head on the obverse of this coin, used in conjunction with the tripod-lebes, must then surely be intended to represent Apollo.

The nature of the coin itself seems archaic, primitive even, considering the date to which its production is assigned. In this it somewhat resembles and recalls the highly stylized efforts of some Celtic engravers, yet its stylistic simplicity is not so surprising when we consider the relatively backward nature of Crete in the Archaic and Classical periods: though Crete was a pioneer of art and culture in the 10th-7th centuries, a major change occured circa 630 BC, which seems to have led to a petrification of Cretan institutions, and Cretan art and culture lost all their innovative power. The cities of Crete became inward-looking, and internecine war became the norm among the city-states of Crete, many of which sought to challenge the power of Knossos and gain superiority over the others.

Interestingly, the only attestation of a post-Minoan king on Crete occurs at Axos, which according to Herodotos was ruled by the basileos Etearchos, who reigned sometime in the 8th or 7th centuries and was the maternal grandfather of Battos, the oikistes (founder) of Kyrene.

Crete, Axos AR Stater. Circa 4th century BC. Young beardless head right with short cropped hair / Tripod with handles and animal feet. Unpublished variant, for general type cf. Le Rider 238-43 pl. 8, 16-20; Svoronos p. 10, 3, pl. 1 (Apollonia); BMFA Suppl. 107 (Apollonia or Axos). 11.70g, 25mm, 2h.

Extremely Fine. Apparently unique and unpublished.

From the Eckenheimer Collection.