Ionia, Teos - Refoundation from Abdera

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Teos was founded by Minyans from Orchomenus along with Ionians and Boiotians perhaps as early as the ninth century BC. On account of its outstanding position between two perfect harbours Teos was a flourishing seaport with strong trade relations throughout the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean until the middle of the sixth century BC when Cyrus the Great invaded Lydia and Ionia.

Fearing conquest and enslavement, the inhabitants of Teos fled overseas to the newly founded colonies of Abdera in Thrace and Phanagoria on the Asian side of the Cimmerian Bosporus. Abdera took the principal type of the griffin for its coinage, though the monster now faced to the left, or West, perhaps a consequence of their people’s flight from their homeland. However, Teos appears to have recovered fairly quickly; it seems that Teos was refounded by Abdera sometime soon after the Persian conquest of c. 545. Though this refoundation is not explicitly attested in any extant literature, an intriguing passage in the inscription of public imprecations from Teos (see P. Herrmann, ‘Teos und Abdera im 5. Jahrhundert v. Chr’, Chiron xi, 1981) alludes to ‘my mother’ being Abdera and ‘the mother of my mother’ being Teos, thus providing the only evidence for the refounding of Teos by Abdera.

Strabo supports the refoundation hypothesis by stating that some of the colonists of Abdera later returned to Teos (xiv 1.30), and it is highly plausible since the city soon after contributed 17 ships to the Ionian revolt, and the Teians were present at the ill-fated battle of Lade in 494 BC in the centre of the line next to the large Chian navy. This is further supported by the numismatic evidence which shows that Teos’ first coinage was contemporary with that of Abdera, and Abdera’s were struck only soon after its colonization by the refugees from Teos; Kraay (Archaic and Classical Greek Coins, 1976) suggests that the coinages were started in planned conjunction.

The present coin is an exemplary specimen of the early classical coinage of Teos, being exceptionally well engraved with a multitude of fine details in a beautiful archaizing style which leaves us in no doubt about the talent of the die cutter; of particular note are the fierce head of the beast and its splendid curved wings. Careful attention has been paid even to the panther head adjunct and the ornate base upon which the griffin crouches.

Ionia, Teos AR Stater. Circa 478-449 BC. Female griffin with curved wings crouching to right on semicircle and pellet ornamented base, left forepaw raised; panther’s head below paw, THION around / Quadripartite incuse square. J.M. Balcer, The Early Silver Coinage of Teos, SNR 47 1968, 103; BMC 19. 11.68g, 24mm.

Good Extremely Fine. An exceptional example, well struck on a very broad flan. Rare; 20 specimens are present in CoinArchives, of which this is by a considerable margin the finest.

Ex Künker 216, 8 October 2012, lot 425;
Ex Lanz 30, 26 November 1984, lot 267.