Sicily, Akragas - Agamemnon's Omen

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The coinage of Akragas consistently depicted the crab and eagle since its earliest issue of the sixth century BC, and the best engravers were recruited to render these symbols of the city in the finest possible style. Late in the fifth century the coinage of the city underwent a remarkable transformation; like many of the cities of Sicily such as Messana and Syracuse, a renaissance began that saw numismatic art reach new heights of intricacy and magnificence. The traditional types were transformed, and the metamorphosis could not have been more pronounced - the previously static types are replaced by dynamic scenes full of activity and energy.

This particular design of the two eagles may have been inspired by the omen received by Agamemnon and Menelaos in Aeschylos' Agamemnon, where two eagles, representing the two kings, devoured a pregnant hare, an allusion to the forthcoming destruction of city of Troy. Such was the fate of Troy, and also of Akragas which was sacked and razed by the Carthaginians in 406 BC. Thus was this brief flourishing of vibrant art in Akragas brutally put to a premature end.

Sicily, Akragas AR Tetradrachm. Circa 409-406 BC. Nymph or goddess driving quadriga galloping to right, about to turn, her robes billowing behind her; Nike above, flying left to crown the charioteer; crab swimming downwards in exergue / Two eagles standing right on dead hare lying on a rock; the closest eagle with its wings closed and head upraised, the further with open wings and head preparing to tear at the hare; ΑΚΡΑΓΑΝΤΙΝΩΝ (retrograde) around. Jameson 1889; Kraay/Hirmer 178; Rizzo pl. II, 1 (= de Hirsch 288); Seltman, Engravers 6 (all from the same dies). 17.23g, 28mm, 3h.

Extremely Fine. Superb quality for the issue, attractively toned. Very Rare.

From the David Freedman Collection;
Ex A. Tkalec, 9 May 2005, lot 14.