Sicily, Katane - An Unpublished 'Heron' Tetradrachm

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This coin represents a new addition to the corpus of coinage known for Katane; the astounding appearance of the proud bird on the reverse is completely unexpected and thus delightfully surprising. Though it is not without precedent - Kraay-Hirmer 31 and 32 display a heron above the androcephalic Amenanos - neither depict the bird standing to its full height in this manner.

The symbol of the heron in this context is ambiguous - though inclusions of local fauna (principally marine animals) on the coinage of Katane may have little significance other than as representations of that coastal area’s fruitful fisheries, the prominent placement of the heron before Nike suggests a possible symbolism in the bird beyond its simple usage as a faunal decoration. We might speculate that it represents an aspect of Pallas Athena, for whom the bird served as a messenger and herald: (Iliad, X, 274: Pallas Athena sent a heron gliding down the night. They could not see it passing, but they heard its cry; and heartened by that fisher bird, Odysseus prayed ‘O child of Zeus who bears the storm cloud, hear me…. tonight, befriend me most, Athena….' These were the prayers, and Pallas Athena, Zeus’ daughter, heard them.). This association is possibly also referenced on the coinage of Kamarina wherein the heron appears together with Athena who is depicted driving a racing quadriga, crowned by Nike.

Sicily, Katane AR Tetradrachm. Circa 465-450 BC. The river god Amenanos as a bearded, man-headed bull swimming to right; Nike above, flying to right holding wreath with which she crowns Amenanos, retrograde K below / Nike, wearing long chiton, standing left, holding taenia in her outstretched right hand; heron standing to left before, KATANAION around. Mirone -; SNG ANS -; Jameson -; SNG Copenhagen -; Randazzo -; Rizzo -. 16.91g, 26mm, 8h.

Good Extremely Fine. Attractive metal, pleasantly toned. Apparently unique and unpublished.

From the Comery Collection.