A Very Rare Stater of The Arkadian League


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Arkadia, Arkadian League. Circa 363-362 BC. Silver Stater. 12.19 grams.

The obverse features a bearded head of Zeus Lykaios (see note below) in high classical style, wearing a laurel wreath. The reverse depicts the young god Pan reclining upon a rocky outcrop, his mantle spread beneath him. Unusually, Pan's head is three-quarters facing rather than being simply in profile, indicating a high level of technical ability on the part of the die engraver. Leaning on his left arm, the god holds in his right a lagobolon, a throwing club for the hunting of hares; a syrinx is propped against the rocks below. In the left field, the monogram of the Arkadian League; OΛVM in small letters upon the rocks. 

References: Gerin 3–12 variant (dies 1/– [unlisted reverse die]); BCD Peloponnesos (Megalopolis) 1511 (same dies); SNG Copenhagen –; BMC 49; SNG Fitzwilliam 3851 (same obverse die); Gulbenkian 532 (same obv. die); Seltman, Masterpieces of Greek Coinage 48b = Weber 4259 (same obv. die); Traité pl. CCXXIV, 2 = Mionnet II pg. 244, 7 (same obv. die).  

Provenance: Ex Nomos Auction 2, Zurich, 18 May 2010, lot 97 [incorrectly listing rev. die c]; Triton VIII, New York, 11 January 2005, lot 329.

One of the great rarities of the late Classical coinage of Greece, and a true masterpiece of Greek numismatic art. There are 33 of these staters known to exist, of which 21 are in public museums.

After the Boeotian victory over the Spartans at Leuktra in 371 BC, an anti-Spartan democratic movement arose in Arkadia in the central Peloponnesos. By 369 BC a confederacy of most of the Arkadian city-states was established, and, under the auspices of the Boeotian leader Epaminondas, a city was founded by combining five pre-existing neighboring villages. This new urban center, Megalopolis, became the capital of the short-lived Arkadian League and, like Messene, a fortified buffer against Spartan power in the Peloponnesos. Though it experienced difficulties with its constituent communities, Megalopolis developed into the largest city in Arkadia and exerted a strong influence in the Peloponnesos.

This brief series, struck at Megalopolis from just 3 sets of dies, were produced at the height of the Arkadian League's power. As can easily be seen, the engraver who produced the three obverse dies for the mint in Megalopolis, and the Pan reverse dies that accompanied them, was one of the great engravers of the mid 4th century (he almost certainly undertook work for the sacred mint of Zeus at Olympia as well and surely also inspired the engravers of Philip II of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great).

The head of Zeus has been thought to have been taken from Leochares’ statue of Zeus Brontaios (the Thunderer) in Olympia, a city the League conquered just prior to the issue of these staters, as a reminder of the Arkadian claim to the sanctuary, though one would also have known that it was meant to represent the Arkadian Zeus Lykaios (wolf-Zeus) whose sanctuary was on Mount Lykaion and who had a major temple in Megalopolis as well. According to the accepted dating, these staters comprised a short series struck from Spring 363 until July 362. Thereafter the League dissolved into two factions, respectively centered on Megalopolis and Mantinea, who fought on opposing sides at the Battle of Mantineia for Thebes and Sparta respectively. The result was a victory for Thebes, though their brilliant leader Epaminondas was mortally wounded while fighting in the front line of his army. With his loss and the utter defeat of Sparta, the stage was set for the Macedonian conquest of all Greece under Philip II.

£ Price on application.