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Mysia, Kyzikos EL Stater. Circa 500-450 BC. Head of Silenos facing; tunny fish upward to either side / Quadripartite incuse square. Von Fritze -, cf. 77 (fractions); cf. Greenwell 45 (same); cf. Boston MFA 1424 = Warren 1465 (hekte); cf. SNG BN 208 (hekte); SNG France -; BMC -; Gillet -; Gulbenkian -; Jameson -; Weber -; Hurter & Liewald I, 77; Roma XI, 405. 15.80g, 20mm.

Good Very Fine. Very Rare.

The teacher and faithful companion of the wine-god Dionysos, Silenos was described as the oldest, wisest and most drunken of the followers of Dionysos, and was said in Orphic hymns to be the young god's tutor. Originally a folkloric man of the forest with the ears of a horse (and sometimes also the tail and legs of a horse), Silenos was often depicted with thick lips and a squat nose, as is the case here, fat, and most often bald – though our Silenos may consider himself fortunate in that he sports a full head of hair.

Unusual consideration has been given to symmetry in the composition of this type: though symmetrical designs do occur, as in the case of two eagles perched on an omphalos (v. Fritze 220) or the double bodied sphinx (v. Fritze 138) to name but two, this is one of a tiny minority of designs that incorporates two tunny fish for balance. Interestingly, it has been suggested that the head of Silenos on this coin very possibly served as the model for a silver issue of the slightly later Lykian dynast Teththiveibi (see BMC 88 and SNG Berry 1164).

One of the principal myths concerning Silenos has him lost and wandering in Phrygia, rescued by peasants and taken to the Phrygian King Midas, who treated him kindly. In return for Midas' hospitality Silenos regaled him with tales and Midas, enchanted by Silenos' fictions, entertained him for five days and nights. When the god Dionysos found his wayward friend, he offered Midas a reward for his kindness towards Silenos, a blessing which the avaricious Midas squandered by choosing the power of turning everything he touched into gold. How fitting then, that we should see in this beautiful coin a faint reflection of that classic myth of the drunken but sage Silenos looking out at us across the millennia through this window of golden metal.

Mysia, Kyzikos EL Stater. (e48xx174)

Price: £2,932.80

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  • (Rates for 17/08/2018)


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