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Cyprus, Salamis AR Stater. Evagoras I, circa 411-374 BC. Head of bearded Herakles wearing lion skin headdress to right, Cypriot script before / Goat with long horns and beard lying to right on dotted ground line; combined Greek and Cypriot letters around; letter to right. BMC 55 var.; Boston 2144 var.; Tziambazis 113 var. 10.87g, 24mm, 12h.

Extremely Fine. Remarkably well struck and preserved for this type. Very Rare.

Ex Roma Numismatics V, 23 March 2013, lot 438.

Coinage commenced in Cyprus around 525 BC, with the city of Salamis minting a primitive currency which from its earliest days featured the type of a ram lying down on its obverse. This design would remain common on the coinage of Salamis, no doubt implying that the region's economy was heavily reliant on goat herding. Interestingly, in these early days the reverse was blank and flat, without even a punch mark. In this respect the coins of Salamis differ significantly from those of Greece or Asia Minor.

Evagoras I, the greatest king of Salamis, claimed descent from Teukros son of Telamon and half-brother of Ajax. Having failed to avenge his brother's death, Teukros was thus prevented from returning home from the Trojan war and supposedly settled in Salamis, becoming the mythical founder of the city. But Evagoras was born under the rule of the Phoenician usurpers, and according to Isokrates, was so possessed of "beauty... strength... manly courage, wisdom and justice" that "one of the princes, starting a conspiracy, slew the tyrant and attempted to arrest Evagoras, believing that he would not be able to retain the rule himself unless he should get him out of the way." First escaping to Soloi in Cilicia, then returning with a picked band of fifty men, Evagoras attacked the palace by night and established himself as ruler of the city.

The king produced a substantial issue of coinage in support of Athens and to further his ambitions for the domination of Cyprus. Indeed, with Athenian aid Evagoras succeeded in extending his rule over the greater part of the island, and even conquered several cities in Phoenicia, including Tyre. Yet when Athenian support was withdrawn under the terms of the Peace of Antalkidas, Evagoras continued to fight alone against the Persian Empire, which resulted in an invasion of the island that effectively reduced him to the status of a vassal king. In 374 he was assassinated by a eunuch for motives of private revenge, and was succeeded by his son, Nikokles.

The inscription on the reverse of this coin is written in a combination of Cypriot syllabic and Greek characters. Although Cypriots were Greeks and their language a dialect of Greek, their written language was recorded in an older and more difficult system, the Cypriot syllabary, which was ultimately derived from the Linear A script of the Minoans. Evagoras has been called a pioneer of the adoption of the Greek alphabet in Cyprus in place of the older Cypriot syllabary.

Cyprus, Salamis AR Stater. (rxv290)

Price: £10,256.00

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