Click image to view larger


Ionia, uncertain mint EL 1/12 Stater. Circa 5th Century BC. Siren standing right, holding tympanon (tambourine) / Bukranion with fillets hanging from each horn. Rosen 369. 0.98g, 8mm, 4h.

Extremely Fine. Extremely Rare, only the seventh recorded specimen.

From the collection of P.R., United Kingdom

This type, which is known from just seven examples including the current piece, was encountered for the first time in only 1957 when a specimen appeared for sale at the Hess-Leu auction in Lucerne on April 16 of that year. That piece, lot 271, now resides in Oxford. Two further examples were sold by Münzen & Medaillen, one on 6 October 1987 (lot 131), which was the Rosen specimen, and another on 22 March 2002 (lot 72). Jeffrey Spier wrote (Numismatic Chronicle 1988, p.221) that the first of these examples was 'gold rather than electrum', though it is clearly not. The fourth specimen was sold at The New York Sale 25 on 5 January 2011 (lot 97), whilst the fifth was sold in Roma Numismatics Auction III, 31 March 2012 (lot 197). A further example was sold in Roma Numismatics Auction XII, 7 April 2016, lot 297.

The mythical Sirens are best known to us from two ancient epics: the 'Argonautica' by Apollonios, in which Jason and the Argonauts have to travel past them on their quest for the Golden Fleece, and Homer's 'Odyssey', where they are portrayed as a pair of dangerous creatures that lure passing sailors to their deaths with their sweet music (Odyssey XII, 40). They are supposed to have inhabited an island with a particularly rocky shoreline onto which sailors would be drawn by their desire to hear the Sirens sing, leading to shipwreck. Speaking to Odysseus and warning him of the dangers he would encounter further into his journey, Queen Circe describes the Sirens as sitting in a meadow, with around them a great heap of bones of mouldering men" (XII, 45).

Although later depicted as women with wings, feathery tails and scaly bird-like feet, and eventually as mermaids, whose bodies were as seductive as their voices, depictions of the Sirens in early Greek art were as they appear on this coin, combining the body of a bird with the head of a woman, as can be seen on the 'Siren Vase', now in the British Museum, decorated in c. 480-470 BC and roughly contemporaneous with this coin.

Ionia, uncertain mint EL 1/12 Stater. (rxvi251)

Price: £10,256.00

  • US $N/A
  • EUR €N/A
  • AUD $N/A
  • CHF N/A
  • CAD $N/A
  • (Rates for 17/10/2018)
Show city location Inquire about this item Email to a friend