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Description:

Lucania, Metapontion AR Stater. Circa 340-330 BC. Head of Athena Tharragoras right, wearing Corinthian helmet; Σ behind / Ear of barley with stalk and leaf to right upon which, trophy; Π below, META to left. Johnston A 7.13 (obverse) – A 7.15 (reverse); HN Italy 1567. 7.85g, 22mm, 6h.

Extremely Fine. Very Rare (only one example recorded by Johnston), particularly so in this condition, and an apparently unrecorded die coupling.

Classical Numismatic Group 81, 20 May 2009, lot 106;
Ex Dr. Roland Maly Collection, LHS 100, 23 April 2007, lot 115.

The obverse portrait of this coin is traditionally identified as the unknown hero Tharragoras, following the attribution by Imhoof-Blumer. In studying the available specimens of the type (of which there were then five), he noted two with visible legends, one reading 'ΘAPPAΓOPAΣ', which he illustrated in his 'Monnaies grecques' (pl. A,2). Noting also that the portrait on this coin was 'slightly bearded', Imhoof-Blumer concluded that it therefore was not Athena, but rather an unknown hero whose name was given on the coin, and who must have been a companion or relation of Leukippos, given the contemporary nature of the two issues and the importance of the Leukippos type.

That the name Tharragoras is nowhere else attested, either in literature, sculpture or on other coins, makes Imhoof-Blumer's identification of this portrait as an unknown hero by that name very difficult to support indeed. Strabo, who does acknowledge Leukippos (6.1), makes no mention of a Tharragoras; the 'slight beard' seen by Imhoof-Blumer is almost certainly in fact locks of hair that fall from beneath the helmet. No trace of a beard can be discerned meanwhile around the chin or jaw. Where Imhoof-Blumer inferred a connection with Ἄρρα, or Ares, we should perhaps more properly see a connection with a 'dialectic form of Θάρσω, a more ancient name for the goddess Athena (schol.IL.5.2).' 'Θάρρά' itself has connotations of 'courage', 'boldness' or 'confidence' - the intended meaning here must have been clear to the people of Metapontion and fitting for the circumstances of its issue.

The companion issue (Johnston A6.11 = HN Italy 1561) allows us to positively identify the portrait as that of Athena, on account of the long feminine eyelashes that would certainly be out of place on a male hero.

Lucania, Metapontum AR Stater. (rxvi98)

Price: £5,128.00

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  • (Rates for 17/10/2018)
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