THE COLLECTION
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ATTICA

ATHENS
Circa 406/5 BC


                Fourrée Drachm (3.20 g, 14mm, 9). Emergency Issue.

      Obv: [no legend]
                Head of Athena right, wearing earring, necklace, and
                crested Attic helmet decorated with three olive leaves
                over visor and a spiral palmette on the bowl.
      Rev: AΘ[E]
                Owl standing right, head facing; olive sprig to left;
                all within incuse square.
      Ref: Kroll, Piraeus, 3-54 (dies a/a); Pozzi (Boutin) 3496 (same dies)
      Pedig: Morton & Eden 59 (13 November 2012), lot 768 (part of);
                1902 Piraeus Hoard.

Notes: In 405 BC, the Athenian playwright Aristophanes wrote The Frogs (οἱ Bάτραχοι), and in 392 BC, he wrote The Assemblywomen (αἱ Ἐκκλησιάζουσαι). Both plays contain pertinent references to the monetary situation in Athens resulting from the Peloponnesian War. In The Frogs, ll. 725-726, the Chorus complains that the current employment of less-than-honorable citizens and foreigners in positions of civic leadership is similar to the city-state's recent use of gold issues and so-called "grievous coppers" (πονήροις χαλκίοις) as currency, and in The Assemblywomen, ll. 815-822, one man complains how a decree of 394 BC, declaring these fourrées suddenly worthless, left him quite literally "holding the bag."

Suffering from a lack of funds late in the Peloponnesian War, Athens struck its first gold coinage, a clear sign of an economic emergency and one documented in the annual Parthenon inventories. In 413 BC, the Spartans captured Dekeleia and thereby cut off Athens from its main silver source at Laurion. By 407/6 BC, the need to raise funds for the city's defense became so desperate that the authorities ordered the melting down of available gold, including seven gold statues of Nike, which subsequently disappear from the inventory.

The "grievous coppers" mentioned in Aristophanes have consistently been interpreted as "official" fourrées, struck when the supply of gold was exhausted by 406/5 BC. Numismatists have subsequently attempted to distinguish this official issue from fourrées that were fabricated privately, which are voluminous for the issues of the fifth century. The 1902 discovery of a sizable hoard of plated tetradrachms and drachms at the Athenian port city of Piraeus provided the largest single piece of evidence in support of the theory that the fourrées Aristophanes mentioned were "official" issues, and not private fabrications. Re-examining the issue in 1996, John H. Kroll (Essays Oeconomides, pp. 139-142) argued that while the direct evidence was not conclusive that the "grievous coppers" of Aristophanes were "official" fourrées, no plausible alternative hypothesis existed, and that the identification of the 1902 Piraeus Hoard with the emergency coinage struck in 406/5 BC was very persuasive.

According to Kroll, the drachms in the hoard numbered in the hundreds, if not thousands, and most were disbursed into the market over the years following its discovery. Kroll analyzed the groups that were obtained by the ANS and Athens, as well as a number of private pieces that were identified. All the coins are of identical distinctive condition, coloration, and style, and were struck from a limited number of dies, nearly all had evidence of bronze disease. Another notable feature is that there is no crescent on the reverse on all dies. Only coins struck from the dies identified in the hoard can be reasonably attributed to the "official" fourrée issue of 406/5 BC. As the importance of these fourrées were only recently recognized, nearly all of the pieces absorbed into the market cannot be traced to the hoard with certainty. However, the consistent appearance of the coins noted by Kroll can be used as a basis for determining the likelihood of coins from these dies having originated from the hoard. The present coin is struck from the dies used on the hoard, and also has the same appearance as those coins, making it likely that this coin originates from the hoard.



Circa 165-42 BC

                AR Drachm (4.38 g, 17mm, 12). New Style Coinage.

      Struck: Under Sulla, 86-84 BC.
      Obv: [no legend]
                Head of Athena right, wearing triple-crested helmet
                decorated with griffin and quadriga.
      Rev: [no legend]
                Owl standing right, head facing on amphora; monograms
                flanking; all within wreath.
      Ref: Thompson 1333 (same obv. die); SNG Copenhagen 293;
                BMC 522.
      Pedig: Ex Morton & Eden 39 (2 December 2009), lot 15;
                Glendining (20 November 1975), lot 887.

Notes: From NAC 48, lot 79: "Few Athenian coins are as historically relevant as those of 87/6-84 B.C., when the Roman consul Sulla landed his army in Greece to wage war against Mithradates VI, the Pontic king who recently had taken the region by force. Not only are these coins the last ‘ancient’ silver coins struck in Athens, but they are directly tied to historical events, and are mentioned in the ancient literature. The Sullan coinage at Athens consists mainly of silver tetradrachms, a smaller component of silver drachms, and a bronze coinage that today is very rare. The silver coins employ the basic designs of Athenian ‘New Style’ tetradrachms, which in ancient times were called stephanophoroi (‘wreath-bearers’) because the reverse design was enclosed within a wreath. But that is where the similarities end between Athenian coinage and the Athenian-style coinage of Sulla. The style of Sulla’s coins is quite different than their predecessor Athenian coinage, and the symbols and weighty inscriptions that cluttered the reverse field of the Athenian coins are replaced only with two monograms or two trophies. The monogram coins seem to have been the first issue, for which Thompson suggested a starting date of 86 B.C., after Sulla captured Athens. The trophy coins are regarded as the second issue, and presumably were struck shortly before Sulla left Athens to return to Rome.... Plutarch (Lucullus II.2), describes how Sulla’s proquaestor L. Licinius Lucullus was put in charge of coinage on this expedition, and that he did such an fine job that the coins he made came to be named after him: “...it was called ‘Lucullan’ after him, and circulated very widely because the needs of the soldiers during the war caused it to be exchanged quickly.” An inscription from Delphi concerning the sale of slaves echoes Plutarch: “...they paid for these in one sum of a hundred and fifty ‘flats’ of Lucullus...” A colloquial description like ‘flats’ would be fitting for Athenian ‘New Style’ coins, which are broad and thin, and would lend themselves to such a nickname."