SICILY. Entella (?). Punic issues, circa 320/15-300 BC. Tetradrachm (Silver, 25 mm, 16.77 g, 7 h). Head of Tanit or Libya to right, wearing circular earring and diademed oriental tiara of folded cloth curving up and over at the top. Rev. 𐤎𐤏𐤌𐤌𐤇𐤍𐤕 (s'mmhnt = 'People of the Camp' in Punic) Lion, with lowered head and bristling mane, prowling to right before palm tree with two date clusters. Basel 562 ( this coin ). De Luynes 1472 ( same dies ). Jameson 1933 ( this coin ). Jenkins, Punic, 272 (O85/R226). Rizzo pl. LXVI, 8 ( same dies ). Very rare. A boldly struck example of this intriguing and important issue, with a particularly ferocious lion and a fine pedigree. Areas of corrosion, otherwise, good very fine.
From the Kleinkunst Collection and from the collections of A. D. Moretti, Numismatica Ars Classica 13, 8 October 1998, 562 and R. Jameson (1861-1942).
Jenkins was unsure where to place the famous Carthaginian lion tetradrachms in his exemplary die study on the Siculo-Punic coinage, but he eventually connected them with the Carthaginian war preparations against Agathokles of Syracuse in 314-311 BC. The identification of the beautiful female head on the three obverse dies has led to even more dispute: Jenkins discussed Dido, the legendary founder of Carthage, Libya or Tanit as three possibilities (Jenkins, Punic, pp. 24-31), but he concluded that no finite interpretation could be reached. Given the prominence of Libyan mercenaries in Carthaginian armies and the fact that the lion is well attested as a Libyan symbol from the Lybian Revolt in 241-238 BC, it may well be that the Carthaginian authorities in Sicily struck a very limited emission of tetradrachms combining the personification of Libya on the obverse and the Libyan lion on the reverse, specifically to pay Libyan mercenaries hired for the upcoming campaign against Agathokles of Syracuse. Jenkins objected to this idea mainly based upon his belief that placing Libyan symbols on coins would be inconsistent with 'Carthaginian nationalism'. However, that is too modern an approach, all the more since the Carthaginians in Sicily never hesitated to adapt the numismatic iconography of their Greek enemies. It seems entirely possible to this cataloguer that a Carthaginian general in Sicily, perhaps Hamilkar, who was much more concerned with securing the loyalty and morale of his mercenaries than with presumed 'national Carthaginian pride' back at home in Africa, struck this intriguing series to pay his Libyan soldiers.
On the other hand, it has to be emphasized that this scenario does not exclude an identification of the female head as Tanit, whose worship was by no means confined to Carthage alone. Perhaps the identity of the female was, in fact, kept deliberately nonspecific, whereas the reverse, which breaks with all Carthaginian traditions (the coat of arms of Carthage was, of course, a horse), must undeniably reflect a very particular background of the issue. In any case, the series is very rare today: it was struck from three die pairs only, of which this might be the most innovative. Not only is it the sole type with both the obverse and the reverse facing to the right, it also shows a particularly ferocious lion, its head lowered and with a bristling mane, very different from the rather conventional and graceful lions on Jenkins 270-271. This is not the elegant King of the Animals as we know him from so many pieces of Greek art, but rather a growling and hissing big cat wandering the Libyan desert, emaciated and hungry for prey.
|Price realized||44'000 CHF|
|Starting price||16'000 CHF|