Numismatica Ars Classica, Zurich

Auction 114 - Part I

Numismatica Ars Classica, Zurich, Auction 114 - Part I

Greek, Roman and Byzantine Coins

Tu, 07.05.2019, from 11:00 AM CEST
The auction is closed.


Camarina. Tetradrachm circa 425-405, AR 16.82 g. Fast quadriga driven r. by helmeted Athena, holding reins and kentron; above the horses Nike flying l. to crown her. In exergue, barley grain. Rev. KAMAPINAI – ON Head of young Heracles l., wearing lion skin; below chin, olive sprig with fruit. Rizzo pl. 5, 13 and 6, 9 (this coin illustrated). Boston 261 (these dies). SNG München 402 (these dies). Kraay-Hirmer pl. 53, 149 (this coin). Westermark-Jenkins 146.11 (this coin) and pl. 15 (this reverse illustrated).
Very rare and possibly the finest specimen known of this magnificent issue. A
portrait of enchanting beauty, work of a very talented master engraver.
Superb old cabinet tone and good extremely fine

Ex New York sale III, 2000, 86. From the Pierre Strauss collection.

The city of Camarina in Sicily was originally founded as a colony of Syracuse in 598 BC, but the relationship between colony and mother-city seems to have been troubled almost from the start. In the mid-sixth century BC, Camarina joined Gela and the native Sikels in a disastrous war against Syracuse. As a result of their insolence, the Camarinans were punished by suffering the destruction of their city and becoming direct dependents of Syracuse. The situation improved in 492 BC, when Hippocrates, the tyrant of Gela, defeated the Syracusans at the Battle of Heloros and received the territory of Gela in the peace settlement that followed. He refounded the city and increased the population by settling mercenaries within its walls. Unfortunately, things began to take a bad turn under Gelon, Hippocrates’ successor to the Geloan tyranny. He installed a puppet-tyrant named Glaucus to rule Camarina on his behalf while Gelon himself advanced to become tyrant of both Gela and Syracuse. Unfortunately, Glaucus had been unpopular and the people of Camarina overthrew and killed him. This sat poorly with Gelon, now the most powerful man in Greek Sicily, who avenged the hapless Glaucus by destroying Camarina in 484 BC and removing the population to Syracuse. New hope for Camarina emerged in 461 BC, when the Geloans refounded the city for a third time, seemingly proving the old adage that ”the third time’s a charm.” The restored Camarina still retained its old enmity towards Syracuse and therefore joined Athens and Leontini in a conflict against Syracuse and its Dorian Greek allies in 427-424 BC. Under the terms of the peace settlement at the Congress of Gela that ended the war, Syracuse ceded the city of Morgantina to Camarina in return for a monetary payment. Although the principles agreed to at the Congress of Gela attempted to exclude influence by Greek powers outside of Sicily, Camarina briefly accepted an Athenian naval alliance in 422 BC. However, during the great Sicilian Expedition of 415-413 BC the city offered little assistance, instead preferring to remain neutral as the Athenians destroyed themselves at Syracuse. Unfortunately, not long after the Athenian threat was removed, the power of Carthage became a much more serious and long-lived menace to Greek Sicily. In 405 BC, the Carthaginian general Himilco besieged and captured Gela, which sent shockwaves throughout Greek Sicily. Fearing that it would not be possible to defend neighbouring Camarina, Dionysios I, the tyrant of Syracuse, forcibly removed the people of Camarina to Syracuse and left their city to be taken by the Carthaginians. Himilco ordered the destruction of the walls and the territory of Camarina became tributary to Carthage. Many of the Camarinans, uncomfortable at living among the Syracusans, their long-time enemies, and despairing of ever returning home chose to settle at Leontini instead. This beautifully preserved tetradrachm was struck in the last and probably most prosperous period of Camarina’s tragic history before the Carthaginian conquest. The obverse follows the long tradition of quadriga types in Sicily, extending back to the sixth-century coinage of Syracuse, reflecting Syracusan numismatic and artistic influence throughout the island as well as the agonistic ethos that informed the constant jockeying for power among the cities of Sicily. Athena appears in the car, rather than a more generic charioteer or Nike, because she was the patron deity of Camarina. The ruins of her temple are still visible at Camarina and in its environs have been found numerous lead plates inscribed with information about Camarinan citizens, possibly used for democratic jury selection. The reverse type is a wonderfully rendered head of young Herakles. Although it is not signed by the artist as are some fourth-century dies of Kamarina, this is surely the work of a master engraver as well. Exquisite detail is present in the mane of the lion and especially in the eyelashes of both the lion and of the young Herakles. If you took the high artistry associated with the Arethusa depictions of the celebrated period of signed dies at Syracuse and applied it to the image of Herakles this reverse would be the result—a true work of numismatic art.

Question about this lot?


Price realized 220'000 CHF
Starting price 80'000 CHF
Estimate 100'000 CHF
The auction is closed.
Feedback / Support