The Seleucid kings of Syria, Seleucus I, 312-280. Tetradrachm, Pergamum 281, AR 17.05 g. Bridled horsehead r., with horns. Rev. ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΣΕΛΕΥΚΟΥ Elephant walking r; below, monograms. SC 2 (this coin).
Of the highest rarity, apparently only two specimens known. An issue of tremendous
importance and fascination. Perfectly centred on a full flan and with a lovely
iridescent tone. Extremely fine
Ex NAC 11, 1998, 111 and Tkalec 20 February 2000, 179 sales.
This tetradrachm is an iconic issue of Seleucus I, the founder of the Seleucid dynasty, whose kingdom at its highest point extended from Thrace and Asia Minor in the West to Bactria in the East and from the Black Sea in the north to the borders of Egypt in the South. Out of all of the Successors of Alexander the Great, he was the one who came closest to restoring the entirety of the Macedonian Empire, and this coin essentially encapsulates the story of how he did it. The obverse type depicts the head of a magnificent horse adorned with the horns of a bull. The late antique Syrian chronicler John Malalas tells us that in his day (the late fifth-early sixth centuries AD) it was still possible to see a statue in Antioch representing the horned head of a horse erected by Seleucus to honour his own steed who had saved him from destruction at the hands of Antigonos Monophthalmos in 315 BC. Although Seleucus had been appointed satrap of Babylonia by an assembly of Alexander’s former generals in 321 BC, Antigonos, who was made strategos of Asia at the same time sought to remove the satraps that he could not control and thereby become the new master of Alexander’s Empire. Realizing the danger, Seleucus took to his horse and escaped from Babylon to the Egyptian court of Ptolemy. With Ptolemy’s assistance, Seleucus was able to return to Babylon—again on his horse—and reclaim his satrapy in 312 BC. In 306/5 he embarked upon an eastern campaign to gain control of the Upper Satrapies. However, the real benefit of this campaign was a peace treaty made with the Mauryan Emperor Chandragupta that involved the gift of 500 elephants. Elephants, such as the majestic creature depicted on the reverse of the tetradrachm, were the equivalent to the tank of the ancient Greek world, capable of great destruction and inspiring fear in infantry and cavalry alike ranged against them. Like the horse of the obverse, the elephants of Chandragupta had a pivotal role to play in Seleucus’ reign. Thanks to their timely arrival at the Battle of Ipsos (301 BC), it was possible for Seleucus and his allies to defeat and kill Antigonos, thereby ending an ever-present threat to his security. With Antigonos gone, Seleucus could safely rule his eastern kingdom. The tetradrachm as a whole tells the end of the story. It was struck at Pergamon for Seleucus by a local dynast named Philetairos—the founder of the later Attalid dynasty. In 281 BC, the year the coin was issued, Philetairos and other cities and rulers of western Asia Minor invited Seleucus to march west and destroy his sometime ally, Lysimachos, who had made himself very unpopular in the region. Seleucus acquiesced to this request, defeating and killing Lysimacus at the Battle of Korupedion. This victory gained for Seleucus all of Lysimacus’ former territory in Asia Minor and Thrace, but he was not able to savour this triumph for long. Later in the year, as he marched through Thrace, Seleucus was murdered by a refugee from the Ptolemaic court. While elephants and horses could make or break kingdoms, neither was proof against the assassin’s dagger.
|Price realized||375'000 CHF|
|Starting price||80'000 CHF|