ISLANDS off TROAS, Tenedos. Circa 100-70 BC. Tetradrachm (Silver, 37mm, 16.81 g 12). Janiform head composed of a laureate and bearded head of Zeus to left and a diademed head of Hera to right. Rev. ΤΕΝΕ - ΔΙΩΝ Double axe; below axe-head and to left and right of the shaft, bunch of grapes; all within laurel wreath. Callataÿ, Tenedos 1 (D1/R1, this coin ). A remarkably elegant coin, of the very finest late Hellenistic style. Toned and perfectly centered. The first issue of, and the prototype for, the late series of tetradrachms of Tenedos; as such, unique . Extremely fine.
From the collection of N. B. Hunt, II, Sotheby’s New York, 21 June 1990, 475, ex Bank Leu 30, 28 April 1982, 171 and Kastner 10, 18 May 1976, 51.
The coinage of Tenedos seems to begin in the last quarter of the 6th century with didrachms that bear a bare male/female janiform head, lacking either wreath or diadem, and, on the reverse, a double axe or pelekys. The identity of the original, bare-headed faces on the obverse is rather controversial: they might be the city’s mythical founders, Tenes, son of Cycnus the king of Colone, and his young step-mother Philonome, who had an affair and were condemned to be enclosed in a chest and thrown into the sea. The island on which they landed was Leucophrys and Tenes became its ruler; the name was then changed in his honor. The ancients were puzzled by the coin types: one source suggests that they refer to an archaic law, which prescribed that adulterous couples be executed by double axe! Elsewhere it is proposed that the double axe itself refers to a similar shape found on the shell of a crab that lived in the waters off Tenedos! It is more likely that what we have is probably related to a local cult about which no record survives: however, by the end of the 5th century, and from then on, the male head wears a laurel wreath, thus, almost certainly indicating that the heads were then conceived as being those of Zeus and Hera. After a long break when the only silver coins struck were posthumous Lysimachus tetradrachms, Tenedos resumed minting silver during the 1st century BC with a series of tetradrachms and drachms, like the present example. These coins are uniformly very rare, but this piece is particularly important as well. All the others have a monogram and a symbol in the reverse field, in addition to a bunch of grapes that refers to the island’s most important product. The monograms and symbols were used as controls to identify the officials who were in charge of the minting process. This piece only bears two bunches of grapes, a sure sign of a prototype issued as a test; the absolutely outstanding quality of the engraving also marks this coin out as special issue. The Janiform head on the obverse is beautifully executed, and even the wreath border on the reverse is made with the greatest care. All in all this is an astonishing coin.
|Price realized||55'000 CHF|
|Starting price||40'000 CHF|