Auction at Morton & Eden in London on June 9
A small silver coin is expected to cause excitement among collectors of ancient Greek coins when it is offered for sale by specialist London coins and medals auctioneers Morton & Eden on June 9.
The silver drachm dates from a 15-year period between 475 and 460 BC when the city of Katana (modern Catania) in eastern Sicily was occupied by the Syracusans. Its indigenous population had been expelled and the city renamed Aitna because of its close proximity to Mount Etna. The coin, weighing just over 4 grams and 16mm in diameter, depicts on its obverse a naked youth on horseback, precisely copying the design of such coins at Syracuse, but its reverse introduced a new type showing Zeus Aitnaios, the patron god of Mount Etna, enthroned, holding a thunderbolt and sceptre surmounted by an eagle.
Tom Eden, expert in charge of ancient coins at Morton & Eden explained: “This drachm and an equally unique tetradrachm are the only coins to have come down to us from the first period in Aitna's history, that is to say 475-470 BC. Each depicts Zeus Aitnaios but of the two, the drachm is the better preserved and shows the design in its entirety.
“What is particularly interesting is that the drachm predates by some 10 years one of the most famous of all Greek coins, the tetradrachm of Aitna of circa 460 BC now in the Bibliotheque Royale de Belgique, Brussels. That coin's reverse was clearly inspired by the design of the present drachm whose late archaic style contrasts with the early classical style of the Brussels tetradrachm.”
In 485 BC Syracuse, the principal city of Sicily, was conquered by the tyrant Gelon. Gelon was succeeded by his brother Hieron and it was he who moved his capital from Syracuse to Catania. Some five years after Hieron's death in 466/5 BC, the Katanians succeeded in reclaiming their city, expelling the Syracusans and returning it to its former name of Katana.
The drachm, which has been in a private European collection for many years, is expected to realise a price in the region of £40,000.
The Morton & Eden sale will be held at Sotheby’s on June 9. For further information, contact Tom Eden at Morton & Eden, telephone 020 7493 5344 or firstname.lastname@example.org.