THRACE, Apollonia Pontika.
|Sale: Triton XII, Lot: 128. Estimate $10000.
Closing Date: Monday, 5 January 2009.
Sold For $10000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.
Early-mid 2nd century BC. AR Tetradrachm (16.70 g, 11h). Laureate head of Apollo right / Apollo standing facing, head left, on low basis, holding in right hand a laurel branch in which a bird is perched, bow and two arrows in left hand; IATPOY to left, AΠOΛΛΩNOΣ to right, AΘ-H flanking Apollo’s feet. Topalov, Apollonia
98 (this coin illustrated & on book cover), otherwise unpublished. Good VF, lightly toned, small metal flaw on cheek, light scrape in field on obverse, area of flat strike. Unique.
Ex Sternberg XXV (25 November 1991), lot 82.
Providing a noteworthy counterbalance to his role as Smintheus, the "Mouse God", who unleashed plagues (Hom. Il. 1.39-52), Apollo also was associated with healing and bore the epithet Iatros, or "Healer". Although this latter function became more specifically the role of his son, Asklepios, a number of sacred sites remained dedicated to Apollo Iatros. One such site was in the city of Apollonia Pontika, and it is highly likely that the figure represented on this tetradrachm is the colossal statue of that god by the fifth-century BC Athenian sculptor Kalamis which, according to Strabo (7.6.1), stood in the local temple there, until the statue was carried off by the Romans in the early first century BC under the command of the Macedonian governor, M. Terentius Varro Lucullus (Plin. NH 34.18.39).
While the exact find spot is unknown, the piece does originate from the western Pontic coastal region. Topalov’s attribution of the coin to Apollonia is circumstantial, and mostly based on similarities to particular 2nd-1st century BC bronzes of that city. However, there is no indication of a cult of Apollo Iatros ever existing at Apollonia. On the contrary, there is evidence of such a cult at Olbia, attested by an inscription on a statue base found there during archaeological excavations in 1962 (W.M. Calder III, “Stratonides Athenaios,” American Journal of Archaeology 75.3 [July 1971], pp. 325-6).