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Research Coins: Feature Auction


Ex America, De Guermantes, Gillet, Jameson, Durulfé, and Billoin Collections

Triton XXII, Lot: 120. Estimate $100000.
Sold for $225000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

SICILY, Katane. Circa 405-403/2 BC. AR Tetradrachm (27mm, 17.18 g, 12h). Obverse die signed by Herakleidas. Head of Apollo facing slightly left, wearing laurel wreath; HPAKΛEIΔAΣ to right / Charioteer, holding kentron in right hand, reins in both, driving fast quadriga right; above, Nike flying left, crowning charioteer with open laurel wreath held in both hands; Ionic column in right background; in exergue, KATANAIΩN above crawfish right. Mirone 61 (same dies as illustration); HGC 2, 576; SNG ANS 1257 (same rev. die); BMC 33 (same dies); Gillet 400 = Jameson 547 (this coin); cf. Gulbenkian 192/193 (for obv./rev. dies); Hirsch 339 (same dies). Good VF, lovely old collection tone, a few marks under tone. Very Rare. A classic piece from the era of the Sicilian masters with a delightful portrait of Apollo in superb style.

From the Gasvoda Collection. Ex America Collection (Numismatica Ars Classica 96, 6 October 2016), lot 1014; New York Sale XX (7 January 2009), lot 74; de Guermantes Collection (Leu 86, 5 May 2003), lot 269; Leu 18 (5 May 1977), lot 59; Charles Gillet Collection; Robert Jameson Collection; Gustave Durulfé Collection (not in Rollin et Feuardent sale); Billoin Collection (Rollin et Feuardent, 22 March 1886), lot 184 (not illustrated, but cited by Jameson).

Founded about 730/29 BC by the colonists from the neighboring Chalkidian colony of Naxos, the city of Katane was located on the eastern coast of Sicily on the fertile Katanian plain near the southern limits of the lava flows from Mt. Aitna. Like its neighbor to the north, Leontini, the city prospered from its exploitation of the fertile plain for the production of barley. When it began striking coinage in the mid-fifth century BC, Katane included on its issues the local river, Amenanos, which was responsible for the fertility of the soil. Like other contemporary Greek riverine depictions, the river-god is portrayed as a human-headed bull (see lot 117 above). Later issues, however, perhaps influenced by other regional coinages, give the river-god a more youthful and androgynous appearance.

Katane's prosperity attracted the attention of its immediate and more-powerful neighbor Syracuse. In 476 BC, Hieron I expelled the population from Katane, driving them north to Leontini. In turn, Katane was "refounded" with a new body of colonists consisting of Syracusan citizens and Dorian mercenaries. Renamed Aitna, it issued a short-lived and very rare coinage, featuring the head of Silenos on the obverse and either Zeus or his thunderbolt on the reverse. This Syracusan overlordship was short-lived, and in 461 BC the original inhabitants of Katane were restored to the city, while the inhabitants of Aitna were withdrawn to the fortress of Inessa, which they renamed Aitna. To commemorate the reinstatement of its original inhabitants, Katane struck a remarkable series of tetradrachms featuring the river-god Amenanos on the obverse and Nike holding a wreath, diadem, or fillet on the reverse. Several different adjuncts, such as a Silenos or a ketos are inlcuded on the obverse as well. Such additions may be evidence of regional influences resulting from Katane's recent history. Such is the case after about 460 BC when this issue was replaced by one featuring a quadriga similar to that of Syracuse, but without the additional Nike, on the obverse and the laureate head of Apollo, similar to that of Leontini, on the reverse (see lot 118 above).

Katane continued to prosper until the late 5th century BC, when the city entered a period when it became continually embroiled in conflicts between other states. In 415 BC, Katane was attacked and captured by Athens, which used the city as the base of operations for the first year of the famous Sicilian Expedition. Later, in 403 BC, Katane fell to Dionysios I of Syracuse, who, like Hieron I before him, re-founded the city, this time with Campanian mercenaries. In the period leading up to this conflict with Syracuse, the coinage of Katane underwent another transformation. By the late 5th century BC, the numismatic art of Sicily had achieved an unparalleled degree of quality in the Greek world. This was due in large part to the great masters whose signatures are boldly displayed on their minute canvasses: Choirion, Euainetos, Eumenos, Exakestidas, Kimon, and others. Most of these artists are known from their work in the Syracusan series, but a few also created masterful works of art at other cities as well. One of these, Herakleidas, created a magnificent facing head type that is a standout among the famed Katanean issues. Certainly influenced by the Kimonean facing-head portraits of Arethusa on tetradrachms at Syracuse, the subject here was the god Apollo, whose profile portrait was featured on the reverse of earlier issues of Katane.

Here, the god's portrait has become the prominent feature of the coin, moving to the obverse and appearing in a nearly frontal aspect. One may sense Herakleidas' attempt to portray Apollo in a naturalistic form, retaining through his countenance an attitude of an other-worldly god, while introducing a delicacy that conveys the thought of a living being. The hair falls in individual locks reminiscent of Arethusa of Syracuse, but rather than radiating outward, as if in an aquatic environment, they are depicted in a downward splayed fashion, evoking the picture of a woodland entity whose natural appearance would retain a hint of the wild. His laurel wreath is likewise splayed, as though placed upon his head directly from the laurel bush, without any thought of molding or preparation. In contrast, his wide eyes gaze outward with an obvious power that belies his heavenly nature. The viewer has the impression that he is looking into the face of a living god. Herakleidas' work represented the high point of numismatic artistry at Katane, a period that was cut short by the conquest of the city by Dionysios I.

In the early 4th century, Katane's close relationship with Syracuse made the city a target for the Carthaginians. In 396 BC, they captured Katane, and held it for about 50 years, until it was finally liberated by Timoleon in the 340s BC. When Pyrrhos landed in Sicily in 278 BC, Katane was the first Sicilian city to welcome him, opening its gates and receiving him with great pomp (Diod. 19. 110; 22. 8). By the time of the First Punic War, however, Katane submitted itself to Rome, a friendly arrangement that allowed the city to regain much of its former prosperity. Katane was ravaged a final time, by Sextus Pompey, during the Roman Civil War, but its refoundation as a colony under Augustus resulted in a renewed prosperity as a provincial town.