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Research Coins: Printed Auction


HGC Plate Coin

Triton XXII, Lot: 175. Estimate $7500.
Sold for $6000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

THRACO-MACEDONIAN REGION, Siris. Circa 525-480 BC. AR Stater (18.5mm, 9.69 g). Ithyphallic satyr standing right, right hand grasping right wrist of nymph fleeing right, his left hand supporting her chin; three pellets around (only one visible) / Rough incuse square divided diagonally. Smith Group 5 (Lete); Peykov A0020; HPM pl. VIII, 4; AMNG III/2, 14 (Lete); HGC 3, 531 (‘Lete’; this coin illustrated); SNG ANS 954–61 (‘Lete’); Kunstfreund 40 (Uncertain mint); Traité I 1568 (Lete). Good VF, toned. Fine style.

Ex Classical Numismatic Group 85 (15 September 2010), lot 266; Numismatica Ars Classica 48 (21 October 2008), lot 59.

The satyr and nymph type is one of the more widely occurring designs in early Thraco-Macedonian region. Variations of this type were used at mints from Siris in the northwest to Thasos in the southeast. Similarly, tribes in this region – the Dionysioi, Laiai, Letai, Orreskii, Pernaioi, and Zaielioi – also used this type. They often included their respective ethnic, although some of these tribes replace the satyr with a centaur. Based on the positioning of the figures, there are two major divisions of the satyr-nymph type. The first group, struck primarily at Thasos, shows the nymph held in the arms of the satyr, who carries her off to the right. The other group, struck primarily at Siris, shows the nymph confronted by the satyr. In both cases the appearance of the figures is largely the same: the satyr is presented nude and ithyphallic, while the nymph is dressed in a long chiton with the skirt divided into many long strands. The only stylistic difference between the groups is the appearance of the lower body of the satyr. On the first group, the satyr has the normal legs and feet of a man, while on the second group, in addition to a tail, the satyr has the legs and hooves of a goat. Overall, the artistic style of the scene is wonderfully archaic, and evident not only in the posture of the figures, but also in its minute details. While most of the mints ceased production after about 480/470 BC, Thasos continued to use the type for some time, allowing the scene to transition through an "archaized" phase, and finally taking on a lovely early Classical style by the time production of the type ended there circa 404 BC.

Kraay's view (ACGC pp. 148-9) was that the coins where the satyr and nymph are both standing show the nymph seducing the satyr, while the coins where the nymph is in the satyr's arms show the nymph protesting her abduction. However, this view is contradicted by a close inspection of the coins themselves. In similar scenes of this event depicted elsewhere, the satyr clearly manhandles the nymph, forcibly grasping one of her arms, while the nymph appears in a posture of apparent flight (see, e.g., HPM pl. VII-VIII). Clearly, in both scenes the nymph is protesting the actions of the satyr or centaur, who, in the role of the wild, libidinous creature that he is, is seizing the nymph for his own purposes, driven by his sexual arousal.