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Research Coins: Feature Auction

Triton XXII, Lot: 234. Estimate $4000.
Sold for $7000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

MYSIA, Kyzikos. Circa 550-450 BC. EL Hemihekte – Twelfth Stater (9mm, 1.38 g). Winged male mythological creature running-kneeling left, head right, holding tunny by its tail / Quadripartite incuse square. Cf. Von Fritze I 123 (unlisted denomination); Pecunem 32, lot 111; otherwise unpublished. EF. Well struck from fresh dies. Extremely rare denomination, only one in CoinArchives. Hurter & Liewald II list an example as G. Hirsch 182, lot 204, but this is erroneous.

While the identification of this creature, certainly of local significance, is unknown today, it has traditionally been referred to as “Phobos” or “Daimon.” In his catalog of the Gulbenkian collection, Jenkins sees an Egyptian or near-Eastern influence, while Bivar, in his article on Mithra (“Mithra and Mesopotamia,” Mithraic Studies [Manchester, 1975], pp. 275-89), suggests that the creature corresponds to the Mithraic Areimanios (Ahriman). One also may see an assimilation of the ubiquitous Persian lion-headed griffin, adapting the head, wings, and tail to a human body. Although some references note the head as being that of a wolf, other examples clearly show a mane that is directly influenced by the lion heads on the common early Lydian electrum, supporting Bivar’s (and others’) contention that it is a lion head. At the same time, the ear is not fully visible on most examples, but on some, such as the present piece, it clearly is that of a griffin (compare to its depiction on the coins of Teos and Abdera). The wings and posture of the creature are mythological archetypes, commonly found on displays of various deities and creatures on pottery and coins. An excellent example of an archaic representation of a local deity of Asia Minor.