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Research Coins: Feature Auction


Extremely Rare Tetradrachm of Sophytes

Triton XXII, Lot: 445. Estimate $40000.
Sold for $32500. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

BAKTRIA, Local issues. Sophytes. Circa 280/78-270 BC. AR Tetradrachm (28mm, 16.98 g, 6h). Attic standard. Uncertain mint in the Oxus Regios. Male head right, wearing crested Attic helmet decorated with laurel wreath and wing on cheek piece / ΣΩΦΥΤΟΥ down right, cock standing right; kerykeion to left. Bopearachchi, Sophytes 1 = Hirayama; Bopearachchi & Rahman –; cf. SMAK pl. 30 = Triton XV, lot 1343 (drachm); cf. SNG ANS 21-24 (same); cf. MIG Type 29b (same); cf. HGC 12, 14 (same); Zeno 209978 = Roma XVI, lot 421 (same obv. die). Superb EF, delicate light cabinet tone. Extremely Rare. Finest Hellenistic art.

Apart from the substantial coinage struck on his behalf, little more is known about the local Baktrian dynast Sophytes. An attempt has been made to associate him with the Sopeithes of Diodorus Siculus (17.91-94), named as a northern Indian king who, as a young man, fought against Alexander during the Indian campaign of circa 325 BC. The Sophytes coinage, however, is much later, struck circa 280-270 BC, and inter-connected with two earlier groups: the Athenian imitations of tetradrachms, drachms and hemidrachms, and the Eagle group, both of which were published by Nicolet-Pierre and Amandry. Like the trophy issue of Seleukos I, minted two decades earlier, the Sophytes coins, with his name on on the reverse, show a helmeted portrait. The obvious differences between the two nevertheless belies the similarity in the images they project, suggesting that Sophytes was consciously modeling his own portrait after that of Seleukos I, making it the first Baktrian portrait coin.

For a detailed discussion of the coinage of Sophytes, see SMAK chapter 3 – “The Chronology of Sophytes.”