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Research Coins: Feature Auction

 
11000729

Cadmus Introduces the Alphabet to the Greeks
Finest Known Example of Type

Triton XXII, Lot: 729. Estimate $15000.
Sold for $27500. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

PHOENICIA, Tyre. Philip I. AD 244-249. Æ (29mm, 18.88 g, 6h). IMP M IVL PHILLIP[V]S P F AVG, laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right / COL TV-RO ME-T-ROP, Cadmus presenting the alphabet to the Hellenes: Cadmus standing left, holding spear in left hand, with right hand he presents a rolled papyrus to the first of four Greeks standing right; murex shell at Cadmus’ feet, ЄΛΛH and KAΔ in exergue. Rouvier 2446 = Babelon, Perses 2281; BMC –; AUB –. Good VF, red-brown surfaces. Almost certainly the finest known for this remarkable reverse type. Extremely rare.


It is generally accepted that the Greeks adopted the Phoenician alphabet around the early 8th century BC, although Herodotus records that the Phoencian prince Cadmus introduced the alphabet to the Hellenes circa 2000 BC. This extremely rare and highly interesting issue explicitly names the figures and represents the legend as recorded in Herodotus 5.58:

The Phoenicians who came with Cadmus—amongst whom were the Gephyraei—introduced into Greece, after their settlement in the country, a number of accomplishments, of which the most important was writing, an art till then, I think, unknown to the Greeks. At first they used the same characters as all the other Phoenicians, but as time went on, and they changed their language, they also changed the shape of their letters. At that period most of the Greeks in the neighborhood were Ionians; they were taught these letters by the Phoenicians and adopted them, with a few alterations, for their own use, continuing to refer to them as the Phoenician characters—as was only right, as the Phoenicians had introduced them.