Enigmatic Anonymous Coin From Caria

Enigmatic Anonymous Coin From Caria

This silver tetradrachm was struck around 350-334 BC during the Achaemenid Period. It shows a Persian king or hero either kneeling or running while drawing a bow. The reverse side has a Satrap on horseback, thrusting a spear. In the upper left field is the head of Herakles wearing a lion’s skin headdress. Very Rare. Extremely Fine.

This anonymous tetradrachm belongs to an enigmatic Carian coinage struck before the invasion of Alexander the Great and consisting of two series, one lacking additional symbols and the other featuring symbols behind the horseman, like the head of Herakles seen here. The presence of only the unmarked series in the Pixodaros Hoard (closed c. 341/0 BC) has led to the conclusion that the marked series, to which the present coin belongs, must have been produced after 341 BC. With this date it is tempting to suggest that the marked series may have been struck in the context of the dynastic dispute between Ada, the rightful female satrap of Caria, and her usurping brother, Pixodaros. In 340 BC, Pixodaros forcibly expelled Ada from the capital at Halikarnassos and claimed power for himself. She fled to the Carian fortress of Alinda where she continued to rule in exile. She remained in exile after the death of Pixodaros (c. 336 BC) and the transfer of power to his Persian brother-in-law, but she was restored by Alexander the Great in 334 BC after offering to adopt him as her son.

The types used for this coin are explicitly Persian, advertising the loyalty of the anonymous issuer to the Achaemenid dynasty of Great Kings. The obverse depicts the Great King (sometimes described as a hero) shooting a bow, drawing from the iconography of the already well-known royal/heroic archer obverses used for Persian sigloi struck by the satraps of Lydia since the end of the sixth century BC. The reverse depicts a cavalryman wearing the distinctive Persian kyrbasia headdress. Taken together, the types exemplify the noble ethos attributed to the Persians by the Greek historian Herodotus, who reports (1.136) that until age twenty, Persian youths were only taught three things: to ride, to shoot straight, and to speak the truth. The first two elements of this education are illustrated by the coin types, but the truth of the coin could only be determined with a scale.