MACEDON. Olynthos. Circa 479-475/0 BC. Tetradrachm (Silver, 25 mm, 17.49 g, 11 h). Male charioteer driving slow quadriga to right, holding kentron in his right hand and reins in his left; above, large pellet. Rev. Eagle flying left within incuse square, at center of a larger incuse square diagonally divided into four granulated segments. AMNG III/2, p. 141, 42 and pl. XXVII, 11 (same dies). Asyut 212. Boston MFA 612. Jameson 955 = Kunstfreund 34. Rosen 150. SNG ANS 463. SNG Lockett 1377. Very rare and in exceptional condition for the issue. A beautifully toned and unusually complete example, sharply struck on a full flan and of the very best late Archaic style. Minor flan fault on the obverse and with very light doubling on the eagle, otherwise, nearly extremely fine.
From an old Viennese collection, formed in the 1950s and 1960s and in 3rd generation family possession since.
It has often been pointed out that the earliest Olynthian tetradrachms with a plain square incuse, which must have reached Sicily on the backwash of grain and timber exports, formed the prototypes of the earliest silver coinage of Syracuse: Boehringer 1 is basically a direct copy, and the somewhat later issues with a head of Arethusa set in a round incuse within an incuse swastika pattern (Boehringer 2-31) are very similar to the present, wonderful coin with an eagle at the center of the reverse. The traditional assignment of these issues to Olynthos on the Chalkidiki has been challenged by Cahn, who pointed out that the coins themselves provide no real evidence for an Olynthian origin and proposed a more general attribution to the Thraco-Macedonian region. This is certainly true for the earliest series with the simple square incuse, but there is a more persuasive case to be made for the somewhat later emissions. Originally a Bottiaian city situated on two hills on a fertile plain north of the Kassandra peninsula, Olynthos was destroyed in 480 BC by the Persian general Artabazos and repopulated the following year with Chalkidians, local descendants of early Archaic colonists from Chalkis on Euboia (Hdt. 8.127). The contemporary appearance of an eagle on the present issue, securely dated by the Asyut hoard to the years before 475/70 BC, can hardly be a coincidence: it shares close stylistic similarities to the late Archaic coinage of Chalkis and is likely a reflection of the Chalkidian heritage of the new population of Olynthos. In any case, these wonderful tetradrachms, of which this is a particularly impressive example, belong to the most aesthetic Archaic coins of mainland Greece: they are of an enchanting beauty and rival the very finest Sicilian and Italian works of art.