CRETE. Priansos. Circa 320-270 BC. Stater (Silver, 25 mm, 11.35 g, 11 h). Female deity (Demeter or Persephone?) seated left on throne, head facing, placing her right hand on a serpent rising erect in front of her; behind to right, palm tree with two date clusters. Rev. ΠPIAN-ΣIEΩN Poseidon standing front, head to left, holding dolphin in his right hand and transverse trident in his left. Le Rider pl. XXVI, 20 (same dies). Pozzi (Boutin) 4471 (same dies). SNG Copenhagen 545 (same dies). Svoronos 3 and pl. XXVIII, 22 (same dies). Very rare. A beautifully toned and unusually well struck example without the usual heavy die wear. The obverse a bit weak and with some faint scratches on the reverse, otherwise, good very fine.
From an old Viennese collection, formed in the 1950s and 1960s and in 3rd generation family possession since.
Priansos was one of the smaller Cretan poleis and little is known of its history other than a few mentions in Hellenistic and Roman inscriptions. The city lay on a hill on the eastern end of the fertile Messara Plain, some 6 km from the sea, with which it was connected through the small harbor of Inatos near today's Tsoutsouros. The very rare Hellenistic staters of Priansos bear the images of an uncertain female deity with a serpent and a date palm on the obverse and of Poseidon on the reverse. Svoronos identified the goddess as Hygieia, but the cult of Asklepios was not widespread on Crete and it has been suggested that the deity is Demeter or, perhaps more likely, Persephone, who is being seduced by Zeus in the form of a serpent. For a city such as Priansos, whose economy no doubt relied heavily on the overseas exports of agricultural products such as grain and fruits, the cults of Persephone and Poseidon certainly seem appropriate. Unfortunately, most of the very rare Priansian staters suffer from weak strikes and heavy die wear, with the obverses in particular being notoriously blurry and unattractive. The present coin, however, is a remarkable exception: not only has it never been cleaned and is hence beautifully toned, it is also unusually well struck.