LESBOS. Mytilene. Circa 160s-150s BC. Tetradrachm (Silver, 35 mm, 16.32 g, 12 h), Ap... and Proteas, magistrates. Laureate head of Zeus Ammon to right, with ram's horn in his hair and over the diadem. Rev. MYTIΛH-NAΩN / A-Π / ΠPΩ-TEA Bearded facing xoanon of Dionysos, wearing polos, the base adorned with wreath of ivy; all within wreath of ivy. Babelon, Inventaire Somaire de la Collection Waddington (1898), 1393 and pl. 3, 8 var. (with monograms on the reverse). Leu 22 (1979), 129 var. (with monograms on the reverse). Mattingly, ‘The Ma’Aret En-Nu’man Hoard’, in: Essays Carson & Jenkins, p. 81, 468 var. (magistrate Demetrios). Prospero Collection, The New York Sale XVII (2012), 498 var. (same obverse die, but with monograms on the reverse). Unpublished and unique, and perhaps only the fifth known 'Stephanophoric' tetradrachm from Mytilene. A bold and impressive example struck on a very broad flan. Some minor scrapes and bangs, otherwise, very fine.
From a European collection, formed before 2005.
The reverses of the extremely rare 'Stephanophoric' tetradrachms from Mytilene show a xoanon, a wooden sculpture of Dionysos, whose discovery by fishermen of Methymna is described in detail by Pausanias: 'I am going to tell you a Lesbian story. The fishermen of Methymna found that their nets dragged up from the sea a face made of olive wood. Its appearance suggested a touch of divinity, but it was foreign and unlike the features of Greek gods. So the Methymnians asked the Pythia what god or hero it portrayed, and she instructed them to worship Dionysos Phallen. Whereupon the people of Methymna kept for themselves the wooden image out of the sea, and worshipped it with sacrifices and prayers, but they sent a bronze copy to Delphi.' (Paus. 10.19.3).