KYRENAICA. Kyrene. Circa 435-331 BC. Tetradrachm (Silver, 28 mm, 13.05 g, 12 h), Asiatic standard, Libystratos, magistrate. Bearded head of Zeus Ammon to left, wearing a diadem from which rises an uraeus-like ornament, and ram's horn over his ear; behind, laurel spray with two leaves. Rev. ΛΙBYΣ - TPATOΣ Silphium plant with two pair of leaves and fruits, and with two small silphium sprigs growing out of the stem below. BMC 162, pl. XV, 34 (same obverse die) and pl. XV, 33 (same reverse die). Gulbenkian 573 (same dies). SNG Copenhagen 1190 (same dies). Very rare. A beautifully toned and superb coin, with a particularly noble and serene head of Zeus Ammon and a wonderful rendering of the famous silphium plant on the reverse. Good very fine.
From an old Viennese collection, formed in the 1950s and 1960s and in 3rd generation family possession since.
Kyrene and its neighboring cities gained their fabulous wealth not least from the export of the silphium plant, which grew wild in the Kyrenaika and was used both for medical purposes and eaten as a vegetable. Growing demand and the over-cultivation of the hinterland eventually led to the extinction of the wild plant, whose appearance we only know from coins, by the 1st century AD. The dies used for this wonderful tetradrachm were cut by a master engraver and are among the finest in the whole Kyrenaikan series: the head of Zeus Ammon is of a beauty and serenity that is truly remarkable, and the wonderful reverse ranks among the most detailed renderings of the silphium plant we have.