CRETE. Phaistos. Circa 320-300 BC. Stater (Silver, 23 mm, 11.35 g, 12 h). T-AΛ-ΩN Talos, nude, standing facing with spread wings, raising his right hand to hurl a stone and holding another in his lowered left. Rev. ΦAIΣΤIΩN Bull butting to right. Le Rider pl. XXIV, 4 (same dies). Svoronos, Crète, pl. XXIV, 24 (same dies). Very rare and among the finest known. An exceptional example of this magnificent issue, boldly struck on excellent silver and with beautiful old collection toning. Extremely fine.
From the collection of Regierungsrat Dr. iur. Hans Krähenbühl, privately acquired from Bank Leu on 5 November 1981 (with a photocopy of the original invoice enclosed).
Two main narratives exist of Talos, the 'first automaton' and bronze guardian of the island of Crete. One informs us that he was a present from Hephaistos for Minos, forged with the aid of the Cyclopes in the form of a bull, whereas the other version says he was a gift from Zeus for Europa. Talos reportedly walked around Crete three times a day, fending off any foreigners attempting to land on the island by throwing stones at them. A particularly gruesome story describes how the giant machine used to grab Crete's enemies, holding them tightly to its metal body and burning them to death by jumping into a giant fire while sardonically laughing. Talos' only weak spot, his Achilles' heel, if you will, was his ankle, the end point of his only vein. Once again, there are two different accounts of what killed the monster in the end, both of which involve Jason and the Argonauts. In one tale, Medea drove Talos so mad that he hurt his ankle and bled to death, whereas in the other, he was struck by an arrow shot by Poias, one of Jason's companions.
On this magnificent coin, the unnamed artist magnificently captured Talos in his human form as he defends his island from intruders by throwing stones. The giant is shown facing and staring directly at the beholder, perhaps with sardonic laughter, an image of strength and intensity that is further underlined by his broadly spread and meticulously drawn wings. It is one of the most beautiful types in the Cretan series, and this example is among the finest surviving examples.