KINGS OF LYDIA. Alyattes to Kroisos, circa 610-546 BC. Trite (Electrum, 13 mm, 4.72 g), Sardes. Head of a lion with sun and rays on its forehead to right. Rev. Two incuse squares, one larger than the other. SNG Kayhan 1013. SNG von Aulock 2868-9. Weidauer 86-9. A splendid, very well centered piece with a vigorous lion. Good very fine.
While the lion is an old and frequently used symbol in eastern monarchies, it is worth noting that the name Alyattes, lyd. *Walweta-, is likely derived from the Lydian word for lion, which is attested in the related Luwian form 'walwa/i'. Similarly, the name of Alyattes' predecessor Sadyattes, lyd. *Sadweta- (?), might be derived from a Lydian word 'sadw(a)-', a precursor of which is recorded in the Hittite word 'saiu-'. Unfortunately, we do not know the exact translation of the latter, but as it appears in a Hittite text referring, among others, to lions, it may designate a different kind of carnivore (see P. Högemann and N. Oettiner: Lydien. Ein altanatolischer Staat zwischen Griechenland und dem Vorderen Orient. Berlin/Boston 2018, p. 369). Thus, both the names Sadyattes and Alyattes are likely aptronyms, the latter of which readily explains the appearance of a lion on the Lydian Royal coinage when it was introduced. The beautiful new electrum coins thus were, in the truest sense of the word, the currency of His Majesty, the 'Lion King'.