IONIA. Magnesia ad Maeandrum. Archepolis, circa 465-459 BC or somewhat later. Drachm (Silver, 17 mm, 4.18 g, 5 h). [ΑΡΧ]Ε - ΠΟΛΙΣ Bearded man standing right, wearing himation, extending his right hand and holding long scepter in his left. Rev. M-A Eagle, with wings spread, flying upward, head to left; all within dotted square border within incuse square. Nollé -. Nollé & Wenninger Th. 2b corr. (same dies, but misdescribed as Themistokles). Of the highest rarity, the second and by far the finest known drachm of Archepolis. Somewhat porous and with a minor die break on the reverse, otherwise, very fine.
As Themistokles' eldest son, Archepolis is believed to have inherited his father's small realm (Magnesia, Myus, Lampsakos, Perkote and Palaiskepsis) that was given to the victor of the Battle of Salamis by the Persian Great King after his ostracism from Athens in the late 470s BC. It is worth noting that while Themistokles' name appears in the genitive on his extremely rare staters and drachms, Archepolis signed his in the nominative. Nollé & Wenninger struggled to explain this strange occurrence, suggesting that Archepolis may have restrained himself after his father passed away, acting not as the ruler but as a magistrate of Magnesia ad Maeandrum in an act of public modesty.
There is, however, another possibility, namely that Archepolis' coins were not struck after Themistokles' death in 459, but during his father's lifetime. Such a joint emission could explain why the coins are marked as the belonging to the city ruler, Themistokles, whereas his son's name is given in nominative, presenting him to the local populace, and to his family, as his father's favorite, and perhaps as his designated successor. Furthermore, this would also account for the noticeable stylistic similarities between the two coinages, which is further underlined by the emergence of this particular coin, as it allows for a corrected reading of Nollé & Wenninger Th. 2b. This coin, very poorly preserved, was attributed by the authors to Themistokles, however, it was struck from the same pair of dies as ours and thus also belongs to Archepolis. Last but not least, it is worth noting that the male figure on the obverse is usually described as Zeus holding a thunderbolt (?) and a scepter. However, there is clearly no thunderbolt on our example, which is by far the finest rendering of the figure available to date, and thus a reinterpretation of the figure probably becomes necessary.
In any case, whatever the exact circumstances of Themistokles' and Archepolis' coinage, it certainly ranks amongst the most fascinating numismatic testimonies of Classical Greek history. Here we have the son of Athens' greatest war hero in Persian exile striking coins with his full name displayed most prominently on the obverse, while the polis only appears in abbreviated form on the reverse, and all of this at a time when placing the name of a living human being on a coin was unheard of in Greek society outside of some kingdoms on the fringes of the Greek world. This drachm, more than anything else, is thereby a wonderful witness to the dramatic and inescapable political and cultural changes that the clashes with the superpower, Persia, brought to the Greek poleis.