CILICIA. Isaura. Septimius Severus, 193-211. Tetrassarion (Bronze, 29 mm, 14.15 g, 6 h), 205-209. AY•K•Λ•CЄΠ•CЄOYHPOC ΠЄPT Laureate head of Septimius Severus to right. Rev. MHTPOΠOΛЄΩC / ICAYPΩN City-gate with three towers; within, the city-goddess seated to left, holding grain ears in her right hand and cornucopiae in her left; at her feet, forepart of a wolf to left, head to right, holding human hand in his mouth. SNG Levante 259 corr. (same dies, but reverse misdescribed). SNG Paris 490 corr. (same dies, but reverse misdescribed). SNG von Aulock 5408 corr. (same dies, but reverse misdescribed). Rare. In exceptional condition for the issue, perfectly struck on a full flan and with a wonderful architectural reverse. Extremely fine.
From a European collection, formed before 2005.
Situated at an altitude of 1400 m above sea-level on a mountain-crest, Isaura developed from a fortress built by the Galatian King Amyntas (39-25 BC) in the Isaurian mountains. The city struck Roman Provincial coins on three occasions: first under Antoninus Pius for Diva Faustina I and Galerius Antoninus (RPC IV.3 5730, but note that the reading ΙϹΑΥΡΙΩΝ is not secured), once again under Septimius Severus, and a third and last time under Severus Alexander for Julia Mamaea (RPC VI online 6854). Both the earliest and the last issue are attested in a single example of crude style only, whereas the emission of Septimius Severus is not only more abundant, but also far more elaborate. For reasons unknown to us, Isaura was able to hire a very skilled die cutter on this occasion, who produced a series of highly artistic dies. The issue includes coins of Septimius Severus, Julia Domna, Caracalla Augustus and Geta Caesar, but none of Plautilla, and can thus be dated to 205-209.
It is worth noting that the style of the portraits is very similar to some of the contemporary output by the mint of Seleucia ad Calycadnum (for example Prieur 747A). Perhaps the issue was financed by a wealthy local citizen, who took pride in hiring one of the most experienced artists from Seleucia, or even had the coins produced in the larger coastal city. This would make perfect sense, as the mountainous region of Isaura, albeit being close to the Pamphylian plain in linear distance, was much more easily accessible through the valley of the Calycadnus river, which rises nearby the city and runs to Seleucia, before emptying into the Mediterranean Sea. The beautiful reverse of this issue boasts the impenetrable city walls of the mountain fortress Isaura, and it also refers to the city's foundation myth by showing a small wolf holding a human hand in his mouth at the feet of the city-goddess (see the note on lot 202 below).