PHILISTIA (PALESTINE). Uncertain mint. Mid 5th century-333 BC. Drachm (Silver, 15 mm, 3.57 g, 9 h). Laureate male head to right, wearing plain necklace and with 𐡁 (retrograde 'b' in Aramaic) on cheek. Rev. 𐡇𐡁𐡃𐡀 ('hbda' in Aramaic) Ibex kneeling right, head turned back to left; on the ibex' right shoulder, concealed head of an owl; all within guilloche-pattern border within incuse square. Gitler & Tal XX.13Da (same dies). Of the highest rarity and very likely the finest known. An exceptional, beautifully toned and sharply struck example, with an intriguing and highly complex iconography. Small scrape on the cheek on the obverse and the flan slightly bent, otherwise, good very fine.
Philistian coinage is renowned for incorporating a multitude of foreign influences, mostly from Greek or Cypriote prototypes. In the case of this wonderful drachm, we find, on the obverse, a male head whose facial expression is clearly derived from the rendering of Athena on Athens' ubiquitous tetradrachms, whereas the goddess' crested helmet has been reduced to a stylized laurel wreath placed upon a plain hairstyle. The reverse, on the other hand, harkens back to the coinage of Kelenderis in Cilicia, whose coat of arms was a kneeling he-goat. A charming detail in the rendering of the he-goat, or ibex, as Gitler & Tal call it, is the appearance of an owl's head concealed on its right shoulder - another reference to the Athenian silver coinage that dominated international trade in the 5th and 4th centuries BC.
The Philistian coinage from uncertain mints is generally dated to the mid 5th century down to Alexander's conquest of the region in 333 BC, but we can perhaps be a bit more precise with this coin, for both the frontal eye of the obverse deity and the square incuse on the reverse point to a date of production in the mid to late 5th or early 4th century at the latest.