Numismatica Ars Classica > Auction 133Auction date: 21 November 2022
Lot number: 65

Price realized: 380,000 CHF   (Approx. 399,411 USD / 385,512 EUR)   Note: Prices do not include buyer's fees.
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Lot description:


Greek Coins. Pherai.
Alexander tyrant, 369-358. Stater circa 369-358, AR 12.07 g. Head of Ennodia facing, slightly r., wearing pearl diadem, grape-cluster earring and pearl necklace; in l. field, torch. Rev. ΑΛ – ΕΞΑΝ – Δ – Ρ – ΕΙΟΣ Alexander, with helmet and cuirass, riding horse galloping r., holding reins and a lance; on horse's rump, [double axe]. BMC 14 (this obverse die). Gulbenkian 482. (this reverse die). Locker-Lampson 181 (this reverse die). BCD Thessaly 1, 1307 (this coin).
Extremely rare and undoubtedly the finest specimen in private hands. A portrait of great
beauty struck in high relief and a reverse die of great elegance. Extremely fine

Ex Giessener Münzhandlung Dieter Gorny 44, 1989, 292 and Nomos 4, 2011, BCD, 1307 sales.
Alexander came to power after his father Jason, the powerful tyrant of Pherae and tagos of the Thessalian League was assassinated in 370/69 BC. Due to his youth, he was at first overlooked to succeed in Pherae and his uncles' Polydoros and Polyphron immediately assumed power as joint tyrants. This arrangement did not last long. In 369 BC, Polyphron first poisoned Polydorus and then later Alexander struck down Polyphron with a spear. Through this act of murder Alexander became sole tyrant of Pherae and established his reputation for unnatural violence. It was even rumoured that Alexander established a shrine and worshipped as a god the spear that killed his uncle. Jason had managed to weld together the disparate interests of the cities of Thessaly into a strong Thessalian League through force and diplomacy, but Larissa, the traditional rival of Pherae, had always hoped to exert its own influence over the direction of the league. Alexander's bloody seizure of power at Pherae created a deep rift in the league membership and caused the Thessalian League to break into two opposing leagues, one led by Alexander as tagos and another, led by the Aleuadai family of Larissa, that refused to recognise the authority of the Pheraean tyrant. Alexander struggled to restore the unified Thessalian League by force through most of the 360s BC. He was often poised to crush Larissa but failed due to timely military interventions by Alexander II of Macedon and the Boeotian League. Although the tyrant of Pherae did manage to capture the famous Boeotarch Pelopidas in 368/7 BC and even killed him in battle in 364 BC, Alexander was forced to give up his claim to the leadership of the Thessalian League. Despite having lost much of his power in Thessaly, Alexander continued to express his violent and lawless character. In 362 BC, he assembled a pirate fleet and used it to plunder the Cycladic islands and the Aegean coast. Alexander was even so brazen as to attack the Piraeus of Athens, but this act called down the ire of the Athenian fleet which drove him from the sea. By this point, Pherae had grown quite weary of its violent but not particularly successful tyrant. At last, in 358 BC, Alexander was murdered in his bed by his own brothers, with the assistance of his own wife (who was also his half-sister), and his corpse thrown to the dogs in the streets of Pherae. The obverse of this stater depicts Ennodia, the patron goddess of Pherae whose cult the tyrants of Pherae attempted to promote as an expression of Thessalian identity in general. She was a deity associated with roads (as indicated by her name), cemeteries and ghosts-characteristics that caused her to be identified with Hecate outside of Thessaly. The reverse depicts Alexander of Pherae on horseback and should be considered an early full-figure dynastic portrait. This type of mounted portrait influenced the development of depictions of the king on the coinage of the neighbouring Macedonian kingdom under Philip II.


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Estimate: 200000 CHF