Stunning portrait of Arethusa by Parmenides
SICILY. Syracuse. Second Democracy, 466-405 BC. Tetradrachm (Silver, 26 mm, 17.33 g, 12 h), reverse die signed by the engraver Parmenides, circa 415-405. Charioteer, holding reins and kentron, driving a quadriga rushing to left, about to turn; above, Nike flying right to crown the driver; below the hooves of the horse in the foreground, chariot wheel; in exergue, barley ear. Rev. ΣΥΡΑΚΟΣΙΩΝ Head of Arethusa to left, wearing ampyx and sphendone decorated with stars, triple pendant earring and simple necklace; around, three dolphins swimming in different directions, with a fourth emerging from under the neck truncation; below, ΠΑΡΜΕ. BMC 213 (same dies). Jameson 836 (same dies). SNG ANS 287 (same dies). SNG Lockett 976 (same dies). Tudeer (FB) 77i (V27/R49, this coin). Ward 297 (same dies). Usual die wear on the obverse, otherwise, extremely fine.
From the Collection I, USA, ex Triton XIII, 5 January 2010, 60.
Arethusa is portrayed in so many different ways on the coins of Syracuse! Every engraver had his (one assumes that ancient Greek engravers were men, rather than women, given the way ancient society worked) own vision of what Arethusa looked like: perhaps modelled on an actual woman he knew or had seen, or a composite picture taken from a number of the stylish beauties of the day (the fact that some of the Arethusas who appear on the coinage of Syracuse, especially in the earlier 5th century, look anything but stylish can be blamed on the engraver’s lack of skill). Here we have a clearly young woman - certainly not out of her teens, wearing attractive jewels, an elaborate hair net, and with her hair beautifully coiffed: she could be an English aristocrat being presented at Court during the Regency!
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