Intriguing 'Dancing Athlete'
SICILY. Syracuse. Second Democracy, 466-405 BC. Tetralitron (Gold, 14.5 mm, 3.50 g, 5 h), c. 406. ΣΥΡΑΚΟΣΙOΝ around the rim of a circular shield, at the center of the raised boss of which is a facing gorgoneion. Rev. Ephebe moving left, nude, leaning slightly forward with his left foot turned outward towards the viewer and his right balanced on his toes, his left hand held behind him as a counterweight while using a strigil, held in his right, apparently to clean off a mixture of oil and dust from his left knee. C. Boehringer, "Ehrenrettung einer syrakusanischen Goldmünze", FlorNum p. 74, 1 (V1/R1). C. Boehringer, "Zu Finanzpolitik und Münzprägung des Dionysios von Syrakus", Essays Thompson pl. 38, 11 (same obverse die). De Luynes 1402 (same obverse die). Extremely rare, one of only eight specimens known, of which only three are in private hands. With an extraordinarily lifelike depiction of an athlete cleaning himself after exercising. Slight depression on the athlete's face and minor marks, otherwise, extremely fine.
Sold on behalf of the Compagnie Bancaire Helvétique, Switzerland, and from the collection of L. R. Stack, Stack's, 14 January 2008, 2111, and that of J. A. Ferrendelli, Triton VII, 12 January 2004, 88, ex Numismatica Ars Classica 18, 29 March 2000, 128, from the collection of M. F. Price, Stack’s 3 December 1996, 25, and ex Numismatica Ars Classica 7, 2 March 1994, 203.
Exactly what the athlete on the reverse of this coin is doing is not so clear, especially if you attempt to duplicate his position yourself. If, in fact, his left foot is turned towards the viewer - to the athlete's proper left - and his right foot - slightly raised so that he is on his toes - is pointed to the left, something somewhat unusual may be going on. His torso is turned slightly to his left with his left arm hanging down, but not loosely, behind his back; while his right arm is crossing his body so that the strigil he holds in his right hand is touching his left knee. Altogether, the only explanation is that he is not merely standing and attempting to clean himself, but is actually performing a kind of dance-like exercise as an illustration of his athletic prowess!
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