Athenian tetradrachms recently discovered in the Athenian Agora / John H. Kroll

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Transcript of Athenian tetradrachms recently discovered in the Athenian Agora / John H. Kroll

  • 8/9/2019 Athenian tetradrachms recently discovered in the Athenian Agora / John H. Kroll

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    John

    H. Kroll*

    Athenian

    tetradrachms

    recently

    discovered

    in the Athenian Agora

    (PI. Ill)

    Summary. — Preliminary

    report

    on

    a ca. 400-piece hoard of

    4th-century pi-style

    tetradrachms excavated in

    2005 from beneath

    the floor of

    a public

    office in the Athenian

    Agora,

    together

    with

    publication of

    two other

    notable

    Athenian

    tetradrachms

    from the

    recent

    excavations.

    One

    of

    these tetradrachms

    belongs to the earliest 4th-century

    coinage

    to depict

    Athena with a

    profile eye.

    It is proposed that this early profile-eye coinage began probably in the

    380s or 370s

    and

    was replaced by the mechanical and hastily struck pi-style silver in the later

    350s.

    Résumé.

    — Un trésor d'environ 400 tétradrachmes

    attiques

    du IVe s. (style

    pi)

    trouvé

    en

    2005 lors de la fouille d'un bâtiment

    public

    de l'Agora athénienne et deux remarquables

    tétradrachmes

    exhumés

    aussi lors

    de fouilles récentes à l'Agora font l'objet

    du présent article.

    Un

    de ces tétradrachmes

    se

    rattache au

    monnayage

    du début du IVe s., avec une Athénadont

    l'œil

    est figuré de profil. Le premier

    monnayage

    avec

    l'œil

    de

    profil date

    probablement des

    années

    380-370 et

    a

    été remplacé

    par l'argent

    de style pi frappé de manière négligée et

    mécanique

    dans

    les

    années

    350.

    Since

    the publication of

    The

    Athenian Agora,

    XXVI: The

    Greek Coins,

    a

    little more

    than

    a decade ago, by far the most significant numismatic finds

    in

    the

    continuing

    Agora excavations have been three involving

    Old

    Style Athenian

    tetradrachms. What

    better

    occasion

    for

    announcing them than

    in

    this volume

    honoring Hélène

    Nicolet-Pierre, who

    has

    devoted so

    much

    of her scholarship

    to

    the study

    of

    Athenian

    silver coinage and has

    enriched its

    understanding

    immeasurably.

    The

    most

    spectacular

    of

    these

    Agora discoveries

    is

    the

    most recent:

    a

    major

    hoard of tetradrachms of the

    second

    half of the 4th century

    B.C.

    that was

    recovered in July, 2005,

    from

    beneath the dirt floor of a building just south of

    the Tholos in the

    SE corner

    of the Agora

    square.

    Located in the area of the

    Athenian offices known as the Archeia, the

    structure

    is the one tentatively

    identified on plans of the Agora as the Strategeion, the headquarters of Athens'

    ten

    generals. Apart

    from 46 coins lying loose

    at

    the top

    of

    the hoard, the

    main

    * 104A

    Woodstock Rd., Oxford,

    OX2

    7NE,

    UK

    On

    the

    Strategeion, Wycherlhy 1957, pp. 127 and

    174; Thompson Wycherley

    1972,

    pp.

    73-74.

    RN2006,p. 57-63

  • 8/9/2019 Athenian tetradrachms recently discovered in the Athenian Agora / John H. Kroll

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    58

    John H.

    Kroll

    body of

    the deposit was

    recovered

    in

    a

    great

    concreted mass,

    having been

    buried, probably

    in a sack, in

    a

    concave pit below the floor.

    As

    the Agora

    conservators

    at the

    time

    of

    this

    writing

    had only

    begun

    the

    glacial

    task

    of

    separating the coins

    from

    the corroded mass,

    I

    am here able to give

    only

    a few

    preliminary observations.

    To udge from

    its

    total weight (6.280 g), the hoard contains about

    400-420

    tetradrachms. So far as can be

    seen

    from the loose coins

    and

    the coins exposed

    on the

    outer

    surface of the mass, the tetradrachms are exclusively of the

    common

    pi-style

    variety,

    a

    coinage that is characterized by the π-shaped tendril

    ornament

    on Athena's

    helmet,

    and by

    owls with

    heavily

    fringed

    and frenetic-

    looking

    heads. Two partially cleaned specimens

    from

    the hoard

    are illustrated

    in PI. Ill,

    1-2.

    One of the most massively minted coinages in

    Athenian

    numismatic history,

    the

    hastily struck

    pi-style silver

    is

    well

    represented

    in

    other

    sizable

    hoards,

    such

    as Delos 1910 (IGCH 110: 50 tetradrachms), Piraeus 1938 (CH 3, 27:

    100

    tetradrachms),

    and

    Thorikos

    1969

    (IGCH 134: 282

    tetradrachms,

    with a pi-

    style gold

    stater

    of the early

    3rd

    century

    and

    4 regal Macedonian coins). From

    the Thorikos hoard

    and

    supporting numismatic

    and historical

    considerations,

    the coinage is known to have come to an end

    in

    294.

    2

    Copied in

    pseudo-

    Athenian tetradrachms minted

    in

    Egypt beginning in the late

    340s,

    3

    there

    are

    good

    reasons

    to

    think that

    the coinage commenced near the middle of the 4th

    century. 4

    Its

    huge

    scale, monotonous,

    mechanical die-engraving,

    and

    careless,

    slapdash minting reflect the tremendous success of the program associated

    with

    the

    statesman

    Euboulos

    to

    restore

    the

    Laurion

    silver mining

    industry

    to

    5th-century levels of productivity. Writing in 355, Xenophon complained

    (Poroi 4.28) that

    at that time

    the industry had been operating far below its

    potential. A

    decade

    later,

    however, the

    situation

    had been

    totally reversed:

    inscriptions

    pertaining

    to the

    leasing of

    mines indicate that

    by

    the

    mid

    340s

    silver exploration and

    extraction had risen to

    peak

    levels.

    Full

    study

    of

    the new

    Agora hoard should clarify

    its

    chronological position in the

    long, half-century

    mintage of this vast, internationally circulating coinage. Irini

    Marathanki,

    the

    current numismatist at the Agora, is undertaking the die-study

    and

    publication.

    The two other tetradrachm discoveries since the early 1990s are of

    single

    coins,

    both

    found,

    outside of

    significant

    archaeological

    contexts,

    in

    the

    on-

    2 Nicolet-Pierre / Kroll 1990,

    pp.

    2-3. Kroll 1993, p.

    10.

    3 Nicolet-Pierre

    1979. van Alfen 2002A,

    pp. 24-31,

    pi.

    120-121,

    125-131.

    4 Kroll 1993,

    p.

    8.

    Publication of the

    incomplete and

    only

    partially

    legible

    nomothetic law

    of

    354/3

    (1975 Agora

    inscription I

    7495)

    by

    M. Richardson

    and J. Camp will

    do

    much to advance

    knowledge of the reforms

    pertaining to

    the Athenian

    silver

    industry

    at

    this time. The

    preliminary

    text

    that

    Richardson presented

    at

    the 1997

    meeting

    of the American

    Philological

    Association in

    Chicago refers

    inter

    alia to

    the exchanging of

    silver

    coins in the Agora, the

    receiving

    back of

    (recoined?) silver from the mint, unminted silver, furnaces, and the refining

    of

    silver.

    5

    Aperghis 1997-98,

    pp.

    17-19.

    RN

    2006,

    p. 57-63

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    Athenian tetradrachms recently

    discovered

    in the Athenian Agora 59

    going excavations

    to

    the north

    of

    the

    Agora

    square proper. 6

    One

    is

    a tetradrachm

    from Athens'

    earliest owl

    coinage

    (PI.

    Ill,

    3). 7

    Although

    heavily worn and damaged by surface corrosion, the reverse shows

    an owl with a plump, compact body that extends out diagonally from the

    head

    in

    a

    stance