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Lot 4111

Egypt, Ptolemaic Kingdom. In the name of Ptolemy IV, Philopator, 221-204 BC. Ptolemy V, Epiphanes, 204-180. Gold Oktadrachm (27.7g) minted at Sidon, ca. 202-200 BC. Diademed and draped bust right of Ptolemy IV. Reverse: ΠTOΛEMAIOY ΦIΛOΠATOPOΣ. Eagle with folded wings standing three-quarters right on thunderbolt; to right, ΣΩ over ΣI. Kyrieleis, "Die Porträtmünzen Ptolemaios' V. und seiner Eltern," JdAI 88, cf. fig. 32 = Hunter III, p. 382, 26, pl. lxxxiii = Svoronos 1187 (ΣΩ over ΠT in reverse right field); cf. Svoronos 1185 (silver tetradrachm with ΣΩ in left field, ΣI between eagle's legs); Bank Leu Auction 52, 15 May, 1991, lot 136 (same dies).

Exceedingly rare and extremely desirable. One of the finest known Greek gold coins. Boldly struck in high relief, on a large flan and in an astounding state of preservation. A cameo-like gem with beautifully modelled, three-dimensional artistry. Mint State.

This magnificent portrait piece depicting Ptolemy IV, Philopator (222-205 BC), son of Ptolemy III and Berenike II, was issued at the Phoenician mint of Sidon and probably belongs to the early years of the reign of his son Ptolemy V, Epiphanes (205-180 BC). The realistic portrait is of the finest Hellenistic style. It clearly betrays the weakness of the monarch's character and his self-indulgent lifestyle that was to set the Egyptian kingdom on its long path of decline. The eagle on the reverse, symbolic of Zeus, is unusual on gold issues, though normal on the silver and bronze issues. Ptolemy IV was married to his full sister Arsinoe III who, because of her strong influence over her husband-brother, was ultimately banished from the court. On his death at the early age of forty Ptolemy IV was succeeded by his five-year-old son Ptolemy V. In the brief interregnum, Arsinoê had been murdered to prevent her from influencing the young king.

The coronation of Ptolemy V was commemorated by the celebrated Rosetta Stone, now in the British Museum, which provided scholars with the key for the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphics.

This monumental gold denomination and the exceptionally refined portraiture mark this issue as an important presentation piece, medallic in character. It seems contrary to expectation that a gold presentation coinage honoring the deified father of Ptolemy V should have been minted in the provinces, yet that is precisely the implication of the Ptolemais and Sidon mintmarks found on this coin. Another posthumous oktadrachm of Ptolemy IV (Kyrieleis fig. 31 = Hunter 27) bears the regnal date ΛΓ, the third year of Ptolemy V, a dating that would seem to bring this magnificent commemorative coinage perilously close to the time of the Fifth Syrian War (ca. 202-200 BC). In fact, the production of gold oktadrachms continued from a mobile military mint during the hostilities (see Mørkholm, Essays Thompson, pp. 203-208).

Another explanation, as stated in the Leu catalogue, is that this exceptional issue was part of a special coinage struck shortly after Philopator's death in 205 (or early 204 BC); issued not for general circulation, but for distribution among the high officials of the kingdom. It emphasized the legitimate succession of the young king Ptolemy V, a boy of six at the time of his coronation, and, at the same time, it paid homage to his deified parents. In addition, it may have bought the officials' silence over the mysteries surrounding both the queen's death and the choice of Epiphanes' guardians. ΣΩ stands for Sosibios the elder, Philopator's chief minister, who had practically ruled Egypt since 221 BC.
Estimated Value $200,000 - 250,000.
The Hunter Collection; Ex Numismatic Fine Arts XXV, 29 November 1990, lot 285.

Realized $425,500

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