Silver Stater, 98th Olympiad (388 BC), Zeus mint.
Obverse: Eagle standing left, grasping the back of a ram with talons and tearing at it with its beak, all on a round shield with raised rim.
Reverse: Thunderbolt with closed wings above and volutes below, F-A (incuse) across fields.
(BMC 37; Kraay-Hirmer 501-2 (these dies); Kunstfreund 155; Seltman 172; BCD Olympia 92 (same dies)).
Good Very Fine. High relief. Very Rare.
The die engraver responsible for this stater has taken care to make the most of the coin’s natural shape. If we look past the initial, somewhat graphic design, we can see it is made up of four concentric circles. The first is the border of dots; a feature of many ancient coins. This tried and tested piece of design sets the boundary and (in theory) the edge of the coin. The dotted border on this particular coin also serves as the rim of an elaborately designed shield. The second circle is that of the shield’s body. We can see this as the high-relief mound which protrudes from the coin. It is upon this platform that the third circle can be seen: that of the motif itself, the centrepiece of the coin.
While most animal fight scenes appear in a linear form – the design on this stater is well and truly incorporated into the fabric of the coin. The vicious depiction of an eagle attacking a ram is completely rounded. It decorates the shield as well as the coin and is perfectly framed. The eagle’s wings are closed and rounded in parallel with the curve of the shield, dotted border and the coin itself. Its neck and head are also curved smoothly and its piercing eyes focus on the viewer rather than the prey – perhaps a further symbol of Zeus’ divine power.