Thessaly, Larissa. c. 450/40-420 BC

Thessaly, Larissa. c. 450/40-420 BC


AR Drachm, 6.11g (20mm, 6h). Thessalos, with petasos and chlamys hanging around neck, restraining bull charging to right / ΛΑPI-Σ-A Bridled horse trotting to right.

Pedigree: From the collection of W. F. Stoecklin, Amriswil, Switzerland, and from that of the Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Schlessinger 13, 4 February 1935, lot 805.

References:  BCD Thessaly II 372.9 (same dies)

Grade:  Very complete and with lovely cabinet toning. EF  (gk1182)

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Larissa was an important city in ancient Greece. It is said that Achilles lived in Larissa and Homer mentions it in the Odyssey. The coinage is most known for the lovely obverse dies featuring a nymph that is certainly modelled after the goddess Arethusa on the contemporary coins from Syracuse. Other coins from the area show the hero Thessalos who was a son of Herakles. He wears a petasos, which is a type of floppy hat and chlamys, a cloak.  A horse is typically shown on all coins of Larissa. The vast landscape of great plains made horse breeding a natural fit for the area and is consistently reflected on its coins.

This particular coin comes from the collection of the Hermitage Museum  in St. Petersburg, Russia. The Hermitage coin cabinet was formed by none other than Catherine the Great during her reign (1762-1796). Despite being one of the largest numismatic cabinets in the world, in 1935 a portion of the holdings were sold in the Felix Schlessinger auction in Germany. In fact, many of the prized art holdings were sold from 1930-1935 in order to purchase industrial machinery in the west to boost the industrialization of Russia. This coin was part of that group. Seeing the coin cabinet in St. Petersburg can be very difficult. I visited there more than 15 years ago and try as I might could not get in to see the collection. As I understand it the Augustus Sage Society (through the ANS) was able to view the collection a few years back which is welcome news to me. It is undoubtedly a wonderful experience.