Arkadia, Alea. c. 390-370 BC

Arkadia, Alea. c. 390-370 BC


AR Obol, 0.88g (11.5mm/3h). Head of Artemis right / Bow above AΛ

Pedigree: Ex CNG 82 (16 September 2009), lot 573

References: BCD Peloponnesos 1346 (same rev. die); BCD Peloponnesos II 573 (this coin); HGC 5, 808

Grade: Fine style on good metal. Better than the BCD specimens. Extremely rare (gk1025)

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Artemis was one of the twelve great gods of Olympus, daughter of Zeus and Leto, and twin sister of Apollo.  She was the chaste and virgin goddess of the hunt, who, interestingly enough, was also protector of animals, children, and all the humble and weak entities of the world.  Homeric Hymn to Artemis (27), aptly describes her essential features and character:

“I sing of Artemis of the gold shafts and the view-halloo, the modest virgin, the deer-shooter profuse of arrows, own sister to Apollo of the golden sword; of her who in the shadowed mountains and windy heights takes her pleasure in the hunt, and draws her golden bow to discharge grievous arrows. And the peaks of the high mountains tremble, the deep-shaded wood resounds fearsomely from the animals’ howling, and the earth shudders, and the fishy sea; but she with dauntless heart turns every way, killing the animals’ brood.

When the animal-watcher goddess profuse of arrows has had her pleasure and cheered her spirits, she unstrings her bent bow and goes to the great house of her dear brother Phoibos Apollo, to Delphi’s rich community, to organize the Muses’ and Graces’ fair dance. There she hangs up her bent-back bow and her arrows and goes before, her body beautifully adorned, leading the dances, while they with divine voices celebrate fair-ankled Leto, how she bore children outstanding among the immortals both in counsel and action.  I salute you, children of Zeus and lovely-haired Leto. And I will take heed both for you and for other singing.”[West, Martin L., trans.  Homeric Hymns; Homeric Apocrypha; Lives of Homer.  (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003)]

Artemis was thought to roam the wild forests and mountains of Greece with her loyal band of nymphs, and with their aid, would vigorously combat any who dared to intrude on their wilderness home.  In literature she was portrayed as a vehement virgin and exacted harsh punishment on those who would seek to violate her chastity.  Moreover, she insisted that all of her followers themselves live lives of virginity, and was seen as the great protector of virgins, male and female alike.

As her brother Apollo was considered responsible for swift and sudden but natural death of men, so Artemis was deemed responsible for such death in women.  In this regard she became closely associated with Hecate, the witch-goddess, who was also known as Artemis of the Crossroads, and who was closely associated with death.