Crete, Gortyna c. 300 BC

Crete, Gortyna c. 300 BC


AR Stater, 11.82g (21mm, 2h). The nymph Europa in a tree with her head in her hand / A bull standing right, his head is reverted

Pedigree: From the Phaistos Hoard 1953 (IGCH 152). Purchased privately from the stock of Münzen und Medaillen AG, Basel on Dec 9, 2000

References: Svoronos, Crete 166, 67. Le Rider, Crete 26, 133, pl. V, 14 (this coin)

Grade: A complete example as compared with others. These coins normally come in weathered condition. Overall wear but extremely pleasant. Good centering and nice strike for issue. EF for issue (gk1205)

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The coinage of Crete is both visually arresting and barbaric in nature. One will see artistic imagery ranging from the famous labyrinth to the Cretan bull. The artistic style is a marked departure from that of classical Greek coinage that was found contemporarily in other cities at that time. Despite the barbarous style, the coins fascinate and delight collectors. Coins from Crete are increasingly difficult to obtain due to very strict cultural property restrictions both in exporting out of Crete and importing into the U.S. This coin was out of the country long before the restrictions went into effect and comes from a well known hoard found in 1953 on Phaistos.

The imagery on this coin is extremely interesting. It portrays the nymph Europa who had an affair with Zeus allegedly in the city of Gortyna. In fact, the name Europe is derived from the nymph Europa and it has been suggested that European civilization was established on the island of Crete. Gortyna was even mentioned in the Odyssey when Menelaus and his army on their return home from Troy were blown off course and landed on the Gortyna shoreline.