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The Peak of Classical Artistry

The Peak of Classical Artistry

Lampsakos has a storied past, having been a frequent source of contention between battling powers, changing hands between Lydia, Persia, Athens, and Sparta between the sixth and fifth centuries BC. It was the first Greek city-state to see its gold coinage reach broad international acceptance, a testament to its prosperity and influence. Acting as the successor to the Persian daric, the stater of Lampsakos retained the weight standard established by the daric and became very popular, circulating from Sicily to the Black Sea.

The Greeks tended to only issue gold coinage to meet an immediate demand, generally caused by a large debt or crisis. Lampsakos, however, derived significant wealth from its position as a strategic harbor and therefore had a substantial need for a regular and consistent output of coinage.

The staters of Lampsakos are some of the most appealing ancient gold coins not only for their high standard of artistry but also because of the diversity of their design. Over the sixty years during which the city issued gold coinage, more than forty different obverses were produced. This level of creativity is uncommon as contemporary mints generally kept their gold coinage consistent from year to year, making only minor changes.

This particular coin was struck at the end of the Classical period and bears the head of Zeus, the king of the Greek gods, in a fantastic portrait of superb style, with a lotus-tipped scepter on his shoulder. The reverse is sometimes referred to as a generic “winged horse” but the more common interpretation is that it represents Pegasus, the most famous of winged horses.

This reverse design remained consistent for the entire duration of Lampsakos’ gold coinage and acted as a symbol for the city. It became so recognizable that the mint did not feel any inscription was necessary to identify their iconic gold coinage, despite their use of inscriptions in other metals.

This coin belonged to Prince Alexandre Chattowskoy of Russia, born in 1777. He presided over Smolensk and like much of the nobility of the time, he was a patron of the arts. He personally translated many works from French to Russian including Volatire’s “L’Orphein de la Chine”, publishing it in 1809, and Jean-Francois Ducis’ “Abufar, ou la famille arabe” in 1815. He also wrote several of his own pieces, including a romantic comedy based off of Walter Scott’s novel “The Fortunes of Nigel”. His coin collection was sold in 1908 in a Brüder Egger sale, in which this coin was lot 539.

This coin was later used as the plate coin for the type by Agnes Baldwin Brett (1876-1955) in her substantial work “Lampsakos: The Gold Staters, Silver and Bronze Coinages.” (1924) She was the first female curator at the American Numismatic Society and became a renowned scholar in ancient numismatics and archaeology.

LAMPSAKOS, Stater c. 360–340, Persic standard, AV 8.47 g. Obv. Laureate and bearded head of Zeus left, lotus-tipped sceptre on right shoulder. Rev. Forepart of Pegasus flying right, within a shallow incuse square. Literature Traité II/2, 2537, pl. CLXXI, 3 BMC Mysia 81, 28, pl. XIX, 6 SNG von Aulock 7394 SNG Lockett 2709 A. Baldwin, ”Lampsakos. The Gold Staters, Silver and Bronze Coinages”, AJN 53/3, 1924, 29w, pl. III, 4 (this coin) Pozzi 2228 M.-M. Bendenoun, Coins of the Ancient World, A portrait of the JDL Collection, Tradart, Genève, 2009, 23 (this coin) Rare. A fantastic portrait of wonderful style and a lovely reddish tone, Extremely Fine. Provenance Monnaies et Médailles AG 68, Basel 1986, 271 Brüder Egger, Wien, January 1908, 539. Ex. Prince Chattowskoy collection.