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Mark Drazak Collection of Greek Coins
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Mr. Drazak is an avid collector of ancient coins, with an emphasis on Greek cultures. He has a great eye for fine style and concentrates on the best condition examples available.

Greek Cities

Attica-Athens, AR Tetradrachm, After 449 BC
(No legend)
Head of Athena right, wearing helmet ornamented with vine scroll and laurel leaves
Owl standing right, head facing, crescent and olive sprig with berry behind, all within incuse square
24mm x 25mm, 17.17g
Starr pl. xxii, 6’; SNG Copenhagen 33
Ex Mark Drazak Collection; Ex Freeman & Sear, October 2006
Grade: Beautiful EF

Historical Notes: The coinage of Athens, one of the most renowned in Antiquity, enjoyed a widespread distribution due to a huge production, based on the exploitation of the silver mines of Laurion (Attica), and due to the emergence of this city state as an important regional power. The distinctive ‘owl’ coinage of Athens (introduced c.530-510 BC) established a long-lived iconographic tradition, which was maintained almost invariably on several series for more than two centuries. After the end of the Persian Wars (479 BC), Athens came forth victorious and formed an alliance (the Delian or First Athenian League) against the always menacing Persian Empire. With the help of her powerful navy, and through the taxation of her allies, Athens accomplished to gain pre-eminance in Hellas and achieved a celebrated prosperity. The Athenian tetradrachms were well-accepted all over the Mediterranean world, while several imitations modeled on them were issued within the Persian state both by officials and subject cities in the late 5th century BC (Tissaphernes, Egypt, the Levant). The impact of the Athenian ‘owls’ was extended through trade to Arabia and some imitative series of tetradrachms were struck there during the 4th century BC. The Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC) exhausted the silver resources of Athens and eventually destroyed irreparably the Athenian supremacy. During the 4th-3rd century BC, the well-known Athenian types were maintained and only stylistic changes can be observed in the rendering of the designs. Athenian coinage was relaunched c.185-180 BC with the so-called ‘New Style’ tetradrachms, a series which displayed a considerable circulation until its end c.45-40 BC.

This Athenian tetradrachma (an Ancient Greek coin worth four drachmas) bears the helmeted head of Athena on one side and two symbols of the goddess, an owl and an olive-branch, on the other. In Greek mythology, Athena, the goddess of wisdom and just warfare, rivaled Zeus himself in power and wisdom. It was Athena who gave the people of Attica the olive-tree. The name of this beloved goddess was given to the chief city of Attica - Athens. The snake and the owl were reckoned to be symbols of her wisdom. The great Greek poet Homer describes Athena as being "owl-eyed". It has been suggested that the eye's of the owl were associated with a very ancient symbol for heaven in the form of a double circle (perhaps from the constellation Gemini that served as a guide to travelers by night).

The Athenians were one of the first to commemorate a military victory on their coins. Following victory over the Persians at Marathon in 490 BC, the Athenians modified their tetradrachmae to include a crescent moon between the owl and olive branches. The moon reminded Athenians that Darius, king of Persia, withdrew his forces under a waning moon.

Cilicia-Tarsos, AR Stater, 361/360-334 BC, Mazaios as Satrap
B'LTRZ (Aramaic)
Baaltars seated left, head facing, holding in outstretched right hand eagle, grain-ear and grape-bunch, scepter in left, TN (Aramaic) in left field, M (Aramaic) below throne
MZDI (Aramaic)
Lion left, attacking bull left, ankh below
23mm x 24mm, 11.08g
SNG Levante 106 (same dies)
Ex Mark Drazak Collection

Lucania-Sybaris, AR Nomos, 540-520 BC
(No legend)
Bull standing left, head reverted, dotted exergual bar with VM in exergue, all within dotted bar border
(No legend)
Incuse of bull standing right, head reverted, broken exergual bar, all within radiate border
29mm x 31mm, 7.82g
Historia Numorum Italy, 1729; cf. SNG Copenhagen 1388; Gorini 1 and enlarged, p.107 (this coin)
Ex Mark Drazak Collection; Ex Numismatica Ars Classica, Auction 39, Lot 5, May 2007; Ex Triton 1, Lot 121, 1998; Ex Barry Fierstein Collection; Ex Gillette Collection, 1924
Grade: EF, nicely toned and an extremely rare variety

Historical Notes: Sybaris (Greek: Subari - Italian: Sibari) was a celebrated city of Magna Graecia on the western shore Gulf of Taranto, a short distance from the sea, between the rivers Crathis (Crati) and Sybaris (Coscile). The last of these, from which it derived its name, at the present day falls into the Crati about 5 km from its mouth, but in ancient times undoubtedly pursued an independent course to the sea. Sybaris was apparently the earliest of all the Greek colonies in this part of Italy, being founded, according to the statement of Scymnus Chius - as early as 720 BC. The site is located within the limits of the present-day commune of Cassano allo Ionio, in the province of Cosenza (Calabria), Italy.

Sybaris was Italy’s most prosperous Achaean colony. Sybaris was destroyed in 510 BC by Croton, which exiled the colonists. The Athenians and Sybarite descendants established themselves in a joint colony, New Sybaris, in 443 BC. Eventually, making themselves unpopular, the Sybarites were expelled and the remaining colonists refounded their city near the spring of Thuria.

The word Sybaritic has become a byword meaning extreme luxury and a seeking for pleasure and comfort.

Sicily-Syracuse, AR Tetradrachm, c.485-480 BC, Deinomenid Tyranny, Struck under Gelon
(No legend)
Charioteer driving walking quadriga right, holding kentron and reins; Nike flying above and crowning horses
Diademed head of Arethusa right; four dolphins swimming clockwise around
23mm x 25mm, 17.14g
Boehringer 120
Ex Mark Drazak Collection

Notes: The Deinomenid tyranny began in Gela. Cleandrus became tyrant in 505. He was an important and wealthy man and led the opposition to the ruling oligarchs. In 498 he was murdered, and Hippocrates took over. He engaged in military exploits in Sicily but died in 491. When Hippocrates died in 491 BCE, Gelon (with the army's loyalty) seized power and undertook a quiet rule from 491-485--when he intervened in Syracuse. The gomoroi (oligarchs) had lost control in Syracuse about 490. A democracy was established, but it remained disorganized. The Gomoroi, who had retreated to the interior of Sicily, appealed to Gelon in 4 85. He overpowered the democrats, gained control of Syracuse, and made the city his base. Gelon increased his power, developed a large army and navy, and gained control of half of Sicily. This led him into direct conflict with Carthage which, under Hamilcar, invaded Sicily but was completely defeated by Gelon in 480. This marked the end of Carthaginian intervention in Sicily for 70 years. Gelon died in 478; his reign was viewed as a period of prosperity and happiness. Gelon's brother Hieron succeeded.

Macedonian Kingdom

Philip II, AR Tetradrachm, 355-348 BC, Macedonian Kingdom, Thrace-Amphipolis
(No legend)
Laureate head of Zeus right
King wearing kausia and chlamys, raising right hand in salute, riding left
Erased protome of pegsos below horse, bow under right foreleg
25mm x 26mm, 14.31g
LeRider Amphipolis 164 (LeRider dies D75/R135)
Ex Mark Drazak Collection; Ex Ritter, August 2006
Grade: Beautiful aEF

Note: This issue commemorates Philip's victory in the horse race at Olympia in 356 BC.

Historical Notes: Philip came to power in 359 BC after the Macedonians had just suffered a defeat at the hands of the Illyrians. Macedonia was in political and military turmoil, and Philip immediately set about bringing the people of Macedonia under his control. After exacting revenge on the Illyrians by defeating them in 358 BC, Philip sought to bring all of Upper Macedonia under his control and make them loyal to him. His primary method of creating alliances and strengthening loyalties was through marriage. The most important marriage for Philip was to Olympias, from the royal house of Molossia. By 357 BC, they were married, and she gave birth to Alexander the next year.

Philip's military zenith was at the battle at Chaeronea in August of 338 BC. Philip's army was greatly outnumbered by the Athenian and Theban forces, yet his phalanxes overwhelmed the Athenians and Thebans. Athens and Thebes were forced to become subjects of Philip and Macedonia, leaving Sparta as the only Greek state not under Macedonian control.

At the Council at Corinth the next year, Philip outlined his system for ruling the Greek states. He gave freedom and autonomy to all the political parties in each state, yet established a network of bureaucracies that would be stable and loyal to Philip. Then, with the support of all Greece, Philip declared war on Persia to retaliate for the Persian invasion of Greece several generations before. In the spring of 336 BC, Philip sent Attalus and Parmenion with 10,000 troops over into Asia Minor to begin liberating Greek cities along the coast. Just before Philip himself was to travel to Asia to begin the conquest, he was assassinated.

Philip II had employed Celtic and other Balkan ‘barbarian’ mercenaries in his army, a fact which led gradually to the transfusion of large amounts of silver and gold coins in the Balkans (and in the central Europe), paid by Philip and later by his successors as soldiers’ wages. That prestigious currency and the growing familiarity with its use led several eastern Celtic tribes to mint, from the late 4th-early 3rd centuries BC onwards, imitative coinages of their own, based on the coin types of Philip II. This influence had far-reaching consequences in the European monetary affairs.

Alexander III the Great, AR Tetradrachm, c.325-323 BC (Lifetime Issue), Macedonian Kingdom, Macedonia-"Amphipolis"
(No legend)
Head of young Herakles right, wearing lion-skin headdress
Zeus seated left, eagle in right hand, vertical scepter in left
Stern in left field
25mm x 26mm, 17.19g
Price 5
Ex Mark Drazak Collection; Ex Freeman & Sear, Mail Bid 12, October 2005; Ex Commander David R. Hinkle Collection
Grade: EF, some minor flan flaws on obverse portrait. Some beautiful light golden toning around devices.

Paeonian Kingdom

Paeonian Kingdom, AR Tetradrachm, c.335-315 BC, Patraus
(No legend)
Laureate head of Apollo right
Helmeted horseman charging right, spearing fallen enemy who holds round Macedonian shield ornamented with star surrounded by double crescents
ME monogram behind horse
22mm x 24mm, 11.91g
SNG Oxford 3359 (same dies); Paeonian Hoard 434 (same dies)
Ex Mark Drazak Collection; Ex Gemini, Auction III, Lot 113, January 2007

Note from Gemini Auction: This particular issue, which shows Apollo with an almond-shaped archaic eye, may be reflective of the local die cutters' antiquated artistic outlook. It was issued alongside coins from dies cut by more enlightened artists which show Apollo with the more updated profile eye.

Historical notes from "The Army of Alexander the Great" by Nick Sekunda et al., p.21-22: Thracian Cavalry - "The four squadrons of the Royal Army were supplemented by further squadrons of auxiliary Thracian cavalry. The Paeonian squadron crossed the Hellespont with the army. The Paeonians seem to be a detachment of cavalry contributed to the expedition by the client kingdom of Paeonia, for they are commanded by a prince of the Paeonian royal house called Ariston. The Odrysian cavalry were probably contributed in a similar way by the king of the Odrysians, but they were under the command of a Macedonian, Agathon, son of Tyrimmas. The Odrysians joined the expedition in time to take part in the battle of Granicus. They were probably two squadrons strong at Gaugamela.

While we may assume that the Paeonian and Odrysian squadrons were equipped in a similar fashion to the regular squadrons of prodromoi, their general appearance and dress could have been markedly different as they were not part of the Royal Army. A Paeonian coin shows a warrior, dressed in a long-sleeved tunic, wearing a crested "Attic" helmet, and equipped with a spear, riding a horse with a pantherskin saddle cloth. He spears a warrior on foot who is shown wearing trousers. Coins of this series have been identified with an incident in the Gaugemela campaign when Ariston, the commander of the Paeonian squadron, speared Satropates through the throat.. The identification, however, is still far from certain.

Alexander was in the process of crossing the Tigris; the infantry were wading across with considerable difficulty, but the king, together with a small advance party of light cavalry, had reached the far bank. Suddenly, a flying column of 1,000 Persian cavalry commanded by Satropates appeared to dispute the crossing. The situation was critical - only the advance party was formed up on the river bank and the unformed infantry, struggling in the water with their packs, would fall easy pray to a quick charge. Alexander immediately ordered forward the Paeonian squadron, with Ariston at its head. From the river, the whole army watched the drama unfolding on the steep riverbank.

Ariston made straight for the Persian colonel Satropates, and promptly ran him through the throat with his spear. The Persian turned and tried to make his way back to safety among his comrades. Ariston overtook his victim, unhorsed him, and, after a brief struggle, severed his head with a sword-cut. The Paeonian prince gathered up Satriopates' head and galloped back to Alexander, to the accompaniment of wild cheering from the army. Throwing his trophy at Alexander's feet, the Paeonian shouted, 'Among us, oh King, such a present is rewarded with a golden drinking-horn!' 'An empty one, I suppose' replied Alexander with a laugh, 'but I promise you one full of untempered wine.'"

Thracian Kingdom

Thracian Kingdom, Lysimachos (305-281 BC), AR Tetradrachm, 297/6-282/1 BC, Lampsakos
(No legend)
Diademed head of the deified Alexander right
Athena seated left, Nike in right hand, left arm leaning on large shield with lion-head boss, transverse spear in background
HP (ligate) monogram in left field, crescent with horns left in exergue
27mm x 28mm, 17.03g
Dewing 1350; Thompson, Lysimachus 49
Ex Mark Drazak Collection; Ex Gorny & Mosch, October 2006
Grade: EF, beautiful toning

Historical notes: Lysimachos was born around 360 BC to Thessalian Greek parents who had migrated to Macedonia. He served in the army of Philip II and was appointed to the select somatophylakes (royal bodyguards) under Alexander the Great.

After the death of Alexander he was given a satrapy consisting of Thrace and parts of north-western Asia Minor. He supported the various coalitions that included Seleukos, Ptolemy and Kassandros against the growing power of Antigonos Monophthalmos.

Like the other major successor generals, he proclaimed himself king in 305/4 BC. He already acted as an independent dynast in Thrace where four years earlier he destroyed Kardia in the Thracian Chersonesos so that he could replace it with his own capital named Lysimacheia.

Lysimachos was instrumental in the final destruction of Antigonos at the battle of Ipsos in 301 BC. It fell to him and his army to hold the Antigonid forces in Asia Minor until Seleukos could arrive from the east with his war elephants and deliver the coup de grace. Because of the great risks that he undertook Lysimachos received the majority of Antigonos' old possessions in Asia Minor.

Despite some difficulties with native Thracian tribal chiefs (he was briefly held hostage by one in 292 BC) as well as an alliance of Skythian nomads and Greek cities, Lysimachos wrested the very throne of Macedonia from Demetrios Poliorketes in 285.

Unfortunately, Lysimachos had difficulty conciliating his subjects to himself. He had a reputation for harshness and over-taxation, which earned him the derogatory nickname, gazophylax, 'the Banker'. He did, however, have one major asset in the person of his son, Agathokles, who was popular as a local governor in Asia Minor.

Nevertheless, at the request of Arsinoe, the second and more ambitious wife of Lysimachos, convinced him to execute Agathokles (the son of his first marriage to Lysandra). This senseless act horrified the people of Asia Minor to such an extent that they invited Seleukos to save them from what was perceived as Lysimachos' unstable violence. The contest was decided on the field of Koroupedion in 281 BC when Lysimachos fell to the forces of Seleukos.

Roman Imperial

Augustus, AR Cistophoric Tetradrachm, 24-20 BC, Ephesus
Bare head right
Capricorn right, head reverted, holding large cornucopiae, all within laurel wreath
25mm x 26mm, 11.89g, 1' Die Axis
RIC I, 480; BMC I, 696; CBN I, 916; RPC I, 2213; RSC I, 16; Sutherland Group VI, 239 (O33/R43 - this coin illustrated)
Ex Mark Drazak Collection; Ex William Joy Collection; Ex CNG Private Sale; Ex Lempertz, Lot 960, February 23, 1939
Grade: EF with nice cabinet toning. Sutherland "The Cistophori of Augustus" plate coin.

Honorius, AV Solidus, 408-420, Constantinople, Officina 10
Pearl-diademed, helmeted, cuirassed bust facing, shield with horse and rider design in left hand, spear in right hand over right shoulder
Constantinopolis enthroned facing, head right, vertical scepter in right hand, Victory on globe in left, right foot on prow
* in left field
CONOB in exergue
21mm x 22mm, 4.48g
RIC X, 201 (R) (Theodosius II)
Ex Mark Drazak Collection; Ex Mike Summers Collection; Ex Ed Waddell
Grade: Sharp EF