about ancient nomos

Ancient Nomos Art is a museum of galleries exhibiting ancient coins and ancient mint maps. The coin gallery displays the diverse art and history of hand-crafted ancient Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Persian and Medieval coinage. The ancient mints mapping gallery features Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Asia Minor and Medieval mint city regions and territories. Visitor's are welcome to explore, study and enjoy Ancient Nomos Art.

The ANAM Shop

Greek, Sikyon – 330 BC


From Ancient Galleries

Greek, Sikyon – 330 BC

Obverse: Chimaera moving to the left on ground line, right paw raised; wreath in field above; ΣE below.
Reverse: Dove flying to the left with wings open; I in field below dove’s neck; all within olive wreath.

Obv: Chimaera moving to the left on ground line, right paw raised; wreath in field above to right; ΣE in field below. Rev: Dove flying to left with wings open above and below; I in field below dove’s neck; all within olive wreath tied on the right and with branch ends meeting on the left.

The ancient city Sikyon was situated in the northern Peloponnesus of Corinthia between Corinth and Achaea. The ancient city was located along the Asopus River on a low plateau about two miles southwest from the Gulf of Corinth. During the fourth century BC, Sikyon was perhaps the most important ancient Greek city of the arts and considered by many to be the most important center of ancient Greek sculptors and painters. The great Sikyon School of painting, founded by the painter Eupompus, flourished in Sikyon during the 4th century and attracted many famous artists including; Pamphilus, Melanthius, Pausias and Apelles, the acclaimed painter of Alexander the Great. The distinguished Sikyonian sculptors, Lysippos and Lysistratos, also resided in the city and are considered by many to be the greatest of classical Greek sculptors, famous for producing the most artful depictions of gods, heroes, animals and portraiture. These brilliant sculptors were also active in Sikyon from 370-315 BC. Sikyon was also one of the most important of all 4th century Peloponnesian mints, issuing enormous quantities of high quality silver coinage. The Sikyon coinage came in several Aeginetan weight standard denominations including; staters, drachms, triobols, additional fractions and bronzes. Sikyon was the main mint for the anti-Athenian states in the Peloponnesian War and issued more coins than any other Greek state other than Athens. One of Sikyon’s most prolific coin production periods has been attributed to the time of Euphron. Euphron established a democracy between 367-365 BC, but was later known as the tyrant who confiscated private property on a vast scale (Xenophon. Hellenica VII, 1, 460). The lovely coin seen above comes from an issue of silver staters produced at Sikyon sometime after Alexander the Great appealed for new mercenaries in 334 BC (See Alexander Coinage). These wonderful Sikyon staters are thought to have been coins that were paid out as a soldiers signing bonus. Prior to going into battle, the men would buried their coins for safe-keeping. Unfortunately, many of these mercenaries never came back; thus, a number of coins from this issue never circulated and have been found in mint state condition. This particular Sikyon coinage represents a highly developed late classical Greek style. The coins are executed with a precision of engraving and dexterity that is likely attributed to the artisan trained at the famous school of sculpting in Sikyon. The highly sculptural obverse image on this coin features a mythological Chimaera, walking fearlessly and proudly, in an almost heraldic manner to the left. The Chimaera as a symbolic emblem of Sikyon is known to be a design type on their coins beginning sometime during the fifth century BC. While the real reason will remain a mystery, this unusual creature is thought to be derived from Sikyon’s association with Corinth, a city which also struck an issue featuring the Chimaera, in a mythological association with Bellerophon, the grandson of Sisyphos and the son of the Glaukos, king of Corinth. According to the ancient myth related by Homer (Il. VI.155-203), Bellerophon was sent by Iobates, king of Lycia, to slay the Chimaera – a fire-breathing beast composed of a three-part body. The hybrid animal has the body of a lioness, the head of a fire-breathing goat arising from the lions back, and a tail as snake that terminates in a snake’s head with eye. To accomplish the slaying, Bellerophon captures the winged horse, Pegasus (See Pegasus of Corinthia). Flying Pegasus high overhead to avoid the creature’s fire, Bellerophon slew the Chimaera by thrusting a spear, tipped with a block of lead, down its throat. The lead melted, suffocating the Chimaera, and Bellerophon returned victorious to Iobates. Of equal interest is the reverse image of the Dove. It is thought that the reverse dove, flying to the left with both wings open, alludes to the ancient Greek myth of Athene, a bird which represented the renewal of peace and life. It has been suggested that the wreath, in combination with the dove, alludes symbolically to an ancient Greek victory. Several numismatists have suggested that the Chimaera, dove and wreath combination were engraved as subtle propaganda, artfully used by Alexander as a presentiment to perhaps portend his own army’s victory over the Persians, followed by the reward of a peaceful life. The dove and wreath symbolism may have encouraged prospective soldiers to join him in battle against the adversarial Persian armies, if these stater coins were monetary payments given prior to enlistment to prospective soldiers, in hopes of a peaceful and victorious aftermath. To conclude, if one sees the pairing of these two beautiful obverse and reverse images as motifs to be taken together, they can be seen as a classical embodiment and metaphorical example of how ancient Greek mythology viewed life as having duel natures.

Value: Stater. Metal: AR Silver. Weight: 12.24 grams. Mint: Sikyon Date: 335-330 BC.
Attribution: BCD Peloponnesos 219; HGC 5, 201; BMC 56; Traité III, 775, plate CCXX, 12. Photo Courtesy CNG.

Legend, Documentation and Attribution