While there were many guises of Hermes in Greek mythology, he is most often depicted as a youth wearing the petasos, or flat-brimmed hat of the traveler. If full figured, Hermes carries the caduceus and wears winged sandals and the chlamys, or short cloak. Of the coins which portray Hermes, the silver coins of Ainos are the most charismatic. All the tetradrachms are rare and believed to have been minted as special issues, while the much more plentiful smaller denominations served the needs of daily commerce and payment of the military. This particular specimen is one of the last tetradrachms to have been struck before the city was absorbed into Philip II’s Kingdom of Macedon.
Aenus was the principal Greek settlement of eastern Thrace located along the eastern bank of the river Hebrus. The city only began striking coinage late, sometime around 474 B.C. in the aftermath of Xerxes’ failed invasion of Greece and subsequent withdrawal from the region. The first tetradrachm issues were struck on a standard of three Persian sigloi, certainly due to the fact that Aenus lay within the recently-occupied Persian regions of Thrace but also in part due to the city’s proximity to Asia Minor where the Persian standard was widely in use. Without the constraining tradition of an established coinage depicting archaic coin-types such as existed elsewhere in the region, Aenus was free to experiment, and its first artist commissioned to engrave dies for the city’s coinage made unparalleled use of this freedom. On the obverse, he placed the head of the city’s patron deity, Hermes, in profile, depicting the god wearing the felt cap or petasos, and on the reverse he placed the god’s caduceus surrounded by the city’s name within an incuse square. The nearest parallel to this obverse was the head of Athena on the coinage of Athens, but the quality of the work at Aenus is far superior to most contemporary designs from Athens. After this short-lived initial issue of tetradrachms, the caduceus of the reverse was replaced by a goat, a reference to Hermes’ role as the divine goatherd, and this type would continue for all subsequent issues of tetradrachms from the city. In addition to the goat, the field usually contained a symbol to identify each particular issue of tetradrachms.
After two-and-a-half decades of uninterrupted production, and as elsewhere at a number of other mints, sometime shortly after 450 B.C. coinage at Aenus ceased to be struck for a period of about fifteen years. This interruption has been attributed to the Athenian Coinage Decree, which imposed Athenian silver coinage, weights and measures on all of its allies. From c. 435 B.C. until the end of the Peloponnesian War, Aenus struck tetradrachms only sporadically. The end of the fifth century saw fundamental changes in both weight and design: the old Persian standard was replaced by the Chian of about 15.5 g, and which was in use by many of Athens’ enemies. At the same time, the profile head of the city’s patron deity was changed to a facing portrait, following the precedent set by Kimon in Syracuse and that had become fashionable at other mints, such as Amphipolis, Klazomenai and Rhodes.
Hermes facing slightly left, wearing petasos with beaded rim
Goat standing right, in right field, laurel branches; all within incuse square
A perfect choice for Numismatists, Historians, Military Veterans, Collectors.