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Ainos, Thrace Very Rare AR Tetradrachm 453-450 BC Ancient Greek Silver Coin Hermes on Obverse Museum Reproduction CSGT0056


Silver Greek Tetradrachm Ainos, Thrace, struck 453-450 B.C. under magistrate Antiadas. References: May 90: AMNG 279; Babelon Traité 1498; Pozzi 1018. Rare.

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The obverse of this coin depicts Hermes, who was worshiped at Ainos in his peculiar local aspect as Perpheraios (“the Wanderer”). The Hellenistic poet, Kallimachos, tells the story of how Epeios, the creator of the Trojan Horse, constructed a wooden cult statue (xoanon in Greek) of Hermes that was washed out to sea. It remained adrift in the Aegean Sea until it was caught in the nets of fishermen near the mouth of the Hebros River in Thrace. Mistaking the statue for mere driftwood, the fishermen tried to use it for firewood, but it would not burn under any circumstances. Fearful of the miraculous wood, the fisherman threw the statue back into the sea only to have it promptly returned to shore by the waves. The native Thracians of the area recognized the statue as a divine relic and subsequently built a shrine to house it on the site that later became the Aiolian Greek colony of Ainos. The Archaic wooden image of Hermes was still worshipped in his temple at Ainos and was sometimes depicted on coins of the Hellenistic period, but here the god is shown in the idealized anthropomorphic form more familiar to the wider Greek world. Lest there be any doubt about the god depicted, Hermes’ sacred animal, the goat, also appears on the reverse.

Ainos came rather late to currency production, striking its first tetradrachms only after the expulsion of the Persians from northern Greece following Xerxes’ defeat at Salamis. Its first period ended with the Athenian coinage decree of 449 BC, but the mint was in operation again by circa 435 BC, tapering off rapidly until disappearing with the conquest of the city by Philip of Macedon in 342 BC. Its uniform types throughout its history were Hermes and the goat, the latter the symbol of the pasture land that provided what prosperity Ainos had. Hermes was the patron deity of Ainos, dating from the time of the Trojan War. According to a poem by Kallimachos, the sculptor Epeios, who constructed the Trojan Horse, also made a wooden statue (ξοανον) of Hermes, which was washed out to sea and recovered by fishermen by the Hebros river. The fishermen, thinking it just a piece of driftwood, tried to burn it in their bonfire. When it failed to burn they took fright and threw it back into the sea, which promptly cast it back again. The natives accepted it as a relic of the gods, and erected the sanctuary of Hermes Perpheraios (the Wanderer) at the future site of Ainos. The later coins of Ainos, with their splendid facing head of Hermes, showcase some of the finest numismatic art of the Greek world. Nevertheless, Ainos never became an important city or trading center. The climate might have had something to do with it; according to Athaneus, Ainos had two seasons, eight months of cold and four months of winter. At least the goats liked it.
Obverse side
Head of Hermes right, wearing petasus with dotted border

Reverse side
Goat walking right in linear square, Pan, naked, standing right on base in right field, raising left hand; all within incuse square

A perfect choice for Numismatists, Historians, Military Veterans, Collectors.

Weight 16,76 g
Dimensions 24,9 mm


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