“The Finest Known Coin of Carthage”
SICILY, Entella. Punic issues.
Circa 320-315 BC. AR Tetradrachm (26mm, 17.39 g, 5h). Uncertain female head to left (Dido or more probably Tanit), wearing a necklace and a Phrygian cap that is encircled with a band embroidered with palmettes and tied above her forehead / Lion walking left, head facing; in background, palm tree with two date clusters; †nJMM`ß
= “people of the camp” in Punic) in exergue. Jenkins, Punic
271 (O84/R225); CNP 443; HGC 2, 291; Rizzo pl. LXVI, 7 = GPCG III.C.41 = Kraay & Hirmer 207 (same dies). Choice EF, attractively toned.
From the America Collection. Ex Künker 262 (13 March 2015), lot 7079 (hammer €180,000).
This lovely piece must have been designed and engraved by a Greek artist, who produced a goddess who embodied a Greek vision of a Carthaginian/Pheonician heroine. In the past this head was identified as that of Dido, the legendary queen of Carthage but it seems more likely to be the city’s patron goddess Tanit as viewed by a Greek artist. She seems to be shown with hair in curls that mark her as being ‘foreign’, not at all like female heads shown on other Siculo-Punic issues. Her headdress is also very unusual, as is the palmette-ornamented ribbon that encircles it. It is more than likely that this splendid Tanit head was thought to be simply too exotic for general use and, thus, was replaced by the more standard, and more familiar, Tanit heads based on Euainetos’ conception of Arethusa. Barclay Head, in describing the British Museum example of these dies, described the type simply as follows: “The finest known coin of Carthage. By a Greek engraver.”