The Ancient World Collection
Pamphylia, Aspendos, 4th-3rd Century BC





Coin Details

Design Description: Aspendos Wrestler-Style Stater
Item Description: AR Stater Pamphylia, Aspendus rv slinger, triskeles obv wrestlers
Full Grade: NGC AU Strike: 3/5 Surface: 5/5
Owner: Kohaku

Set Details

Custom Sets: The Ancient World Collection
Competitive Sets: This coin is not competing in any sets.
Research: NGC Coin Price Guide

Owner Comments:

Pamphylia was the ancient name for the fertile alluvial plains in south central Anatolia. East of Lycia and west of Cilicia, this land was populated by Hittites tribes prior to the first millennium BC. Greeks arrived in the 7th century BC, and subsequently began trading with Pamphylia. One of the latter’s main ports was Aspendos, situated on the Eurymedon river, far enough from the Mediterranean Sea to have ready access, while being safe from surprise naval attacks. Among its products, the area was known for its fine sea salts. In 6th century BC, the region came under the dominion of the rich Lydian King Croesus, and subsequently, the Persian conqueror Cyrus the Great. Over the next several centuries, control would change several times between the Persians and the Greeks, and later the Romans.

In 5th century BC, the Pamphylians started producing coins in Aspendos. The city’s mint was prolific in ancient times, reflecting the city’s prosperity. Their coinage often depicted wrestlers, and this motif is among the most dynamic of all ancient numismatics. This coin, a stater minted in Aspendos some time during the 4th or 3rd century BC, is an example of the style. On the obverse, two naked male wrestlers are intensely grappling, with their arms interlocked and heads pressed against each other.

At the time, Greek wrestling was the most popular organized sport in Ancient Greece. It was the first competition to be added to the Olympic games not involving a footrace, and it was part of the pentathlon. Wrestling was viewed as the ultimate test of an athlete’s raw strength and skill. The matches were sacred and the rules were strict: for example, no punching, kicking, biting, eye-gouging, or grasping of genitalia were allowed, upon pain of immediate whipping by the referee.

The exact significance of the Aspendos wrestlers is unknown. Perhaps the city was home to a famous wrestling club that boasted of a champion at the Olympic games? In any case, wrestlers appeared on Aspendos’ coinage for more than a century, suggesting some significance between the sport and the city.

On the coin’s verso is another athlete, this time a slinger advancing right, about to discharge a stone from his sling. It has been theorized that the slinger may be a pun, since the Greek word for slinger, sphendone, voices similarly to the city’s name, Aspendos. It may also be that Aspendos was generally renowned for great athletes, and slinging, like wrestling, was an Olympic sport (although competitions were usually held gymnos, or naked, and the slinger on the coin, unlike the wrestlers, is clothed).

Also present on the coin’s reverse is a triskeles, comprising three bent human legs extending from the symbol’s center. The triskeles, and ciphers similar to it, were popular numismatic elements in ancient times, for example used on the coins of Sicily. Unlike the meaning of the wrestlers and slinger, the exact significance of the triskeles in this context is known: it was the Aspendos city emblem.

Coin Details: PAMPHYLIA, ASPENDUS (ASPENDOS), 4th-3rd Century BC, AR Stater (10.83 g), NGC Grade: AU, Strike: 3/5, Surface: 5/5, Obverse: Two naked male wrestlers engaged, AK between, Reverse: Slinger advancing right, triskeles before, [EC]UFEDIIUC behind, all in linear-beaded square, Reference: SNG von Aulock 4561. SNG Copenhagen 231

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