Lot 178. Seleukid Kingdom. Seleukos I Nikator. 312-281 B.C. AR stater. Babylon II, native workshop, ca. 311- after 305 B.C.
Seleukid Kingdom. Seleukos I Nikator. 312-281 B.C. AR stater (22 mm, 17.16 g, 3 h). Babylon II, native workshop, ca. 311- after 305 B.C. Baal seated left on throne, holding scepter / Lion walking left; on hind flank, Seleukid anchor. SC 88.1; ESM 262, pl. XXI, 2; Lanz 114, 191 (same rev. die); HGC 9, 67a. Pleasing medium gray tone overall with slight contrast on the highest points. Typical weak strike on the obverse, but the reverse well struck and of a remarkably realistic style! Very fine / good very fine.
Based on the Ba'al coinage from Tarsos in Cilicia, Alexander the Great's Babylonian lion coinage amalgamated Hellenistic and Persian components which followed his policy of syncretizing Greek and Persian cultures, such as having his officers take local women as wives. The coinage lasted for more than a quarter century, beginning with the satrapal issues of Mazaios and Mazakes, and followed by Seleukos' satrapal issues, probably struck during his second tenure as Babylonian satrap (312 B.C. until he assumed the title of king). The coins are struck either to the Attic (17.2 g tetradrachm) or the Babylonian (8.6 g shekel) standard. Babylonian sources refer to both Alexandrine and Seleukid tetradrachms as staters, but they also reckoned their accounts in minae and shekels. Thus, we do not rightly know if this coin was considered either a tetradrachm-stater or a double shekel. Here we follow modern convention and call it a stater.
This particular variety with the Seleukid anchor - the personal symbol of the Seleukos I - engraved on the lion's flank is exceptionally rare. One appeared at auction in 2003 (Lanz 114, 191), with which our coin shares the reverse die, but no other examples seem to have shown up on the market until now. The symbol is otherwise quite common on this coinage, always appearing in the reverse field above the lion.
The lion on this coin is incredibly engraved, with wrinkles along the upper edge of the his snout suggesting a snarl or roar, and his gauntness is expressed by a lean musculature and a clearly defined rib cage. The impression is that he is a force to be reckoned with, and he's hungry. The engraver was of no small talent. The style is arguably superior to that of the example illustrated in ESM. The anchor symbol on the upper muscle of the lion's hind leg is also clearly delineated and well struck.