Early Cistophoric Tetradrachm with Leopard
Updated: Dec 13, 2020
“The cistophorus, with its writhing serpents and over-elaborate ornamentation, is perhaps the ugliest coin in the Greek series. Collectors have tended to pass it by, and, maybe in consequence, it has not yet yielded to the historian all the nourishment which he might extract from it.”
-Robinson, E. (1954). CISTOPHORI IN THE NAME OF KING EUMENES. The Numismatic Chronicle and Journal of the Royal Numismatic Society, 14(44), 1-8.
Although I happily use digital resources, I do enjoy a nice hardcover book...The Early Cistophoric Coinage by Fred S. Kleiner and Sydney P. Noe, ANS, NY, 1977 arrived in the mail today - a bargain, barely used, for $20 and a complement on the shelf to Metcalf Later Republican Cistophori. Here's the Early Cistophoric coin that came a few days earlier - not quite as good a bargain.
Obv: Cista mystica with half-open lid, from which a serpent issues to left; all within ivy wreath
Rev: Two coiled serpents with heads erect; between them an ornamental bow-case with strap at right, containing a strung bow. To left, EΦE, head of leopard right
Size: 12.77g 29mm
Ref: Kleiner & Noe: Series 1:1-a p.41
The 1 (as in 1-b) indicates the obverse die and the b indicates the reverse dies. I find it somewhat surprising that all known dies are in fairly brief book - but sure enough my coin is a double die match with the coin on Plate XI. Kleiner (also available online) mentions that as of publication there were only 11 known coins from Ephesus Series 1 & 2.
Leopards, in general, are not a common feature on ancient coins. Here's a closer look at the leopard head, tangled with serpent.