In an post not long ago, I shared a Litra from Akragas. This is another entry under the heading of "good things come in small packages".
The coin today is from Istros, Moesia. This coin is more than twice the weight of the litra at 1.2 grams, and 9mm.
Thrace, Black Sea Coast, Istros, Trihemiobol or 1/4 Drachm (1.20g, 9mm), circa 313-280 BCE Obv: Facing male heads, the right inverted. Rev: ΙΣΤΡΙΗ, sea eagle right, grasping dolphin with talons; monogram (AΓ or AΠ? magistrate or control mark?) below dolphin. Who are these two faces on the obverse? There are several theories, all with flaws: - The Dioskuri - not the usual way of presenting the Dioskuri - Branches of the River Danube - however, they don't look like river gods - A metaphor for bi-directional trade-routes - Winds blowing in opposite directions - Apollo, sunrise and sunset - why unique to Istros? Saslaw and Murdin (2005) propose the moon and the sun in a solar eclipse. In a computer search they found 3 solar eclipses between 450 BC and 300 BCE that would have been visible in Istros. 4-Oct-434 and two others in 431 and 337 BCE. Their visual depiction of the 434 eclipse - low in the morning sky:
It was rare to see 2 solar eclipses in 3 years in a location, and it is coincidental that these coins started production around that time. They also mention that the total eclipse of 337 is near the time that the coins ceased to be minted (although this seems to be contradicted by the coin in front of me dated 313-280 BCE). The eagle and dolphin of the reverse also have multiple interpretations: - Zeus (sky) and Poseidon (water) - A representation of the Black sea and it's rich fishing resources Here's the larger denomination.
Thrace, Black Sea Coast, Istros, AR Stater/Drachm, circa 350 BC Size: 5.31g, 17.8mm Obv:Two young male heads facing, side by side, the one on left inverted Rev: Sea-eagle standing left on back of dolphin left which it attacks with its beak, IΣTPIH above, I below the eagle's tail, AΓ ligatured below dolphin Ref: apparently unpublished variety, AMNG pp 159-164, Sear 1169 References
William C. Saslaw and Paul Murdin, "The Double Heads of Istrus: The Oldest Eclipse on a Coin?", Journal for the History of Astronomy (ISSN 0021-8286), Vol. 36, Part 1, No. 122, p. 21 - 27 (2005)
David Vagi, 2014, Eagles and dolphins on ancient Greek coins, CoinWorld
Moesia Istrus Drachm, Money Museum
Tyler Rossi, 2021, The Mystery of the Double-Headed Coins of Ancient Istros, CoinWeekly