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Coin (tetradrachm) of Ephesos
East Greek (Ephesian)
Ephesus, Ionia (Place Created)
27 mm (1 1/16 in.)
Gift of Lily Tomlin
This silver tetradrachm (four-drachma coin) is stamped on the obverse with a bee within a dotted border, with the Greek letters, Ε (‘epsilon’) and Φ (‘phi’), to either side. The reverse shows the foreparts of a stag kneeling in right profile, looking back towards a palm tree. An inscription to the right reads ΚΑΡΝΩ[Ψ] (‘KARNO[PS]’).
The bee, stag, and palm are all emblems of Ephesos, a Greek city on the west coast of Turkey. This city was an important center of worship for the Greek goddess Artemis, and the images on Ephesian coinage typically promote this association. The bee was originally the symbol of an early Anatolian goddess who the Greeks later identified with their goddess, Artemis; so close was the connection that the priestesses of the goddess were called "honey bees." The two Greek letters, Ε (‘epsilon’) and Φ (‘phi’), are an abbreviation for Ephesos. The palm tree alludes to Artemis' birth beneath a palm tree on the island of Delos. The stag – an animal sacred to Artemis – symbolizes the goddess' role as protector of wild animals, and may also refer to the sculptures that flanked her cult statue in the temple at Ephesos.
The inscription on the reverse names a man, Karnops, who was one of the magistrates responsible for supervising the Ephesian mint. In 1978, the so-called Pixodarus Hoard of approximately 2600 silver coins was discovered in Bodrum, Turkey, the site of ancient Halicarnassos. It contained 600 tetradrachms of Ephesos, including 138 different obverse dies, and records the names of over 200 magistrates, thus allowing for precise dating of the series: Karnops is associated with two separate obverse dies belonging to the earliest group of coins contained within the hoard (Class A, Obverse 3). The shape of the bee’s wings, with straight sides and curved inner tip, the large stag, and the comparatively small palm tree seen on the Getty example are also characteristic of this series, although we cannot say whether the Getty coin also came from the hoard.
Lily Tomlin (Santa Monica, California), donated to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1980.
Devices of Wonder: From the World in a Box to Images on a Screen (November 13, 2001 to February 3, 2002)
- The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), November 13, 2001 to February 3, 2002
Spivey, Nigel and Squire, Michael. Panorama of the Classical World (Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2004), p. 226, figs. 360-361.