Leapin' Lizards: Kamarina tetras

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by TIF, Aug 5, 2015.

  1. TIF

    TIF Always learning.


    top coin: SICILY, Kamarina. 420-405 BCE. AE tetras, 3.34 gm. Large head of Athena left, wearing crested helmet with wings. Owl standing left, with lizard in talon; KAMA (retrograde) upward in right field; three dots in exergue. Westermark / Jenkins 198 (see FIG. Pl. 35 / 198.24), SNG ANS 1230 Calciati III no. 28/4 (dotted-border type).

    bottom coin: SICILY, Kamarina. 420-405 BCE. AE tetras, 3.11 gm. Head of Athena right, wearing winged Phrygian helmet; dotted border. KAMA (legend from top to bottom), with owl standing left, lizard in talons; three dots in exergue. Westermark / Jenkins 202, SNG ANS -., Calciati III No. 39.

    I like lizards. Unfortunately, on ancient coins they are mostly relegated to a minor role such as control mark, or in this instance in the talons of a predator.

    Kamarina tetrantes (thanks for the proper plural, Doug!) with owl and lizard reverses are readily available in two general obverse types, one with a facing gorgon and one with Athena. My second coin is unusual in that Athena is wearing a Phrygian cap rather than crested helmet. CNG's archives and Wildwinds don't have any Phrygian cap Kamarina specimens and there are only six examples in acsearch. Is the Phrygian cap variety more valuable? It seems to command only a modest premium over the crested Athena type. It is more valuable to me though... I like finding coins that are a bit unusual. I should buy a gorgon facing example to complete the set. Complete... like there is any such thing for a collector of ancient coins. Next I'll want other minor variants :D.

    Obligatory map:

    Adapted from Google Maps

    History of Kamarina, Cliff Notes version: Established in 599 BCE; rapidly gained wealth; destroyed by jealous Syracusians in 552 BCE; refounded by citizens of Gela in 461 BCE; destroyed by Carthaginians in 405 BCE; refounded by Timoleon 339 BCE; captured by Romans in 258 BCE; completely destroyed by CE 853. RIP, Kamarina.

    These coins were struck at a time when Kamarina had an alliance with Athens; they may also have been in a period of friendlier relations with Syracuse. I don't know what that may mean with regards to the chosen iconography but will assume the lizard represents an enemy. Which enemy, I don't know.

    However, since I am a lizard fan, I'm going to pretend that the lizard is not about to become owl chow. They're just two buddies, playing. Yeah, that's it. The owl is Kamarina and the lizard Syracuse. The coins were struck to acknowledge the restored relations and that two natural enemies can be friends.

    Just an owl and a lizard. Buddies. Playing.


    CoinTalk member @nathanj485 has a more eloquent and serious theory about the type here, although so far I haven't succeeded in chasing down the original sources for the timeline of the marsh story. Did the oracle-forbidden draining of the marsh set the stage for invasion by Carthaginians, or by Syracusians? I've read differing timelines and didn't find the answer in Strabo.... yet. (Read Nathan's post or Wikipedia for more about the marsh story.)


    Let's see those lizards! :)
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2015
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  3. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    Very, very nice TIF. Those lizards are toast, but hopefully your pet lizard is still running around the ole home.

    Æ Tetras
    OBV: Helmeted head of Athena left
    REV: KAMA, owl standing left, head facing, grasping lizard; three pellets in exergue
    Struck at Kamarina, Sicily, 420-405 BC
    2.9g; 15.2 mm
    Calciati 33; BMC 40; SNG ANS 1229; SNG Cop 169
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  4. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member

    found it:

    τετρᾶς, ᾶντος, ὁ,
    A quadrant of a circle, Vitr.4.2.4, 4.3.4, 10.6.1. II a coin, Lat. quadrans, Hsch.; cf. ἑξᾶς; on the accent cf. Hdn.Gr.1.56.

    If the genitive singular is tetᾶντος then the nomenitive plural should be tetᾶντeς..... I think. Tetrantes does have a similarity to quadrantes which is the plural of quadrans.
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2015
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  5. TIF

    TIF Always learning.

    Hmm. You probably have the best background to make the call, so I will make that change. Edited again: I'm going to use the same spelling for both singular and plural. It will probably be less confusing that way. "Tetrantes" wins :D.
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2015
  6. TIF

    TIF Always learning.

    Thanks, Bing, but Dishy the Anole has left the building. Or has died, her remains yet to be discovered. Meanwhile, this little iguana was in my shower a few days ago :D. The last baby iguana who came in disappeared and died. I found the mummified remains a year later. I captured the new one and took it back outside.

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  7. Mat

    Mat Ancient Coincoholic

    Wow those are lovely, love the owls and the patinas on them. Lizards are an added bonus not seen often.
    TIF likes this.
  8. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana

    Big fan of these coins. And I don't have one yet, so I'm very jealous.

    You know those lizards are going to get eaten, right?
    TIF likes this.
  9. Pishpash

    Pishpash Well-Known Member

    I got the gorgon, and you can just make out the lizard if you look hard
    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Sicily, Kamarina
    Coin: Bronze Uncia
    -Head of gorgoneion facing.
    KAMA - Owl standing right, head facing, grasping lizard; one dot (mark of value) in exergue.
    Mint: Kamarina (425-405 BC)
    Wt./Size/Axis: 1.19g / 13mm / -
    References: Calciati 13
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  10. AncientJoe

    AncientJoe Well-Known Member

    Great lizards! :) Here's my favorite lizard on a somewhat scarce Republican denarius:

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  11. Okidoki

    Okidoki Well-Known Member

    hi Tif,

    very nice write-up, thank you.
    excellent coins here.

    TIF likes this.
  12. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member

    My favorite lizard is the coin type showing Apollo Sauroktonos and is relatively common from Nicopolis but is not always easy to find with a clear lizard. This one is from Geta. Note that the coins do not require cross supports as did the marble copies so probably look more like the original bronze than what we have in the Louve.

    The young Apollo is doing as boys where anoles live are wont to do and grabbing a lizard from a tree. There are also coins showing him darting the lizard but the original of Praxiteles that survived only in Roman copies showed the hand method. Sauroktonos means 'lizard slayer'.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
  13. TIF

    TIF Always learning.

    Very nice! That is indeed a very clear lizard-- I haven't found a better one of the type but am trying :).
  14. stevex6

    stevex6 Random Mayhem

    Wow TIF, I'm super jealous of those sweet 5th century BC lizard-coins ... they're both awesome!!


    Oh, and the rest of the gang also has some great lizard-additions (all of them are wish-list contenders)

    I know I have at least one lizard-example ...

    MACEDON Eion, AR Trihemiobol?
    500-480 BC
    Goose & Lizard (incuse square)

    Macedon Eion a.jpg Macedon Eion b.jpg

    ... I'll go check and see if I have others

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  15. TIF

    TIF Always learning.

    I have an Eion but would like an upgrade.

    MACEDON, Eion
    460-400 BCE
    AR Trihemiobol; 0.74g, 12mm
    Obv: goose standing right, head reverted; lizard above
    Rev: quadripartite incuse square
    Ref: Cf. SNG ANS 287.
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  16. stevex6

    stevex6 Random Mayhem

    Sweet coin, my Eion-lizard-sister!!

    Funny, for I originally had my coin's date as 460-400 BC as well, until I sent it to Sear's ranch (I usually replace the seller's info with my good buddy Dave's info)


    ... I keep both dates in my coin-records
    TIF likes this.
  17. Mikey Zee

    Mikey Zee Delenda Est Carthago

    Love ALL the posts !!!

    Once again, Tif has me green with envy----wonderful coins in every way!!
    TIF likes this.
  18. stevex6

    stevex6 Random Mayhem

    Oh, and I'm very sorry to hear about the disappearance of Dishy (we all loved the feel-good tale of the Princess and the Anole ... yah, unfortunately there are far too many feel-bad tales regarding princesses and A-holes, so your version was very refreshing)

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  19. John Anthony

    John Anthony Ultracrepidarian Supporter

    The Kamarina tetrantes (thanks Doug) are wonderful types, and yours look fantastic, TIF! A word of caution though: keep a close eye on them for BD. Maybe it's just me, but I've had more trouble with BD from Sicilian issues than any other. Watch the edges in particular, where the patina can sometimes flake off and expose the raw bronze.
  20. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana

    Hmmm, can one assume that the plural form of hexas is therefore hexantes?
  21. TIF

    TIF Always learning.

    Thanks for the warning, JA. I've recently stepped up my monitoring.

    Based on the seller's images, I thought the patina might be flaking off the edge of the first coin but it is not, it's just a different-colored but hard patina. I've taken to rinsing all bronze coins in acetone and treating with Verdicare as extra insurance, plus I keep them in a sealed box with desiccant.

    I only have a a few Sicilian bronzes but will remember to keep a closer eye on those, thanks.

    I recently had some bronze disease appear on a Vima Takto which was acquired at the ANA show last summer. There were no signs of it at the time of purchase but clearly at some point in recent history the coin had been stripped of almost all patina, which we know can be an invitation to BD.
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