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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Gold Stater Ancient Gold coin update 6: Carthage

Gold-stater Ancient Gold coin update 6: Carthage.

Carthage was founded by Semitic Phoenician (Punic) traders around 700 BCE. About 300 years earlier The Phoenicians had developed the single greatest invention in Western History: the Alpahbetic system of writing. This Alphabet was quickly adopted by both the Aryan speaking tribes of Greece and the Black Sea (from whom we get Greek and then Latin) and the Semitic tribes of the Fertile Crescent (from whom we get Hebrew and the Arabic languages.)

In one of the great ironies of history, because the Phoenecians used this language primarily for practical accounting purposes, we know relatively little about this brilliant civilization, whereas their cousins to the South - the Judaeans (whose language, customs, city planning, art and religion were manifestly similar) - adopted the system of writing and created a narrative literature that captured the imagination of people down to this day.

By the fourth century BCE, enriched by control of the gold trade from Senegal, Guinea and Kush, as well as the wealth accrued from their own tremendously productive silver mines, Carthage had become a military powerhouse of the Southern Mediteranean, along with their great rival: Syracuse (See update 5). Carthage and Syracuse fought a bloody series of wars that culminated in a Carthaginian invasion that lasted from about 409-398 BCE. The Carthaginians were ultimately repulsed.

By 400 BCE the Punic goddess Tanit\Astarte (the consort of Baal) and the horse had become the standard types of Carthaginian coinage and remained so for the balance of the city’s existence. Tanit is always depicted on the coinage wearing a wreath of grain just like her Greek counterpart Demeter.

Carthage's gold coinage dates to about 350 BCE, at which time they issued a gold stater of about ( 9 grams). The reason for the issue is obscure. Unfotunately all of the Carthaginian records were destroyed after the third Punic War with Rome. They continued to issue gold staters for the next fifty years. The weight remained relatively constant but the styles vary. Despite the long run, in high grade these staters remain quite rare. Top examples go for $12-15000.

From 310 to 270 BCE the Carthaginian stater was minted in Electrum at about 7.4 grams. This is quite a common Greek type, yet in high grade, like all Greek gold/electrum it is also quite rare. Nice, AU examples (which are very hard to find) sell in the $5,000 dollar range

Around 260 BCE they issued a gold Tri-hemi-stater, (or 1 and1/2 stater of 12.6 grams), which in MS is currently selling for $50,000.

Next: Update 7: Egypt

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