(32) Olympia, Elis (Greece) - AR stater, c. 380-365 B.C., 12.01 g. (inv. 91.074).
Obverse: Head of Hera r., wearing triple-pendant earring, necklace, stephane inscribed WALEIVN: archaistic spelling for "of the Eleians."
Reverse: Eagle with outspread wings l., head turned r., the whole in olive wreath.
Provenance: Ex George Bauer collection; Edward Gans, 1960.
Bibliography: C. Seltman, The Temple Coins of Olympia (Cambridge 1921) 347.

The primary importance of the coinage of Elis was its function as the festival coinage for the sanctuary of Zeus and Hera at Olympia, which for much of its history was controlled by Elis. The coins were actually minted at Olympia, first at a mint under the jurisdiction of the priesthood of the Temple of Zeus, and later at a second mint associated with the Temple of Hera. The second mint, which produced this stater, was established at the time of the Peace of Nikias of 421 B.C., when the Athenians and their allies, who had been barred from the Olympic festival in the first years of the Peloponnesian War, were once again admitted. The new mint, unlike the old one which used symbols of Zeus for its obverses, adopted a head of Hera as its obverse type. Its first reverse was a thunderbolt within an olive wreath, similar to the thunderbolt on the coins produced by the mint associated with the Temple of Zeus (see no. 31), but about 380 B.C. it was replaced by an eagle, also a symbol of Zeus. This phase of its coinage came to an end in 365 B.C., when the Arcadians seized the sanctuary and placed the festival under the control of the newly formed town of Pisa. When the Eleians resumed control two years later, new types were introduced.

Hera wears a stephane inscribed with the archaistic inscription "of the Eleians," the traditional Eleian method of identifying its coinage. The high relief and elegant details of the head are characteristic of the die engravers who worked for Elis and who may have worked for or influenced other mints as well.


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