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Nikokles, Cyprus, Paphos in name of Alexander III
Circa 325-310/9 BC.
AR Tetradrachm (28mm, 17.04 g.)
Posthumous issue of ‘Paphos’, under Nikokles, king of Paphos, ca. 325-317 BC.
Obs. Head of Heracles r., wearing lion’s skin headdress; on lion’s mane, [NIKOKΛEOYΣ].
Rev. BAΣIΛEΩΣ AΛEΞANΔPOY Zeus Seated l.; holding eagle in r. hand and sceptre in l.; in l. field, monogram, and below the throne, laurel spring.
Reference: Price 3123. May, Paphos 7, pl. 1, 9. Tziambazis 11.
NGC Certification Number: 4633055-003
NGC Grade: AU 4×4 Fine Style
Comments On This Specimen: Very rare. Old cabinet tone, struck on a narrow flan, otherwise extremely fine
Ex Sternberg sale XXV, 1991, 164.
Ex NAC, Auction 106 Part I, 9 – 10 May 2018, 307
Nikokles was a king of Paphos on the island of Cyprus. As king, Nikokles changed the capital of Paphos, from the old one to the new one; in 321 BC he allied himself with Ptolemy I to fight against Perdiccas and Antigonus.
However, in 310 BC, after Ptolemy had established his power over the whole island of Cyprus, Nikokles entered into secret negotiations with Antigonus. Hereupon, the Egyptian monarch, alarmed lest the spirit of disaffection should spread to other cities, dispatched two of his friends, Argaeusand and Kallikrates, to Cyprus, they surrounded the palace of Paphos with an armed force, and commanded Nikokles to put an end to his own life, an order with which, after a vain attempt at explanation, he was obliged to comply. Nikokles and his brothers hanged themselves, after her husband had killed himself, Axiothea of Paphos, his wife, slew her virgin daughters to prevent them from falling into the hands of the Greeks. Then, together with her sister-in-law, she set fire to the palace and perished in the flames so that not even their bodies could fall in the hands of their enemies.
This piece formed part of a discrete issue of Alexander-type tetradrachms that bore the name of Nikokles in tiny letters along the border of the lion skin on the obverse (Price p. 388 and coins 3118-3123). Those pieces had to have been minted in the late 320s (they appear in a hoard buried c. 317) and they are a clear sign that Nikokles must have already wished to take on a leading role in Cypriote affairs in opposition to the overlordship of Alexander and his successors. As is well known, he was finally destroyed by Ptolemy I in 309.
Nikokles was clearly chafing under Ptolemaic suzerainty at that time (he was negotiating with Antigonos Monophthalmos), and producing such a flamboyant coinage might be seen as a way of emphasizing his own importance. If this were the case it resulted in his downfall, and the clear probability that the Ptolemaic authorities in Cyprus made a conscious effort to demonetize and melt down all the coins of this type they could find; thus helping to explain its enormous rarity today.
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