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Electrum Hekte from Mytilene, Lesbos, c. 375-326 BC

This is the finest of only 4 known examples of this coin. It shows a female head facing right, her hair bound up with ribbons and on the reverse is a Panathenaic amphora with a pointed lid, a filleted palm branch to left; all within a linear frame.

The Panathenaic amphora is so named on account of its being given as a prize to victors at the Panathenaic Games held every four years at Athens. The amphora would have been filled with oil from the sacred olive groves in Attica, and its design is perhaps the best example of a vase shape made to serve an official function. The presence of a palm branch with a fillet tied around it to the left of the amphora further confirms that this is indeed a victor’s prize amphora. Each Panathenaic amphora was made according to a standardized shape and capacity of one metretes (approximately 42 quarts), and was decorated in black-figure technique. The principle decoration is always found in the panels of the body of the amphora, with an armed Athena typically on the front and an illustration of the featured competition on the back. (example)

Ancient Mytilene (map) is on Lesbos, a Greek island located in the northeastern Aegean Sea. It is separated from Turkey by the narrow Mytilini Strait. The city was famous for its great output of electrum coins struck from the late 6th through mid-4th centuries BC. According to Homer, Mytilene has been an organized city since 1054 BC.

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