Excessively Rare Silver Tetradrachm from Barke, Kyrenaika, C. 360 BC Obverse: B – A / P – K / A – I and a silphium plant. Reverse: AKE – ΣIOΣ , facing head of Zeus Ammon, with his eyes wide-open and his hair flowing behind him on each side. A spectacular coin, the head of Zeus is rendered with great power, dark old patina, very fine and excessively rare. The facing head of Zeus on the reverse of this coin is absolutely breath-taking in its composition. It is without doubt one of the most spectacular fully facing heads ever to appear on an ancient Greek coin. It took an artist of considerable skill to produce the magnificent result we see above. The coin is a great rarity of the Greek series. Barke was an ancient Greek colony and later a Roman and a Byzantine city in North Africa. It was in the coastal area of what is today Libya. As a Greek city, it was part of the Cyrenaican Pentapolis along with the city of Cyrene itself. The city’s name, Arabized as Barqah, came to refer to the former state and province of Cyrenaica
This is an important work of art as only four other vases are known by this painter.
The same scene, with but slight variation in detail, decorates both sides of the vase. Two bearded males, each with stick in hand and himation wrapped closely about legs and waist, sit opposite one another at a gaming table. A large skyphoid krater, with oddly shaped handles, stands at their feet; a sapling in the background betokens a setting outdoors; and a small camp-stool contrasts with a more elaborate chair at right, whose curved back terminates in a duck’s head. One player has thrown a two; he signals two with the index and middle fingers of his raised right hand. His companion bends forward to retrieve the dice and take his turn. Gaming with six-sided dice or four-sided knucklebones was a popular pastime in ancient Greece. The nonsense inscriptions are scattered about the figured panels. There is a graffito under the foot.
Dr Dietrich von Bothmer has recognized the hand of the painter of the Borowski pelike on four other vases: pelikai in the Louvre and the Vatican; and neck-amphorae in Boston and Haifa (the latter two once assigned by J. D. Beazley to a “Smithy Painter”). Bothmer has christened his artist the Plousios Painter after an invocation to Zeus for wealth inscribed on the Vatican example.