Silphium, c. 308-277 BC, CYRENAICA, CYRENE, AR Didrachm, NGC VF


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Features of the Silphium, c. 308-277 BC, CYRENAICA, CYRENE, AR Didrachm, NGC VF:

  • Denomination: Didrachms (2 drachms)
  • Metal: Silver
  • Coinage Period: 309-277 BC
  • Obverse: Apollo Cameius
  • Reverse: Silphium Plant

Cyrene was a town on the North African coast immediately west of Egypt.  Greek colonists founded Cyrene in 631 BC, and it later became a vitally important trading post between the Phoenicians to the west, Egypt to the east, and the Greek homeland to the north.  The sandy environs of Cyrene played host to a wild-growing plant with yellow flowers called silphium.  The Greeks ascribed nearly magical properties to both the plant itself and its sap.

Silphium had countless uses, including a slav for burns, a treatment for various ailments, a savory seasoning for food, and various properties associated with love and sex.

Silphium soon became Cyrene's chief export and the region grew rich on demand for this do-everything plant.  The Roman historian Pliny the Elder, writing in the first century AD, considered silphium to be worth its weight in silver denarii.

Ancient sources state that the Cyreneans found it impossible to cultivate on a large scale, but could only gather it from the fields where it grew wild.  For about 500 years, this proved sufficient to meet the growing demand.  But in the late Hellenistic and early Roman periods, over-harvesting and grazing by domesticated animals allegedly drove it to extinction.  Pliny reported that the last known stalk of Cyrenean silphium was given to the Emperor Nero "as a curiosity". 


More Information
Product Type Coin
Coin Series Ancient Coins
Metal Type Silver
Grade VF
Coin Type Investment Grade
Modern or Historical Modern
Grade Service NGC

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