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'Bee and Stag' Tetradrachm from Ephesos, Ionia, c. 390-325 BC, by the magistrate Phanagores

From almost the very beginning of the history of coinage the Greeks made coins depicting animals symbolic of their city. The the bee was one of the first symbolic animals ever used. The obverse of this coin shows a lovely  bee with straight wings and the inscription for Ephesus, E-Φ,  The reverse shows the forepart of a stag to the right, its head turned back with a palm tree and the inscription of the magistrate who issued the coin, ΦΑΝΑΓΟΡΗΣ.

Ephesos (Ephesus) used the bee on its coins since it was a producer of honey, so the bee advertised their most famous product. The bee was also mythologically connected to Ephesus because, according to Philostratos, the colonizing Athenians were led to Ephesus and Ionia by the Muses who took the form of bees.

The city was also the location of the famous Temple of Artemis. Her priestesses were called ‘melissai” or “honey bees” of the goddess. The stag, like the one used on this coin is also an attribute of Artemis, the goddess of the hunt. This animal was regarded as sacred to her and stag figures were said to have flanked the cult statue of Artemis in her  temple at Ephesus. The palm tree on the obverse alludes to Artemis’ birthplace, the island of Delos, where the goddess Leto gave birth to Artemis and her twin brother Apollo underneath a palm tree. This coin represents its city of origin well.

Ephesus was an ancient Greek city on the coast of Ionia, three kilometers southwest of present-day Selçuk in Izmir Province, Turkey. It was built in the 10th century BC on the site of the former Arzawan capital by Attic and Ionian Greek colonists.

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