The Bank of Greece will issue (17th September) their latest silver Proof-quality crown coin which is part of their ongoing series entitled “Greek Culture.” The coin focuses on poetry and one of the ancient world’s most well-known classical poets, Alcaeus of Mytilene (c. 620-560 B.C.), whose work was highly esteemed in the ancient world and credited with inventing the Alcaic stanza.
Born into an aristocratic family, Alcaeus lived through turbulent times. Alcaeus took an active part in the various conflicts that arose and, for this, was exiled. A contemporary of Sappho, (c. 610-c. 570 B.C.), a Greek lyric poet greatly admired in all ages for the beauty of her writing style, Alcaeus was himself one of the canonical nine lyric poets of ancient Greece. A collection of Alcaeus’s surviving poems was assembled in 10 books, which sadly were lost over time, and were made by scholars in Alexandria, Egypt, in the second century B.C.
Alcaeus was an inspiration for the Roman lyric poet Horace (65 B.C.–27 A.D.), who borrowed the Alcaic stanza. This unique style was composed of four lines of varied metrical feet, with five long syllables in the first two lines, four in the third and fourth lines, and an unaccented syllable at the beginning of the first three lines. He is remembered for having composed monodies in the local Aeolian dialect, of which only fragments survive today. Because of his challenge of political turbulence during his lifetime, much of his poetry is political in nature, with virulent attacks on his opponents. His work expressed and touched upon a closed world of aristocratic values and conservatism, in which realism and idealism coexist, although the idealism is limited by the norms and goals of the poet’s political faction.
He also wrote hymns to gods, love poems, as well as drinking songs, for which he was famous.
Other fragments of Alcaeus’s work that did survive accurately and poignantly conveyed the atmosphere and customs of everyday life in sixth-century Mytilene. He wrote of the ships visiting the harbour and of rivers, even writing about a girls’ beauty contest. Alcaeus found subjects to write about in a flock of wigeon ducks in flight, and in the flowers that signalled the start of spring. More importantly, Alcaeus managed to convey the spirit and the values of the city-states of the Aegean, in terms of political and non-political verses. For example, one of his more well-known declarations was:
True greatness lies not in well-fashioned houses, nor in walls, canals, and dockyards, but in men who use whatever fortune sends them.
The Hellenic State Mint produces the Proof-quality silver crown-sized coins at their facilities in Athens, on behalf of the Bank of Greece, and are designed by the well-known engraver-artist George Stamatopoulos. The obverse side includes the depiction of a classically sculpted left-facing bust of Alcaeus surrounded by a traditional Greek-key border. The text in Greek reads, ΑΛΚΑΙΟΣ, and is placed to the right of the bust with the year of issue and mintmark of the Hellenic Mint placed to the left.
The reverse design recreates a typical classical scene of Alcaeus instructing the playing of a lyre by a seated female figure. The denomination of 10 ΕΥΡΩ is shown between the two figures with the text ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΉ ΔΗΜΟΚΡΑΤΊΑ (“Hellenic Republic”) placed with each word separated by the primary design. The Hellenic crest is placed to the lower left of the seated figure.
|10 euro||.925 Silver||34.1 g||40 mm||Proof||1,200|
Each coin is encapsulated and presented in a matte black leatherette custom case and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity. For the purchase of one (1) coin per person after their official release date, collectors residing in Greece can visit the Bank of Greece, in Athens, in person. Those outside Greece are asked to e-mail a request with the relevant ordering form to the following mailing address: .