A rare & fascinating coin pertaining to the Oracle at Delphi:
This coin is from the Asyut Hoard of 1968/9 and it sold for $600,000. It is extremely rare and of the greatest artistic, historical, and architectural importance - a superb example, probably the finest known.
This tridrachm from Delphi, Phokis (c. 480-475 BC) shows two drinking vessels (rhytons) in the form of rams heads; above them, two dolphins swimming toward each other. On the reverse is a quadripartite incuse square in the form of a coffered ceiling; each coffer decorated with a dolphin and a spray of laurel leaves.
The tridrachms of Delphi are among the most historically interesting of all Greek coins. The fact that almost all the known examples were found in Egypt suggests that the unusual weight standard might have been chosen specifically with Egyptian trade in mind. The obverse type is a direct reference to the Greek victory over the Persians at Plataea in 479 BC, when a great deal of booty, including silver vessels like the two on this coin, were taken by the Greeks. These two rhyta, which are of Persian design, were certainly from that booty and must have been brought as a dedication to Apollo in Delphi (rams were sacred to Apollo, along with dolphins).
The reverse is also very unusual: it is not a normal quadripartite incuse but, rather, clearly shows the stepped coffering that we know decorated ancient ceilings, especially those of prestigious buildings like that of the Temple of Apollo. It is interesting to consider that the coffered ceiling design might be an actual representation of the ceiling that existed in the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. The dolphins that ornament these coffers make the identification sure as they are a punny play on both the name of Delphi (delphis means dolphin) and on the fact that Apollo himself could appear in the form of a Dolphin. Mythology says that he first came to Delphi in the guise of a dolphin swimming into the Corinthian Gulf.
Delphi was famous in the ancient Greek world for being the mountain location of the Temple of Apollo and the Delphic Oracle. The oracle was consulted by kings and by private individuals, the responses being interpreted by the Pythia, who would sit in a trance-like state while she spoke. It is from this place where many important questions were asked and decisions were made in the ancient Greek world - Alexander the Great’s decision to conquer Persia and the rest of the known world being one of them.