The stated purpose of the New Zealand Mint's Warriors of History silver coin collection is to explore stories of legendary warrior people, who fought and conquered their enemies through the skillful use of weapons and their superior battle tactics. Well, perhaps none are more storied than the third entrant to the series : the legendary Spartans.
Whether you know them from the study of classical literature and ancient societies, graphic novels or the numerous filmed adaptations of the fabled Spartan 300, the Spartan warriors are some of the most legendary in recorded history.
The legendary Spartan Empire was the powerful Greek city-state from the 6th to the 2nd century. Defeating the Athenians in the Peloponnesian Wars established Sparta as the leading power of Greece. Spartan soldiers were elite fighters, famous for their physical strength and discipline. By using slaves for all manual labour, the entire male population of Sparta was free to enter military training from an early age. The foot-soldiers were heavily armed with spears, shields and red cloaks, and their use of structured formations in battles was unrivaled until the Roman conquest.
Spartan society in general was a bit of an oddity in ancient Greece. Children would begin formal education at age seven. Both male and female children were educated, unlike Athens where women were rarely even literate. Boys would enter the Agoge system that emphasized discipline and physical toughness. The girls would receive broadly the same education as the boys, but with less of an emphasis on military training.
Spartan women had unrivaled economic and political power in the ancient world. They were well educated, could own property in their own right and were treated by and large equally to their male siblings. Because of this they were renowned in the ancient world for not being afraid to speak their minds. When Queen Gorgo, wife of famed King Leonidas I, was asked by a woman from Attica why Spartan women were the only women in the world who could rule men, she famously replied : "Because we are the only women who are mothers of men”.
The coin's reverse design depicts a spartan warrior in full armour with his xiphos(short sword) drawn and lambda emblazoned shield at the ready. The warrior is colourised in muted reds and golden bronze colours. In the background a unit of Spartan soldiers with spears and shields are ready in formation. There is an ancient Greek city in the distant background.
As with the rest of the series the coin, with the exception of the single warrior in the foreground, is given an antique finish. This works remarkably well with the fine detail of the reverse design. The only lettering that appears on the reverse is the word “SPARTANS” to the top right along the rim. In addition to the usual “1 oz 999 FINE SILVER” that appears in discreet text along the bottom rim.
The obverse is populated by the standard Ian Rank-Broadley effigy of HM Queen Elizabeth II that appears on the rest of the series as well. “ELIZABETH II”, “NIUE”, “TWO DOLLARS” and “2016” indicate the ruler, country of issue, denomination and date of issue along the rim in a clockwise direction.
Issued in the New Zealand Mint's book-style presentation case, the 1oz pure silver(.999 Fineness) coin measures 40mm(1.5478 Inch) and comes with a standard certificate of authenticity. A limited mintage of 5000 coins has been authorized. The coin can be ordered directly from the New Zealand Mint's website for US$85.00 each, or you can ask your international coin dealer to obtain one for you.
Personally I think that this is a return to form for the series. I was a fan of the launch coin(the Samurai) but felt that the Vikings coin was a bit of a missed opportunity for the series. Thanks to the Royal Canadian Mint leaking images of the series last month, we already know that the next two coins will feature the Knights Templar and the Romans. Be sure to check back here at WNN as we will be covering each of those coins in more detail as soon as they are released as well.