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Decadrachm, Syracuse

Decadrachm, Syracuse


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Silver decadrachm of Syracuse

The first half of the fifth century BC in Sicily was characterised in several cities by the rise of powerful tyrants. In the city of Syracuse, the greatest of the tyrants was Gelon. In 480 BC Gelon brought to an end the rivalry between Carthaginians and Greeks on the island of Sicily with a decisive defeat of the Carthaginian forces at the Battle of Himera. Gelon's wife, Demarete, was instrumental in the peace settlement that followed. According to the later Greek historian, Diodorus of Sicily, Demarete received a crown of one hundred gold talents from the Carthaginians. He tells us that in celebration 'she struck a coin which was called after a Demareteion: it was worth ten Attic drachmas'.For a long time the Demareteion that Diodorus mentions was assumed by scholars to be the silver coin shown here, since it is the earliest known ten-drachma coin (decadrachm) produced at Syracuse. On the front of the coin is a chariot drawn by four horses (a quadriga) with a figure of Nike, and a lion running below. On the other side is the head of the nymph Arethusa, surrounded by dolphins and the Greek legend 'of the Syracusans'. Certainly the quality of engraving of the design is markedly higher than on accompanying tetradrachm coins, suggesting this to be a particularly important issue. More recent numismatic research has shown, however, that the coin must be dated at least twenty years after the Battle of Himera. The Demareteion coins that Diodorus describes thus remain something of a puzzle.


Ten Coins I’d Love to Own

When asked to write an article about 10 coins I would love to own, my thoughts immediately turned to my popular book 100 Greatest U.S. Coins. Most of the coins in that book have great stories, and that is what draws me to coins I would love to own. The subject of great coins is quite newsworthy at the moment, with trophy coins bringing record prices at auction. The recent sale of the NGC MS65 Brasher Doubloon for over $9 million stunned many observers. Despite the global pandemic, the wealth of many in this country has vastly increased over the last 12 months. Over 50 new billionaires were created in the last year. If I somehow became one of those newly minted billionaires, then the 10 coins below would top my shopping list.

MCMMVII (1907) Indian Head Double Eagle Pattern

This is my absolute favorite coin and one that nearly every collector or dealer would covet above all others. This coin deserves a complete description and the following is from the fifth edition of my 100 Greatest U.S. Coins book:

The 1907 Indian Head double eagle is a pattern or experimental issue. It is one of America’s most stunning and desirable coins. President Theodore Roosevelt was personally involved in creating this fascinating issue. Roosevelt believed that the nation’s coinage was unattractive and without artistic merit. Years earlier, while vice president, Roosevelt had become acquainted with the famous sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, whose works include Diana, sculpted in 1892 for the original Madison Square Garden the Sherman Victory monument in New York City Hiawatha for Saratoga, New York and many others. It is not certain when Roosevelt first decided to commission Saint-Gaudens to create a new coinage, but by December 27, 1904, he wrote to Secretary of the Treasury Leslie Mortier Shaw: “I think our coinage is artistically of atrocious hideousness. Would it be possible, without asking permission of Congress, to employ a man like Saint-Gaudens to give us a coinage that would have some beauty?”

The president was enamored with the beauty and high relief of ancient Greek coinage. At one time, Roosevelt wanted to change the designs of the entire U.S. coinage. Because of the difficulty of adapting modern minting techniques to the high-relief effects that Roosevelt desired, Saint-Gaudens concentrated his efforts on the eagle and double eagle issues.

By means of extensive personal correspondence with the artist at his studio in Cornish, New Hampshire, Roosevelt contributed greatly to the design of this and several issues of the period. He wanted to include the use of an American Indian in full headdress. Saint-Gaudens wrote to Roosevelt in 1907: “I like so much the head with the head-dress, and by the way, I am very glad you suggested doing the head in that manner.” Although Saint-Gaudens preferred the Indian design for the double eagle, the standing Liberty (now known as “Saint-Gaudens”) theme was chosen for that denomination. The Indian Head design is similar to the design adopted for the regular-issue eagle. In his last letter to the president, Saint-Gaudens wrote: “The majority of the people that I show the work to evidently prefer with you the figure of Liberty to the head of Liberty and that I shall not consider any further on the twenty-dollar gold coin.” At the request of the artist, however, one example was struck for comparison.

The pedigree of this extraordinary coin began with Charles Barber, the chief engraver of the U.S. Mint. Waldo Newcomer purchased the coin directly from his estate. The coin was then sold to the prominent collector F.C.C. Boyd. Boyd’s wife sold the coin for a reported $1,500 to Abe Kosoff and Abner Kreisberg around 1945. The coin was then sold to King Farouk of Egypt for slightly less than $10,000. After King Farouk was overthrown, his collection of rare coins was auctioned in 1954. The coin sold for approximately $3,444, again to Abe Kosoff, who placed the coin with Roy E. (“Ted”) Naftzger Jr. In 1956 Dr. J.E. Wilkison obtained the coin for $10,000. It was sold in 1973 to Paramount International Coin Corporation as part of the Wilkison Gold Pattern Collection. The Wilkison Gold Pattern Collection was then traded to A-Mark Financial. It was then sold by private treaty to Maryland dealer Julian Leidman in 1979 for $500,000. Jack Hancock and Bob Harwell purchased the coin in the 1981 American Numismatic Association auction sale for $475,000. Several years later, it was sold to a major Northeastern collector of Saint-Gaudens coinage and is today the cornerstone of that collection. The coin has not been shown publicly for nearly four decades. This probably explains why the coin is not ranked higher on the list of 100 Greatest U.S. Coins. It is author Jeff Garrett’s personal favorite coin, and would rank No. 1 if he was the only one voting.

MCMMVII (1907) Ultra High Relief Double Eagle

In my opinion, no other coin matches the artistic appeal of the 1907 Ultra High Relief double eagle. The coin is so sculptural, and the relief so high, that even with modern equipment the coin is difficult to fully capture in a photograph. If given the opportunity, you should make an effort to view one of these amazing coins in person. It’s a shame these coins are so expensive and that only mega-wealthy collectors can own one.

President Theodore Roosevelt personally enlisted the great American sculptor, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, to redesign our coinage. Roosevelt was influenced by the artistic merits of ancient Greek coinage and wanted someone to fulfill his wishes. Saint-Gaudens was a natural choice, being the preeminent American artist of his time.

The 1907 Ultra High Relief is an experimental issue and was never practical for circulating coinage. Only about 18-20 examples are known, several of which are in museum collections. The Smithsonian collection contains three examples, one of which came from the widow of Augustus Saint-Gaudens. The last example (PR68) to appear at auction sold for $2.115 million in January 2015.

1861-D Gold Dollar

Historically speaking, the 1861-D gold dollar is one of the most interesting coins ever produced. The Dahlonega Mint was first established in 1838 to strike coins from the newly discovered gold found in the region and struck gold dollars, quarter eagles, three dollars, and half eagles until 1861. The Mint was seized by Confederate States of America troops in April of that year. About 500 to 1,000 1861-D gold dollars were then struck by the Confederates. Less than 100 examples have survived, and the issue is extremely popular with collectors.

Most are weakly struck in the UN of UNITED and many are with damage. A few amazing examples are known to have survived and were undoubtedly saved as souvenirs by members of the Confederacy when the Mint was occupied by the CSA.

The finest example known is an NGC MS65 that was part of the legendary Dukes Creek collection we sold around 2003. That coin last sold at auction for $149,500 in 2008.

1870-S Three Dollar Gold

There is rare, and there is unique. Very few coins have a rarity comparable to the 1870-S Three Dollar gold coin. The only known example resides in the Harry Bass collection that is now on display in the Bass room of the American Numismatic Association (ANA) Money Museum in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Harry Bass purchased the coin in 1982 at the Eliasberg Sale for $687,500.

The 1870-S Three Dollar is unique but not aesthetically pleasing, having been repaired at some point in the past. The coin sold for $11,500 in 1911.

I have always like branch mint gold coins, and in my opinion, this would be the ultimate coin to own in the series. My guess is that the 1870-S Three Dollar will come to the market in the next several years. It will be fun to watch the billionaires compete for this mega rarity to complete their sets. The owner of this coin would be the only person able to own a complete set of United States coinage! In light of the market’s hypersensitivity to quality, it will be interesting to see if its state of preservation holds it back.

1856-O Proof Double Eagle

This coin makes my list because it is one of the ultimate “condition rarities” in all of United States numismatics. Collectors love Southern gold coins and the 1856-O double eagle is a prime rarity in any grade. Only 2,250 coins were struck and today less than 40 examples are known in all grades. The finest known example is fully prooflike, and considered by most experts to be a Proof or presentation piece. It is one of the most spectacular rarities in the U.S. gold series. The coin first sold at auction in 2002 for $310,500 and later for $1,437,500 in 2009. The coin increased in value by over $1,000,000 in less than seven years.

Any early Branch Mint Proof coin is an exciting numismatic rarity. A Proof example of a major rarity is another story altogether. I would love to own this coin. My guess is that it will set another major auction record when it again crosses the auction block.

1861 Paquet Double Eagle MS67

At one time the 1861 Paquet double eagle was considered a Pattern or Experimental coin. Modern research has proven the coin to be a regular issue coin struck for circulation. In 1860, Anthony Paquet, an engraver at the Philadelphia Mint, modified the reverse design for the double eagle. The new design was very similar to the standard issue, but the reverse letters were much taller and more slender in appearance. In late 1860, the Paquet Reverse became the standard design that was adopted for the regular-issue coinage of 1861 double eagles. Dies were shipped to the branch mints of New Orleans and San Francisco.

Actual coinage on high-speed presses began in January of 1861 in Philadelphia, but it was feared that the wider fields and narrow rim would cause breakage of the dies, so the use of planchet dies was discontinued. However, those dies that were used for coinage experienced no problems at all, proving their withdrawal was unnecessary. Regardless, Mint Director James Ross Snowden recalled the new design and ordered the melting of the 1861 double eagles made at the Philadelphia Mint. The entire Philadelphia run was destroyed, with the exception of a few coins.

Today only two examples are known, one of which is the spectacular MS67 that was once part of the Norweb collection. The coin is a miracle of preservation and one of the most desirable gold coins of the United States series.

1877 Pattern $50 Dollar Gold

The two 1877 Pattern $50 gold coins that are now part of the Smithsonian collection are the most amazing coins in existence. The Half Unions, as they are known, are unique in the gold format and have a legendary past. The coins were struck as pattern coinage in 1877 to experiment with large denomination production. The original proposal for these coins came from California, which used only coins at the time because paper money was illegal under the state constitution. Gold $50 coins would have greatly facilitated banking.

The coins were thought to have been melted, but showed up in the estate of William Idler and were later sold to future Treasury Secretary William Woodin for the then-huge sum of $10,000 each. The sale caused enough controversy that Woodin felt pressured to trade the coins back to the U.S. Mint for what has been described as the “motherlode” of U.S. pattern coins. Many of the patterns extant today are thought to have originated with that trade.

If I could have my pick of the unfathomable collection at the Smithsonian, I would choose these two coins.

1822 Half Eagle

The 1822 half eagle is one of the rarest United States coins in existence. Only three examples are known, two of which are in the Smithsonian National Numismatic Collection. Only one coin remains in private hands. That coin has been retained by the Pogue family after selling one of the greatest collections ever assembled. It will probably come to market soon and when it does a new auction record for a United States coin could be established. Several billionaire collectors would love the bragging rights to this coin.

The 1822 half eagle is also one of the few coins in the top echelons of my 100 Greatest US Coins book that is an actual regular-issue coin. The coin has no nefarious or special circumstances for its rarity. There were simply only three survivors of its original 18,000 production.

1964 Peace Dollar

This coin is a timely addition to my list since the United States Mint plans to reissue an example of the Peace dollar in 2021. I have added this coin because of its legendary status and almost mythical history.

As many readers know, the Mint planned to strike Peace dollars in 1964 and began production at the Denver Mint in 1964. Before the coins could be released, however, it was decided to stop production and melt all that had been struck.

None were saved (that we know of), and it’s very surprising that an example was not retained by the Mint or sent to the Smithsonian collection.

Despite rumors that 1964 Peace dollars may exist, in my over 50 years of being involved in the hobby, I have never spoken to someone who had seen an example. There might be one somewhere, but if one exists, it has been one of the closest-held secrets in all of numismatics. Secrecy would be understandable, however, as it is nearly certain the Mint would confiscate any examples that surfaced. The coins were never officially released and are still considered property of the US government.

I would love to own briefly, even if my ownership would be fleeting.

Syracuse Decadrachm

Ancient coins are not my area of expertise, but I have had the opportunity to handle several Syracuse decadrachms over the years. The coins were struck around 400 BCE and are in my opinion one of the most spectacular coins ever minted. It’s hard to believe that such an artistic masterpiece could be produced by hand almost 2,500 years ago. The coins are known to have been created by two of the greatest artists ancient world (among others), Kimon and Euainetos, each bringing their own distinctive style to this iconic issue.

Mint state examples of the Syracuse decadrachm do exist and trade hands occasionally. I have fond memories of my first ANA convention in 1974 where the legendary dealer Abe Kossof had a table. In one showcase Abe had a 1907 Ultra High Relief (my second pick) and in the other, he was displaying a mint condition Syracuse decadrachm. The show was in Miami and he was dressed in a crisp white summer suit. He made quite the impression on me. Maybe someday I can aspire to duplicate his exhibit, white summer suit and all.


400 BC v. Chr. SICILIA, SYRACUSE - DIONYSIOS I THE ELDER, 405-367 BC - AR Decadrachm with signed dies of Euainetos, circa 400 BC (cf. NAC / Tradart auction, JDL collection, 18 Nov

weight 42,78gr. | silver 34mm.
The signed dies are made by the artist Euainetos.
obv. Charioteer, in flowing chiton and holding goad and reins,
driving racing quadriga left above, Nike flying right, about to crown
charioteer with wreath in exergue, panoply of arms: cuirass between
two greaves, with Phrygian helmet to right, ΑΘΛΑ below (off-flan)
rev. Head of Arethusa left, wearing wreath of reeds, triple-pendant earring,
and necklace ΣΥΡΑΚΟΣΙΩΝ above. Around, three dolphins swimming, while
a fourth makes dorsal contact with neck truncation below, EYAINE (off-flan).

One of the largest silver denominations minted in classical antiquity, the decadrachm of Syracuse remains one of the most alluring and celebrated coins in history. The immense size of this 10 drachm denomination offered the engravers of Syracuse the scope to fully display their mastery of the medium. After a brief “trial run” in the 460s BC, the decadrachm in was reintroduced in Syracuse by the tyrant Dionysios following his assumption to power in 405 BC, testament to his grandiose vision to make Syracuse the foremost city in the Greek world. Two of the greatest local numismatic artists, Kimon and Euainetos, produced dies for the new series, each bringing their own distinctive style to the already iconic emblems of Syracuse: A racing four-horse chariot (quadriga) backed with a head of the beautiful Arethusa, nymph of the spring of Ortygia, surrounded by frolicking dolphins. Both engravers took great pride in their designs and signed their dies, much in the manner of a modern artist both decadrachm types also include dies that have symbols instead of a signature, perhaps indicating they were engraved by apprentices working under the masters, closely copying their work.

Ironically, the decadrachms of Syracuse were probably struck for the rather mundane purpose of paying mercenaries. The obverse legend ΑΘΛΑ, which means price or reward, refers to that. Most of the issues likely had a very short circulation life and were subsequently melted, accounting for their relative rarity today (this in addition to their status as high denomination coins, a factor that usually generates rarity by itself). Nonetheless, the obverse and reverse types were well known throughout the ancient world and would prove to be enormously influential on subsequent coinage, even centuries later. The portrait, in particular, was adopted by die engravers throughout the Greek world. One example is this silver stater of circa 370-360 BC from Larissa, a city of Thessaly in mainland Greece, which portrays the nymph Larissa based upon the composition of Euainetos. Today, the decadrachms of Syracuse are highly prized by collectors for their artistic beauty, historical importance, and rarity. They serve as physical reminders of the enormous talents of ancient Greek artists, the technical expertise of the minters, and the cultural achievement that it represents.

In the past the portrait on the reverse was described as that of Kore-Persephone. Nowadays we know that it must be the portrait of Arethusa. She has no wreath of corn-ears, but a wreath of reeds. In the historical centre of Syracuse, on the small island of Ortygia, there was (and is) a fresh water source. According to Greek mythology, the fresh water fountain is the place where the nymph Arethusa, the patron figure of ancient Syracuse, returned to earth′s surface after escaping from her undersea home in Arcadia. This fountain of Arthusa was in ancient times very important for the city, for the providence of drinking water. Reason enough to demonstrate her portrait on coins.


Sicilian Mosaic Part 11: The classical coinage of Syracuse

The coins of Syracuse belong to the most beautiful strikings of antiquity. To date, most efforts to link changes in coin design to historical events have failed. And this wasn&rsquot about to change until the time of Timoleon and Agathocles.

Syracuse. Tetradrachm, 450-440. From Gorny & Mosch Auction 236 (2016), 61.

The expulsion of the tyrant Thrasybulus did not bring any significant changes to Syracusan coinage. Still, the image of the victorious quadriga was used on the obverse and Arethusa&rsquos head on the reverse. After 460 the die cutters started to redesign the fountain nymph&rsquos hair displaying various fashionable headdresses, which results in a feeling, that not the common face of a goddess was displayed, but rather portraits of the ladies of Syracusan high society.

Around 415, die cutters in Syracuse and several other Sicilian cities began to sign their works. Simultaneously, the coin design changed slightly: Instead of showing the quadriga on the obverse in walking pace, it was now displayed in a galloping mode.

Syracuse. Tetradrachm, 405-395. From Künker Auction 174 (2010), 130.

The dies of this interesting coin were cut by two different artists. Euainetos created the obverse and Eumenes the reverse. Both artists placed their signatures clearly visible: Eumenes on the reverse below the neck of Arethusa, Euainetos on a little tablet, carried by Nike. This tablet could be associated with the plates victors occasionally consecrated in the sanctuary of a deity. Euainetos used the tablet to place his name quite strikingly within the overall design.

Syracuse. Tetradrachm, 413-409. From Gorny & Mosch Auction 236 (2016), 65.

This is the only preserved obverse die of the die cutter Euth… which, instead of the common charioteer, features the winged god Eros holding the reins. Though this change certainly has meaning, we do not know what conclusions to draw.
On the reverse the female head is decorated with a wreath of ears. This means it&rsquos not Arethusa, but Persephone. She was a daughter of Demeter, whose kidnapping, according to mythology, took place in the vicinity of Syracuse.

Syracuse. Tetradrachm, 413-399. From Künker Auction 262 (2015), 7064.

Eukleidas was the first artist to attempt a frontal portrait. The technology was apparently not yet perfected, as the reverse die had to have cracked quite soon. On the other hand, his work must have been highly valued, because minting was continued even with a cracked die.
A connection between the image of Athena and the victory over the Athenian army could be easily drawn, however this is impossible to prove. Also, Athena was worshipped in Syracuse and an important temple was dedicated to her there.

Syracuse. Tetradrachm, 406-400. From Numismatica Ars Classica Auction 54 (2010), 56.

With this frontal portrait of the fountain nymph Arethusa, Kimon created an image which found imitators in the entire Greek region for centuries. First on Sicily itself, and later throughout all of the Greek cultural area.

Larissa (Thessaly). Drachm, 350-300. From Gorny & Mosch Auction 224 (2014), 169.

These are two examples from the fourth century. One coin derives from Larissa in Northern Greece, …

Tarsus (Cilicia). Datames. Stater, 378-372. From Gorny & Mosch Auction 237 (2016), 1489.

… the other from Tarsus, located in modern south Turkey. This coin type is a great example of how important Syracusan strikings were to the development of various, frequently reoccurring types of representations on coins. It also indirectly points out how widely known the Sicilian coin types were.

Syracuse. Decadrachm, 404-400. From Numismatica Ars Classica Auction 66 (2012), 12.

Shortly before 400, during the reign of Dionysius I, the artist Kimon created the die for this decadrachm. In the exergue of the obverse a group of weapons is displayed, referred to as &ldquoAthla&rdquo (= fighting prize), a word, which by the way, is related to the English term &ldquoathlete&rdquo. For a long time, scholars tried to figure out which weapons are shown. Early research thought of them as trophies from the war against Athens, later used as prizes in competitions. Another theory describes them as being a sign of victory erected after the triumph over Athens. Probably though, they are simply weapons offered as prizes at competitions.

Syracuse. Didrachm, 344-317. From Gorny & Mosch Auction 237 (2016), 1170.

In the first half of the 4th century many Sicilian cities had stopped minting coins. This &ldquocoin vacuum&rdquo was filled by Corinthian staters, which once came into the country as means of payment for wheat. In fact, Corinthian coinage was so widespread on Sicily that most hoard finds, buried between 340 and 290, consisted of more than 70% Corinthian staters. No wonder, then, that the Corinthian Timoleon, under whom the above pictured coin was minted, applied the Corinthian weight and type to his coins.

Syracuse. Didrachm, 317-289. From Gorny & Mosch Auction 224 (2014), 77.

Even 20 years later, under Agathocles, this coin type was still in use. The triskeles mintmark reresents Sicily. It was first applied on coins of Timoleon.

Syracuse. Tetradrachm, 310-300. From Gorny & Mosch Auction 236 (2016), 81.

Under Agathocles, we don&rsquot find the same creativity influencing the whole of the Greek world as it did around 400. Die cutters were imitating their more inventive colleagues. This obverse is a copy of an Euainetos decadrachm, but in a more tired and flat style.

Syracuse. Tetradrachm, 305-295. From Gorny & Mosch Auction 228 (2015), 37.

This coin, on the other hand, presents a new design, entirely in the Hellenistic style. In 310 Agathocles, in a brilliant move, dared to attack Carthage. He dedicated his fleet, used to cross over the Mediterranean, to Demeter and Kore the latter being depicted on the obverse. After arriving in Carthage, he burned all his ships in order to avoid a fleeing army should he lose.
Prophetically, the reverse shows Nike erecting, as a sign of victory, a trophy, consisting of a tropaion made of weapons, and &ndash a completely new innovation on Syracusan coinage &ndash the name of the minting authority: Agathocles. As regards the history of thought, this tetradrachm is something totally new on Sicily. It is not the gods, and therefore the whole of the state dominating the obverse as motifs, but the successes of a single man. A logical consequence of this is the assumption of the title of King of Agathocles in 304, which would henceforth appear on his coins.

In the following part, we will talk about the coinage of Naxos and Leontinoi.

This article was originally published in MünzenRevue 4/1997.

Please find all parts of this series in our archives.

If you are interested in Sicily, you should certainly check out the numismatic diary &ldquoSicily in full bloom&rdquo. Find this series also in our archives.


Decadrachm from Syracuse and signed Euinetos.

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Ancients: SICILY. Syracuse. Time of Dionysius I (405-367 BC). AR decadrachm (35mm, 42.17 gm, 9h). NGC Choice AU 4/5 - 5/5, Fine Style.

SICILY. Syracuse. Time of Dionysius I (405-367 BC). AR decadrachm (35mm, 42.17 gm, 9h). NGC Choice AU 4/5 - 5/5, Fine Style. Reverse die signed by Euainetos, ca. 400 BC. Racing quadriga driven left by charioteer, reins in left hand, kentron in right Nike flying right in field above to crown him, military arms, including aspis (shield), greaves, cuirass, and crested Attic helmet, all joined by horizontal spear, ΑΘΛΑ ("prizes") below all in exergue, dotted border / ΣΥ-ΡΑ-Κ-ΟΣ-ΙΩΝ, head of Arethusa left, hair wreathed in barley ears, wearing triple pendant earring and beaded necklace four dolphins around, die-engraver's signature EY-AINE below bottom dolphin, dotted border. Gallatin (R IV / C VIII). SNG ANS 366. A marvelous and stunning example with areas of luster. Exceptionally desirable as both the engraver's signature and exergual mark are fully legible.

From a Private Japanese Collection. Ex Stack's Bowers Galleries (& Ponterio), NYINC Sale 173 (8 January 2013), lot 53.

Widely considered to be the most beautiful coins ever struck, the immense silver decadrachms of Syracuse from the later fifth century BC represent the full flowering of classical Greek sculptural art. Syracuse, the foremost Greek city in Sicily, had produced coins of exceptional beauty for nearly a century when, ca. 415 BC, engravers began signing their coin dies. Chief among these were the master engravers Kimon and Euainetos, whose large silver decadrachms seemed to capture the spirit of the artistic and intellectual revolution then sweeping the Greek world. The obverse of these pieces depicts a four-horse racing chariot, or quadriga, in full career to left while Nike, goddess of Victory, flies above to crown the driver with a laurel wreath. Below this scene is a set of Greek armor offered as a prize to the victorious charioteer. The reverse depicts a beautiful head of Arethusa, nymph of a sacred spring, with dolphins frolicking around her. The decadrachm of Euainetos became a widely-copied archetype for Greek coinage, and the master engraver's head of Arethusa remains a paradigm of cool, classical beauty today.


400 BC v. Chr. SICILIA, SYRACUSE - DIONYSIOS I THE ELDER, 405-367 BC - AR Decadrachm with signed dies of Euainetos, circa 400 BC (cf. NAC / Tradart auction, JDL collection, 18 Nov

weight 42,78gr. | silver 34mm.
The signed dies are made by the artist Euainetos.
obv. Charioteer, in flowing chiton and holding goad and reins,
driving racing quadriga left above, Nike flying right, about to crown
charioteer with wreath in exergue, panoply of arms: cuirass between
two greaves, with Phrygian helmet to right, ΑΘΛΑ below (off-flan)
rev. Head of Arethusa left, wearing wreath of reeds, triple-pendant earring,
and necklace ΣΥΡΑΚΟΣΙΩΝ above. Around, three dolphins swimming, while
a fourth makes dorsal contact with neck truncation below, EYAINE (off-flan).

One of the largest silver denominations minted in classical antiquity, the decadrachm of Syracuse remains one of the most alluring and celebrated coins in history. The immense size of this 10 drachm denomination offered the engravers of Syracuse the scope to fully display their mastery of the medium. After a brief “trial run” in the 460s BC, the decadrachm in was reintroduced in Syracuse by the tyrant Dionysios following his assumption to power in 405 BC, testament to his grandiose vision to make Syracuse the foremost city in the Greek world. Two of the greatest local numismatic artists, Kimon and Euainetos, produced dies for the new series, each bringing their own distinctive style to the already iconic emblems of Syracuse: A racing four-horse chariot (quadriga) backed with a head of the beautiful Arethusa, nymph of the spring of Ortygia, surrounded by frolicking dolphins. Both engravers took great pride in their designs and signed their dies, much in the manner of a modern artist both decadrachm types also include dies that have symbols instead of a signature, perhaps indicating they were engraved by apprentices working under the masters, closely copying their work.

Ironically, the decadrachms of Syracuse were probably struck for the rather mundane purpose of paying mercenaries. The obverse legend ΑΘΛΑ, which means price or reward, refers to that. Most of the issues likely had a very short circulation life and were subsequently melted, accounting for their relative rarity today (this in addition to their status as high denomination coins, a factor that usually generates rarity by itself). Nonetheless, the obverse and reverse types were well known throughout the ancient world and would prove to be enormously influential on subsequent coinage, even centuries later. The portrait, in particular, was adopted by die engravers throughout the Greek world. One example is this silver stater of circa 370-360 BC from Larissa, a city of Thessaly in mainland Greece, which portrays the nymph Larissa based upon the composition of Euainetos. Today, the decadrachms of Syracuse are highly prized by collectors for their artistic beauty, historical importance, and rarity. They serve as physical reminders of the enormous talents of ancient Greek artists, the technical expertise of the minters, and the cultural achievement that it represents.

In the past the portrait on the reverse was described as that of Kore-Persephone. Nowadays we know that it must be the portrait of Arethusa. She has no wreath of corn-ears, but a wreath of reeds. In the historical centre of Syracuse, on the small island of Ortygia, there was (and is) a fresh water source. According to Greek mythology, the fresh water fountain is the place where the nymph Arethusa, the patron figure of ancient Syracuse, returned to earth′s surface after escaping from her undersea home in Arcadia. This fountain of Arthusa was in ancient times very important for the city, for the providence of drinking water. Reason enough to demonstrate her portrait on coins.


Decadrachm Syracuse bracelet

This simple and elegant bracelet has in its thick hand-welded ring, the replica of a Greek coin called decadrachma, found in Sicily.

This piece is made of yellow bronze its decadrachm. Maximum coin diameter 2.7cm

In the description below we will tell you the information about this beautiful coin.

Description

This type of coin, the decadrachms, are one of the most beautiful and recognized in the ancient world and were minted by Dionysius I of Syracuse (405-367 BC). The Decadracmas were made of silver and came to serve not only as monetary exchange but also as a collector's item.

On its obverse it represents the nymph Arethusa, daughter of the river god Arcadius and famous hunter, on its reverse, a young naked Heracles, fighting against the Nemean lion. The face of Arethusa was the most appreciated of antiquity, all over the Mediterranean basin mints with her face were made.


The Victory Symbolized by the Museum’s Coin

In 396, the year of Dionysios raid, the Syracusans had experienced a bewildering series of checks and successes in their on-going confrontation with the Carthaginians that climaxed with Himilcon placing Syracuse under siege by land and sea. For his headquarters he arrogantly took up residence in the extramural Temple of Zeus,about 2.5 kilometers away from the Cyane-Persephone sanctuary. Himilcon
coin’s undoing came after he had unleashed his North African “Gouts” to plunder the twin temples of Demeter and Persephone,
since shortly after that his siege army was struck by a highly contagious, lethal plague (smallpox,according to Hans Zinsser see box on “The Plague”). Dionysios, opportunistic as ever, then seized his chance to lead the aforementioned nocturnal raid against the Punic camp which brought him past Cyane-Persephone’s sanctuary. The raid broke the siege and brought about Himilcon’s eventual disgrace and suicide.


Watch the video: Stephen K. Scher: Heads and Tales: The Odyssey of a Medals Collector (June 2022).


Comments:

  1. Derian

    Yah...

  2. Gataur

    Now all is clear, many thanks for the help in this question. How to me you to thank?

  3. Franta

    Your phrase, just the grace

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