Calabria, Tarentum. 240-228 BC

Calabria, Tarentum. 240-228 BC


AR Nomos, 7.90g (20mm). Erak-, Daimachos, and Andre-, magistrates. Nude youth galloping on horseback right, holding torch behind him; HPAK monogram in left field, ΔAIMAXOC below / Taras astride dolphin to left, holding kantharos and trident; ANΔPE monogram in right field, TAPAS below.

References: Vlasto 938; Evans, Tarentum (1889), p. 194, pl. X. 1

Grade: Lovely strike on a nice broad flan. Toned. Lovely example for this issue. (gk1286)

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The ancient city of Tarentum (Taras in ancient Greek) has the distinction of being the only city outside of Sparta founded and colonized by the Spartans.  The colony was founded in 706 BC by Phalanthos, the leader of the Partheniae who were composed of non-traditional families. They were unmarried Spartan women and free men of non-Spartan origin.  There is much speculation about the Parthenian population and their origin; specifically whether they were men opposed to fighting in the Messenian War (The war between the Messenians and the Spartans from 743-724 BC).  Another theory is that Messenian War had lasted so long and the soldier population had so dwindled that they were allowed to return to Sparta to procreate with young Spartan women. The last theory was that the Parthenians were bastard children of Spartan women and their slaves forced to settle on Taras.

The coinage of Tarentum is an interesting departure from the supposed origin of its founding.  Warriors and heroes are found on the coinage with scenes that glamorize the Greek city-state. Many of the coins of Tarentum feature a boy or man on a dolphin. This famous myth tells of  Taras, the son of Poseidon, being saved by a dolphin from a shipwreck. The dolphin safely delivers Taras to land which was made the city of Taras (Tarentum). This depiction is found throughout the vast coinage of Tarentum.  The reverse routinely shows variations of men on horses which symbolizes the equestrian events that often took place in Taras.