Calabria, Tarentum. c. 290-281 BC

Calabria, Tarentum. c. 290-281 BC


AR Didrachm, 7.81g (20mm, 7h). Horseman as ephebus, holding spear / Dolphin-rider holding distaff and dolphin, behind leaf; waves below.

Pedigree: Purchased from Bank Leu & Co., Special catalog on Tarentum (1960), lot 102 

References:  SNG ANS 988; Vlasto 589

Grade:  Some iridescent toning. Slightly off-center but good strike. Good VF+ (gk1112)

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The coinage of Tarentum has continually fascinated and delighted coin enthusiasts. The ancient tradition tells the story of how Taras, the founder of the first settlement, was miraculously saved from a shipwreck by a dolphin sent by Poseidon, the father of Taras. The dolphin lifted Taras out of the water and delivered him safely to the shore. It was on this spot that the city of Tarentum was founded.

The images of horses on the obverse points to the vast lush fields on the settlement that were conducive to raising horses. Additionally a sea snail called a Murex, was indigenous to the nearby sea and also became a source of wealth for the inhabitants. The mucus from a Murex was used by the Phoenicians to create a purple dye that was used for ceremonial robes. Tarentum also had a harbor that proved favorable to the settlers.