Sicily, Syracuse. 485-479 BC

Sicily, Syracuse. 485-479 BC


AR Tetradrachm, 17.39gm (24mm, 5h). Quadriga with charioteer right / ΣVP-A-KOΣ-ION (retrograde) /Arethusa to right, hair held by a pearl necklace, surrounded by four dolphins.

Pedigree: Purchased from Jean Elsen, January 1980

References: Boehringer group III, pl 13, 345 (V170/R243) (same dies)

Grade: Head of back horse is off flan, otherwise beautifully struck with cabinet toning and iridescence. The reverse is sharp, nicely centered with a touch of porosity on the cheek. EF . (gk1314)

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From c. 485-466 BC Syracuse was ruled by tyrants starting with Gelon. Gelon took the bold step to move his capital from Gela to the less significant Syracuse, thereby producing the most powerful epicenter of the Sicilian Greek city states. The motif of a charioteer on the obverse and a beautiful Arethusa on the reverse became the signature theme of the series.

On this early tetradrachm the charioteer is guiding a slow walking quadriga. Eventually the quadriga would become an unwieldy group of horses with their heads turned in different directions. The head of Arethusa is archaic and stiff looking. She transforms into a classically beautiful representation of the goddess Arethusa. The coinage of Syracuse maintained this imagery for over 100 years and was adopted by several Greek city states.