«The Fascination of Gold»

Sicily, Syracuse, Tetradrachm

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Sicily, Syracuse, Tetradrachm (obverse) Sicily, Syracuse, Tetradrachm (reverse)

This is perhaps the most famous coin of antiquity. It is called Demareteion, after Demarete, the wife of the Tyrant Gelon of Syracuse. In 480 BC, Syracuse defeated the Carthaginians in the Battle at Himera and made them tributary. With the help of those Carthaginian payments Syracuse was for the first time able to mint large silver coins. Legend has it that the new coins were called Demareteion in honor of Demarete, who had asked her husband to treat the Carthaginian prisoners mildly.

The obverse shows the traditional Syracusean coin design, a quadriga driven by Nike, the goddess of victory. The little lion in the exergue has been interpreted either as a symbol for the defeated Carthaginians, or as an emblem of Leontinoi, the allied lion city near Syracuse. The reverse depicts the nymph Arethusa circled by four dolphins. This coin is a true masterpiece of the early classical times.

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