The harbor of the city of Zancle (today's Messina) was important in ancient times already. The city was considered as 'gate to Sicily,' where a large part of the trade between the Magna Graecia – the Greek cities of southern Italy and Sicily – and Greece took place.
The name of 'Zancle' originated from a word of the indigenous population meaning 'scythe,' and referred to the sickle-shaped tongue of land enclosing the natural harbor of the city. The coins of Zancle always bore a scythe, here in the form of a thin line around the dolphin. The animal itself stood for the city's close relation to the sea, as the dolphin was the attribute of Poseidon, the god of the sea. The reverse shows an incuse square with the small pictorial design of a cockleshell in the centre.