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This is the reverse of an extremely rare tetradrachm struck at Syracuse in Sicily towards the close of the fifth century B.C. There were two coins from this die which are said to be part of a hoard found in the early 1950s. The reverses were off center and the images of both specimens were combined to complete this sculpture. The tetradrachm is a silver coin, about an inch in diameter and weighing just over 17 grams. The obverse depicts a fast quadriga (four-horse chariot) to the left, driven by a bearded charioteer with Nike (Victory) flying right to crown him. The Syracusans loved their horses and chariot races.
At this time Sicily was part of Magna Graecia, or Greater Greece, and Syracuse was its most prominent city. The finest coin engravers of the period were working here and the model for this profile of the water nymph Arethusa was very probably the daughter of an aristocratic family of the city. This is a marvelous representation of Arethusa in full classical style. The jewelry and hair styles of 2400 years ago are depicted in greater detail on the coins of Syracuse than anywhere else in the ancient world. How were all of these waves and curls kept in place? It was with wax, which was sometimes brightly colored, probably to match the garment being worn. The die is unsigned but was undoubtedly by the hand of one of the master engravers who were active in Sicily at this time. We can only guess at his precise identity.

For those who are interested in references to this coin, please see:
Rizzo pl.47,11; Giacosa pl.32,33; Kraay-Hirmer pl. 39, 115; Tudeer 65 (V22/R43); Numismatica Ars Classica Auction #13, Oct 8, 1998 lot #467; LHS Numismatik AG
Auction #95, lot #519.

Carroll Gibson


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Registered: February 2008
Location: So. Cal.
Posts: 42
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Date: November 19, 2008
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That's a pretty incredible piece of work. Thanks for posting these.
#1 November 19, 2008 9:37pm

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