Italy. Calabria, Taras.
Stater, c. 490 - 480 BC. (Silver, 7.90g., 21mm). ΦΙΛΩΝ / ΕΥ Nude ephebe riding galloping horse to left, holding round shield and two spears with his left hand and grasping his horse’s neck with his right / ΤΑΡΑΣ Phalanthos, nude, riding dolphin to left, holding, in his right hand, Nike, whose arms are outstretched to crown him, and resting his left on the dolphin’s back; below, waves. HN III 964. Vlasto 683. SNG ANS 1059.
Taras, Tarentum (IACP 71), was founded in 706 BC by colonists from Sparta; from the very first the city’s history was characterized by conflicts with its neighbors, both native groups like the Messapians and Leukanians, as well as other Greek colonies. By the 4th century Taras had emerged as the most powerful state in Magna Graecia, with a strong army and the most important fleet in the region. During this period the city was led by the philosopher, mathematician and scientist Archytas (428-347), but after his death the city began an inexorable decline. Conflicts with native groups grew worse and a series of foreign rulers were called in to defend the city: first Archidamus III of Sparta and Alexander the Molossian (both killed in battle in 338 and 331 respectively), and finally Pyrrhus of Epirus, who fought for the Tarentines against their greatest enemy, Rome. Pyrrhus was victorious in several major battles, but the losses were so heavy that he was finally forced to withdraw and Taras fell to Rome in 272. This coin was minted during those final years of conflict and shows one of the brilliant riders, for whom Taras was famous, on the obverse and the city’s mythological founder riding on a dolphin and holding Nike in honor of one of the city’s ephemeral victories.
Grading/Status: A splendid, beautifully preserved and perfectly centered example of fine style. Good extremely fine.
Collection of ‘Maître B.’, Hess-Divo 310, 22 October 2008, 5.