Italy. Sicily, Gela.
Didrachm, c. 490/85 - 480/75 BC. (Silver, 8.62g., 19.5mm). Nude and bearded rider galloping to right, hurling spear with his raised right hand and holding the horse’s reins in his left / CΕΛΑ Forepart of man-headed bull, with long pointed beard, running to right. Basel 279. Jenkins Group Ib, 7. Rizzo pl. XVII, 6. SNG ANS 4. SNG Lloyd 956.
Gela (IACP 17) was founded in 689/8 BC by colonists from Rhodes and Crete. By the late 6th century the city was one of the most powerful on the island, and in the earlier 5th century its tyrants Hippokrates, Gelon, Hieron and Polyzalos took over much of eastern Sicily, including Leontinoi, Naxos and Syracuse. In 485, after Gelon had become tyrant of Syracuse he moved a considerable portion of Gela’s population to his newly conquered city. His brother Hieron, who had been left to rule Gela, himself moved to Syracuse when Gelon died. While the city remained important, its significance dwindled in the following years. The early coins of Gela are remarkable for their lifelike portrayal of the city’s patron river god, shown as a man-headed bull. This representation goes back to that of Acheloos, a river god from northwest Greece, and initially was only used to represent him, but the type became extremely popular and was used for local river gods all over the Greek world. The nude and bearded horseman on the obverse may well be thought to be chasing the god: preventing him from indulging in one of his destructive rages! This is, in fact, why river gods were shown as bulls - so many rivers in Sicily, Magna Graecia and Greece itself were calm during most of the year, but they all could become dangerous, raging torrents after a flash flood or during the Spring run offs.
Grading/Status: A beautiful coin, well-struck, well-centered and attractively toned. Good extremely fine.
Triton XII, 6 January 2009, 68.