Italy. Sicily, Leontinoi.
Tetradrachm, c. 470 - 465 BC. (Silver, 17.19g., 27.5mm). Quadriga, driven by a male charioteer wearing a long chiton, moving slowly to right; above, Nike flying left to crown the charioteer; below, in exergue, lion running to right / ΛΕΟΝΤΙΝΟΝ Laureate head of Apollo to right, his long hair braided and tied up at the back of his head; to left, right and above Apollo’s head, laurel leaf; below neck, lion running to right. Dewing 623 (same dies). Gulbenkian 211 (same dies). Kraay – Hirmer 19 (same dies). Rizzo pl. XXII, 14 (same dies). SNG ANS 217 (same dies). D. von Bothmer, et al., Wealth of the Ancient World (Fort Worth, 1983), p. 167, 65 (this coin).
Leontinoi (IACP 33) was, like Katane, founded by Chalcidians from Naxos in 729 BC; while bordering on Katane it was located inland and was of importance for its wealth of grain. Its history was a checkered one, often subject to conquest by powerful neighbors or stasis within. It was taken by Hippocrates of Gela in the 490s and then Hieron made it one of his most important possessions, moving the populations of both Katane and Naxos to it in 476. The reason why this coin was produced has long been debated, but it is very closely related to the famous ‘Demareteion’ from Syracuse, an impressive dekadrachm that had long been thought to have been struck in 480 BC, in connection with the Greek victory over the Carthaginians at Himera. That connection has since been disproved and the Demareteion downdated by at least a decade. It now seems possible that this wonderful Leontinoi should be associated in some way with Hieron’s foundation of Aetna. Artistically this is quite an astounding coin, even a ‘masterpiece’ of very late archaic-earliest classical art, but one that is transitional in every way. The head of Apollo epitomizes the “Severe Style”, the earliest phase of Classical art; though it still retains some archaic elements (as the eye’s lack of iris and pupil). One clear, well-nigh contemporary sculptural parallel for him is the Charioteer of Delphi, which was, of course, dedicated by Polyzalos of Gela, Hieron’s brother.
Grading/Status: A very rare and beautifully preserved example of Leontinoi’s most prestigious early issue. Extremely fine.
Numismatica Genevensis V, 2 December 2008, 28.
Collection of N. B. Hunt, Sotheby’s New York, 19 June 1990, 65.
Leu 30, 28 April 1982, 33.