Italy. Sicily, Messana.
Tetradrachm, c. 412 - 408 BC. (Silver, 17.40g., 27.4mm). The nymph Messana, wearing chiton and holding the reins with both hands, driving biga of mules walking to left; above, Nike flying right to crown the driver; in exergue, two opposed dolphins / ΜΕΣΣΑΝΙΩΝ Hare springing to right; below, dolphin leaping right above waves. Basel 364 (same dies). CC 619.5 (this coin). SNG Lockett 834 (same dies).
Messana, earlier known as Zankle (IACP 51), seems to have been founded at the end of the 730s, at roughly the same time as the cities of Katane, Leontinoi and Naxos. Zankle founded colonies herself, such as Mylai and Himera on the north coast of Sicily. In 494 the undefended city (its army was away on campaign) was seized by a band of Samians, themselves fleeing the Persians, who had been urged on by Anaxilas of Rhegium. The Zanklaians then called for help from Hippokrates of Syracuse, their overlord at the time. He came to their aid but then betrayed them, settling with the Samians and enslaving the Zanklaians! The Samians maintained themselves until 488 when Anaxilas took the Zankle, expelled the Samians and refounded the city as Messana in honor of his family’s original homeland. This coin, struck long after those stirring events, still bears types that refer to Anaxilas: the mule car is an allusion to the tyrant’s victory in the mule car race in Olympia in 480, and he supposedly introduced the hare into Sicily to alleviate food shortages.
Grading/Status: A wonderful, rare example perfectly struck on a broad flan producing a coin of great elegance. Extremely fine.
Numismatica Genevensis V, 2 December 2008, 36.
Bank Leu 33, 3 May 1983, 230.
Virzi collection, Hirsch XXXIII, 17 November 1913, 389 (bought by Hirsch on behalf of Sartiges for RM 1325 against Spink).