Italy. Sicily, Syracuse.
Tetradrachm, c. 405 - 400 BC. (Silver, 17.23g., 28mm). Quadriga galloping to left, driven by a female charioteer (Artemis, Demeter or Persephone?) holding the reins in her left hand and a torch in her right; above, Nike flying right to crown the driver; in exergue, grain ear to left / ΣΥΡΑ-ΚΟΣΙΩΝ Head of a goddess (Nike?) to right, her hair bound up in a bun at top of her head; she wears a triple-pendant earring and a simple circlet necklace with a pendant; before her, two dolphins swimming downwards to left; behind her head, one dolphin swimming upwards from under her neck, another swimming downwards. Basel 466 (this coin). Gulbenkian 284 (same dies). Rizzo pl. XLVII, 8 (same dies). Tudeer 62 (same dies).
This coin, struck at roughly the same time as the previous lot, shows us quite a different female portrait on its obverse. The former piece is surely either Demeter or Persephone as is shown by the fruits and grain in the wreath that crowns her. The present piece shows us quite a different woman, usually thought to be the young fountain nymph Arethusa, the city’s patron goddess; but is she? When the coin is turned so that the earring falls down vertically as it should the neck truncation appears to be diagonal: as Jenkins points out in the Gulbenkian catalogue (p. 97, note to 283) this goddess is surely Nike flying to right. Having a head of Nike makes good sense as being part of the group of issues from this period, which recall Syracuse’s victories over both the Athenians and the Carthaginians (the famous head of Athena by Eukleidas comes from the same group). As it is this is a remarkably lovely coin.
Grading/Status: Rare, a coin of lovely style, beautifully engraved. Extremely fine.
Numismatica Genevensis SA V, 2 December 2008, 42.
Collection of A. Moretti, Numismatica Ars Classica 13, 8 October 1998, 466.