Italy. Sicily, Syracuse.
10 Litrai, 214 - 212 BC, the Fifth Republic. (Silver, 8.39g., 25mm). Head of Kore-Persephone to left, with her hair tied in a bun at the back, wearing grain wreath, pendant earring and pearl necklace; behind her head to right, long torch / ΣΥΡΑΚΟΣΙΩΝ Zeus Strategos standing facing, laureate, draped to the waist, his head turned to right, and holding a long reversed spear with his right hand; to left ΧΑΡ above eagle flying right. BMC 661 = Burnett 38a (same dies). De Luynes 1394 = Burnett 38b (same dies).
This piece and the following were both struck by Syracuse’s last independent government. After the death of Hieron II in 215 the throne fell to his self-indulgent and foolish grandson Hieronymos who renounced his grandfather’s long-standing alliance with Rome and went over to the Carthaginians. His patent idiocy resulted in a revolution and the destruction of Hieronymos and all of his family. The Romans proceeded to besiege the city but were unsuccessful, especially since the great ancient scientist Archimedes had designed a number of extremely efficient defenses. In the end the city fell through treachery and almost all the population was either killed or enslaved. This coin and the following piece were both issued during the siege and were, in some ways, rather similar to the later siege pieces that were made during post-medieval times. In any case, the vast majority of all the coins issued were confiscated by the Roman conquerors and melted down.
Grading/Status: A superb and extremely rare piece, toned and firmly struck on a broad flan. Some traces of an undertype – a 10 litrai of Hieronymous. Very minor hairline crack, otherwise, good extremely fine.
Triton XI, 8 January 2008, 75.