Italy. Sicily, Syracuse.
8 Litrai, c. 212 BC, the Fifth Republic. (Silver, 6.78g., 20.5mm). Female head to left, wearing oak wreath, pendant earring and pearl necklace; behind her head, long torch / ΣΥΡΑΚΟΣΙΩΝ Quadriga walking to left, the car occupied only by a scepter; above, ΧΑΡ. At present unpublished save for its auction appearances.
This is a coin that is filled with enigmas. We first have to wonder about who, exactly, is portrayed on the obverse. The oak-wreath would not be appropriate for either Persephone or Kore, or for Arethusa for that matter, all goddesses we normally associate with Syracuse (the idea that the oak -wreath could refer to Arethusa’s Arcadian origins seems unlikely). At present we cannot suggest who she is. As for the empty chariot on the reverse, this is also extremely unusual. Could it possibly be a hopeful reference to a chariot in a victory celebration, one honoring the gods rather than a commander? The erudite cataloguer of this piece when it appeared in NAC 25 suggested that the type reflected a “power vacuum” during the last days of the siege; but such a dark meaning seems extremely unlikely. Why would a state issue a coin publicizing its dismay and pessimism? A hoped for victory seems much more likely.
Grading/Status: A coin of the highest rarity, apparently one of only two known and probably from the last issue of Syracuse as an independent city. Good extremely fine.
Numismatica Genevensis SA 5, 2 December 2008, 57.
Collection of A. Moretti, Numismatica Ars Classica 25, 25 June 2003, 125.
Giessener Münzhandlung 60, 5 October 1992, 74.