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Silver decadrachm of Syracuse

 

Weight: 44.430 g

CM BMC Syracuse 63

Room 73: Greeks in Italy

    Silver decadrachm of Syracuse

    Greek, around 460 BC
    From Syracuse, Sicily

    This may be the so-called Demareteion of Syracuse

    The first half of the fifth century BC in Sicily was characterised in several cities by the rise of powerful tyrants. In the city of Syracuse, the greatest of the tyrants was Gelon. In 480 BC Gelon brought to an end the rivalry between Carthaginians and Greeks on the island of Sicily with a decisive defeat of the Carthaginian forces at the Battle of Himera. Gelon's wife, Demarete, was instrumental in the peace settlement that followed. According to the later Greek historian, Diodorus of Sicily, Demarete received a crown of one hundred gold talents from the Carthaginians. He tells us that in celebration 'she struck a coin which was called after a Demareteion: it was worth ten Attic drachmas'.

    For a long time the Demareteion that Diodorus mentions was assumed by scholars to be the silver coin shown here, since it is the earliest known ten-drachma coin (decadrachm) produced at Syracuse. On the front of the coin is a chariot drawn by four horses (a quadriga) with a figure of Nike, and a lion running below. On the other side is the head of the nymph Arethusa, surrounded by dolphins and the Greek legend 'of the Syracusans'. Certainly the quality of engraving of the design is markedly higher than on accompanying tetradrachm coins, suggesting this to be a particularly important issue. More recent numismatic research has shown, however, that the coin must be dated at least twenty years after the Battle of Himera. The Demareteion coins that Diodorus describes thus remain something of a puzzle.

    G.K. Jenkins, Ancient Greek coins (London, Seaby, 1990)

    G.K. Jenkins, Coins of Greek Sicily (London, The British Museum Press, 1976)

    E. Boehringer, Die Münzen von Syrakus (Berlin, W. de Gruyter & co., 1929)

    I.A. Carradice, Greek coins (London, The British Museum Press, 1996)

    C.M. Kraay, Archaic and Classical Greek co (London, Methuen, 1976)

    I.A. Carradice and M.J. Price, Coinage in the Greek world (London, Seaby, 1988)

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    On display: Room 73: Greeks in Italy

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