The Portland Vase, £5.00
Weight: 5.580 g
Diameter: 21.000 mm
Coins and Medals
Silver ⅓ stater of Zancle
Greek, around 500 BC
From Zancle (modern Messina), Sicily
A 'talking' city badge
Coins were first issued by the Greek cities in Sicily from around 525 BC. One of these was the city of Zancle, situated at the modern town of Messina, on the strait between the town and the toe of Italy. Zankle is the Greek word for 'sickle', and the city took its name from the distinctive shape of its harbour. The citizens referred to this obvious topographic feature in the design for their earliest coins.
On the front of this silver coin is depicted the sickle-shaped harbour running around the outside of the design. Within, the appearance of dolphins makes it plain that a reference to the harbour is intended. The clever imagery of these types parlants ('talking designs') was common in ancient coinage.
G.K. Jenkins, Ancient Greek coins (London, Seaby, 1990)
G.K. Jenkins, Coins of Greek Sicily (London, The British Museum Press, 1976)
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)