Calabria, Tarentum. Half stater circa 333-331/0, AV 4.26 g. TAPANTINΩN Head of Hera r., wearing stephane, triple-pendant earring and necklace; in l. field, E. Rev. TAPAΣ Dolphin rider l., holding small dolphin on outstretched r. hand and trident in l.; below, T – K. Vlasto 5. de Luynes 247 These dies). Jameson 149 (these dies). AMB 90 (these dies). Fischer-Bossert G7h (this coin). Historia Numorum Italy 902.
Very rare and possibly the finest specimen in private hands. A portrait of exquisite
style, work of a very talented master engraver. Extremely fine
Ex NAC 8, 1995, 127 and Ira & Larry Goldberg 72, 2013, 4005 sales.
In the late fourth century BC, Taras fell under increasing pressure from neighbouring Italic peoples, particularly the Lucanians and the related Brettians. As a means of defending themselves against the growing threat, the Tarentines took to hiring foreign mercenary commanders and their armies. These commanders were often important and powerful figures in mainland Greece. In 340 BC, the Tarentines hired Archidamos III, the Eurypontid Spartan king to wage war against their enemies. When the Lucanian menace was renewed in 334 BC, the Tarentines hired Alexander I of Epeiros, the Molossian king who was not only brother to Olympias and uncle to Alexander the Great, but also father of Pyrrhos, whose own Italian adventures are the subject of legends. Alexander the Molossian was very keen to take up the call for military aid both in an effort to parallel the glory enjoyed by his Macedonian nephew as he began the conquest of the Persian Empire and to cheat an oracle that linked the doom of Alexander I to the river Acheron and the city of Pandosia—both in Epeiros, he assumed. From 333 to 332 BC, Alexander the Molossian was extremely successful, inflicting numerous defeats on the Lucanians, Brettians, and Samnites, recapturing Greek cities, like Herakleia (a colony of Taras) and Metapontion, and even seizing several Brettian settlements. However, by 331 BC his relationship with the Tarentines had begun to fray due to the king’s meddling in the civic politics of the region, and the Lucanians and Brettians were prepared to renew the conflict. Alexander I encamped with his army on three hills on the border between Lucania and Bruttium near a small city, but found himself besieged by the enemy during a heavy rainfall. He attempted to escape the battle by fording a nearby river, but was killed by a Lucanian spear. The name of the river turned out to be the Acheron and that of the nearby city, Pandosia. It was bad luck for Alexander the Molossian that Greek colonists in other lands often had a taste for naming cities and local geographical features after those in their homeland. This beautiful gold hemistater was struck at Taras as part of the financial support for the great army of Epeirote and Italiote Greek mercenaries that Alexander I led. Fending off barbarians was never cheap and one can only imagine how much more expensive it made things to have a king serving as mercenary commander. The obverse depicts Hera, a goddess often favoured by Dorian Greek peoples, like the Tarentines, while the reverse features a dolphin rider—a popular type at Taras. There is disagreement among numismatists as to whether this rider is correctly identified as Taras, the mythological eponymous founder of the city or as Phalanthos, the historical oecist responsible for the foundation of Taras. Both have stories attached to them of being saved by dolphins when they were at risk of drowning. In this particular case since the rider carries a trident, the weapon of Poseidon, and Taras was said to be the son of the same god it may be more likely that we are looking at Taras rather than Phalanthos here.
|Price realized||42'500 CHF|
|Starting price||24'000 CHF|