GREECE. Sicily. Syracuse. Dionysios I, 405-367 BC. Silver Decadrachm, 400 BC. Obv. Fast quadriga driven left by charioteer, holding reins and kentron; in field above, Nike flying right to crown him. In exergue, display of military harness set on two steps, AΘΛA below. Rev. ΣΥΡΑ-ΚΟΣΙΩΝ. Head of Arethusa left, wearing earring with pendant and beaded necklace; wavy hair bound in front with ampyx. Around three dolphins, while a fourth makes dorsal contact with neck truncation. [EY-AINE] below, signature of the engraver Euianetos. Gallatin C. VII/R. IV; SNG ANS 365 (same dies). AR. 43.19 g. AU die-breaks
Ex. Chaponnière & Firmenich SA auction 8, 5 July 2017, lot 6.
Exceptional quality for this example, the largest coin ever struck in Sicily.
Greek colony in Sicily, founded by the Corinthians in 734 BC, Syracuse soon imposed itself as the most powerful state of the island. It developed and enriched itself during the following two centuries by founding other cities. An enlightened despot "before the word was coined", Dionysius the Elder reigned as the tyrant of Syracuse from 406 to 367 BC. He started many conflicts, both to ensure the control of Sicily and to protect it from the Carthaginians. An expert in the art of war, he also associated his name with the invention of the catapult. Moreover, he was not indifferent to culture as he personally invited Plato to Syracuse. The beauty of the coins struck under his reign confirms his artistic tastes. Minted around 400 BC, this silver decadrachm is considered the most beautiful coin of Antiquity: was it not already collected by the Ancients? We know the names of two artists who created this type: Kimon and Euainetos have left their names in the history of numismatics by not hesitating to sign their masterpieces. On the reverse is represented the nymph Arethusa, protectorof the city, surrounded by four dolphins. Its design transmits to us the beauty of the women of this period, adorned with jewels and neatly dressed hair. Above her head, we clearly read the name of the city. A very rare occurrence in Antiquity, the engraver signed the obverse die: on this slighty off center specimen, traces of "EYAINE" are visible under the neck. Two light cracks in the die add to the powerful charm transmitted by the reverse, adding an aura of mystery and a mark of uniqueness. Though the die cracked at an early stage and while very new, it was still used. Its condition during the strike of the present piece, shows it to be an earlier die state than that illustrated in the Gallatin (C. VII, whose image has been strongly re-engraved: obverse: R. IV). The obverse evokes the military power of the city, a victorious charioteer crowned by Nike skillfully steers his quadriga of galloping stallions. At the exergue, all the hoplite's equipment is displayed: shield, cnemis, armor and helmet. Evidently a military coinage, this decadrachm is nonetheless, one of the jewels of Greek aesthetics.