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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ |Themes & Provenance| ▸ |Animals| ▸ |Skylla||View Options:  |  |  |   

Skylla on Ancient Coins

The Skylla (Scylla) is the hideous monster that attacked Odysseus as he sailed through the Strait of Messina on his way home after the sack of the city of Troy. Skylla has twelve legs and six heads and swoops down on passing ships or sea creatures from the rock she inhabits.


Sextus Pompey, Imperator and Prefect of the Fleet, Executed 35 B.C.

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In Greek mythology, Scylla was a monster that lived on one side of Strait of Messina between Italy and Sicily, opposite her counterpart Charybdis. The two sides of the strait were within an arrow's range of each other - so close that sailors attempting to avoid Charybdis would pass dangerously close to Scylla and vice versa. Scylla made her first appearance in Homer's Odyssey, where Odysseus and his crew encounter her and Charybdis on their travels. Later myth gave her an origin story as a beautiful nymph who gets turned into a monster. The idiom "between Scylla and Charybdis" has come to mean being forced to choose between two similarly dangerous situations.
SH87414. Silver denarius, RSC I Pompeia 3a (same ligatures), Crawford 511/4d, Sydenham 1348, BMCRR Sicily 20, Sear CRI 335b, SRCV I 1393, gVF, beautifully toned, edge cracks, legends not fully struck, weight 3.566 g, maximum diameter 19.8 mm, die axis 225o, uncertain Sicilian mint, 40 - 39 B.C.; obverse MAG•PIVS•IMP•ITER, pharos (lighthouse) of Messana, topped with stature of Neptune standing right holding trident and rudder, his left foot on a galley ram; quinquereme (war galley) sailing left in foreground below adorned with aquila on prow and scepter at the stern; reverse PRAEF ORAE•MARIT•ET•CLAS• S•C• (AEs and MAR ligate), the sea monster Skylla, her upper body a nude human female torso, lower body of two fish tails and three dog foreparts, attacking to left with a rudder wielded as a club in both hands raised overhead; ex Nomos Obolos 10, lot 349; rare; SOLD


Pharsalos, Thessaly, Greece, Late 5th - Mid 4th Century B.C.

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The tiny letters on the obverse and reverse are artist signatures. TH has been identified as Telephantos and MI as his "apprentice." The referenced BCD coin with the same obverse die and a reverse die by the same hand, near EF and well-struck, sold for $90,000 plus fees.
SH76215. Silver drachm, Lavva 153 (V72/R89); BCD Thessaly II 642 (same obv. die); cf. BMC Thessaly p. 43, 10; SNG Cop 221, gVF, full helmet crest on obverse, some die wear, weight 5.946 g, maximum diameter 20.1 mm, die axis 135o, Pharsalos (Farsala, Greece) mint, late 5th - mid 4th century B.C.; obverse head of Athena right, wearing crested Attic helmet with Skylla on bowl, raising hand to shade her eyes, tiny TH over MI behind neck; reverse Φ-A-P-Σ (clockwise from upper left, Σ and P retrograde), Thessalian cavalryman on horse prancing right, wearing petasos, chlamys, and chiton, brandishing lagobolon overhead in right hand, reins in left hand, horse wears beaded strand around neck, tiny TH below the feet of the cavalryman; SOLD


Thourioi, Lucania, Italy, c. 400 - 350 B.C.

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A superb example from the period when Thourioi's (Latin: Thurium) coinage reached its highest point of excellence in execution. The head of Athena is probably that of the sea-goddess Athena Skyletria. The bull may be a symbol of Dionysos or may have been derived from the archaic coins of Sybaris and symbolize the river Krathis. A more romantic view is that the butting bull symbolizes the rushing waters of the fountain Thuria from which the city took its name.
SH46910. Silver nomos, SNG Cop 1458 var. (stones not apparent); Pozzi -, gVF, beautiful style, toned, weight 7.716 g, maximum diameter 20.8 mm, die axis 90o, Thourioi (near Sibari, Cosenza, Calabria, Italy) mint, c. 400 - 350 B.C.; obverse head of Athena right, wearing crested Attic helmet decorated with Skylla scanning and inscribed ΣΩ; reverse ΘOYPIΩN / ΣΩ, bull butting right, stones on exergual line, fish right in exergue; nice style, toned, tight flan; SOLD


Thourioi, Lucania, Italy, 4th Century B.C.

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Thourioi, also called Thurii and Thurium, issued similar types with a hippocamp, griffin or laurel wreath on the Attic helmet. On those ornamented with Scylla, she is sometimes shading her eyes and scanning the horizon, holding a trident, spear, oar or octopus, or hurling a stone or a spear.
SH58669. Silver nomos, cf. SNG ANS 1007 (holding spear, same rev die as our coin), SNG Ashmolean 958 (holding spear), HN Italy 1802 (refs Oxford), VF, punches on reverse, weight 7.646 g, maximum diameter 20.0 mm, die axis 225o, Thourioi (near Sibari, Cosenza, Calabria, Italy) mint, 4th century B.C.; obverse head of Athena right, wearing Attic helmet decorated with Skylla pointing; reverse ΘOYPIΩN, Bull butting right, tunny fish in exergue; SOLD


Taras, Calabria, Italy, c. 302 - 281 B.C.

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Taras, the only Spartan colony, was founded in 706 B.C. The founders were Partheniae ("sons of virgins"), sons of unmarried Spartan women and Perioeci (free men, but not citizens of Sparta). These out-of-wedlock unions were permitted during the bloody Messenian wars to increase the prospective number of future soldiers (only the citizens could be soldiers). Later, however, when they were no longer needed, their citizenship was retroactively voided and the sons were obliged to leave Greece forever. Their leader, Phalanthus, consulted the oracle at Delphi and was told to make the harbor of Taranto their home. They named the city Taras after the son of Poseidon, and of a local nymph, Satyrion. The Romans called it Tarentum and connected the city to Rome with an extension of the Appian Way. Because modern Taranto is built over the ancient city, few ruins remain; they include part of the city wall, two temple columns dating to the 6th century B.C., and tombs.
GS85148. Silver drachm, Vlasto 1049; SNG ANS 1303; HN Italy 975; BMC Italy p. 201, 309; SGCV I 367, Choice VF, attractive style, well centered and struck, toned, weight 3.233 g, maximum diameter 16.9 mm, die axis 180o, Taras (Taranto, Italy) mint, c. 302 - 281 B.C.; obverse head of Athena right, wearing helmet decorated with Skylla hurling stone; reverse owl standing right, head facing, TAP left, ZOP (magistrate, Zor...) over olive branch right; ex Art of Money (Portland, OR); SOLD


Thourioi, Lucania, Italy, c. 400 - 350 B.C.

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The head of Athena is probably that of the sea-goddess Athena Skyletria. The bull may be a symbol of Dionysos or may have been derived from the archaic coins of Sybaris and symbolize the river Krathis. A more romantic view is that the butting bull symbolizes the rushing waters of the fountain Thuria from which the city took its name. This denomination is described as a stater, nomos or didrachm in various references and sales listings.
SH77458. Silver nomos, SNG München 1192 (same dies), SNG Oxford 932, SNG Cop 1439, SNG ANS 992, HN Italy 1799, VF, well centered on a tight flan, fine classical style, light iridescent toning, light marks and scratches, weight 7.771 g, maximum diameter 20.5 mm, Thourioi (near Sibari, Cosenza, Calabria, Italy) mint, c. 400 - 350 B.C.; obverse head of Athena right, wearing Attic helmet ornamented with Scylla scanning, using left hand to shade her eyes; reverse ΘOYPIΩN, bull butting right, right foreleg raised, double exergue line, the top line solid, the bottom line dotted, fish right in exergue; ex Gorny & Mosch auction 233 (6 Oct 2015), lot 1101; SOLD


Thourioi, Lucania, Italy, c. 410 - 350 B.C.

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Nearly 70 years after Sybaris was destroyed by the Crotoniats, a new colony was founded on the site on the Gulf of Taranto. Soon after, on the advice of an oracle, the settlers moved a short distance away near a fountain named Thuria, after which the new city was named.
SL85594. Silver nomos, HN Italy 1791c, SNG ANS 1041, SNG Cop 1442, SNG ANS 1028, SNG München 1196, BMC Italy -, NGC VF, strike 5/5, surface 4/5 (3987747-003), weight 7.67 g, maximum diameter 22 mm, die axis 180o, Thourioi (near Sibari, Cosenza, Calabria, Italy) mint, c. 410 - 350 B.C.; obverse head of Athena right, wearing necklace and crested Athenian helmet decorated with Skylla holding trident in right hand, rudder over shoulder in left hand; reverse ΘOYPIΩN, bull butting right, lashing tail, head lowered, HP monogram above, tunny fish right below; NGC certified (slabbed); ex Heritage auction 231729, lot 63004; SOLD


Taras, Calabria, Italy, c. 380 - 325 B.C.

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This type was struck with dozens of different pose variations on the reverse. In some scenes, it even appears Herakles might lose. There are so many variations that it might be possible to take photographs of the reverses and arrange them in a flip book to animate the fight.
GI83015. Silver diobol, HN Italy 911, gVF, weight 1.170 g, maximum diameter 12.1 mm, die axis 225o, Taras (Taranto, Italy) mint, c. 380 - 325 B.C.; obverse head of Athena right in crested helmet decorated with Skylla; reverse Herakles naked kneeling right, strangling the Nemean Lion; SOLD


Taras, Calabria, Italy, c. 281 - 272 B.C.

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GS16351. Silver drachm, Vlasto 1077 ff, EF, weight 3.194 g, maximum diameter 16.0 mm, die axis 45o, Taras (Taranto, Italy) mint, obverse head of Athena left, wearing crested helmet decorated with skylla hurling stone; reverse TAPANTINΩN, owl standing half-right on thunderbolt, wings spread; toned; SOLD


Taras, Calabria, Italy, c. 380 - 325 B.C.

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This type was struck with dozens of different pose variations on the reverse. In some scenes, it even appears Herakles might lose. There are so many variations that it might be possible to take photographs of the reverses and arrange them in a flip book to animate the fight.
GI82998. Silver diobol, Vlasto 1315, HN Italy 911, VF, weight 1.109 g, maximum diameter 12.5 mm, die axis 180o, Taras (Taranto, Italy) mint, c. 380 - 325 B.C.; obverse head of Athena right in crested helmet decorated with Skylla; reverse Herakles naked kneeling right, strangling the Nemean Lion, A above the lion; fine style, edge chip; SOLD




  




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Skylla