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Ancient Greek Coins of Sicily

The coins of Ancient Greek Sicily are considered among the finest numismatic works of art ever produced. Superb examples may cost tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. Forum's selections include some more affordable examples.


Syracuse, Sicily, Agathokles, 317 - 289 B.C.

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With an army of mercenaries, through deceit, and after banishing or murdering some 10,000 citizens, Agathocles made himself master of Syracuse and later most of Sicily. Machiavelli wrote of him, "It cannot be called prowess to kill fellow-citizens, to betray friends, to be treacherous, pitiless, and irreligious" and cited him as an example of "those who by their crimes come to be princes." According to the historian Justin, very early in life Agathocles parlayed his remarkable beauty into a career as a prostitute, first for men, and later, after puberty, for women, and then made a living by robbery before becoming a soldier and marrying a rich widow.
GI20798. Bronze litra, Calciati II p. 277, 142; SNG ANS 708 ff.; SNG Cop 779; BMC Sicily p. 199; 422 ff.; SGCV I 1200; HGC 2 1537 (S), gVF, well centered and struck, tight flan cutting off part of reverse inscription, light encrustations, small pit on reverse, weight 8.689 g, maximum diameter 22.0 mm, die axis 135o, Syracuse mint, 304 - 289 B.C.; obverse ΣΩTEIPA, head of Artemis Soteira right, wearing necklace and pendant earring, hair bound with a ribbon, quiver over shoulder; reverse winged fulmen (thunderbolt), AΓAΘOKΛEOΣ (Agathokles) above, BAΣIΛEΩΣ (king) below; ex Forum 2017, ex Mediterranean Coins; $200.00 (€176.00)


Menaion, Sicily, c. 204 - 190 B.C.

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In the West foothills of the Hyblaei Mountains of Sicily, an indigenous settlement on a high peak under the name of Menai, flourished until 453 B.C. when its inhabitants were moved to nearby Paliké near the well-known sanctuary of the Palici. No traces of life survive from between the second half of the 5th c. B.C. and the end of the 4th c. B.C. The city, under the name of Menainon, began once more to flourish in the Hellenistic period, as attested by its rich necropolis. After the Roman conquest the city minted its own coinage. Its existence during the Roman period is attested by Cicero (Verr. 3.22.55; 3.43.102) and Pliny (HN 3.91). The site continued to be inhabited until the Arab Conquest and again during the following centuries.
GI92062. Bronze trias, Calciati III p. 186, 7; SNG Cop 384; SNG München 617; BMC Sicily p. 97, 5; HGC 2 760 (R1); SNG ANS 290 var. (∆ vice IIII), VF, well centered, porous, weight 3.841 g, maximum diameter 17.1 mm, die axis 0o, Menaion (Mineo, Sicily, Italy) mint, Roman Rule, c. 204 - 190 B.C.; obverse veiled bust of Demeter right; reverse MENAINΩN, crossed torches, IIII (mark of value) below; ex Muenzen Ritter (Germany); scarce; $80.00 (€70.40)


Syracuse, Sicily, Second Democracy, 466 - 405 B.C.

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Calciati notes that coins of this issue included dies signed by the masters Kimon, Phrygillos, Eukleidas, and possibly Eumenes. Other examples, many of which were struck with fine style dies, are unsigned. Some examples with a dolphin behind Arethusa are signed by Phrygillos. Other coins of this type that are not signed, but with his style and the same dolphin are also believed to be his work.
GI93076. Bronze hemilitron, Calciati II p. 48, 20; SNG ANS 411; BMC Sicily p. 182, 243; SNG Cop 696 (obv. symbol off flan); SGCV I 1186; HGC 2 1479 (S), VF, rough, weight 2.735 g, maximum diameter 14.2 mm, die axis 180o, Syracuse mint, c. 415 - 405 B.C.; obverse head of nymph Arethusa left, hair in ampyx and sphendone, dolphin downward with head turned back up (control symbol) behind; reverse four-spoked wheel, ΣY-PA divided by spoke across upper two quarters, dolphin head down and inward in each of the lower quarters; ex Triskeles auction 28 (21 Jun 2019), lot 8; $40.00 (€35.20)


Syracuse, Sicily, Timoleon, 344 - 336 B.C.

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Threatened by Carthage and dominated by Hiketas, the tyrant of Leontini, Syracusans sent an appeal for help to their mother city, Corinth. By a unanimous vote Corinth selected Timoleon to set sail for Sicily with a few leading citizens of Corinth and a small troop of Greek mercenaries. After defeating Hiketas, Timoleon put order to Syracuse' affairs and established a democratic government. He repelled Carthage in several wars, ending with a treaty which divided the island. Timoleon then retired without any title or office, though he remained practically supreme. He became blind before his death, but when important issues were under discussion he was carried to the assembly to give his opinion, which was usually accepted. When he died the citizens of Syracuse erected a monument to his memory, afterward surrounded with porticoes, and a gymnasium called Timoleonteum.
GI92014. Bronze hemidrachm, Calciati II p. 167, 72; SNG ANS 477; SNG Cop 727; SNG München 1151; BMC Sicily p. 189, 313; Laffaille 220; HGC 2 1440 (S), VF, dark green patina, thick flan with rounded edge and pre-strike casting sprues (as expected for the type), weight 15.676 g, maximum diameter 24.5 mm, die axis 0o, Syracuse mint, c. 342 - 338 B.C.; obverse ZEYΣ EΛEYΘEPIOΣ (clockwise starting upper right), laureate head of Zeus Eleutherios right; reverse ΣYPAKOΣIΩN (clockwise starting upper right), vertical thunderbolt, eagle on right standing right with wings closed; ex Frascatius Ancient Coins; $150.00 (€132.00)


Akragas, Sicily, 338 - 317 B.C.

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We received this coin in 2005. Worried that the light green spots were active bronze disease, we set the coin aside with intentions to examine it more closely and probably treat it. It was misplaced and never treated. Upon its "rediscovery" and a close examination, it is clear, the light green spots are not bronze disease. The coin has not changed in the slightest over the last 14 years.
GI91782. Bronze AE 16, Calciati I p. 206, 116 R1 2 (different dies); SNG ANS 1113; HGC 2 164; SNG Cop 95 var.; SNG München -, VF, beautiful style - finest style for the type, dark patina with lighter encrustations, tight flan, weight 4.200 g, maximum diameter 16.0 mm, die axis 270o, Akragas (Agrigento, Sicily, Italy) mint, 338 - 317 B.C.; obverse AKPAΓA, laureate head of Zeus left; reverse eagle left, wings open, hare in talons with head down and left, ∆ below wings; $180.00 (€158.40)


Naxos, Sicily, c. 461 - 430 B.C.

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Naxos was an ancient Greek city of Sicily on the east coast of the island between Catana (modern Catania) and Messana (modern Messina). It was at the mouth of the river Acesines (modern Alcantara) and at the foot of the hill on which was afterwards built the city of Tauromenium (modern Taormina). In 403 B.C., Dionysius of Syracuse, having made himself master of Naxos by the treachery of their general Procles, sold all the inhabitants as slaves and destroyed the walls and buildings of the city. The site of Naxos was never again inhabited in antiquity; but in 358 B.C., the Naxian exiles from all parts of the island joined together and founded Tauromenium on top of the nearby hill.
GI91051. Silver litra, Cahn 74.8 (V54/R62); Rizzo pl. XXVIII, 15; SNG ANS 521; SNG Mün 758; SNG Cop 491; BMC Italy 17; de Luynes 1067, HGC 2 970 (R2) (all same dies), VF, well centered, light marks, etched surfaces, weight 0.653 g, maximum diameter 11.6 mm, die axis 0o, Naxos mint, c. 461 - 430 B.C.; obverse NAXI (clockwise on right), head of Dionysos right, wearing ivy wreath; reverse bunch of grapes on vine with leaves and tendrils around; ex Roma Numismatics e-sale 39 (27 Aug 2017), lot 68; ex Mark Christenson Collection; rare; $360.00 (€316.80)


Akragas, Sicily, c. 425 - 406 B.C.

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Akragas was founded early in the 6th century by colonists from Gela. It was second only to Syracuse in importance on Sicily but was sacked by the Carthaginians in 406 B.C. It was renamed Agrigentum after it fell to Rome in 210 B.C.
GI89172. Bronze tetras, Calciati I p. 181 ff., 55; SNG Cop 77; SNG ANS 1045; SNG München 133; SNG Morcom 523; HGC 2 140, aF, weight 8.356 g, maximum diameter 21.3 mm, die axis 180o, Akragas (Agrigento, Sicily, Italy) mint, c. 425 - 406 B.C.; obverse AKPA, eagle standing right, wings open, head down, hare in its talons; reverse crab seen from above, three pellets over crayfish left below; ex CNG; $40.00 (€35.20)


Panormus, Sicily, 2nd - 1st Century B.C.

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Pyrrhus occupied Panormos in 276 B.C., taking it away from Carthage. After Pyrrhus departed Sicily, the Romans occupied Panormos in 254 or 253 B.C. Hasdrubal in 251 and Hamilcar in 247 - 245 B.C. attempted to retake the town but failed. Panormos prospered under Rome, assuming great importance in trade due to its location at the center of the Mediterranean Sea.
GB89333. Bronze AE 13, Calciati p. 363, 195; Winterthur 1062, HGC 2 -, SNG Cop -, SNG ANS -, SNG Morcom -, BMC Sicily -, aVF, flan crack, rough, weight 1.439 g, maximum diameter 14.0 mm, die axis 0o, Panormos (Palermo) mint, Roman rule, 2nd - 1st century B.C.; obverse bust of Demeter right, veiled and wreathed in grain; reverse two heads of grain, crescent above center, flanked by a pellet on each side; very rare; $55.00 (€48.40)


Agyrion, Sicily, 355 - 344 B.C.

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Agyrion (modern Agira) was a Sikel city ruled by tyrants, one of whom, Agyris, was the most powerful ruler in the center of Sicily. In 392 B.C., he and Dionysius the Elder, together successfully resisted the Carthaginians under Magno. Agira was not colonized by the Greeks until the Corinthian general Timoleon drove out the last Sikel tyrant in 339 B.C. and settled 10,000 Greeks.

According to Caltabiano, Palagkaios was probably the Sikel name for the larger of the two local rivers (Salso Cimarosa today). Molinari and Sisci propose a Semitic origin, from the Akkadian palag-āsú, 'the gushing river.'
GB91174. Bronze tetras, Calciati III p. 125, 10; Potamikon 14; SNG ANS -; SNG Cop -; SNG Morcom -, VF, dark green patina, undersize flan, weight 2.685 g, maximum diameter 13.4 mm, die axis 270o, Agyrion (Agira, Sicily, Italy) mint, 355 - 344 B.C.; obverse AΓYPINAI counterclockwise before, young Herakles' head left, clad in Nemean lion scalp headdress; reverse forepart of a man-faced bull (river-god Acheloios Palagkaios) left, ΠAΛAΓKAIOΣ horizontal above, dot border; rare; $190.00 (€167.20)


Leontini, Sicily, c. 476 - 466 B.C., Unofficial Imitative

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The low weight, crude style, and retrograde ethnic indicate this was not an official issue of the city but, more likely, an imitative. Hoover identifies it as an imitative in the Handbook of Coins of Sicily (HGC 2).
GS91173. Silver litra, cf. HGC 2 688 (R2) (same); BMC Sicily p. 88; 22 (same retrograde legend, 0.635g); Boehringer Leontini pl. 10, B (similarly crude), VF, well centered, crude style, half the usual weight, weight 0.289 g, maximum diameter 9.7 mm, die axis 330o, unofficial Sicilian mint, c. 476 - 466 B.C.; obverse crude facing lion scalp, linear border; reverse ΛE-ON (retrograde, counterclockwise from upper right), barley kernel, linear border; ex Beast Coins, ex Imperial Coins & Artifacts; very rare; $100.00 (€88.00)










REFERENCES|

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Catalog current as of Friday, November 22, 2019.
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Sicily