Kroton, Bruttium, Italy

Historia Numorum

Croton (Cotrona) was founded in B.C. 710 by a colony of Achaeans from the mother country, led by Myskellos. The town stood near the mouth of the little river Aesaros, and a few miles north-west of the promontory on which stood the magnificent temple of the Lakinian Hera.



The coinage here, as elsewhere in Magna Graecia, began about the middle of the sixth century. In fabric and weight it resembles the first issues of the other Achaean colonies, and furnishes striking evidence of the close relations which at that period existed among them. The territory of Croton, like that of Sybaris, extended across the peninsula from sea to sea, and we note that some of its early incuse coins are struck in the joint names of Croton and some neighbouring town, e. g. VM (Sybaris), ΤΕ (Temesa?) and ΠΑΝΔΟ (Pandosia).

SILVER STATERS. Circ. B.C. 550-480.

FIG. 52.


Tripod (Fig. 52).
Symbols. crane, crab, cuttlefish, dolphin, lyre, pistrix, &c.
Tripod, incuse.
Tripod.Flying eagle, incuse
[B. M. Guide, Pl. VIII. 20].
  „  Bull with head reverted, incuse, sometimes with VΜ (= Sybaris)
[l. c. Pl. VIII. 21].
  „  Bull with head reverted, in oblong incuse with ΡΑΝΔΟ( = Pandosia)
[Babelon, Traité, Pl. LXX. 12, 13].
  „  Helmet incuse (= Temesa ?) [Babelon, Traité, p. 1454].

Some of these incuse coins, probably after they had passed out of circulation, were utilized as votive offerings, and bear subsequent graffiti, e.g. ├ΙΑΡΟNΤΟ ΑΠΟ and ΝIΚΑ (Babelon, Traité, p. 1451)

SILVER STATERS, ETC. Circ. B.C. 480-420.

Inscr. QΡΟ, &c. Both sides in relief.

Symbols. crane, kantharos, caduceus, thymiaterion.

Alliance Coins.

QΡΟ Tripod.Helmet. Croton and Temesa.
ΤΕ Tripod.QΡ Helmet.  „  
QΡΟ Tripod.DΑ Tripod. Croton and Zancle ?
QΡΟ Tripod.ΚΑVΛ Tripod. Croton and Caulonia.


Several other initial letters, supposed to stand for allied towns which have not been identified as such, are met with on Crotoniate coins of this period (cf. Babelon, Traité, p. 1458).

Circ. B.C. 420-390 0r later.

FIG. 53.

(1) Eagle with closed wings, on capital of column, or on stag’s or ram's head, &c.Tripod; fillet sometimes attached to handle (Fig. 53).
Symbols. corn-grain, olive-branch, ivy-leaf.
Letters. Ε, ΜΕ, &c.
(2) Eagle with spread wings, on laurelbranch or devouring serpent.Tripod, sometimes filleted. Symbols. ear or corn, olive-branch, laurel-leaf.
Letters. ΒΟΙ.

The obverse types of these staters may be compared with similar types on probably contemporary coins of Elis. The coins of both cities may have been issued for agonistic festivals in honour of Zeus.

Fifth century B.C.

QΡΟ or QΡΟ Tripod.Sepia Diobol.
  „    „  Pegasos.  „  
  „    „  Half Pegasos.  „  (?)
  „    „  Kantharos.  „  
  „    „  Hare. Obol.
  „    „    „  

It was towards the close of the fifth century, when Thurium was rising in importance in Southern Italy, that the Ionic Ω came into general use in the west. About this time also we note that the old letter Q is replaced by Κ on the coins of Croton.

Human figure types, of fully developed style, are in this period frequently met with. Some of these designs are of extreme beauty, and are perhaps due to the influence of the works of Zeuxis, who was painting at Croton about the end of the fifth century


FIG. 54.

Herakles, the oekist of Croton, naked, seated on rocks before a blazing altar. He holds a filleted branch and rests on his club. Above, in archaic script, ΟIΚIΜΤΑΜ (= ΟΙΚΙΣΤΑΣ).Tripod filleted, on one side of which is Apollo aiming an arrow at the Python which is curled in a menacing attitude on the other side (Fig. 54).
AR Stater.

The forms of the letters on the obverse of this stater are designedly archaic, as it is certainly much later in style than circ. B.C. 443, the time when the more recent forms Ι and Σ were introduced; cf. the coins of the later Sybaris, p. 85.

FIG. 55.

Head of Hera Lakinia, facing or in profile, wearing lofty stephanos. Letters. Δ, Β.Herakles naked, reclining on rocks, holding wine-cup.
Letters. ΜΕ, ΜΔ. (Fig. 55.)
AR Staters.
[Imhoof, Mon. gr., Pl. A. 4.]

Eagle with wings spread, standing on olive-branch or hare.
Letters. ΑΙ.
Symbols. Crane, Ear of corn and serpent, Nike, &c.
Letters. Β, Δ, &c.
AR Staters.

Circ. B.C. 390.

About B.C. 390 the Greek cities of Southern Italy were threatened on the one hand by the Lucanians and on the other by Dionysius of Syracuse.

The league which they then formed for mutual defence against these two formidable enemies is alluded to in the type of the Crotoniate coinage of this time, a type which is the same as that of the contemporary money of Thebes and of the alliance coins of Ephesus, Samos, Cnidus, Byzantium, Iasus, and Rhodes. The idea of the infant Herakles strangling two serpents is symbolical of the victory of Light over Darkness, of Good over Evil, and of free and united Hellas over barbarism and tyranny. The wide popularity of this treatment of a familiar subject just at this particular time is further illustrated by the famous painting of Zeuxis, mentioned by Pliny (Hist. Nat. xxxv. 9, s. 36, § 2) as ‘Hercules infans dracones strangulans, Alcmena matre coram pavente et Amphitryone’. (See Holm, Griech. Gesch., III. p. 56 f.)

ΚΡΟΤΩΝΙΑΤΑΣ Head of Apollo, laur., with flowing hair.Infant Herakles strangling two serpents.
AR Staters and Diobols.
[Gardner, Types Gr. C., Pl. V. 16, 10.]


The great defeat of the Confederates by Dionysius, in B.C. 388, at the river Helleporos, resulted in the ruin of most of the Greek cities of Bruttium, with the exception of Locri his only ally.

As for Croton, our information concerning its fate is scanty. Livy (xxiv. 3) says that Dionysius captured the citadel, and he is also said to have held the city for the space of twelve years (Dionys. Exc. xix). The latter statement is apparently confirmed by numismatic evidence, for there is a well-marked interval in style between the head of Apollo on the coins above described and the head of the same god on the pieces of the following series. It is therefore very probable that no coins were struck at Croton either during, or for some years after, its occupation by the foreign garrison.

Circ. B.C. 370-330.

Head of Apollo, laur., with flowing hair.ΚΡΟ Tripod. In field, filleted branch
[B. M. Guide, Pl. XXXIV. 25].
AR Stater, 119 grs.
Young head with short hair bound with taenia (river Aesaros).  „  Owl on corn-ear.
AR Third, 44 grs.
Young head of river Aesaros.  „  Pegasos.
AR 33 grs.
Head of Apollo, laur., hair short.  „  Tripod.
AR 24 grs.

These coins closely resemble in style the electrum money of Syracuse, issued probably in the time of Dion, B.C. 357-353.

From this time the city of Croton, involved in continual warfare with the Bruttians, became greatly impoverished, until in B.C. 299 it was captured and pillaged by Agathocles of Syracuse. In B.C. 277 it fell finally into the hands of the Romans.

Circ. B.C. 330-299.

ΚΡΟΤΩΝΙΑΤΑΝ Eagle on olivebranch, with spread wings.Tripod with conical cover.
Symbols. Ear of corn and Python.
Letters and monograms. Various.
AR Staters, c. 118 grs.

The smaller silver coins, which belong chiefly to the fourth century, are of the following types :—

ΚΡΟΤΩΝΙΑΤΑΝ Head of Athena.ΟΙΚΙΣΤΑΣ Herakles leaning on his club.
AR Diobol, 18 grs.
ΚΡΟΤΩ  „    „  ΟΙΚΙΣΤΑΣ Herakles strangling lion.
AR Diobol, 17 grs.

It will be remarked that the staters of Croton, from first to last, are of full weight, averaging 120-118 grs. Of course we often meet with specimens both heavier and lighter (Regling, Klio, vi. 3, p. 509), but the evidence all tends to prove that no legal reduction took place at Croton, as it certainly did at Tarentum, Heraclea, Thurium, &c., circ. B.C. 281. The inference is that no staters were struck at Croton after B.C. 299.

Before circ. B.C. 400.

QΡΟ Tripod. Hare.
Æ Size 1.1
  „    „  Sepia.
Æ Size .85
Head of Athena.QΡΟ Cock.
Æ Size 1.1

Fourth century B.C.

Inscr. ΚΡΟ, &c., and ΚΡΟΤΩΝΙΑΤΑΝ

ΚΡΟ Head of Herakles.Tripod. ΤΡΙ (Trias ?)
Æ 1.1
  „  Club.Bow. ΤΡΙ (Trias ?)
Æ .9
  „  Head of Athena.Eagle on stag’s head. ΤΡΙ (Trias?)
Æ 1.1
Eagle.ΚΡΟ Tripod and crane.
Æ .6
Eagle on ram’s head.Fulmen between crescents.
Æ .75
ΑΙΣΑΡΟΣ Head of river-god Aesaros, hair long.Fulmen and star.
Æ .65
ΛΥΚΩΝ Head of young Herakles (Lykon) in lion-skin.ΚΡΟΤΩΝΙΑΤΑΝ Eagle carrying serpent.
Æ .75
Id.ΚΡΟ Crab.
Æ .8
Head of Persephone.ΚΡΟ Three crescents.
Æ .85-.65

The types of the coins of Croton, from the earliest down to the latest, have been interpreted by de Luynes and Lenormant as having been inspired by the religious ideas of the Pythagoreans. [1] First and foremost in importance, according to this theory, comes the Tripod, the emblem of the Pythian Apollo, whose cultus lay at the root of the doctrines and speculations of the school of Pythagoras. With the Pythagoreans the Tripod represented the sacred number three, to which they attached a mystic significance. Next, the Eagle, the symbol of Zeus, the supreme god, occupies a place second only in importance to the tripod of Apollo. In connexion with this type we are reminded that an eagle was the familiar bird of Pythagoras, believed by his followers to have been sent down to him by Zeus himself in evidence of his divine mission. Among the adjunct symbols, which here, as at Metapontum, may possibly have a religious meaning, by far the commonest is the Crane (γερανος), the bird of passage, the witness from the regions of the air of all that happens on earth, and so the symbol of the all-seeing eye of the God of Light. [2]

But a simpler, and, as I think, a more probable explanation, of the Tripod and the Eagle as Crotoniate types is that they were originally agonistic, and, in a sense, commemorative of the many victories in the Olympic games won by citizens of Croton in the sixth and fifth centuries B.C. If so, the Tripod would represent the prize carried off by a Crotonian athlete, and the Eagle, as on the coins of Elis, would be generally understood as referring to the Olympic games; or to local games held at Croton itself. There is much to be said in favour of the theory that most of the early Greek coins (especially the larger denominations) were issued only on the occasions of recurrent festivals, and not continuously for ordinary trade requirements.

1 La Grande Grèce, ii. p. 99.          2 Lenormant, l. c.


Among the purely local types we note the head of the river-god Aesaros, and especially Herakles as the legendary οικιστης of the colony, and Herakles here surnamed Lykon (Apollod. iii. 10, § 5).

But of all the Crotoniate coin-types that which obtained the widest popularity in Italy, as the coins of many other towns with the same type amply testify, was the beautiful full-face representation of the Lakinian Hera with flowing hair and stephanos adorned with flowers and the foreparts of griffins.

The temple of this great goddess was by far the most renowned sanctuary in all Italy. To this shrine at stated times vast crowds would flock from all parts of the west, and for these festivals coins would be specially required. The goddess here worshipped was originally perhaps an earth-goddess of native Oenotrian origin, afterwards identified by the Greeks with Hera. One of her surnames, according to Lycophron (l. 858), was Οπλοσμια. She was probably therefore an armed goddess, closely allied to if not identical with the Hera Argoia, Argeia, or perhaps Areia (Strabo, vi. 252), whose temple stood near Poseidonia, on the banks of the river Silaros, and whose head is represented on certain coins of Poseidonia, Hyria, &c., precisely in the same manner as that of the Lakinian Hera on the coins of Croton, Pandosia, etc.