Calabria, Tarentum. Stater circa 302-300, AV 8.61 g. TAΡAΣ Veiled head of Hera r., wearing earring and necklace; in r. field, dolphin swimming downwards and below neck truncation, KON. Rev. ΔIOΣKOΡOI Dioscuri riding l. side by side, the first crowning his horse; while the second holds a palm lemniscata from which hangs a wreath. In exergue, ΣA. Vlasto 21 (these dies). Locker Lampson 14 (these dies). Weber 548 (these dies). SNG Lloyd 182 (this coin). Gulbenkian 37 (these dies). AMB 95 (these dies). Fischer-Bossert G 15. Historia Numorum Italy 952.
Estimate: 20'000 CHF
Starting price: 16'000 CHF
Price realized: 26'000 CHF
Very rare and in superb condition for the issue. Of superb style and perfectly
centred on a full flan. About extremely fine / extremely fine
From a Swiss private collection.
In 314 BC, the Sicilian city of Akragas requested Spartan assistance to oppose the growing power of Agathokles, the tyrant of Syracuse. The Spartans responded to this request by dispatching Akrotatos, the son of the Spartan king Kleomenes, at the head of a mercenary army. Akrotatos and his mercenaries sailed from the Peloponnesos to Tarentum in preparation for the planned war against Agathokles and Syracuse, where they convinced the Tarentines to join the campaign with a contribution of twenty ships and an unspecified number of men.
This gold stater was probably struck as part of the Tarentine financial support for the projected Sicilian campaign. The goddess depicted on the obverse has been variously identified as Hera, Amphitrite, or Persephone, but of these three Persephone seems the most likely candidate. The stephane and diaphanous veil seem more appropriate to this underworld goddess, although the dolphins may suggest Amphitrite. Still, also supporting the Persephone identification is the fact that she had an important cult in Tarentum. The worship of Hera and Amphitrite, on the other hand is not so well attested.
The reverse type features the Dioskouroi, Kastor and Polydeukes, the twin sons of Zeus and Leda. According to Greek myth, the Spartan queen Leda was seduced by Zeus in the form of a beautiful swan. The Dioskouroi who resulted from this union were not born in the usual human way, but rather hatched from an egg along with their twin sisters Helen and Klytemnestra. They went on to experience many adventures, including the hunt for the Kalydonian Boar and the expedition of the Argonauts to bring back the Golden Fleece. Since the Dioskouroi were patrons of Sparta, the mother city of Tarentum, one might be tempted to associate the type with the city’s origin. However, the fact that Tarentine coinage tended to focus on depictions of Tarentine cavalrymen and Phalanthos/Taras, the mythical founder of the city, they types of this coin suggest that the Dioskouroi appear here in specific reference to the presence of the Spartan mercenary army at Tarentum in 314 BC.
Unfortunately, as it turned out, the Tarentines had erred in placing their faith in Akrotatos. When he arrived at Akragas, he reportedly behaved in such a cruel and tyrannical manner that the Akragantines expelled him from their city as an enemy. The Tarentines then abandoned the Sicilian war and returned home with their ships.