Magna Graecia is the name the Romans gave to the ancient Greek seaport colonies in Sicily and southern Italy existing between the 8th to the 4th century B.C. These colonies ended after the Pyrrhic War in 275 B.C. The Greek diaspora brought trade, wealth, politics, literature, and art to the Italian and Sicilian colonies.
This historical set reviews the Classical art style found in the ancient Greek coinage of southern Italy and Sicily.
1. Akragas Silver Decadrachm Olympic Victory, 413 B.C. to 406 B.C.
Agrigentum was an important wealthy Sicilian city of the 5th century B.C. In 406 B.C. the city was sacked by the Carthaginians. This coin is considered a marvel of artistry and detail in the Classical style. The obverse shows two eagles standing left over a dead hare lying on a rock. The reverse shows Helios in a chariot drawn left by four prancing horses. An eagle flies left above the horses. (Sear 749)
2. Naxos Silver Tetradrachm, 461 B.C. to 430 B.C. In 461 B.C.
Naxos regained its independence from Greek tyrants. This early classical coin shows the Archaic style giving way to the more relaxed Classical style. The obverse of this coin shows the head of the city¹s deity, Dionysios, facing right wreathed in ivy, a long beard, and hair bunched behind. The reverse shows Silenos squatting, body inclined, holding a kantharos raised in right hand. (Sear 872)
3. Syracuse Silver Tetradrachm by the Engraver Kimon, 413 B.C. to 405 B.C.
The 5th century engraver Kimon is recognized as one of the greatest artists in the Classical style of Greek art. The coin obverse features the three-quarter face of the water nymph of Arethusa. The beautiful Arethusa, the soulful gaze, and delicate hair present the finest of the Classical Greek art. The coin reverse shows a charioteer facing left struggling with the reigns to control four unruly horses giving a feeling of power and motion. Above the racing figures, Nike flies to crown the victorius racing team. (Sear 944)
4. Syracuse Silver Decadrachm by the Engraver Euainetos, 413 B.C. To 406 B.C.
Euainetos, like his contemporary, Kimon, were engravers at the Syracuse mint. However Euainetos was more prolific. His compositions are characterized by simplicity, realism, and a fine sense of proportion.
Euainetos was at the forefront of the high Classical style with its tension between idealism and realism. All figures are bold and deeply cut into the dies. (Berk,100 Greatest Ancient Coins). The coin obverse shows the head of Arethusa facing left with hair bound with wreath of corn leaves. Four dolphins around her head. The coin reverse shows a racing quadriga with Nike flying right to crown the driver. At the bottom is a shield, crested helmet, a curiass between two greaves. ( Sear 953)
5. Syracuse Silver Tetradrachm of King Agathokles, 317 B.C. to 298 B.C.
This late Classical style shows the further development of realism in faces and figures. The obverse of the coin shows the head of Persephone facing right wearing a wreath of corn. The reverse shows Nike naked to the waist erecting a trophy with a hammer held in her right hand and a triskeles in the right field. (Sear 972)
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