(17) Syracuse, Sicily (Italy) - AR tetradrachm, c. 410 B.C., 16.97
g. (inv. 93.007).
Obverse: Facing head of Arethusa, wearing earrings, necklace, and headband, surrounded by dolphins; above, : Arethusa.
Reverse: Racing quadriga l. with Nike above; stalk of barley in exergue; : of the Syracusans.
Provenance: Ex Benson collection; Harlan Berk, 1991.
Bibliography: L.O.Th. Tudeer, Die Tetradrachmenprägung von Syrakus in der Periode der
signierenden Künstler (Berlin 1913); C.M. Kraay, Archaic and Classical Greek Coins (Berkeley and Los Angeles 1976) 222-223.
This coin, attributed to the artist Kimon, was one of the most influential coins of the ancient world because of its new facing composition on the obverse; similar facing female heads can be seen on coins from all over the Mediterranean (see nos. 25, 28, 29, 34, 36, 38). The head depicts the Syracusan nymph Arethusa. Great detail is given to the eyes, which are large and clearly defined. Her hair, in earlier coins pulled back, flows freely around her. The dolphins pass through her hair, as though swimming in waves. The headband in many examples bears the name of the artist.
On the reverse, the typical sedately moving Syracusan quadriga has been transformed and now gallops in the midst of its race. The item just below the hooves of the horses probably represents a racing post that has been knocked down during the race. The charioteer turns his head back for a glance at the competition. These elements add a realistic touch to the traditional depiction. In the exergue, the ear of barley refers to the agricultural prosperity of the island. The prevailing view of the chronology of late fifth century Syracusan coins puts the coins with this feature in the last decade of the century.
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