Still another way of referring to the polis was the use of puns or plays on the name of the city itself. The lion on the coins of Leontinoi was an attribute of its patron deity, Apollo, but lion in Greek, leon, was also a play on the city's name (nos. 12, 13). The swan was also associated with Apollo, but on the reverse of the coins of Klazomenai it was thought to refer to the verb klazo, which describes the call of the wild swans that congregated about the city (no. 34). The rose or rodos on the coins of Rhodes was a pun on its name (no. 36), as apparently was the slinger on the coins of Aspendos (no. 37); sphendone is the Greek word for sling.

The earliest Greek coins had no identifying inscriptions or "legends," and relied upon the types alone for identification. But by the late sixth century, as the number of poleis issuing coins grew and as the coins circulated ever further from their home territories, it became even more important to establish which coins came from which polis, and it became common practice to supply an abbreviation of the city's name (nos. 3, 4, 30, 33). Later the name was often written in full. The usual form of the name is the genitive plural, for example, "of the Syracusans," which in contrast to the legends of Hellenistic and Roman coins that were issued in the name of kings or emperors, underscores the communal character of the polis.

Coinage on the Greek model was adopted by many non-Greek peoples with whom the Greeks came in contact, either to facilitate their trade with Greek cities or to pay Greek mercenaries in their armies. In many instances they followed the example of the Greek polis in depicting their patron deities and referring to their foundation legends or their names. Perhaps the most interesting examples of this type of Greek influence can be seen in the coins of Carthage, a Phoenician settlement in North Africa that was often at war with the Greek cities of Sicily in the fifth and fourth centuries B.C. While the Carthaginians occupied the western part of Sicily in the fourth century, they issued coins in the name of "the people of the camp," to be used for paying their troops. The obverse of many of them copied the head of Arethusa by the die-engraver Euainetos on the early fourth-century dekadrachms of Syracuse (nos. 19, 20), possibly in the hope that the coin with its familiar image would circulate freely among the Greeks in Sicily, but on the reverse they employed two Greek conventions to refer to themselves. The first is a horse's head, apparently a reference to the foundation legend of Carthage, in which the future site of the city was determined by the discovery of a buried horse's head (Virgil, Aeneid 1.441-444). The second is a punning device designed to make the issuer of the coin recognizable to Greeks; the palm tree behind the horse's head is phoinix in Greek, also the Greek name for a Phoenician. Similar coins were issued in Carthage itself, but these were adapted for purely Carthaginian users (nos. 21, 22). The female head on the obverse is still clearly modelled on Euianetos' Arethusa, but in this context she is probably either Tanit, the main deity of Carthage, or Demeter or Persephone, the Greek agricultural deities whose cult had been established in Carthage in the early fourth century to atone for the Carthaginian destruction of their temples in Sicily. The horse on the reverse probably still refers to the foundation legend, but in Carthage itself there was no need for the Greek punning palm tree.


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