Liquid hot Magna Graecia: The Pythagorean theory/ Broken up about an archaic beauty

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Ryro, May 17, 2021.

  1. Ryro

    Ryro The last of the Diadochi Supporter

    The cities of Southern Italy were doing so well by the sixth century BCE, that they needed a name to let all the lesser Greeks know where they stood in the pecking order. Something that said, "Where more prosperous. We're better. We are just greater than you." Something like, Magna Graecia (greater Greece), only more imaginative... when nothing else came to mind they stuck with that.
    These were massively wealthy heavy hitters like Tarentum, Metapontum, Sybaris, Kroton, Kaulonia, Rhegion, Poseidonia and right around the "toe" of the Italian boot was a city named, wait for it, Zankle (you can't make this up. What's the name of an ancient city at the toe of Italy? In my best German accent, "Zee ankle!" And the ankle was named "Toe-rentum"!!!

    For what they lacked in imagination they more than made up with some of the most beautiful coinage, not just of the archaic period but, of all time.
    I like to think my new, David R Sear certified:cigar:, coin certainly belongs in this category:bookworm:, despite an unfortunate (but VERY fortunate for me:happy:) break:
    Bruttium, Kaulonia. Circa 525-500 BC. AR Nomos (31 mm, 6.63 g).
    Obv. Apollo advancing right, holding branch aloft in right hand, left arm extended, upon which a small daimon, holding branch in each hand, runs right; KAVΛ to left; to right, stag standing right, head reverted.
    Rev. Incuse of obverse, but daimon in outline and no ethnic.
    Noe, Caulonia Group A, 1 (same dies).
    Rare. Cracked in three parts, otherwise, very fine/fine
    Purchased from Auctiones gmbh March 2021

    The Kaulonia Stater clearly is from the same dies as Noe, Caulonia, Group A, 1:
    It has quite a lot of horn silver and is very much crystallized. David R Sear believes someone may have been attempting to clean up the horn silver on the reverse when the break occurred. Both phenomena (horn silver/crystallization) are often seen on these early nomoi from Kaulonia as well as on the parallel coinage of Metapontum Kroton (for example: or Without my coins issues, this is coin type that usually sells for CHF 5000 and more. A smaller drachm currently up for auction is at $9,000... with over a week left until auction!
    Funny enough, reading a wonderful recommend from our own @dougsmit, Collecting Greek Coins, I found their example was from the same dies as mine, Noe, Caulonia, Group A, 1:pompous::


    Due to the immense value (despite having paid so little, thanks to the break;)) I decided to send it along with a handful of ancients treasures to the foremost in ancient coin authentication, bar none, David R Sear. Talk about an amazing experience. I plan on doing a full write up on the experience, as it was such a delight, when time permits.
    Here's what Mr Sear had to say:

    Magna Graecia also showed some unique innovations that we would never see on coins again. Most notably, an obverse with raised designs and a reverse with a sunken in design. But don't be fooled. They weren't incuse in the more traditional sense. Though, they looked similar, upon closer examination you'll find subtle differences. Meaning they had to take the time to ensure the dies were perfectly aligned as they struck! Made all the more difficult by the thin flans they used!! Technically, they were of the highest standards and may have been made using the "lost wax" method. Though, this may be a simplification of a very intensive process:
    (Actual footage of ancient Magna Graecian during the process)

    So, what's the story with the dynamic and innovative coinage of this magical place. To answer that we need to take a look back at what was going on around this time.
    A guy named Pythagoras (yes, the same philosopher and mathematician that made high school a little more unbearable. Though, "his" theorem was being used in Asia nearly a thousand years previous. Never let the truth ruin a good story),
    pythagoras_knapp.jpg (he certainly looks smarter than you)

    moved from his home on Samos in about 535 BCE to Kroton. So big was he at the time, the citizens identified him with Apollo, their local diety. Now, Pythagoras father was a gem engraver, which we know would often also cut dies for coinage, and used to practice his father's art back in Samos. With the "lost wax" method being known to him in Samos, it is certainly plausible that Pythagoras shared it with his new people while inventing a new type of coinage. Due to the mounting evidence the type is often referred to as Pythagorean.
    All that said, we have no proof. Only anecdotal evidence, thick as it may be. And the Pythagoras theory will remain just that.
    Shortly after Pythagoras death in 510 BCE the greater Greeks fell into squabbling with each other to the point that only Tarentum was the only major power left. All were eventually consumed by Rome of course...

    A couple other magnificent Graecians:
    BRUTTIUM, Rhegion
    Circa 415/0-387 BCE. Æ 11mm (1.76 gm). Lion's head facing / PHΓIN[...], laureate head of Apollo right. Cf. SNG ANS 702; HN Italy 2524. Good VF, dark green patina.

    Lucania, Metapontion
    Triobol, , c. 440-430 BC; AE (g 0,99; mm 10; h 12); Head of Apollo/Herakles (?) Carneios r., Rv. META, barley ear. Noe 363-365; HNItaly 1509.
    Rare, about very fine.
    Ex: Artemide Aste

    Please share your coins of Magna Graecia, archaic coins, busted beauties and or anything GREATER than mother Greece:woot:
    Last edited: May 17, 2021
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  3. ancientone

    ancientone Well-Known Member

    Cool pick-up Ryro!

    Bruttium, Kaulonia AR 1/3 Nomos
    Obv: Apollo, naked, advancing right, holding a branch in uplifted right hand; stag on tablet in right field, looking backwards.
    Rev: Stag standing right.
    Circa 450-445 BC.
    2.4g., 13mm.
  4. ominus1

    ominus1 When in Rome, do as the Romans do Supporter

    ..kool coin & another great thread by "Ryro productions"...AND got David Sear on too! :)
    Ryro and Antonius Britannia like this.
  5. romismatist

    romismatist Well-Known Member

    Nice writeup, Ryro! I agree that the Magna Grecian early staters are magnificent!

    Your map shows the major city-states in the region... but there are also several lesser-known city-states which also issued coinage in the later periods.

    I specialize in collecting the coinage of the mints in the "heel of the boot" which was known as Calabria in antiquity but which was renamed Apulia due to a mix-up sometime in the Middle Ages. These mints primarily minted bronze coinage in the 3d and 2d centuries up until the Punic War period (with the exception of a few extremely rare coinages from Baletium (Alezio), Neretum (modern Nardo) and Kasario (Porto Cesare)). After this time, Taranto was first occupied by Hannibal's forces but finally fell to Rome. The most prolific of these coinages, other than Tarentum / Taras was likely Brundisium (modern-day Brindisi), which minted a number of bronze nominals on the Roman ponderal standard from about 215 BCE up until the end of the 2d century BCE.

    magna grecia coins map.jpg

    My most recent purchases from this region are as follows:

    apulia-orra-biunx-circa-6886521-O gpb35.jpg

    Calabria, Hyria / Orra

    Ae Biuncia c. end of 2d century BCE - beginning of first century BCE

    Obv: Bust of Venus facing r., head crowned with laurel wreath. Sceptre or spear in front of throat, angled backwards (not clearly visible on my specimen).

    Rev: Dove flying r. with outstretched wings, OR - RA below with two pellets indicating mark of value.

    c. 15 mm

    This coin is a rarer denomination of the series. The most common (but still scarce) nominal is the Ae quincuncia (5 uncia) coin with Venus on the obverse and Eros advancing r. with lyre on the reverse.

    EUR40.jpg EUR40R.jpg

    Calabria, Taras / Tarentum

    Ar Diobol, c. 3d century BCE

    Obv. Head of Athena facing right, wearing crested Athenian helmet adorned with Scylla.

    Rev. Heracles wrestling Nemean lion, "TA" above, thunderbolt (?) to left, "H?" between legs.

    Ex. Koelner Muenzkabinett

    I bought this coin because it is most likely a Messapian imitation instead of an official issue, due to the somewhat cruder style of the reverse and obverse. It is the first imitative issue that I have seen for sale, and I wanted one to add to the other diobols in my collection. The coin has a significant amount of horn silver and is nicely toned.

    The Tarentine diobol coinage was minted in large quantities and is a veritable phenomenon worthy of further study. Alberto D'Andrea will be releasing a comprehensive study on this coinage by the end of the year (I've helped with some of the translations into English). I've paraphrased a few relevant excerpts from this work below.

    Numerous hypotheses have been put forth regarding the origins of Tarentum's diobol coinage, but the fall of Kroton (389- 387 BC) through the actions of Dionysius I of Syracuse likely sparked the genesis of the series. Tarentum likely supported the arrival of Dionysius I on the peninsula, who in return ensured that Tarentum was selected to lead the new Italiote League. It is likely that this sequence of military events led to the origin of the diobol series, placing their initial production at around 380 BC.

    The iconography of Heracles fighting the Nemean lion was likely selected because of the demigod’s enormous veneration within the city of Tarentum. This high regard may stem from a legend where the oecist Phalanthos, one of Tarentum's early leaders, boasted a direct descent from Heracles.

    Hoard evidence suggests that production peaked at the end of the Second Samnite War (304 BC), around the turn of the 4th and 3rd centuries BC. At this time, the various Italiote cities began to come together commercially, cushioning Tarentum from the growing power of Rome. The subsequent explosion of diobol production spread to Metapontum, Kailia, Tiati, Arpi, Neapolis, Peuceta, and Rubi; in addition, numerous imitative productions were issued by indigenous Apulian, Lucanian and Samnite centers. Examples of these emissions have been found from Campania to Apulia, and also circulated within the territory of the Samnites, who harboured ongoing feelings of revenge against Rome for repeatedly humiliating and imposing ruinous conditions on their people. It is highly likely that Tarentum financed these indigenous emissions. With such a massive adoption and production of this coinage, Tarentum assured Rome’s exclusion from commercial interests in the region, which is evidenced by the numerous hoards within the Tarentine region containing no Roman currency (at least not until the definitive fall of Pyrrhus).
  6. Antonius Britannia

    Antonius Britannia Well-Known Member

    Fantastic article, with great examples!
    Ryro likes this.
  7. Ryro

    Ryro The last of the Diadochi Supporter

    VERY cool!:cigar::pompous::artist:
    Kaulonia's culture at this time must have been infused with art, as is witnessed by these coins:artist:
    Bruttium had several hot spots:
    BRUTTIUM. The Brettii.
    Ae Didrachm (214-211 BC).
    Obv: Helmeted and bearded head of Mars left.
    Rev: BPETTIΩN.
    Nike standing left, erecting trophy; star between.
    SNG ANS 38.
    Condition: Good very fine.
    Weight: 14.3 g.
    Diameter: 23 mm. Ex Artemide Aste
  8. Ryro

    Ryro The last of the Diadochi Supporter

    Thank you so much for that deep dive into the heel of Italy during such a pivotal time for arts, culture and militaristic supremacy:artist::pompous::jimlad:
    If we're talking cruder style (or at least poorly preserved), my two are the first solid and fouree of a type I'd acquired. Though, I've them listed as Herakleia:
    Screenshot_20201215-145553_PicCollage-removebg-preview (1).png
    LUCANIA, Herakleia
    433-330 BCE. AR Diobol (1.15 gm). Head of Athena right, wearing Corinthian helmet decorated with hippocamp / Herakles kneeling right, head facing, wrestling with the Nemean lion; EP upper right, club left. Van Keuren 62 (same dies); SNG ANS 33 (same dies). Toned EF, surfaces grainy, exceptional style
  9. romismatist

    romismatist Well-Known Member

    Yes, many studies speculate that these emissions were jointly produced by the both Tarentum and Heraclea, and I often see them attributed to one or the other city-state. However, as I stated in my post, they were actually produced by several other city-states in the region as well. With less-well preserved specimens (and those without identifying ethnics), it is often impossible to state with certainty from which city-state they come from. The only thing you can be sure of is that they came from that general region.
    Volodya, DonnaML and Ryro like this.
  10. Terence Cheesman

    Terence Cheesman Supporter! Supporter

    Kroton Ar Nomos 530-520 BC Obv. Tripod with legs terminating in lion's feet. Two snakes in bowl. Rv. Same incuse SNG ANS 227 8.13 grms 29 mm Photo by W. Hansen croton8.jpg
    This is one of the early spread flan coins that were minted at Kroton but coins with the same fabric were minted at a number of mints including Metapontion Kaulonia Sybaris and Poseidonia. Later the mint of Taras joined in. These very showy coins must have had a purpose other than simple commerce. After all this coins are in a order of magnitude more difficult to produce than most contemporary coins. Of all the mints Metapontion and Kroton are the most readily available with Sybaris coming in at third. What is interesting about all three mints is that the cities in question are advertising their wealth, not their devotion to a god.
  11. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    Halfway between zee ankle and toe rentum is the instep where we find Sybaris. I lack the creativity to make a joke on it. The reverse shows the first two letters of the city name but you have to allow for the fact that Sigma was then (late 6th century BC) sometimes written with the orientation we might mistake for M. I call this one at 0.25g a trias or 1/3 litra. 'Experts' vary. In 2013, CNG called it an obol which I consider incorrect.

    If it is a trias, then 36 of them would be worth a nomos like the one below. If it is an obol, it would be 1/12 of the nomos. 7g nomos divided by 0.25 is 28. We may both be wrong but individual weight control in this range is tough. 7/36 is 0.19. Is my little guy fat or is my nomos worn down? IDK
  12. Only a Poor Old Man

    Only a Poor Old Man Well-Known Member

    Very nice thread @Ryro. This area has produced the most artistic coins of antiquity, I don't think you will find many that dispute that even if their collecting interests are different. If only they were easier to obtain... I still wonder when I will be able to add some dolphins and watery nymphs to my collection. Can't complain though as I have two fantastic examples from the region:


  13. Andres2

    Andres2 Well-Known Member

    And what about a man faced bull poor old man ?

    P1180632m best.jpg
  14. Ignoramus Maximus

    Ignoramus Maximus Nomen non est omen.

    You're on a roll! Whenever I log on I find a new @Ryro thread celebrating yet another fine acquisition. Congrats! Broken or not, I like it!

    Everyone interested in Magna Graecia should have at least one incuse stater or drachm, I think. They are unique of the time and place. But most of all, they're just gorgeous. Sadly, I have yet to get mine. Bids yes, wins...

    Here's one of my favourite MG's:
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