Sicilian Crabs and The Battle of Himera

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by rg3, Feb 20, 2021.

  1. rg3

    rg3 Well-Known Member

    Over the years I’ve been slowly compiling a collection of ancient Sicilian silver. During this month, I’ve acquired two didrachms featuring crabs. The older is from Akragas (495-85BC)
    and the younger (not by much - 480-70BC) is from Himera.
    It struck me as odd that both cities would employ crabs on their coinage (considering they’re nearly antipodal on the Sicilian shoreline) until I did a little digging. Akragas had used the eagle/crab motifs for many years, perhaps as early as 510BC. The earliest dates Himera employed the crab is estimated to be 483BC. I found this is (probably) due to the Akragian tyrant Theron’s expulsion of the Himerian tyrant Terillus in 483BC, and a more serious output of Himerian cock/crab coinage following the outcome of The Battle of Himera (pitting the expelled Terillus and the Carthaginians against Theron and allied tyrants) in 480BC. According to legend this battle (of which I previously was unaware) was fought on the same days as the Battle of Salamis.

    This little journey down the rabbit hole brought me some delight after a pretty tough week. Even more interestingly, I learned of the archeological discovery (in 2008/9) where mass soldier graves of the Battle of Himera were found. Officials are supposedly preparing (maybe have prepared) the associated artifacts for display. If anyone has seen this exhibit, I’d be interested in your experience.

    Thank you for reading. Feel free to post anything related to Akragas or Himera.
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  3. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    Nice writeup, @rg3 , and I do remember reading about that battle, due to my readings of Carthage history.

    Very nice Didrachms... I like that denomination... always “feels” like what a coin should.

    I regret I have none from Himera... but I do have a few from Akragas. Descending denominations, descending years.

    Carthage Occupation
    Sicily Akragas Punic occup 213-210 BC AR Half Shekel 19 mm 2.9g Male head r Triptolemos wreath grain -Horse leaping r Punic Ḥ SNG COP 378

    Trias (1/3rd Unit)
    Sicily Akragas AE Trias 23mm 8.5g 287-241 BCE Beardless Zeus Hellanios 2 Eagles tearing at rabbit hare in talons HGC 2 159

    Crab, etc.
    Sicily Akragas AE Onkia 16mm 3.8g 425-406 BCE Eagle r fish fly - Crab conch SNG ANS 1062 var
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  4. Ryro

    Ryro They call me the 13th Caesar Supporter

    Excellent coins! And fun writeup:bookworm:
    Sorry you had a tough week. You've picked a wonderful way to rebound:woot:
    Here's a bronze I bought at a coin show a few years ago:
    rg3, PeteB, Theodosius and 8 others like this.
  5. Andres2

    Andres2 Well-Known Member

    Great coins rg3 , deserves bigger pics.

    2 syracusian bulls:

    P1180973magnetic (2).jpg
  6. Kavax

    Kavax Active Member

    Akragas bronzes are my favorite among the greek bronze coins.

    Pretty rare cast coin of an unknown denomination :

    Hemilitron :


    Tetras :


    Tetradrachm :

    For Himera, i'm a big fan of the gorgoneion coinage :
  7. rg3

    rg3 Well-Known Member

    Thank you, @Alegandron, @Ryro, @Andres2, and @Kavax. Love the conch shell, sea creature/cuttle fish?, bulls, and Gorgons! Will work on the photos sometime in the next year - live about 1.5 miles from a CC and am planning to take an intro photography class when we go in person again.
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  8. Terence Cheesman

    Terence Cheesman Supporter! Supporter

    It is interesting that I am working up an article in our local club magazine The Planchet about this coin. Himera Ar Tetradrachm 409-408 BC Obv The nymph Himera driving a quadriga facing 3/4 to the right. Nike flying towards her. Rv. The nymph standing facing head left sacrificing over altar. To right satyr bathing in fountain with lion headed spout. HGC 436 17.46 grms 23 mm. Photo by W. Hansen himera4.jpg This coin was minted most likely in response to the Carthaginian threat which ultimately led to the Second Battle of Himera. Carthage was successful this time around and captured the city. The war continued and Carthage continued to conquer virtually the whole island with Syracuse virtually the only holdout. The two sides made peace and the island was divided into two hostile camps. The one unfortunate side effect was that the very interesting numismatic dialogue among the Greek city states on this island all but comes to an end. Please Note. the article that I speak of has not been published yet.
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  9. Silphium Addict

    Silphium Addict Supporter! Supporter

    Here is a Himera didrachm deaccessioned from the ANS collection (1984'65.28) before and after professional cleaning:
    AR didrachm 483-472 BC 7.88 gm 19 mm SNG ANS 155-157
    O: rooster standing left
    R: crab

    Also, an Akragas tetradrachm "imitation" from Motya:
    AR tetradrachm 410-400 BC 16.46 gm CPS 38 (private collection Y - this coin)
    O: eagle standing right
    R: crab

    Motya often copied the designs of neighboring cities for its coins
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  10. rg3

    rg3 Well-Known Member

    @Terence Cheesman, thank you for sharing that exquisite piece. I’d be interested in reading your article upon publication. While doing my own minor bit of research, I learned graves from this second battle of Himera were also excavated. The term “numismatic dialogue” sums up the motivating observation well (interested to rediscover other dialogues in the future).

    @Silphium Addict, what a difference professional cleaning makes! Those are wonderful pieces. Maybe I will invest in a minor cleaning job for the Himera. The Motya piece looks like “numismatic plagiarism.” Although, the eagle is facing right and I assume the script does not read AKRA.
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2021
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  11. Silphium Addict

    Silphium Addict Supporter! Supporter

    The Himera didrachm was conserved by Frank Kovacs, a friend and dealer well known for this type of work.
    The obverse legend on the Motya tet is the Punic letters MTV’ for Motya.
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2021
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