Timoleon the Tyrant Slayer

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by The Meat man, Sep 24, 2023.

  1. The Meat man

    The Meat man Supporter! Supporter

    A while ago I bought a group lot of 4 small Greek bronzes. Normally, I'm not much interested in these types, but they've all proved interesting in their own way.

    Tonight, I was doing some research into this one:


    I originally thought this coin was struck under the Tyrant Agathokles, but now I realize that it was actually struck earlier, under (or soon after) the rule of the tyrant-slayer Timoleon.

    Affairs in Syracuse had reached a sorry state by the year 344 BC. Not only were they facing the threat of an aggressive and expansionist Carthage, they also were being cruelly oppressed and exploited by the reigning tyrants Dionysius I and later his son of the same name. A group of Syracusans sent an embassy to Corinth asking for aid. The Corinthians unanimously voted to send the general Timoleon.

    Timoleon arrived in Sicily some time later with a small force and to everyone's surprise achieved notable victories, and eventually succeeded in capturing the city of Syracuse and driving Dionysius II into exile.

    Timoleon then turned his attentions to the Carthaginians, and again won a surprising victory, despite being outnumbered 6 to 1, at the battle of the Crimissus in c. 339 BC. This crushing defeat brought the Carthaginians to the bargaining table, and Timoleon was able to negotiate a treaty whereby the Carthaginians agreed to remain on the west side of Sicily and not interfere with Syracusan politics.

    With the foreign threat settled, Timoleon turned back to Syracuse and, as the de-facto ruler, began to rebuild the city-state's institutions. Instead of reigning as a tyrant, though, Timoleon restored the Syracusan democracy under a new constitution which emphasized freedom and fairness under the law. In his own life, Timoleon was noted for his moderation and clemency and was held in the highest esteem by the citizens of Syracuse.

    The above coin seems to be somewhat scarce; I was able to find only 5 other examples online - one on wildwinds, which was sold by London Ancient Coins in 2012; two different specimens which were sold by Bertolami Fine Arts; one sold by Roma, and one by Savoca. This coin, of course, was sold in the group lot I purchased; it also appeared in an earlier group lot under the same auction house.

    Perhaps the finest example was one of the Bertolami coins, which hammered for 340 GBP back in 2018:


    Another very fine example was the one auctioned by Roma in 2014, with a hammer of 400 GBP:


    Interestingly, the Roma coin may feature an extra "A" on the reverse; the auction house description explains:

    "Calciati states that this extremely rare issue is to be dated for the third democracy 336-317 BC, however the A below the Pegasos suggests that in fact this could be an issue under Agathokles who ruled from 317-289; Cf. SNG ANS 646."

    Whether or not this is so I couldn't say, but the extra 'A' also appears on this coin (the other specimen auctioned by Bertolami):


    All in all, an interesting and rare little coin which opened up to me a fascinating period of history!

    Main historical source: Timoleon - Wikipedia
    Carl Wilmont, Curtisimo, Bing and 4 others like this.
  2. Avatar

    Guest User Guest

    to hide this ad.
  3. Curtis

    Curtis Well-Known Member

    Nice writeup and interesting coin! Syracuse bronze coins are usually known for their artistic beauty and interesting designs, but their history -- especially from the 5th - 3rd centuries -- is also fascinating, at least as much so as Roman history during this period.

    A sampling of my bronzes from the Syracuse Tyrants in chronological order (assuming I've identified them correctly):

    Timoleon (344-317 BCE):
    My example is left-facing

    Timoleon Pegasos Syracuse AE.jpg

    Agathocles (317-289 BCE):
    Ex Clain-Stefanelli Collection
    Sicily Syracuse AE Naville 45 Lot 44 Ex EE Clain-Stefanelli Collection.jpg

    Pyrrhos (Intrregnum, 278-276 BCE):
    CNG XXXI and e-479 Syracuse Pyrrhos AE El Medina Collection.jpg

    Hieron II (275-215):
    Sicily Syracuse Hieron II Naville 29 Lot 24 Ex EE Clain-Stefanelli (later CNG).jpg

    Hieronymous (215-214):

    Will add if I can photograph in time

    Fifth Democracy (214-212):
    Sicily Syracuse AE Naville 45 Lot 46 Ex EE Clain-Stefanelli Collection.jpg
    Carl Wilmont, Curtisimo, Bing and 5 others like this.
Draft saved Draft deleted

Share This Page