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Historical Article

Calabria, Tarentum. Allied with Pyrrhos of Epiros Against Rome

This issue was struck during the time Tarentum was allied with Pyrrhos of Epiros against Rome. It has been variously argued that this coin's types were reflective of Epeirote values, that the representation of the laureate Zeus head is Zeus Eleutherios - "the bringer of freedom" (appropriate considering the Tarentine circumstances), and/or that the reverse eagle is derived from the Ptolemaic eagle design which was on coins brought to Italy by infantry and cavalry supplied to Pyrrhos by Ptolemy Keraunos (eldest son of Ptolemy I, but disinherited). Most likely though, it was not necessary for the Tarentines to look elsewhere for these coin types as Zeus was suitably revered and worshipped at Taras. Indeed, Taras was home to two famous statues of Zeus, one depicting the rape of Europa by Pythagoras of Rhegion, and the other a bronze colossus of Zeus Keraunios by Lysippos, second in size only to that at Rhodes. The reverse symbol of an owl, as an adjunct symbol of Athena, is an emblem of Pyrrhos and is prevalent on all of the local issues of the Italian cities allied with him.

CALABRIA, Tarentum. Time of Pyrrhos of Epiros. Circa 280-275 BC. AV Stater (8.56 gm). Struck circa 280 BC. Laureate head of Zeus left, NK monogram behind / ΤΑΡΑΝΤΙΝΩΝ, eagle standing left, wings spread, on thunderbolt; owl standing left below, ΣΩΚ (magistrate) above. Vlasto 41 (same obverse die); SNG ANS 1040 (same dies); SNG Lloyd -; SNG Copenhagen -; Jameson -; Gulbenkian 42 (same dies); Pozzi -; Weber -; HN Italy 983.