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Historical Article

Calabria, Taretum

According to tradition the Spartan colony of Taras (mod. Taranto), known as Tarentum by the Romans, was founded in 706 BC under the leadership of Phalanthos. The city derives its name from Taras, the son of Poseidon and a local nymph, Satyra. It adopted a democratic form of government circa 475 BC, and thereafter became the leading Greek city in southern Italy. Its success led to continual difficulties with its neighbor cities, and on four occasions Tarentum required expeditions from Greece to help overcome its aggressors. The last of these expeditions was led by the famed Epeirote, Pyrrhos. Following his withdrawal from the city, Tarentum was occupied by the Romans. Tarentum was among the early cities of Magna Graecia to strike coinage, employing the incuse type that was the hallmark of the first Italian coinages. Taras’ prosperity is exemplified by its vast coinage known today which was continuous from 510 BC until the end of the Second Punic War. The primary type recurring throughout the coinage is a figure astride a dolphin, which depicts either Taras or Phalanthos, who was said to have been saved from drowning by a dolphin.

CALABRIA, Tarentum. Circa 480-470 BC. AR Nomos (8.02g). Taras riding dolphin left, both arms outstretched; open cockle shell below / Wheel of four spokes; dolphin in one quarter. Fischer-Bossert 90 (V48/R59); Vlasto 93 (same dies); HN Italy 833; SNG ANS (vol. 5) 1234 (same dies); SNG France 1595 (same dies); SNG Copenhagen 770 (same dies); SNG Lloyd 111 (same dies); Jameson 83 (same dies).