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597809. Sold For $765

SICILY, Syracuse. Pyrrhos. 278-276 BC. Æ (25mm, 10.90 g, 12h). Head of Herakles left, wearing lion-skin / Athena Promachos advancing right, holding thunderbolt and shield. B&S Type 5; CNS 175; BAR Issue 52; HGC 2, 1450. Attractive deep forest green patina. EF.

Ex Jack A. Frazer Collection; Ex Classical Numismatic Review XIX.1 (1994 First Quarter), no. 11.

From the time he became king of Epiros in 319 BC, the handsome and charismatic Pyrrhos had designs of emulating Alexander the Great's career of conquest. He initially made little headway against the successors of Alexander in Greece proper, so turned his eyes to the wide-open west. An opportunity came in 280 BC, when the city of Tarentum in southern Italy sought his assistance in resisting the expanding power of Rome. Landing in Italy with his well-trained army and several war elephants, he defeated the Romans, albeit bloodily, near Heraclea. Pyrrhus won a second, even more costly victory at Ausculum in 279 BC, after which he is said to have remarked, "another such 'victory' and I am finished!" Thus was born the phrase "Pyrrhic victory," meaning a battle won at such a high cost that it might as well be a defeat. He next sailed his army to Sicily in 278 BC, allegedly to support Syracuse and other Greek cities against Carthage. This bronze piece, reminiscent of Alexander the Great’s silver coinage, was struck during the Pyrrhic occupation of Syracuse. Stiffening Carthaginian resistance induced him to return to Italy in 276 BC, and a defeat by a Roman army near Beneventum the following year convinced him to return home to Epiros. Still restless for conquest, he decided to seize the throne of nearby Macedon, which he invaded in AD 272. At first successful, he was beset by an enemy force in the town of Argos. In the midst of the street fighting, an old woman hurled a roof tile at him from her balcony, striking him in the head and knocking him off his horse. An enemy soldier promptly hacked off his head, at last putting an end to Pyrrhos's frustrated quest for glory.