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Pyrrhos goes to Tarentum to chew some bubble gum and beat up some Romans... and he's all out of bubble gum/A strange misidentification that I can't be the only one to pick up on?


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Pyrrhos styled himself after his second cousin, Alexander The Great! And was known as one of the greatest military generals of all time. The problem he had, like many great generals, once he won he didn't know how to be a statesmen, would grow bored, and move on to his next big campaign. 

My latest coin is from when the ultra wealthy and in need of defense Tarentines invited him to come protect them:


ITALY. Calabria. Tarentum. Didrachm or nomos (silver). Approx. 280 - 272 BC Chr.

Obv: warrior on horseback with shield and spear riding left; Zeta Omega in left field, magistrate's name between legs.

Rev: Naked Taras with spindle and bunch of grapes, riding left on dolphin; in the field on the right ear of corn.

22mm 6.45g

HN Italy 1013; Coll. Vlasto 800.

Very nice.

Minted at the time of Pyrrhos, who in 280 BCE. at the invitation of the Tarentines entered Calabria with 3000 Thessalian horsemen and used Tarentum as rear headquarters for his war against the Romans until his departure in 275 BCE. Of course, thanks to these campaigns and his battles with the Romans we get the term pyrrhic victory. 


Something that must be noted about the type, as the Tarentines had many versions of the type, it's that the coins under Pyrrhos have the warrior carrying a shield with a very specific symbol on it.  

Time for me to make a bold statement, that I don't think is so bold. Despite not having many of the designs you see on Macedonian shield coins (the three quarter shields around the outside, pellets, etc), it does bare the most important symbol of ancient Makedon, the Vergina Star!

The eight rayed star appears on everything from MSCs to Philip II's tomb and even their modern flag:


That it is only on the coins from the time during Makedonien rule make it pretty clear to me. This shouldn't just be described as warrior with shield. It should be described as warrior with Macedonian shield! Yet, in no description of the coin type do they describe it as anything other than shield. Oh well, at least we know the difference. 


Please share your coins of Pyrrhos, Tarentum, MSCs, thoughts or anything Pyrrhic!

Edited by Ryro
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Great new addition @Ryro. I really like this design of the horseman. I chose this design for my example as well... don’t get me started on the dolphin rider child.

This was my 7th favorite coin of 2022.


Calabria, Tarentum
AR Nomos, Tarentum mint, struck 280-272 BC (Pyrrhic War issue) 
Dia.: 20.4 mm
Wt.: 6.4 g
Obv.: Helmeted warrior on horseback l., holding two spears and round shield decorated with star. ΖΩ in right field, ΑΠΟΛΛΩ below
Rev.: ΤΑΡΑΣ, Taras riding dolphin l., holding distaff and bunch of grapes. ΑΝΘ in right field
Ref.: Vlasto 790

Edited by Curtisimo
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I’d never made that association but it makes huge sense.

Right date etc. Much appreciated @Ryro


Nomos, 280-272, warrior on horseback left, holding spear and shield, rev.dolphin-rider left, holding grapes and distaff, ταρασ below, 5.76g/10h (HN Italy 1013; Vlasto 789-802; McClean –; SNG Lockett 225)


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Taras Ar Nomos 280-272 BC Obv Horseman  with one lance at the ready and carrying two more and a shield on prancing horse right. Rv Phalantos in the act of dismounting from a dolphin right below elephant. Vlasto 712 Rutter HN 999 6.41 grms 22 mm Photo by W. Hansentaras23.jpg.7c3857322ec1fe2a31d54ac88995ef70.jpg

Owing to a complete lack of appreciation for the Tarentines love of potty humor the Romans declared war. The Tarentines called on Pyrrhus to help and the war was on. This coin is also minted during the period of the Pyrrhic war. The obverse features what is most likely a light cavalryman. Essentially he would ride up on to an enemy formation and shower them with javelins. He would not come to grips with the enemy, instead he would hope that his missile attack would cause the enemy formation to lose cohesion. His large round shield would be used in lieu of armor to protect him from enemy missile attack. The  elephant seen below Phalantos is an none too subtle reference to Pyrrhus and his troop of war elephants.   

Edited by kapphnwn
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I’m altering my coin description to Ryro’s. Move over Vlasto and assorted professors!


Re any other thoughts on Tarentum, a less fun fact is they were one of the few places to sacrifice donkeys (to the wind!)

An even less fun fact is donkey pizza is readily available round there now and I accidentally ate one!



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That's a very nice pickup! The attribution of the shield is definitely possible, though from what I understand most of Pyrrhos' army in southern Italy were Epeirotes, Gauls, and other non-Macedonians. That being said, he had recently controlled Macedonia until given the boot by Lysimachos, and Macedonia was one of the few states at the time that furnished soldier's equipment as part of a full time army. Therefore, it would have been within Pyrrhos' means to grab a bunch of shields on his way out and use them to furnish his mercenary army.

Alternatively, and perhaps more likely, the engraver used as a reference Pyrrhos' own shield, which was likely Macedonian in design.

I have no coins of Pyrrhos in Italy, but I do have one of him as King of Macedonia and another as King of Epeiros. He truly got around.


Pyrrhos of Epiros
Pella 287-285 BCE or 274-273 BCE
AE 17mm 4.42g 5h
AMNG III/2, -. HGC 3, 272. SNG Alpha Bank 970



Kings of Epeiros, Pyrrhos (297-272 BCE)
Ambrakia, c. 278-275 BCE
Æ 26mm, 8.09g, 9h
Laureate head of Zeus r.
R/ Thunderbolt within oak wreath.
SNG Copenhagen 100; HGC 3, 267

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  • 1 month later...

But could Pyrrhus still dance while chewing bubblegum?

Here is one of my non Tarentine Pyrrhic coins, this from his brief staycation at Syracuse...

278-276 BC
AE24 (23.2mm, 10.505g, 285o)
O: Head of Herakles left, clad in lion-skin headdress; club behind, ΣΥΡΑΚΟΣΙΩΝ before.
R: Athena Promachos advancing right, hurling javelin and holding shield; wreath behind.
HGC 2, 1450; Calciati II p. 324, 177; SNG ANS 847; SNG Cop 809-814; Sear 1213

~ Peter Hope 




Edited by Phil Anthos
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Here's another, this one a little rougher but quite a bit scarcer...

278--276 BC
Æ24 (24mm 11.98g)
O: Veiled head of Phthia left, wearing oak wreath; ΦΘΙΑΣ to left, Athena Parthenos facing behind, all within dotted border.
R: Thunderbolt; ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ above, ΠΥΡΡΟΥ below, all within dotted border.
SNG ANS 835v (obverse symbol); Calciati II pg. 328, 184 Ds; Sear 1215v (obverse symbol)



Edited by Phil Anthos
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