Jump to content

Another Sicilian beauty


Recommended Posts

Syracuse, time of Hiketas, circa 287-278 BC.

9.7gm, 30mm. SNG ANS 803-7, HGC 1449. I really enjoy the patina on this coin.

last year I done well on Sicilian Greek bronze but this year nothing so far any thing in reasonable condition I get blown away at auction need another David Freedman type collection to appear.




  • Like 24
  • Cookie 1
  • Yes 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Syracuse Ae 22 Struck by Hiketas 287-278 BC Obv Head of Zeus Hellanios laureate right. Rv Eagle standing left on thunderbolt wings folded. HGC 1449 8.46 grms 22 mm Photo by W. Hansen  



This is one of the more unusual manifestations of the god Zeus, Normally he is depicted as a mature bearded male. However to reduce confusion his name is spelled out on the obverse and his familial animal the eagle is seen on the reverse. 

  • Like 11
  • Yes 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

These are often confused with Apollo. The epithet "Hellanios" refers to Zeus' aspect of rain bringer, a much needed boon in Sicily, I'm sure.

Here's my low grade example but with the less common left facing Zeus...

~ Peter Hope 



Edited by Phil Anthos
  • Like 8
Link to comment
Share on other sites

There is no surprise collectors praise Greek Sicilian coins - their artistry is astonishing. 

How widely did they circulate, and are they often found outside Sicily?

With Italy restricting their export, there is little hope of new legitimate coins coming from Italy itself.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Re  how widely  did they circulate Sicilian bronze coins were not  that widespread outside the island especially in the context of share of trade and share of regional  "GDP" except for occasional  times of war, mostly associated with the adventures of Dionsyius and Agathokles, especially in Southern Italy. It's quite odd, though more for the silver,  as Syracuse in particular was an economic superpower amongst poleis at several stages of its life.  I've seen all sort of theories as  to why, from bullion use, to  letters of credit being much more common than expected, to aggressive  meltdowns - eg Akragas became fabulously wealthy in the 5th century with extensive trade to Carthage but there's  not much to see  in terms of coinage flow.

With bronze, there really wasn't much minted before the 420s (honorable exceptions like Akragas etc) and while some  found its way abroad,especially again  Southern Italy there's a theory (C Boehringer) that Dionysius so abused the bronze system for  his vast expenses that when  his house's rule ended it was directly a major  cause of the economic collapse of the area, such that  by the  time of Timoleon there was wildlife supposedly  grazing on Ortegia  itself (the heart of Syracuse!). Boehringer says many  bronze  coins were  just seen as blanks, worth their low value as metal, and reused.  One small hoard of bronzes that was  found in (I think) the Peloponnese was  much discussed  before it was decided (to the extent scholars can agree that is) the way  it was abandoned  it was more  likely a merchant  just gave up on them as all but worthless (and quite heavy and large - some of the  bronzes of  Dionysius could be quite a lot heavier than the ones shown above.  Some, seen as  bridges between silver and  smaller bronze denominations were 32-38g.

So essentially a lot of bronze coins were recycled especially as the value abuse  had been so great. Boehringer in my weak translation - "The Syracusan heavy bronzes are found overstruck in numerous mints in Sicily, in Agyrion, Hadranon, Halaisa, Henna, Herbessos, Kentoripa, Mytistraton, Petra, from people signing A (= Campania?), from the Sileraioi (= Lucanians) and the Tyrrhenians, the latter undoubtedly settled mercenaries. "

It's a similar story for why the bronzes aren't  found  in  larger number in Southern Italy - quite a few Syracusan heavy bronzes have been found on the coasts of the Adriatic and  also reappearing as  heavy bronzes from Croton and Issa in Dalmatia BUT overstruck. They easily got there partly because of the conquest of Kroton  (~379BC) and his commercial interests in the Adriatic as far as the mouth of the Po, where Dionysius founded Adria. With the collapse of the empire under the younger Dionysios, his coins then only had metal values.

Timoleon, arguably the other great producer of bronzes in the time we are talking about, was not really active in southern Italy or even on the Adriatic aside from when initially arriving from  Corinth. 

TLDR version is not many made before 420, then  the system was  abused and they were seen as mere blanks and then there was a period of anarchy  before Timoleon. The story continues of course later with Agathokles*** et al but that's  a lot later than these coins. I suppose though the bottom  line  is despite their  beauty  bronze coins are just a fiat currency, and  have  no value once the power issuing them is gone, hence  their value  overseas - marginal at best - disappears.


Gratuitous Timoleon bronze here -

Timoleon period (344-336 BC) - 2 Litra - Obverse: head of Zeus Eleutherios  left - Reverse: galloping horse




 *** This is  an excerpt from a de LIsle article on Agathokles' coin distribution  in case of interest  -

Agathokles’ own coins had several different circulation patterns, as indicated by both hoard and stray find data. His gold issues of all periods appear only in southeastern Sicily, within a region roughly coterminous with the hinterland of Syracuse itself. His silver pegasoi are found over a larger area, including Gela and Enna – one was even found in a tomb in Taras. This roughly matches the distribution pattern of non-Syracusan pegasoi which concentrate in the eastern portion of Sicily and the shores of the Ionian Gulf. Agathokles’ reduced-weight pegasoi seem to be tightly restricted to the same area as the gold, but there are only a few hoards. His tetradrachms concentrate in the southeast of the island, but a few are also found in western Sicily and the territory of the Bruttii in the Calabrian interior. Agathokles’ electrum is quite different, being equally split between Sicily and Calabria. The distribution of the bronze coinage is different again. It is mostly attested by stray finds, which tend to indicate losses in everyday use, rather than hoarding. The picture of where the bronze travelled in normal commerce is thus better than that for the precious metals, but with the exception of a few well-published sites, most notably Morgantina and Monte Iato, it tends to be much more difficult to say when deposition actually occurred. All of Agathokles’ bronze is found throughout both halves of Sicily, Magna Graecia and Campania. The bronzes of his last period, bearing his name and the royal title, are also found in quantity along the east coast of the Adriatic and in Veneto; others appear in the Adriatic much more occasionally. This pattern is similar to that of the bronze coins of Dionysios I and Hieron II, but distinct from that of Timoleon. These various circulation patterns should be approached with caution, as new discoveries may modify the picture (evidence from North Africa is particularly limited), but the fact that different issues circulated differently may result from them being used to pay different groups of people. Thus, the gold and silver pegasoi may have paid primarily to people who remained in Sicily. The tetradrachms and especially the electrum also reached southern Italy. The bronze was used by people in all these locations; its wider range perhaps results from commerce, perhaps also from mercenaries returning with it to their homes in Campania and Cisalpine Gaul.










Edited by Deinomenid
  • Like 5
  • Thanks 1
  • Heart Eyes 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...