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Superb Tarentum Stater


CALABRIA, Tarentum. Circa 281-276 BC. AV Stater (18.5mm, 8.55 g, 12h). Youthful head of Herakles right, wearing lion skin / Taras(?), holding reins in right hand, trident in left, driving fast biga right; star above; below horses, KΛH above dolphin downward. Fischer-Bossert G20 (V17/R20); Vlasto, Or Type O 1 [a]; Vlasto 18 (same dies); HN Italy 955; Hirsch 85 (same dies); McClean 600 (same dies). Lustrous. Superb EF. Well centered and struck.

There is a divergence of opinion concerning the dating of this attractive gold issue of Tarentum, which displays a youthful head of Herakles resembling the Macedonian issues of Alexander III the Great and a reverse depicting a nude male youth holding a trident, probably Taras / Phalanthos, driving a biga. The lack of a civic ethnic and the control letters KΛH on the reverse led N. K. Rutter, in Historia Nummorum Italy, and Oliver Hoover in Handbook of Greek Coins Vol. I, to place their minting during the expedition of the Spartan commander Kleonymos, who crossed to Italy at Tarentum’s invitation circa 302 BC, to pay his large mercenary army. Wolfgang Fischer-Bossert, citing the support of S. Garraffo and G.K. Jenkins, places the issue during the more famous Italian expedition of Pyrrhos of Epiros, circa 281-276 BC. The type’s great rarity means there is little in the way of hoard evidence to support either side. However, their similarity to Pyrrhic bronze issues in Sicily and Pyrrhos’s strong desire to emulate Alexander the Great argue for the latter dating, in which case the KΛH refers to a magistrate rather than to Kleonymos.