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Ex Moretti, Jameson, Woodward, and Prowe Collections


BRUTTIUM, The Brettii. Circa 216-214 BC. AR Nomos (20mm, 5.74 g, 6h). Reduced Tarentine standard. Jugate draped busts of the Dioskouroi right, wearing laureate pilei surmounted by stars; cornucopia and tiny Γ to left / The Dioskouroi, wearing military attire and surmounted by stars, holding palm fronds over shoulder and raising right hand, on horses rearing right; spear below, ΒΡΕΤΤΙΩΝ in exergue. Arslan dies 2/1’bis (this coin cited); HN Italy 1941; SNG ANS 2 (same dies); Basel 182 = Jameson 405 (this coin); Boston MFA 162 (same dies); de Luynes 655 (same dies). Attractive deep cabinet tone, small area of weak strike. EF. Exceedingly rare, with an extensive pedigree.

Ex A.D. Moretti Collection (Numismatica Ars Classica 13, 8 October 1998), lot 182; Hess-Leu [3] (27 March 1956), lot 286; Robert Jameson Collection (publ. 1913); William Harrison Woodward Collection; Theodor Prowe Collection (28 November 1904), lot 138 (there noted as having been displayed in the Berlin Cabinet until 1902).

Hannibal's invasion and long-term occupation of Italy (218-203 BC) during the Second Punic War led to a revival of coinage at some of the mints which had previously submitted to Rome in the early decades of the third century BC. Support for the Carthaginians was especially strong in Bruttium, and a league of the Brettii was formed at this time to oppose Rome's attempts to recover control of the region. The Brettian League’s coinage commenced shortly after Rome’s catastrophic defeat at Cannae in 216 BC and continued until shortly before Hannibal’s departure from Italy. Lokri, which served as Hannibal's principal port at this time, was probably the capital of this league down to the time of its capture by Publius Scipio (later Africanus) in 205 BC.

The coinage of the Brettian League was surprisingly extensive and exhibited considerable artistic merit. Silver was initially struck on the reduced Tarentine standard, with the main coin being a nomos-didrachm of about 5.8 grams: this exceedingly rare issue with a design depicting the “heavenly twins,” Castor and Pollux, on both sides. Intriguingly, the reverse depiction of the mounted Dioskouroi would soon be adopted by the Romans on their own silver denarius. Shortages of silver soon forced the Brettii to create a revised standard employing a drachm of about 4.7 grams along with a range of bronze denominations. After Rome’s victory in the Second Punic War, the Brettian League was forcibly disbanded and the cities subjected to harsh sanctions.