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Research Coins: Feature Auction

Sale: Triton VII, Lot: 63. Estimate $2000. 
Closing Date: Monday, 12 January 2004. 
Sold For $1300. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

SICILY, Messana. Circa 425-421 BC. AR Tetradrachm (17.21 gm). Charioteer driving slow biga of mules right, holding kentron in right hand, reins with both; Nike flying right above, crowning mules; leaf with fruit in exergue / ME-SSA-NI-O-N, hare springing right; cicada right below. Caltabiano 482 (D197/R193); SNG ANS 375; SNG Lloyd -; SNG Copenhagen -; Weber 1422 (same dies). Good VF, a trace of minor porosity. ($2000)

Messana (modern Messina), a coastal city in the northeast of Sicily opposite Rhegion on the Italian mainland, was founded by Chalkidian colonists about 725 BC. Originally it bore the name of Zankle (“sickle”) from the shape of its harbor, but this was changed about 488 BC when Anaxilas, tyrant of Rhegion, seized control of Zankle and therein installed a large body of Messenian immigrants from the Peloponnese. The tyrants were expelled from both Messana and Rhegion in 461 BC and, on the evidence of its abundant coinage, the Sicilian city would seem to have enjoyed considerable prosperity during the second half of the 5th century BC. The design of its handsome Attic tetradrachms underwent various modifications over the years. Down to about 430 BC, the obverse type was a male charioteer driving a mule-car, a type probably deriving from Anaxilas' victory in that event in the Olympian Games of 484 or 480 BC. On later issues, starting around 420 BC, the male charioteer is replaced by a female figure identified as the nymph Messana by the accompanying inscription. The hare remains the constant reverse type though its precise significance is less easy to define. It seems there may be some connection with the religious beliefs of the Peloponnesians who were settled in the city by Anaxilas. The attractive silver coinage of Messana was brought to an abrupt end in 396 BC when the city was destroyed by invading Carthaginians.