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🐬Dolphins and Horses (Weekly Post 1)
Some Pretty Cool Coins From Τάρᾱς
This week, we’ve decided to change things up a little. From now on, most posts will be split into little chunks. Here’s what you can expect:
🏛️ (History) - A brief historical overview of the week’s theme
🔱 (Mythology) - If possible, some of the mythological background to the topic
🪙 (The Coins) - A look at some of the coins relating to the matter
💬 (Quote) - A nugget of ancient wisdom!
🔗 (Recommendation) - A book I’m reading, a Youtube channel, another writer, etc. This is something you’ll want to check out if you can’t get enough of Classics! These aren’t sponsored or anything, so it’s just a chance for me to share what I love.
Hopefully there’ll be something for everyone, even if you’re not an ancient history lover (yet)!
🏛️ - History
Τάρᾱς was founded in the late 8th Century B.C. by exiled Spartans, the location they were to settle prophesied to them by the Oracle of Delphi. Throughout the age of Classical Greece, it grew in strength substantially. When Rome attempted to conquer Southern Italy in the 3rd Century B.C., it fought 2 wars against the city-state. These are well known, the first being especially interesting: Taras was aided by the great general Pyrrhus, who made use of war elephants to win! It is from this king’s conflicts with Rome that we derive the term “Pyrrhic Victory”, defined as “a victory that inflicts such a devastating toll on the victor that it is tantamount to defeat”1 . Taras lost the second battle, and subsequently its power. Under Roman rule, it became known as Tarentum, which it is more commonly called today.
These columns are ruins of an ancient Greek temple dedicated to Poseidon2
🔱 - Mythology
There are a number of theories regarding the founding the city. One I enjoy is the myth of Taras, but another even involves Herakles.
Taras was the son of Poseidon, the god of the sea, and a nymph called Satyrion. When he was shipwrecked, his father aided him by sending a dolphin, which he rode back to Italy! Where he landed, he founded the city-state and named it after himself. Poseidon was the chief god worshipped there, hence the temple above.
🪙 - The Coins
The coinage of Taras is one familiar to any classical numismatist: the polis’ Staters (from 415 B.C. onwards) are viewed as one of the most wonderful series of coins issued with a consistent theme. And, of all ancient coin ‘themes’, this has to be the most awesome!
The obverse of the example below features a horse rider throwing his javelin at a target on the ground (which is not visible) - likely a depiction of some sort of training competition.
The reverse also features a rider, but this is one unusual mount… a dolphin! The guy sitting on it is Taras, the founder of the city in the myth we discussed earlier. On the example below, he’s looking at a helmet.
Oh, and these coins are extremely well engraved too; certain types so much so that they’re considered mini masterpieces of Greek art.
Put all this together and it’s easy to see why the staters of Taras are quite so appealing.
A splendid Tarentum Nomos, credit to CNG3
💬 - Quote
“Ἐὰν ᾖς φιλομαθής, ἔσει πολυμαθής”
“If you are fond of learning, you will soon be full of learning”
- Isocrates (436-338 BC)
🔗 - Recommendation
If you want to watch YouTube videos about ancient coins, then there’s no one better than Classical Numismatics! With weekly long-form content about all areas of Greek and Roman coins, this was a channel I learnt a lot from when I started collecting and one I’m sure you’ll enjoy, whether you’re a beginner or or a seasoned collector. And his 13,900 subscribers think so too. You can find an example video below, or access his channel here.
Thanks so much for reading! If you liked this post, please consider telling your friends about Ancient Numismatics using the button below. Let’s give ancient history the attention it deserves!
Livioandronico2013, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons