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Dido and the LionSICULO-PUNIC. Machanat ("Camp Mint"). AR tetradrachm (25mm, 17.07 gm, 6h). Ca. 320-315 BC. Head of Dido-Alyssa right, wearing Phrygian tiara in the style of a Tyrian Murex shell, with helmet-like visor, and long neck flap / Punic inscription sh'mmhnt, lion stalking right, head turned facing, palm tree behind. Jenkins 272 (O85/R226). Rizzo pl. lXVI, 8 (same dies). Antikenmuseum Basel 562 (same dies). Nicely centered on a broad flan and lightly toned. Extremely Fine.
Carthage, a Phoenician colony on the coast of North Africa, became a maritime powerhouse in the fifth century BC and challenged the Greek cities of Sicily and Southern Italy for control of the western Mediterranean. Its founding legend centered on the person of Dido, also called Alyssa, a princess of Tyre who migrated to North Africa in the ninth century BC with a small band of followers fleeing the wrath of her brother, King Pygmalion. Arriving on the coastline, she bartered with a local chieftain for enough land to be covered by a single oxhide, then cut the hide into fine strips and long enough to encompass an entire mountain. Byrsa, or "oxhide," thus became another name for for Carthage. By the late fourth century BC, much of Sicily had fallen under Carthaginian control and mints were established on the island to produce coins used to pay the largely mercenary army. This rare and attractive tetradrachm type depicts a beautiful female head which has been variously identified as Dido and the goddess Tanit. The unusual form of headdress, shaped like the Tyrian murex shell, argues strongly for identifying its wearer as the legendary Tyrian princess and founder of Carthage.
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