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    Description

    Leaping Hare

    SICILY. Messana. Ca. 425-413 BC. AR tetradrachm (26mm, 17.41 gm, 8h).  Nymph Messana, holding kentron and reins, driving walking biga of mules right; MEΣΣ-ANA (retrograde and inverted) above and before, two dolphins confronted in exergue / Hare springing right; [ME]Σ-ΣANI-O-N around; below, dolphin leaping right. Caltabiano Series XIV, 528. HGC 2, 792. Deeply struck in sound metal and lightly toned. NGC AU 4/5 - 5/5.

    The coins of Greek Sicily abound with symbolism, the meaning of which is not always obvious to the modern observer. Messana, located on the northwest corner of Sicily and the third most populous city on the island, chose as its civic badges a chariot pulled by a pair of mules (biga) and a leaping hare. On this pleasing tetradrachm, the mule biga is driven by a woman, most likely the nymph Messana, while the hare springs over a similarly leaping dolphin. As to what it all means, we can surmise as follows: In 484 or 480 BC, a mule team from Messana won the Olympic Games in the event known as the anape (mule biga race); naturally, civic pride prompted the Messenians to advertise the victory on their coinage. The two dolphins seen nose-to-nose in the exergue likely refer to a military alliance with Syracuse. The hare is an animal sacred to the god Pan, who had a temple in Messana and was widely worshipped there. The dolphin below the hare harks back to the original name of Messana, Zankle ("sickle"), so named for it's crescent-shaped harbor, of which the leaping dolphin's arched shape became a visual allegory.


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    Auction Dates
    January, 2015
    4th-5th Sunday-Monday
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