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    Agathocles: Audacious Tyrant

    SICILY. Syracuse. Agathocles (317-289 BC). AR tetradrachm (24mm, 16.78 gm, 10h). Ca. 310-305 BC. Wreathed head of Arethusa left, wearing triple-pendent earring and necklace, three dolphins around; NI below neck / Charioteer driving quadriga left; triskeles above; [ΣY]PAKOΣIΩN and monogram in exergue. HGC 2, 1348. SNG ANS 638. Very slight doubling around lower profile, otherwise well centered and nicely struck. NGC AU 5/5 - 5/5, Fine Style.

    From The California Collection. Ex Heritage 3020 (Long Beach, 6 September 2012), lot 24867. 

    Agathocles, who ruled Syracuse as a military strongman or "tyrant" and later styled himself "King of Sicily," was a western counterpart to the Hellenistic rulers who carved up Alexander the Great's vast empire to the east. The son of a simple potter, he joined the army and rose through the ranks to become a strategos, or general. Ambitious, audacious and unscrupulous, he was banished for attempting to overthrow the democratic government of Syracuse, but returned in 317 BC leading an army of mercenaries, seized the city, and banished or murdered all of his opponents. His early coinage as Tyrant closely follows the decadrachm design of Euainetos struck nearly a century before. War with Carthage followed; with Syracuse under siege, he staged a daring attack on the African hinterlands of Carthage that turned the tide of war in his favor. Though ultimately defeated in Africa, Agathocles returned to Sicily strengthened and was able to conclude a treaty with Carthage on favorable terms. In 304 BC he proclaimed himself King of Sicily and began placing his name and the title Basileus on his coinage. 


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    January, 2015
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