Beauty, Power, PathosSICILY. Syracuse. Time of Dionysius I (405-395 BC). AV 100 litrae (14mm, 5.79 gm, 3h). Struck ca. 400-370 BC. ΣY[PAKOΣ]ION, head of Arethusa left in high classical style, hair pulled back into parallel waves along brow line, back held in sphendone decorated with stars, pellet before neck / Nude youthful Heracles kneeling to right, arms wrapped around neck of Nemean lion crouching left, his head pressed against the lion's back, the lion's claws pushing against his thigh and the ground. Bérend Group III, 15.10 (D11/R8 - this coin). HGC 2, 1275. SNG ANS 329 (same dies). A lovely piece! Minor die wear, otherwise deeply struck and lustrous. NGC MS 4/5 - 4/5, Fine Style.
Ex Dr. Lawrence A. Adams Collection; Triton VI (14 January 2003), lot 110; Spink 32 (30 November 1983), lot 11; Ars Classica XV (2 July 1930), lot 375.
The pinnacle of Syracusan power came under the reign of the "Tyrant" Dionysius I (405-367 BC). Although cruel and despotic, Dionysius was also a visionary who employed the greatest artists of his day to create what would today be called a "marketing campaign" to advance the city's image and prestige. This remarkable gold piece was likely struck circa 396 BC, after Dionysius won a great victory over Carthage at the River Anapos. The head of Arethusa, nymph of the spring of Ortygia near Syracuse, is rendered with the skill of a true master, perhaps a student of the great Euainetos whose style it closely matches. The reverse image of Heracles strangling the Nemean Lion is likewise a work of great power and pathos. The engraver has captured the moment of maximum tension, with Heracles tightening his grip around the lion's neck and mane while it claws desperately against his legs for escape.
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