Pyrrhic GoldLUCANIA. Metapontum. Time of Pyrrhus (ca. 290-279 BC). AV tetrobol or third-stater (14mm, 2.80 gm, 11h). NGC Choice AU 4/5 - 4/5, Fine Style. Attic standard. ΛEYKIΠΠOΣ, bearded head of Leucippus right, wearing crested Corinthian helmet, pushed back on head, decorated with Scylla hurling stone / Two barley ears of six grains, each with leaf; M-E across outer fields, ΣI between. Johnston G5.1 (same dies). HN Italy 1630. SNG ANS 397-8. Rare. deeply struck on a broad flan and displaying considerable luster.
From the time he became king of Epirus in 319 BC, the charismatic Pyrrhus hoped to emulate his cousin Alexander the Great's career of conquest. An opportunity came in 280 BC, when Tarentum in southern Italy sought his assistance against Rome. Landing in Italy with his army and several war elephants, he marched against the Romans and defeated them in a bitter struggle near Heraclea. Pyrrhus won a second, even more costly victory at Ausculum in 279 BC, after which he remarked, "another such 'victory' and I am finished!" Thus was born the phrase "Pyrrhic victory," a battle won at such cost that it might as well be a defeat. The presence of Pyrrhus in Italy soon became an occupation, with the hosting cities forced to strike coins to pay the Epirote army. This attractive gold piece of Metapontum is one such issue, displaying a helmeted male head of exceptional style.
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