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Syracusan Dekadrachm


Syracusan Dekadrachm by Euainetos

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A remarkable silver dekadrachm of Syracuse, c. 400 B.C., signed by the artist Euainetos. Its weight is 43.042g, and diameter 35.9mm, with an axis of 90į. Its reference is Gallatin C.XII/R.IV.

This is one of the famous silver dekadrachms from dies engraved by the master artist Euainetos for the city State of Syracuse, in Sicily, around 400 B.C. It was purchased for the ANA collection through funding made available by the generosity of Museum benefactor Werner Amelingmeier (the Amelingmeier/Wayte Raymond Fund) and other donors.

The celebrated Euainetos is one of the small number medallic sculptors of antiquity whose name has come down to us, by means of his signed works. That he was a craftsman of extraordinary talent is clearly evident. His work was admired, copied and cherished from ancient times, and his dekadrachms are considered by many numismatists, and others, as perhaps the most beautiful coins ever created. The principal reference on these masterpieces in miniature is Syracusan Dekadrachms of the Euainetos Type, by Albert Gallatin (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1930. ANA Library call No. BB94.G3).

The renowned Syracusan dekadrachm coinage of around 400 B.C. and thereafter marked a significant change in the politics and economic life of Ancient Sicily. Most of the Island had fallen to the Carthaginians by this time, and other cities had lost their independence to the Syracusans. Tetradrachm coinage, the mainstay of Sicilian output for theprevious century, essentially came to a halt. The dekadrachms, and their counterparts in gold, probably served primarily as a prestigious and economical method for handling payments to mercenary armies during the reign of Syracusan King Dionysios I (405-380 B.C.)

The obverse of the coins (referred to as the reverse by Gallatin and other earlier writers) featured a beautiful rendition of the traditional Syracusan type of a victorious charioteer in a quadriga, being crowned by Nike flying above. Of particular note is the individuality and freedon imparted to each of the horses on these distinctive presentations. In the exergue are a round shield, greaves, a cuirass and a crested Attic style helmet, with the word AOLA ("prizes"), below. On the Museumís coin, only traces of this word appear under close examination.

On the reverse, or portrait side of the coins. is a strikingly handsome effigy of the patron Nymph of Syracuse, Arethusa, wearing an elaborate earring and beaded necklace, with her hair gracefully bound up in loose tresses with leaves of corn. In the field around her head are four dolphins, again a traditional Syracusan design, alternatingly swimming clockwise and counterclockwise, inward and outward. Above, in the upper right margin, is the full ethnic of the Syracusans, reading SURAKOSIWN; below the dolphin at the truncation of Arethusaís neck, in letters usually at least partly off the flan, is the artistís signature EYAINE. On our example, SURAKOSIWN is nearly complete, but only vestiges of the tops of the letters in the artistís name are discernible.

There were 19 known dies signed by Euainetos; they are found paired in various combinations with 12 obverses. None of the obverses were signed by Euainetos. Dozens of specimens of some of the combinations are recorded, making this coinage a relatively substantial one (in addition to these dies actually signed by Euainetos, the series includes very similar dies marked by symbols, probably engraved under the supervision of the Master, or closely imitating his work).

The flans upon which the Euainetos dekadrachms were struck were almost universally too small to receive the full impressions of the dies. Consequently, all specimens lack some portions of the marginal legends or other details. The ANA specimen is, on balance, quite an outstanding and relatively well-centered example of the coinage. It is in very fine condition, still exhibiting mint luster in protected portions of the fields, with slight spots of "horn silver" encrustation on the lower edge of the obverse.

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