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3. The History and Coinage of Sicily (Aristocracy and Democracy 550-450)

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Aneurin Ellis-Evans

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Transcript of 3. The History and Coinage of Sicily (Aristocracy and Democracy 550-450)

3. The History and Coinage of Sicily, 550-450
1. Narrative
Greek and Phoenician Colonization in the West
Syracuse - '734' (Corinth)
Gela - '689'
(Rhodes, Crete)
Katane - '730' (Chalkis)
Leontinoi - '729' (Chalkis)
Naxos - '735' (Chalkis)
Originally Zankle - 8th c. (founder unclear)
Megara Hybalea - 8th c. (Megara)
Ziz (later Panormos) - '734' (Phoenicians)
Motya - ca. 700 (Phoenicians)
Akragas - ca. 600-580 (Gela)
Kamarina - '599' (Syracuse)
Himera - '648' (Zankle)
Selinus - '628' (Megara Hyblaea)
Sicily: The First 250 Years (ca. 750 - ca. 500)

There are groups here already when the Greeks and Phoenicians arrive -
1)

Sicels
in the east,
2)

Sicans
in the west,
3)

Elymians
in the northwest.

The
first wave
of colonization is external (i.e. comes from Greece or North Africa) and takes place ca. 750-700 - the
Greeks
in the east, the
Phoenicians
in the north-west.

We have precise dates for many of these colonizations, but they are probably
SPURIOUSLY ACCURATE
. Suspiciously, they often fall in the year of the Olympic games or show that a city is one year older than a rival city. However, archaeology suggests they are in the right ball park.

The
second wave
of colonization is internal (i.e. comes from cities already founded in Sicily) and takes place ca. 700-600.

Between the initial Greek and Phoenician colonization of Sicily ca. 750-700 and ca. 500 we have quite a bit of archaeological data, but very few written sources to help us put the material culture into a historical narrative.
SICELS
SICANS
ELYMIANS
Chronologies: 505-466
M. I. Finely,
Ancient Sicily
, rev. ed. (1979)
Cambridge Ancient History
, vol. 5 (1992) 506-13
The Tyrants of Sicily, 505-466
M. I. Finely,
Ancient Sicily
, rev. ed. (1979)
Tyrant 467-466
Tyrant 491-478
Tyrant 478-467
Other Families:
505-498 - Cleander
498-491 - Hippocrates

Deinomenids/Emmenids:
491-478 - Gelon
478-467 - Hieron
467-466 - Thrasyboulos
The Four Stages of the 505-466 Tyrannies:
Origins, Expansion, Dominance, Decline
Stage 1: Origins (505-498)
Cleander
tyrant at Gela 505-498. We don't know anything about his reign.

On his death in 498, there is a brief civil war and his brother,
Hippocrates
, becomes tyrant.
Zankle (after 490 Messina)
Naxos
Leontinoi
Stage 2: Expansion (498-491)
Hippocrates
invades the territory of the Chalkidian colonies (
Zankle
,
Naxos
, and
Leontinoi
) and sets up vassal tyrants in these cities.

This isolates
Syracuse
in the south-east corner of the island and Hippocrates begins to contemplate how to bring the city under his control.

Hippocrates is killed fighting Sicels on Mt. Etna in 491.
Gelon
, the commander of his family and scion of an aristocratic family in Gela, makes himself guardian of Hippocrates' sons and soon afterwards pushes them aside to become tyrant.

NB - I have skipped two important episodes from his reign here,
1)
one to do with Zankle/Messina and Anaxilas, the tyrant of Rhegion,
2)
the other to do with a peace treaty between Hippocrates and Syracuse brokered by Corinth (the mother city of Syracuse). For these, see
Finley,
Ancient Sicily
(1979) ch. 4
.
Stage 3: Dominance (491-467)
Akragas
Beginning of Gelon's Reign (491-485)
Gelon allies with the immensely wealthy and aristocratic
Theron of Akragas (tyrant 488-472).
Recall that Akragas was a colony of Gela founded a century earlier.

Gelon wins the chariot race at the Olympic games in 488.
This doesn't mean he was the charioteer competing, but rather that he financed the team of horses.

This victory (and other victories like it at the Panhellenic games) are significant for two reasons:
1)
it indicates his immense WEALTH,
2)
it shows him displaying his wealth and power before the entire Greek world which gathered at the Olympic games.

He celebrates this victory by dedicating both the chariot and a statue of himself at Olympia.
'Gelon son of Deinomenes, of Gela, dedicated (me) to Zeus. Glaukias of Aegina made (me)'.
The Capture of Syracuse (485)
The demos of Syracuse and the enslaved class of indigenous Sicels (known as the Kyllyrioi or Kyllychirioi) rise up against the '
Gamoroi
' (lit. 'those who have divided up the land', i.e. the wealthy land-owning class) and expel them from Syracuse.

The Gamoroi ask Gelon to intervene. He easily captures Syracuse and makes this his new base of operations, leaving his brother Hieron in charge of Gela.

He quickly turns Syracuse into the most powerful and populous city in the Greek world:

1)
He moves half the population of Gela to Syracuse.

2) H
e destroys Kamarina (only refounded a few years earlier by his predecessor Hippocrates) and moves its population to Syracuse.

3)
He seizes neighbouring Megara Hyblaea and its territory, enfranchises the wealthiest citizens and sells the rest into slavery (Hdt. 7.156).

4)
He enfranchises a large number of mercenaries from his army (Diod. 11.72.3 says as many as 10,000).
Capture of Himera (483)
Theron of Akragas (Gelon's ally since ca. 491-488) captures Himera. All but Messina and the north-east corner of Sicily is now under the control of Gelon and Theron.
The Greek Embassy (481) and the Carthaginian Invasion (480)
Gelon is now the most powerful and wealthy ruler in the Greek world. Consequently, in 481 the Greeks from the mainland ask him for military support against the impending Persian invasion.

Gelon offers 200 ships, 20,000 hoplites, 2,000 cavalry, 2,000 archers, 2,000 slingers if the Greeks will let him command the army. The Greeks say no (Hdt. 7.156-162).
Terillus
, the tyrant of Himera thrown out by Theron in 483, happens to be the guest-friend of the Carthaginian
Hamilcar
and father-in-law to
Anaxilas
, the tyrant of Rhegion and Messina (one of only two Greek cities in Sicily still free from Gelon-Theron).

Terillus and Anaxilas therefore appeal to Hamilcar to invade Sicily. He leads a massive force which lands at the Phoenician colony of
Panormos
and marches to
Himera
.

Gelon defeats the Carthaginian army and Hamilcar is killed. A huge number of slaves are captured and the Carthaginians have to pay a massive indemnity to Gelon. Carthage doesn't try to invade Sicily again until 406.
Panormos
Translation - 'Gelon son of Deinomenes, of Syracuse, dedicated the tripod and the Nike to Apollo. Bion son of Diodoros, a Milesian, made (them)'.
The Reign of Hieron (478-467)
Gelon dies in 478 and his brother
Hieron
takes over.

In 474 he responds to a request from the Greek colony of
Cumae
in the Bay of Naples to protect them from the Etruscans.

Hieron wins this major naval engagement.
Pindar (
Pyth.
1)
celebrates this victory as being on a par with his brother Gelon's victory at Himera in 480 and Hieron likewise celebrates his victory by making a dedication at a Panhellenic sanctuary (this time Olympia).
Translation - 'Hieron, son of Deinomenes, and the Syracusans (dedicated) to Tyrrhenian (i.e. Etruscan) Zeus (this helmet as spoils) from (the battle of) Cumae'
Stage 4: Decline (467-466)
Hieron dies in 467 and
Thrasyboulos
takes over.

In 466 Thrasyboulos is expelled from Syracuse and a democracy is established.

Within a few years,
democracies
have replaced tyrannies everywhere in Sicily.

Just 14 years after Gelon's victory at Himera and 8 years after Hieron's victory at Cumae there was no longer any trace of the Deinomenid tyrants.

The new Sicilian democracies last six decades until a new strongman ruler -
Dionysios I of Syracuse
- takes power in 406.
Coinage and Sicilian History
Tetradrachm of Naxos, ca. 460, 27mm, 17.07g (Boston MFA 95.103)
This is a
VERY SIMPLIFIED NARRATIVE
- Sicilian history 550-450 is MUCH more complex than this (e.g. we haven't really discussed the Phoenicians, the Greeks of southern Italy, the endless cycle of cities being founded, destroyed, re-founded, re-named).

There's a variety of types of evidence we can use to illustrate the themes of Sicilian history 550-450 I've just sketched out -
1) epigraphy
(e.g. the dedications of Hippocrates, Gelon, and Hieron at the Panhellenic sanctuaries),
2) literary sources
(e.g. the epinician odes of Pindar for Sicilian victors), and of course
3) art and archaeology
.

In addition to all this there is also
COINAGE
.
Drachm of Himera, ca. 530-515, 23mm, 5.68g (Boston MFA 04.449).
Drachm of Zankle, ca. 535-494/3, 23mm, 5.84g (Boston MFA 97.381)
Drachm of Naxos, ca. 530-510, 24mm, 5.47g (Boston MFA 00.104)
Didrachm of Selinus, ca. 540-515, 22mm, 9.23g (ANS 1987.76.32)
Early Greek Coinage: A Chronology

ca. 625-600
- Coinage invented in the Lydian kingdom (rules over western Turkey). Lydia mints ELECTRUM coinage (an alloy of silver and gold). Greek cities in western Turkey soon follow suit.

ca. 550
- King Croesus of Lydia introduces a BIMETALLIC coinage, i.e. pure silver and pure gold coins rather than electrum alloy.

ca. 550-500
- Greek cities enthusiastically adopt the practice of minting pure silver coinage. By 500 only three mints (Kyzikos, Mytilene, Phokaia) regularly mint electrum.

530s/520s
- The cities of Himera, Naxos, Selinous, and Zankle are the first mints to produce silver coinage in Sicily.
Lydia Electrum 1/3 Stater, ca. 600-560, 13mm, 4.72g (ANS 1954.237.404)
Lydia Gold 1/3 Stater, ca. 561-546, 12mm, 2.67g (Boston MFA 04.1162)
Lydia Silver 1/3 Stater, ca. 561-546, 15mm, 3.51g (Boston MFA 04.1167)
http://www.sardisexpedition.org/en/essays/latw-kroll-coins-of-sardis
Bimetallic Coinage
Beginning of Sicilian Coinage
Introduction to Sicilian Coinage
New Handbook (Out 2018???)
ANSMN = American Numismatic Society Museum Notes
What Does 'Doing' Numismatics Involve?

Numismatics = the study of money. For Greece and Rome, 'money' means coins (NB - in other societies many other objects have instead performed the role of money).

We can approach coins in one of two basic ways:

1) Coins as objects which bear IMAGES and TEXT which tell us things - This is pretty self-explanatory and doesn't take much specialist knowledge to do.

2) Coins as objects whose PHYSICAL DIMENSIONS and USAGE tell us things - This is the part of numismatics which people find tough, but also has the potential to tell us things that ONLY coins can tell us.
2. Images
Politics and Identity
Selinous
Σελινοῦς/Selinous - the city
σέλινον/selinon - celery
Zankle/Messina
The river god Gela depicted as a man-headed bull
City ethnic in the genitive (i.e. possessive) case - 'GELAS' = '(this coin belongs to) Gela'
Winged Nike (goddess of victory) crowning the horses
Charioteer driving a quadriga
Obverse Type
Reverse Type
Tetradrachm of Gela, ca. 510-480, 27mm, 17.08g (Boston MFA 04.442b)
Tetradrachm of Selinus, ca. 466-445, 27mm, 17.04g (Boston MFA 04.479)
Celery
Laurel branch
Sacrifical bull
Selinus (mythical figure)
Altar
Phiale
Artemis
Apollo
Quadriga
The city ethnic SYRAKOSION is spelled with the letter koppa (ϙ) instead of kappa (κ).

The letter koppa was also used in the dialect of Corinth, the morther-city of Syracuse.
Tetradrachm of Syracuse, ca. 520-510, 26mm, 17.22g (Boston MFA 09.267).
Dialect
Stater of Corinth, ca. 510-480, 16mm, 8.66g (Boston MFA 01.5461).
Mythology and Topography
The female head depicted here is of Arethusa, the nymph of a freshwater spring near the Great Harbour of Syracuse.

Since freshwater springs beside salt water were considered very unusual, Arethusa and her spring attracted all kinds of myths trying to explain the spring's origin (known as 'aetiological' myths).

In particular, it was thought that the River Alpheus, which ran through Olympia in the Peloponnese, travelled under the Mediterranean and arose at this point.

This myth is therefore a metaphorical way of tying Syracuse to the heart of Greece (think, too, of all the dedications at Olympia and the interest of the tyrants in celebrating victories at the Olympic games).

Indeed, in his epinician odes Pindar repeatedly references Arethusa like this - see e.g.
Nem.
1 intro. (for Chromios of Syracuse, 476),
Pyth.
2.7 (for Hieron, late 477/early 476),
Pyth.
3.69 (for Hieron, 474),
Ol.
6.92 (for Hagesias of Syracuse in 476 or 472).
Values
Syracuse is the first Sicilian city to depict a quadriga (a four-horse chariot) on its coinage.

Quadriga racing was associated with extreme wealth because to enter this competition you needed to maintain a large stable of racing horses.

As a result, when the quadriga was chosen as the obverse type for Syracuse's first coins ca. 520-510 it was a symbol of the wealth and leisured lives of the city's aristocratic elite, the Gamoroi.

Later, when quadriga racing at Panhellenic games became a status symbol for the tyrants, the same image would have put users in mind of the victories which were also celebrated in epinician odes by Pindar.
Himera (seized 483)
Akragas
Didrachm of Akragas, ca. 500-475 (?), 19mm, 8.84g (Boston MFA 04.424).
BEFORE Theron of Akragas takes over
AFTER Theron of Akragas takes over
Didrachm of Himera, ca. 483-472, 22mm, 8.48g (Boston MFA 04.450).
1. Early Coinage (520s-500s)
2. Samian Exiles (494/3-489)
3. Zankle Becomes Messana (489-480)
4. The End of the Tyranny and the Beginning of the Democracy (480-450)
Rhegion
Zankle's name comes from the Sicel word
zanklon
which means 'sickle' and refers to the shape of the harbour. The dolphin obverse type may likewise be referring to this.

Zankle starts minting in the 520s. Note that the city ethnic is in Chalkidian dialect (i.e. the dialect of its mother-city, Chalkis in Euboia) - 'd' for 'z' in 'Zankle'.
Tetradrachm of the Samian exiles at Zankle, Year 2 (493/2), 23mm, 17.01g (ANS 1963.106.1).
Tetradrachm of Samos, ca. 494-439, 20mm, 13.11g (Boston MFA 04.1051).
There is a revolt against Persian rule in western Turkey 499-494 (the 'Ionian Revolt'). When the revolt is eventually crushed, exiles from the island of Samos travel west to find a new home.

Through the help of Anaxilas, tyrant of Rhegion, they seize Zankle while its tyrant, Scythes, is off fighting Sicels (Scythes himself is from the island of Kos near Samos, and after he is thrown out of Zankle he returns to the Persian Empire).

For five years they run Zankle and issue their own coinage. The obverse type is taken from Samian coinage, whereas the reverse shows a ship (referring to their voyage?) and a letter indicating how many years they've been at Zankle (A = 1, B = 2, etc.).
Tetradrachm of Messana, ca. 488-480, 24mm, 17.55g (Berlin 18216056).
Drachm of Rhegion, ca. 494/3-480, 17mm, 5.66g (Boston MFA 04.406).
In 489 Anaxilas chases the Samians out of Zankle and repopulates the city with colonists from a variety of places.

One prominent group of colonists are exiles from Messenia in the Peloponnese. Messenia is the large territory next to Lakonia whose population Sparta ensalved in the 8th c. In honour of the Messenians he renames the city Messana (a dialect version of Messene).

The mint at Messana starts producing coins with exactly the same obverse and reverse types as the coinage of Rhegion (Anaxilas' hometown) except with a different city ethnic (MESSENION instead of REGION).
Tetradrachm of Messana, ca. 480-461, 27mm, 17.28g (Boston MFA 04.462).
Tetradrachm of Messana, ca. 460-456, 27mm, 16.36g (ANS 1944.100.8611)
Tetradrachm of Messana, 420-413, 27mm, 16.47g (Boston MFA 04.463).
The Tyranny (470s-460s)
The Early Democracy (450s)
The Mature Democracy (410s)
LESSON!

We need to be careful about interpreting coin types purely in political/ideological terms. While Anaxilas and his family were the sworn enemies of the Messanian democracy, the Messanians evidently saw no problem in continuing to use coin types which celebrated Anaxilas' achievements.

Sometimes coin types tell us about politics (e.g. the crab reverse at Himera indicating when Theron seizes it, the coins issued by the Samian exiles at Zankle, the parallel issues of Anaxilas at Rhegion and Messana ...), but sometimes they don't!

Remember - coin types aren't just there to send ideological/political messages, they're ALSO (indeed, PRIMARILY) there to mark this lump of metal as legal tender. Users of coins can be INCREDIBLY conservative, preferring to stick with money they know is kosher rather than 'risk' using money that looks slightly different (think how difficult it can be to spend a Scottish banknote in the south of England ...).
4. Die Studies
3. Weights and Denominations
Why do the size and shape of ancient coins matter?
Reason 1:
They Tell Us What Job The Coinage is Meant To Be Doing
Reason 2:
They Tell Us Which People A City Is Doing Lots Of Business With
Modern coins and bank notes have ONE DIMENSION to their value - what the government says they are worth. This is the FACE VALUE of money (e.g. £10).

The material out of which modern coins and bank notes are made is worthless - modern money therefore lacks INTRINSIC VALUE.

If a £10 note didn't say, 'I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of ten pounds', it would be worth fractions of a penny.

(NB - I'm ignoring the complicating factor of currency markets and so on which aren't relevant here).
Athens, ca. 480-450, 25mm, 17.06g (Boston MFA 00.261)
Ancient coins have TWO DIMENSIONS to their value - what the state says the coin is worth
('face value')
AND what the coin is worth just as a lump of metal
('intrinsic value')
.

When modern coins are different sizes this is a purely PRACTICAL thing - you want a user to be able to instantly tell by sight or feel which denomination a coin is.

For ancient coinage, shape and size CAN be a practical consideration, but mostly what it does is change the ACTUAL VALUE of the coin.

An Athenian silver tetradrachm (= 4 drachms) is worth more than a drachm because it has FOUR TIMES the amount of silver. In turn, ALL silver coinage will be worth LESS THAN GOLD but MORE THAN BRONZE because silver is worth less than gold and more than bronze.
Tetradrachm (= 4 drachms)
Drachm
Athens, ca. 480-450, 14mm, 4.26g (Boston MFA 00.268)
http://www.royalmint.com/discover/uk-coins/coin-design-and-specifications
Modern coins and bank notes are made up of a range of DENOMINATIONS (from 1p to £50) which are intended to facilitate every kind of transaction from getting change in a shop (= coppers) all the way up to making payments of £100+ (= £20 and £50 notes).

You COULD try and pay a £100 restaurant bill with coppers and you COULD try and pay for a chocolate bar in a shop with a £50 note, but it's not advisable.

Guessing what kind of job a modern coin or bank note denomination is meant to do is fairly easy because they tell us how much they're worth (e.g. a £10 note will say 'TEN POUNDS' on it).
The relationship between the VALUE of a coin and the JOB it is meant to do is even stronger in the ancient world because ancient coins are primarily minted to make SPECIFIC payments.

There is no equivalent to the modern idea of the 'money supply' (i.e. there should be a certain amount of cash in circulation at any given time), so cities generally don't bother to mint coins until they need to make payments. The rest of the time, they just use someone else's coins.

As a result, if we can infer the value of an ancient coin from its METAL, WEIGHT, and position within the DENOMINATIONAL STRUCTURE of the coinage as a whole, we can probably also work out what job it was meant to do.
Different Denominations Do Different Jobs
Obol of Syracuse, ca. 480-479, 10.5mm, 0.59g (Boston MFA 62.972)
1 Silver Obol
2 obols - A day's jury pay at Athens.
6 obols - A day's pay for sailors on warships in the 5th c.

This coin would be good for paying the daily wages of labourers and military servicemen. It facilitates day-to-day transactions.
1 Silver Drachm
Drachm of Syracuse, ca. 485-479, 14mm, 4.19g (Boston MFA 00.110)
1 drachm =
6 obols
3 days of jury service
1 day as sailor on warship
1 Silver Tetradrachm
Tetradrachm of Syracuse, ca. 485-479, 23.5mm, 17.47g (Boston MFA 54.1474)
1 tetradrachm =

4 drachms
24 obols
12 days of jury service
4 days as sailor on warship
1 Silver Decadrachm
Decadrachm of Syracuse, ca. 470-465, 35mm, 43.35g (Boston MFA 35.21)
1 decadrachm =

2 1/2 tetradrachms
10 drachms
60 obols
30 days jury service
10 days as sailor on warship
Suited to making large lump sum payments

Good for military expenses, large commercial deals.
Only useful for the very largest payments.

Usually associated with major military expenses (hiring mercenaries, building a navy, etc.).
In the modern world we have just two systems of measurement - the
Imperial
(America, Liberia, Myanmar) and the
Metric
(everyone else).

Before the 19th century spread of the Metric system there were many other measurement systems. This is what the ancient world was like too. We therefore talk of ancient coins being on 'weight standards'.
Anyone who has tried to convert Imperial and Metric units into one another will know that this can get arithmetically complicated.

In the ancient world these sums also needed to be done all the time with coins on different weight standards (e.g. 'how many Samian standard drachms go into an Attic standard tetradrachm?').

When two cities do a lot of trade with one another (and their merchants therefore have to do these sums very regularly) there is an incentive for both cities EITHER to use the same standard OR to at least use compatible standards (i.e. where the maths is easy).

Therefore, when we see cities converging on a single weight standard and set of coin denominations, this suggests they are doing a lot of business together.
Measurement Systems
Weight Standards and Economic Relationships
Two Sicilian Case Studies
1. Converging Weight Standards
Selinus
(Corinthian
Staters)
Himera
(Chalkidian
1/3 Staters)
Zankle
(Chalkidian
1/3 Staters)
Naxos
(Chalkidian
1/3 Staters)
Syracuse
(Attic 4ds - 520)
Gela
(Attic 4ds - 500)
Akragas
(Attic 2ds - 510)
Kamarina
(Attic 2ds - 490)
Katane
(Attic 4ds - 466)
Segesta
(Attic 2ds - 470)
Leontinoi
(Attic 4ds - 510)
Attic 4ds - 460
Attic 4ds - 494
Attic 2ds - 483
Attic 4ds - 450
Attic 4ds - 466
Attic 4ds - 460
Attic 4ds - 430
When coinage starts in Sicily there are several different standards in use - the 'Chalkidian' at Himera, Messana, and Naxos, the 'Corinthian' at Selinus, the 'Attic' at Syracuse.

All the cities which start minting after 510 adopt the Attic standard, although they differ on whether their large denomination coin is the tetradrachm [= 4d] (favoured by Syracuse) or the didrachm [= 2d].

By 460 all the cities of Sicily are minting on the Attic standard and only Kamarina is still using didrachms instead of tetradrachms (it changes in 430). In parallel with this we see many Sicilian cities adopting the Syracusan quadriga as their obverse type.

So, 500-450 we see the mints of Sicily converging on the look and feel of Syracusan coins. Interestingly, though, the chronology DOESN'T neatly coincide with the period of Syracusan political dominance (498-467), but rather spills over into the democratic era.

This convergence therefore probably reflects ECONOMIC rather than POLITICAL considerations.
2. Unusual Fractional Denominations
Coin denominations below a drachm (e.g. the obol I showed you earlier) are known as 'fractions'.

The normal fractions used with the Attic weight standard are obols (6 obols = 1 drachm) and hemiobols (12 hemiobols = 1 drachm).

Curiously, ca. 500-450, at precisely the time when the Sicilian mints are converging on the Attic weight standard for coins ABOVE a drachm, they also decide to replace obol fractions with litra frations.

This is like using Euros for everything above a tenor, but pounds and pennies for everything below that.

The litra was a unit of measurement employed by the native peoples of Sicily and Italy to weigh bronze (at this point they weren't minting their own coinage so instead used bronze ingots as currency).

This is still an unsolved problem, but one suggestion is that the Sicilian Greeks were doing lots of business with native Sicilians in the interior. Rather than produce their own bronze ingots to trade with them, they instead produced small silver coins of precisely equivalent value.

If this is correct, then the litra fractions are important evidence for Greek-Sicilian trade ca. 500-450.
Coins are Handmade
1) A die engraver cuts a reverse and an obverse die in intaglio.

2) The obverse die is set in a vice and a metal coin blank (or 'flan') is placed on top.

3) The reverse die is set in a punch.

4) The punch is placed on top of the coin blank and struck with a hammer.
Iron dies for a bronze Dupondius or As of Augustus (Triton Auction 13 [4/1/2010] Lot 309) [www.cngcoins.com].
We can use some basic facts about this production process to work out the original size of the coinage. In turn, this can tell us about the financial means of the city which produced the coinage.

What we want to know is how much silver a city used to mint a coinage. Since we can't find this out directly, we use the number of obverse dies which were used to produce the coinage as a proxy for the overall size of the coinage. This won't give us the exact figure, but it puts us in the right ball park.

How come we can do this? Very briefly:

1) Dies degrade and break over time and eventually have to be replaced. It is estimated that an obverse die could typically produce 10,000-20,000 coins before needing to be retired.

2) The obverse die lasts much longer than the reverse die because it is in a protected position below the coin blank. We can therefore establish the sequence in which the dies were used by looking for a reverse die which is shared by two obverse dies (a 'die link').

3) Every die is unique because they are handmade. As a result, if more than one die has been used for the coins we are looking at we can establish this by looking for variations in the dies.
Die Studies
E. Boehringer,
Die Münzen von Syrakus
(1929)
Example: Syracuse's Tetradrachms 510-450
Dark green
is how many obverse dies have been counted.
Light green
applies a statistical formula to the date to judge how many observe dies there probably were originally.

We have a very representative sample of all four periods of Syracuse's tetradrachm production 510-450. The differences between the four groups therefore relate to genuine differences in levels of production.

As was discussed in the previous section on weights and denominations, tetradrachms are high value coinages used to make lump sum payments. We therefore need to identify a major expense which Syracuse would have undertaken in the years 485-478.

The obvious answer is 1) the massive expansion of the city of Syracuse after Gelon took it over in 485 and 2) the mobilization of an enormous army in 480 to defeat the Carthaginians at Himera.

The capacity of Syracuse to mint such an enormous high value silver coinage strongly supports Herodotus' claim that in the late 480s Syracuse was the most powerful city in the Greek world
This Week's Image
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Map of Sicily from the
Kitab-ı Bahriye

('Book of Navigation', 1521) by the Ottoman cartographer
Pîrî Reis
(1465/70 - 1553).
This kind of image where the image is a visual pun on the city's name is known as a CANTING TYPE.
Anaxilas won the short-lived mule chariot race at the Olympics in 480. He celebrated this victory on the coinage of Messana and Rhegion by introducing new types - a mule chariot on the obverse and a hare on the reverse.

Given the lengths to which the Deinomenid tyrants of Gela/Syracuse went to celebrate their Olympic victories, it seems likely that these coin types are part of Anaxilas' rivalry with them.

Anaxilas dies in 476 and the tyranny continues under his children. In 461 there is a popular rising in both Messana and Rhegion and the tyranny is brought to an end.

However, whereas the Rhegian democracy changes its coin types, the Messanian democracy keeps them for the rest of the fifth century.
Spread of the Metric system
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