Pharsalos, Thessaly (Central Greece)

Silver Hemidrachm (a.k.a. triobol), 440-425 BCE
weight: 2.9g, width: 1.37cm

Pharsalos OBVPharsalos REV

OBV.: Head of Athena with earrings facing right, wearing a crested Attic helmet with raised cheek guards.
REV.: Horse head in incuse square facing right. In right field, inscription "F-AR" with archaic Greek R; test cut on base of horse head.

HFMA nr. 2006.010.007. Ref.: Lavva (2001) nr. 31.


Pharsalos was an important city in the south of ancient Thessaly (map). Not mentioned in Homer's epics, it claimed to be the Homeric Phthia, the birthplace of Achilles. Nowadays, it is best known as the site of the battle of Pharsalos in 48 BCE (immortalized, e.g., in Lucan's epic poem Pharsalia) in which Julius Caesar defeated Pompey and the forces of the Roman Republic.

The coin was minted during the Golden Age of Pharsalos under its ruler Daochos (ca. 441 - 413 BCE). The Attic helmet worn by Athena was relatively impractical in battle since it offers much less protection than the Corinthian helmet, and so it has been suggested that the Athena on the obverse is the city's patron goddess, Athena Polias. The horse head on the reverse alludes to the fact that the Thessalians had the best cavalry and bred the best horses. Alexander the Great's famous horse, Bukephalos, for example, came from Thessaly.

O.K.

Literature:

S. Lavva, Die Münzprägung von Pharsalos. Saarbrücken: Saarbrücker Druckerei und Verlag, 2001.

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