Silver Didrachm, 400-330 BCE
weight: 7.6g, width: 2.19cm

Heraclea OBVHeraclea REV

OBV.: Athena in a Corinthian war helmet decorated with crest and Skylla throwing stone. Above helmet worn inscription: “HRAKLHIWN” (Herakleion = of the Herakleians). Just behind the curve of the lowest plume is the engraver’s mark "K" .
REV.: Herakles standing naked, facing forward. His left arm is leaning on a club. Floating at his left shoulder is a wine jug (oinochoe). Spread across his right arm is his lion pelt; in his hand he holds a bow and arrow. Remnants of inscription “HRAKLHION” (Herakleion = of the Herakleians) in right field. Inscription beside the club: "AQA" (= Atha...).

HFMA nr. 2006.010.020. Ref.: SNG UK Vol. III 346 Lockett Collection; BMC 33; Sear # 391.

Heraclea (Greek: Herakleia) on the instep of the Italian peninsula was founded as an outpost against the non-Greek Lucanians by an alliance of Tarentum and Thurii in 433 BCE near the destroyed city of Siris. It became famous as the site of the first major battle of the Pyrrhic War in 280 BCE in which king Pyrrhus of Epirus defeated a Roman army on the head of a coalition of Southern Italian Greek city states.

Heraclea's coinage echoes the circumstances of its foundation. The Athena on the obverse is taken from Thurii, which was itself a colony of Athens. The female sea monster or Skylla on the goddess' helmet, which was also already present on Thurian coins, may be a reference to the cult of Athena Skyletria. The Skylla is probably a pun on the Greek word skyla (war booty) and points to Athena's nature as a deity bringing victory and booty (1).

The Doric hero Herakles on the reverse recalls Tarentum, a city founded by Dorians from Sparta.


(1) Lavva 2001, 26.


N. Davis, Greek Coins and Cities. Seattle: Seattle Art Museum, 1967, p. 178.
S. Lavva, Die Münzprägung von Pharsalos. Saarbrücken: Saarbrücker Druckerei und Verlag, 2001.

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