SICILY. Syracuse. Hieron II, 275-215 BC. 60 Litrai or Dekadrachm (Gold, 16 mm, 4.28 g, 12 h), 218/7-215. Head of Persephone to left, wearing wreath of grain ears, pendant earring and pearl necklace; behind, poppy. Rev. IEPΩΝΟΣ Nike driving fast biga to right, holding reins in her left hand and kentron in her right; below, monogram of AΓ. Carroccio 51. Gulbenkian 352 (same obverse die). Jameson 876 = Kraay-Hirmer pl. 49, 139 (same obverse die). SNG ANS 862 (same obverse die). A splendid, lustrous example of wonderful style, beautifully struck and free from most of the die rust that usually plagues this series. Good extremely fine.
From a Swiss collection, formed before 2005.
Hieron II was the illegitimate son of a Syracusan aristocrat who assumed power in his home city after Pyrrhos of Epirus withdrew from Sicily in 275 BC. As a skilled politician, he switched sides at the right time early in the 1st Punic War and allied himself with Rome - a clever move that safeguarded his kingship for the rest of his very long life. Hieron died in 215 BC at the age of more than ninety years, after one of the longest reigns of any ancient king. Impressed by Hannibal's early victories in the 2nd Punic War, the Syracusans broke the longlasting alliance with Rome soon after, a miscalculation that eventually resulted in the capture and plundering of their city by Roman forces in 212 BC, in the course of which Archimedes, the most famous mathematician of antiquity and a personal friend of Hieron, was slain by a Roman soldier.