SICILY. Syracuse. Fifth Democracy, 214-212 BC.
12 Litrai (Silver, 25 mm, 10.21 g, 6 h). Head of Athena to left, wearing crested Corinthian helmet decorated with a griffin on the bowl, pendant earring and pearl necklace. Rev.
ΣΥΡΑΚΟΣΙΩΝ Artemis, in hunting dress and with quiver on her back, standing left, shooting arrow; at feet, hunting dog leaping left; in field to left, ΔA. Basel 540 (this coin
). Burnett, Enna, 72 and pl. 8, D6 (same dies
). SNG München 1432. SNG Lloyd 1568. A wonderful piece, very sharply struck and of bold Hellenistic style. Good extremely fine.
From the Kleinkunst Collection, Leu 6, 23 October 2020, 91 and from the collection of A. D. Moretti, Numismatica Ars Classica 13, 8 October 1998, 540.
As pro-Roman and pro-Carthaginian factions struggled for control, the murder of Hieronymos in 214 left Syracuse in a state of disarray (the so-called 'Fifth Democracy'). The brothers Hippokrates and Epikydes eventually gained the upper hand and enforced the irrevocable break with Rome, which sent its most experienced general, Marcus Claudius Marcellus, to besiege the great city. Syracusan resistance was fierce: its massive fortifications and the genius of Archimedes, the greatest mathematician of Antiquity, repelled all attacks for two years, but in the end, Roman persistence and military might prevailed. Syracuse was captured and Archimedes killed by a Roman soldier, who reportedly slew him while he was contemplating a mathematical diagram.
The conquest of Syracuse not only brought to an end once and for all the independence of the most important Greek city in the west, it also was a turning point in the Second Punic War, which would eventually see Rome's rise to a superpower second to none. The coinage struck in Syracuse during the short time of the 'Fifth Democracy' is surprisingly diverse and features a great variety of types. Many of the dies produced during the Roman siege are of beautiful full Hellenistic style, proving that the city's best artists were still in town. However, this was about to change, and the sparse post-siege bronze coinage of Syracuse was, like all the Sicilian civic issues struck under Roman rule, of poor craftsmanship and just a distant echo of its glorious past.