SICILY. Syracuse. Agathokles, 317-289 BC. 50 Litrai or Dekadrachm (Gold, 16 mm, 4.27 g, 9 h), circa 317-310. Laureate head of Apollo to left. Rev. ΣYP-A-KO-ΣIΩN Charioteer driving fast biga to right, holding reins in his left hand and kentron in his right; below, triskeles running left. Bérend, Agathocle, pl. 9, 1. BMFA 456. Dewing 934 var. (symbol on the obverse). Gulbenkian 327 var. (symbol on the obverse). SNG ANS 552. A magnificent piece of exuberant early Hellenistic style. Small die break on the reverse, otherwise, extremely fine.
From the Hyperborea Collection, Leu 7, 24-25 October 2020, 1130 and ex Gorny & Mosch 228, 9 March 2015, 36.
Born the son of a potter from Rhegion, Agathokles was a typical early Hellenistic condottiere. After spending his early career as a mercenary officer in southern Italy, he returned to Syracuse in 317, where his family had moved when he was 18, and took power by a military coup. The following years saw the expansion of his might and a great war against Carthage, in the course of which Agathokles landed in Africa while Syracuse was under siege by Hamilkar. However, the Syracusan tyrant was ultimately defeated and returned to Sicily, where the withdrawal of Hamilkar led to a stalemate situation. A peace treaty was concluded between the two rivalling powers, which greatly strengthened Agathokles' position in Syracuse and resulted in his assumption of the title of βασιλεύς (king) in 305/4, shortly after Alexander's diadochi had also declared themselves kings. Agathokles died in 289 at a ripe age of 71 years, but unlike his Macedonian counterparts, he proved unable to establish his own dynasty and Syracuse descended into turmoil after his demise.