SICILY. Syracuse. Dionysios I, 405-367 BC. Tetradrachm (Silver, 26 mm, 16.82 g, 3 h), signed by K..., circa 405-400. Charioteer driving quadriga galloping to left, holding the reins of three of the horses with both hands and kentron with his right; above, Nike flying right, crowning the charioteer with a wreath; beneath the horses' hoove, a broken wheel; to left, the rein of the horse in the back sliding on the ground; in exergue, grain ear left. Rev. [ΣΥΡΑΚΟΣΙΩΝ] Head of Arethusa to right, wearing double hook earring and pearl necklace and with her hair bound by an ampyx in the front and a sphendone ornamented with three stars in the back, the lower rim ornamented with a zigzag pattern; around, two pairs of dolphins swimming downwards; behind the nape, K. Gulbenkian 287 (same dies). NAC 33 (2006), 94 (same dies). Rizzo pl. XLVII, 12 (same dies). Tudeer 68A (O25/R42). Very rare. An excellent example of this prestigious issue, struck from two of the most beautiful and artistic dies of Syracuse. The usual small die break on the temple and with a flan crack and very light porosity, otherwise, extremely fine.
From the M.G. Collection, formed in the 1980s and 1990s.
For most of the 5th century, the rendering of the quadriga on the coins of Syracuse followed a rather rigid artistic canon: it is shown with little variation moving slowly to the right or to the left. This dramatically changes with Euainetos, Kimon and their followers in the two decades following the victory over the Athenians in 415-413 BC. These artists attempted, for the first time, to fully capture the motion and fierce intensity of the chariot races in their work. The present coin brings us what is arguably the most artistic rendering of a quadriga from that era: the fast running horses are trampling over a wheel that has broken away from the chariot of an opponent who was leading the race, while the chasing charioteer, in the heat of the moment, has lost hold of the reins of the horse in the far back. It is made abundantly clear that the accident eventually does not stop the racer from winning by the fact that he is crowned by a flying Nike. There has been much discussion about the signature K on the reverse, which some have attributed to Kimon while others have suggested the hand of an otherwise unnamed artist. Whoever he was, it is beyond doubt that he created a true masterpiece of Greek numismatic art.