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Greek Coins

the project

Update catalog entries and write descriptions of coins to be published on the museum website. I analyzed over 100 coins. Below are some samples. The rest can be found on www.spurlock.illinois.edu.

The result

This Greek coin is a silver Stater from the ancient city of Corinth on the Grecian Peloponnesus. It was struck in the late 4th century BCE. The obverse is a profile of Athena, Greek goddess of wisdom, war, and peace and patron of Corinth, wearing a Corinthian helmet over a leather cap. The reverse is Pegasus, a winged horse, that sprang from the blood of Medusa when she was beheaded by Perseus. It was while Pegasus was drinking from the fountain Peirene at Corinth that Bellerophon, using a magical bridle given to him by Athena, was able to subdue Pegasus. Together they slew the chimera, a beast with a snake for a tail, the body of a goat and the head of a lion that breathed fire

This Greek coin is a silver Didrachm from the ancient city Tarentum, now Taranto in the Calabria region of Italy. Italy, as well as Sicily, was part of Magna Graecia (Great Greece) that had Greek colonies. The coin was struck in the mid-4th century BCE. The obverse displays a horse and its rider. The reverse displays Taras riding a dolphin, which saved him after a shipwreck. He founded the city of Taras where he reached land. To the right of Taras’ head are the letters TARA (Tau Alpha Rho Alpha), the letters denoting it from Taras.

This Greek coin is a silver Stater from Thebes in the Boeotia region of southern Greece. It was struck in the late 5th to early 4th century BCE. The obverse contains a Boeotian shield. This shield is used on all coins stuck in Boeotia and may refer to the worship of Athena Itonia, Greek goddess of wisdom, war, and peace. It could also refer to Ares, Greek god of war. The hero Cadmus the Phoenician came to the area and slew the dragon guarding the fountain of Ares. Here he sowed its teeth to raise a race of warriors. The city was first called Cadmea after him, but the name was later changed to Thebes after the nymph Thebe. The reverse is a profile of a bearded Dionysus, Greek god of grapes and therefore wine.

Photos courtesy of The Spurlock Museum, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign