Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Pyrrhic Victory

A superbly struck example of a rare gold stater from the ancient Greek city state of Taras (Tarentum) in southern Italy, a.k.a.Calabria. The 8.55 g coin dates from 276-272 BC. The obverse shows the head of Zeus. On the reverse an eagle with wings displayed perches on a thunderbolt.
$ 18,000 in VF.
Taras or Tarentum, in Calabria, is modern Taranto in southern Italy.
When the Romans broke a treaty with Taras to subdue an adjacent Greek city, Taras forcibly expelled the Roman garrison from the captured township. The Romans were not impressed and sought revenge. Taras appealed for help to King Pyrrhos of Epirus in northwestern Greece. Pyrrhos duly arrived to embark upon the great Pyrrhic War of 280-275 B.C.E. He defeated the Roman armies in two battles but found he could not crush Rome itself.

The two conflicts had delivered Pyrrhos massive casualties. He remarked, if “we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined.” The expression “Pyrrhic victory” entered the world’s lexicon.

Bust of Pyrrhos
In 278 B.C.E. Pyrrhos abandoned Taras to its fate. He did return in 275 B.C.E. for another round with the Roman legions, but was soundly defeated and returned to Epirus. Three years later Taras was besieged and the city finally fell to the Romans.