Tuesday, 5 January 2021

The “Dolphin Rider” coinage of Tarentum

Tarentum, the city upon which modern Taranto, Italy was built, was founded in the eighth century BCE. Some attributed the civic beginnings to Taras, the legendary son of Poseidon and Satyria, a local nymph. In his myth, Taras falls from his ship during a storm, and is miraculously rescued and brought to shore by a dolphin. Starting in the very late sixth century BCE, Tarentum began issuing coinage paying tribute to the dolphin.
Though many denominations were struck over the ensuing three centuries, the most iconic was that of the nomos, a silver coin equivalent to two drachmai. Corresponding in size to U.S. nickel, these coins were a staple in regional trade.

A vast quantity were struck owing to the fact that Tarentum was one of the most populous cities in the world around 500 BCE.