Last Coin-------------------Next Coin

Area: Italy; Campania; Tarentum
Period: 315 BC - 302 BC
Denomination: AR Nomos
Obverse: Warrior, holding shield and two spears, preparing to cast a third, on horseback right; "ΣA" below.
Reverse: Phalanthos, holding kantharos and trident, riding dolphin left; "TAPAΣ" behind, "K" below arm; below dolphin, smaller dolphin left.
Reference: Fischer-Bossert Group 72, 865 (V340/R671); Vlasto 608; HN Italy 937
Weight: 7.5 gms
Diameter: 21.3 mm

TARENTUM

Taras/Tarentum/Taranto was founded in 706 BC by Dorian Greek immigrants as the only Spartan colony, and its origin is peculiar: the founders were Partheniae ("sons of virgins"), sons of unmarried Spartan women and Perioeci (free men, but not citizens of Sparta); these out-of-wedlock unions were permitted extraordinarily by the Spartans to increase the prospective number of soldiers (only the citizens of Sparta could become soldiers) during the bloody Messenian Wars, but later they were retroactively nullified, and the sons were then obliged to leave Greece forever. Phalanthus, the Parthenian leader, went to Delphi to consult the oracle: the puzzling answer designated the harbour of Taranto as the new home of the exiles. The Partheniae arrived in Apulia, and founded the city, naming it Taras after the son of the Greek sea god, Poseidon, and of a local nymph, Satyrion. According to other sources, Heracles founded the city. Another tradition indicates Taras as the founder of the city; the symbol of the Greek city (as well as of the modern city) depicts the legend of Taras being saved from a shipwreck by riding a dolphin that was sent to him by Poseidon. Taranto increased its power, becoming a commercial power and a sovereign city of Magna Graecia, ruling over the Greek colonies in southern Italy.

Its independence and power came to an end as the Romans expanded throughout Italy. Taranto won the first of two wars against Rome for the control of Southern Italy: it was helped by Pyrrhus, king of Greek Epirus, who surprised Rome with the use of war elephants in battle, a thing never seen before by the Romans. Rome won the second war in 272 BC. This subsequently cut off Taranto from the centre of Mediterranean trade, by connecting the Via Appia directly to the port of Brundisium (Brindisi).

Back to main page