E-Auction 36 Lot 21

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E-Auction 36 Lot 21

SICILY. Messana. The Mamertinoi. Circa 288-278 B.C. Æ quadruple unit. 13.66 gm. 26 mm. Laureate head of youthful Ares right; helmet with apex to left, ΑΡΕΟΣ to right / Bull charging left; ΜΑΜΕΡ-ΤΙ-ΝΩΝ around and in exergue. CNS I, 1. SNG ANS 399. HGC 2, 864. Very Fine; beautiful smooth apple green patina with earthen highlights. Bold and pleasing style bust of Ares, and well designed bull, both well centered and well struck on a full round flan.

Zankle, named for its sickle-shaped natural harbor, was a settlement of great antiquity on the northeast tip of Sicily. It was renamed Messana by Anaxilas, tyrant of Rhegion. In about 288 B.C. a force of Oscan mercenaries, the Mamertinoi, attacked Messana and massacred the inhabitants. They ruled the city until the Romans won the island in the Punic Wars.

(Cf. lot 24, Campanian merceneraries:

The tyrants of Sicily had always employed mercenaries, often hired in Campania and Central Italy. In a land famed for its sweeping landscapes–ideal for the breeding of strong horses–the emergent Campanian nobility developed their renowned cavalry. Carrying heavy javelins for skirmishing and swords for melee, they used speed, agility, and flexibility of tactics to inflict damage on more heavily armed, and therefore slower moving, opponents. When King Agathocles of Syracuse died many of his strong young mercenaries refused to leave Sicily, and captured the Greek city of Messana in circa 288. They adopted the name of their war god Mamers, Oscan for Mars, often fighting like pirates and plundering the neighboring districts. Their activities which finally engaged the Romans against the Carthaginians set off the First Punic War (264-241 B.C.).

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