An ever-popular collecting motif on ancient coins called the ‘dolphin rider’ types represents an extremely important iconography for the coinage of Tarentum, the city upon which modern Taranto, Italy was built. Tarentum was founded in the eighth century BCE during a period of Greek colonization, whereby oikistes were sent forth from various Greek cities to establish footholds in the Italian peninsula.
Some attribute Spartan founding to Phalanthos while some to Taras, the legendary son of Poseidon and Satyria. At some point it would appear that these two foundation stories were merged; Phalanthos gained Poseidon as his ascribed father in a case of mythical patrimony and his arrival in Italy was not by boat, but instead astride a dolphin. In essence much of the fantastic lore surrounding Taras was retained with the mortal Spartan substituted in the name.
Starting in the very late sixth century BCE, Tarentum began issuing coinage paying tribute to this figure and reiterating the dolphin as a crux of the foundation story. Though numerous denominations were struck over the ensuing three centuries. The most iconic was that of the nomos, a silver coin equivalent to two drachmai. A vast quantity was struck owing to the fact that Tarentum was one of the most populous cities in the world around 500 BCE.
Today, this nomoi are among the most popular and sought after types with collectors on account of their interesting iconography.
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