Learn About the Tumultuous History of Kamarina

07 Mar 2018  Wed

Kamarina is a port city on the southern coast of Sicily and its history is among the most chaotic of Ancient Greece. Founded in 599 BCE by settlers from Syracuse, its location allowed it to grow quickly and gather substantial wealth through trade.

But, after its founding, Syracuse began to perceive it as a threat because of its success. In 553 BCE, Syracuse destroyed the city, but it was re-founded by colonists from Gela, this scenario kept on repeating two more times.

Kamarina was still weak although Gela supported it. However, it was looking for stronger allies to defend itself against future attacks by Syracuse. It sought out the support of Leontinoi until that city was destroyed by Syracuse in 422 BCE. In due course of time, Kamarina gained some stability with the help of Athens, but Kamarina was a little cautious as they wanted to see if Athens was indeed stronger than Syracuse.

After producing only small-denomination greek coins, Kamarina began striking tetradrachms around 425 BCE and immediately produced a masterpiece. The obverse depicts a vivid example of the Syracuse galloping quadriga motif, with the reverse illustrating a powerful and mature head of Heracles wearing the skin of the Nemean lion.

The Heracles type was a reference to Kamarina’s Dorian origins and became famous among Greek coinage. It served as the prototype for the design chosen by Alexander the Great on his famous tetradrachms.

This issue continued until 405 BCE when Carthage attacked Kamarina and Gela, and the populations of both of these cities fled to Syracuse for protection under the power of the Greek tyrant Dionysios.

SICILY. Kamarina. Ca. 425-405 BCE. AR tetradrachm (26mm, 17.18 gm, 12h). Athena driving racing quadriga left; the quadriga with a broad, S-curved antyx (rim); Nike flying right above holding wreath to crown driver, heron flying left in exergue / ???????????, bearded head of mature Heracles left, wearing skin of Nemean lion. Westermark-Jenkins 142 (same dies). Rizzo plate V, 9 (same dies). SNG-ANS 1203. SNG-Cop 162. Pozzi 398. Gulbenkian 174. With a powerful head of the Heracles in the finest style.

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