Finely-struck coin depicting a charioteer, dressed in flowing chiton and holding goad and reins, driving a racing four-horse chariot (quadriga) to the left. Above, Nike, goddess of victory, flies in on the right, about to crown the charioteer with a wreath. In exergue, there is a panoply of arms set on two steps: a cuirass between two greaves with a Phrygian helmet to the right. On the reverse side of the coin, the Head of Arethusa is beautifully depicted wearing a wreath of grains and reeds, a triple-pendant earring, and a necklace. Four dolphins swim around the head of the nymph. The signature above reads ΣΥ-Ρ-Α-Κ-ΟΣΙΩΝ and Eyaine below. Under the exergual panoply of arms are the letters ΑΘΛΑ.
The series of silver decadrachm engraved by Kimon and Euainetos, two of the greatest local numismatic artists, were struck when the glory of Syracuse was at its height. These masterpiece coins, used throughout the fourth century in Sicily, were thought to be rewards, suggested by the word engraved under the armor, ΑΘΛΑ, meaning contests or prizes. It seems likely now that the word denotes all the arms that were seized from the enemy and dedicated to the gods following Syracuse’s victory over Athens in 414-413 BC. The silver used for this series of handsomely toned coins came partly from the collected booty.
One of the largest silver denominations minted in classical antiquity, the decadrachm of Syracuse remains one of the most alluring and celebrated coins in all history. The immense size of this 10 drachm denomination offered the engravers of Syracuse the scope to fully display their mastery of the medium. After a brief “trial run” in the 460s BC, the decadrachm in was reintroduced in Syracuse by the tyrant Dionysius I (405-370 BC), following his assumption to power in 405 BC, testament to his grandiose vision to make Syracuse the foremost city in the Greek world. Kimon and Euainetos produced dies for the new series, each bringing their own distinctive style to the already iconic emblems of Syracuse. Both engravers took great pride in their designs and signed their dies, much in the manner of a modern artist; both decadrachm types also include dies that have symbols instead of a signature, perhaps indicating they were engraved by apprentices working under the masters, closely copying their work. This decadrachm is both beautifully engraved and decisively struck on an exceptionally broad 38mm flan. It is a truly impressive, spectacular example of one of the classic coins of antiquity.