Silver Diobol, 325-300 BCE
weight: 1.2g, width: 1.06cm
OBV.: Head of Athena, facing left, wearing a crested Attic helmet decorated with olive wreath and wing.
REV.: Hercules, kneeling on his right leg, left leg extended, a club in his right arm, is fighting off the Nemean Lion that is attacking him from the right.
HFMA nr. 2006.010.015. Ref.: Vlasto 1364; SNG UK Vol. III 283 Lockett Collection; SNG UK vol. VIII 53 Blackburn Museum.
Tarentum (Greek: Taras), a city in the instep of the Italian peninsula (map), was the richest and most powerful Greek city in Italy. The only colony founded by Spartans, Tarentum alone possessed a safe harbor on that stretch of coast, and it was famous for the fine textiles and the precious deep red dye, derived from murex shells, that were produced and exported by the city.
Around 380 BCE, Tarentum became the leading member of a confederation of Italiot Greek cities seated in Heraclea and formed to battle the surrounding non-Greek tribes. Other members were Elea, Croton, Thurioi, and Metapontum. This diobol is an example of the league's common coinage, which imitated the design of Heraclean coins. Heraclea adopted the head of Athena on the obverse from Thurioi which, together with Tarentum, founded the city in 433 BCE. On the reverse, Herakles, Heraclea's patron heros, is represented in the midst of his first and most famous labor, the fight against the Nemean lion. The lion could not be killed with any kind of weapon so that Herakles had to strangle him with his bare hands. Nevertheless, the hero's right hand seems about to hit the lion with his characteristic club while his left is trying to fend off the beast.
Brauer, Jr., G. C., Taras: its History and Coinage. New Rochelle, NY: Caratzas, 1986, pp. 55-56.
Ravel, Oscar E., Descriptive Catalogue of the Collection of Tarentine Coins formed by M. P. Vlasto. Chicago: Obol International, 1977.