Metapontum, Lucania (Italy)
Silver Stater, ca. 325-300 BCE
weight: 7.7g, width: 2.15cm; die axis: 2h
OBV.: Head of Demeter, wearing necklace and triple-pendant earring and crowned by a wreath of three barley ears and two pairs of leaves, facing right. Signature under chin: “DA(I)”.
REV.: Seven-grained ear of barley in center with a leaf curving to the right. Above the leaf is a small plow, below it part of the mint supervisor's mark, “M(AX)”. In left field, inscription "META," abbreviation for METAPONTIWN (= Metapontion, "of the Metapontians"). There is a die flaw in the upper left awns of the ear of barley.
HFMA nr. 2006.010.019. Ref.: Johnston C1, SNG ANS 467ff; SNG UK Vol. III 425.
Metapontum (Greek: Metapontion) was an Achaean colony on the instep of the Italian peninsula, ca. 30 miles west of Tarentum (map). The city was located in a fertile plain between two rivers. At some point, the city grew so rich from farming that it sent a "golden harvest" to Delphi (1), probably in the form of a golden sheaf of barley, the city badge. The city also had its own treasury house in Olympia, another sign of its wealth and importance. When the aged Pythagoras and his pupils were driven out of Croton, he found refuge in Metapontum, where he died around 497/96 BCE. Cicero visited his grave there (2).
Starting in the fifth century, all coins of Metapontum show the city badge, an ear of barley, on the reverse. The obverse frequently depicts a head of Demeter, the goddess of agriculture and grain. The female head on this particular coin may imitate the famous Arethusa heads carved by the engraver Euainetos on Syracusan coins from the late fifth century.
(1) Strabo 6.264. (2) Cicero, De finibus 5.4.
Johnston, Ann. The Coinage of Metapontum, Part 3. New York: American Numismatic Society, 1990 (Numismatic Notes and Monographs, 164).