Lucania, Metapontion - The Second Punic War

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Sometime after the defeat of Pyrrhos of Epeiros by Rome, Metapontion came under Roman domination. We do not know precisely when this occurred or the circumstances of the event, but the city was amongst the first to defect to Hannibal after the battle of Cannae in 216 BC. However, it was still occupied by a Roman garrison sometime afterwards, and only in 212 when Hannibal captured nearby Taras did the Metapontines expel the Roman garrison and fully declare for the Carthaginian cause. Hannibal quickly utilised the city as a supply depot, garrisoning the town with his troops.

It was during the Punic occupation of Metapontion that this coin was struck. Like other Punic issues minted at this time in southern Italy, the fabric and execution of strike are neat and precise, with thin flans and competent engraving. While the coin retains the grain ear on the reverse, the obverse employs a type rarely used before at the city, the head of Athena wearing a crested Corinthian helmet. It is not known the significance of this change, but is paralleled elsewhere at other Punic-aligned cities.

After the Carthaginian defeat at the pivotal battle of the Metaurus in 207 BC, Hannibal's hopes for victory in Italy were dashed. Having first relocated the inhabitants of Metapontion to protect them from Roman vengeance, in 202 he withdrew all his forces to Africa to protect the motherland from Scipio. Afterwards the city of Metapontion never regained its former prominence, and by the mid second century AD was, according to Pausanias, totally deserted and in ruins (Paus. vi, 19. § 11).

Lucania, Metapontion AR 1/2 Shekel. Punic occupation, circa 212-207 BC. Head of Athena to right wearing crested Corinthian helmet / Ear of barley with leaf to right; owl in flight above leaf. Robinson, Punic pg. 50, 3; SNG ANS 550; HN Italy 1634. 3.53g, 20mm, 3h.

Good Extremely Fine. Pleasing old tone; a wonderful example of the type.

Ex Numismatica Ars Classica 29, 11 May 2005, lot 45;
Ex Athos D. Moretti Collection.