Sicily, Motya - Carthaginian Stronghold

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As the Greek colonies in Sicily increased in numbers and importance the Phoenicians, who had established numerous small outposts there, gradually abandoned their settlements in the immediate neighbourhood of the newcomers, and concentrated themselves in the three principal colonies of Solus, Panormos, and Motya. This latter, on account of the natural strength of its position (being situated on a small island connected to the mainland only by an artificial causeway), and its proximity to Carthage, became one of the chief strongholds of the Carthaginians.

During the campaign of Hannibal Mago in 409 BC, the city became the base for the Carthaginian fleet, as it was again during the second expedition under Hamilcar in 407.

The strategic value of Motya thus caused Dionysios I of Syracuse to direct his principal efforts to its reduction when he launched a counter-invasion of the Carthaginian territories in Sicily in 397. The citizens of Motya made preparations for a vigorous resistance by cutting off the causeway and readying themselves for a protracted siege. Dionysios was compelled to construct his own approach across the gulf, and applied his siege engines to the walls, which included the newly invented catapult. Even when the siege towers were at the walls the Motyans continued a desperate resistance, and when the walls and towers were carried by the Greek forces they continued to fight from street to street and house to house. Such was the grim resistance offered by the defenders that when at last the troops of Dionysios made themselves masters of the city, they put the whole surviving population, men, women, and children, to the sword.

Sicily, Motya AR Tetradrachm. Circa 415-397 BC. Eagle standing to right, Punic legend 'mtv' above / Crab, fish below (probably a Mero, Epinephelus guaza - see F.E. Zeuner, Fish on Ancient Coins, NCirc LXXI, 1963, pp. 142-143, rather than the Polyprium cernium it is usually identified as) swimming to right. BMC 2; Jenkins, Punic 43 (O4/R6), citing the unique specimen in BMC. 17.11g, 24mm, 2h.

Small area of flat striking, otherwise Good Extremely Fine. Of the highest rarity, only the second known example, and the only one in private hands.

From the Eckenheimer Collection.