Sicily, Zankle-Messana - The Samian Occupation

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In 493 BC emigrants from Samos along with some Milesians and other Ionians were invited to Sicily by Skythes, the ruler of Zankle, to assist with the founding of a new city. When the Ionian settlers were already in Italian waters, Skythes marched out with the forces of Zankle to besiege a nearby city of the native Sikels, presumably in aid of the enterprise. However at this point the Samians, who had now reached Lokroi, were persuaded by Anaxilas the tyrant of Rhegion to take advantage of the absence of the Zanklaians, and that rather than endure the hardships of founding a new colony they should take over Zankle itself while its men were away. The Samians agreed and did so; by the time Skythes had hurried back to his city he found the walls held against him. Skythes appealed for aid to his liege Hippokrates of Gela, who instead imprisoned him for the loss of his city and came to terms with the Samians.

Hippokrates then enslaved the majority of the men of Zankle, but delivered 300 of the leading men to the Samians to be put to death, apparently hoping to get rid of them without himself spilling the blood of men with whom he had had treaty relations. The Samians spared these men, but enslaved most of the remaining population within the walls, of which they gave a half share to Hippokrates.

The Samians, having thus taken for themselves a new city, elected to strike coins on the Euboic standard bearing the types of the lion's scalp used at Samos and a Samian galley, though without an ethnic – presumably because they were a mixed body of Samians, Milesians and others, and thus had not yet determined a collective identity. Some of these coins are known to bear a single letter, ABΔ or E indicating their year of production; those without such a marker as in the case of the present specimen are believed to have been the first struck after the occupation, which lasted in total for a period of five years before Anaxilas himself ejected the Samians and colonised the city again, renaming it Messana.

Sicily, Zankle-Messana AR Tetradrachm. Samian occupation, 494/3 BC. Facing lion's scalp / Prow of a Samaina (Samian galley) left, with ram, akrostolion and fighting platform on deck. Barron p. 178, 1 (same dies); HGC 2, 772. 17.24g, 20mm, 10h.

Near Extremely Fine. Extremely Rare, only 5 examples cited by Barron.

From the Eckenheimer collection.