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Description: CALABRIA, Tarentum. Circa 280 BC. AR Nomos.. Youth on horseback right, crowning horse; ΣA to left, APE/ΘΩN in two lines below / Phalanthos, holding tripod, riding dolphin left; CAΣ below. Vlasto 666–7; HN Italy 957.
History: Upon the obverse of this coin a young man is riding a dolphin. He is one of two mythological characters- Taras or Phalanthos. Two sides of the same story, much like the sides of a coin, neither characters exist in each other's mythology. Likely two opposing versions of the founding story of the city- one more rooted in historical reality than the other. On the Reverse of the coin is a youth riding a horse, which is a tribute to the importance to horse racing to the people of Taras and the cultural significance of great beast.
Taras, who inspired the naming of the city where this coin was minted, was the son of Poseidon, god of the sea, and a Nymph. After angering his father, he was thrown into the sea to drown. But his father then took pity upon him and sent a dolphin to rescue him. It swam him back to land, and where he stepped onto the shore he decided he wanted to build a city that very spot. So he had the dolphin bring him a village upon it's back, and he then founded and named the new city after himself.
The opposing story is that of Phalanthos, who was a hero amongst his people. Born out of wedlock to a Lacedaemonian father and a Spartan mother during the Messenian war, he belonged to the outcast group of Parthenians, rejected by the Lacedaemonians for their illegitimacy. Phalanthos led the group in a demand for recognition, and was met with a swift denunciation and rejection. The Parthenians were driven out for their insolence, and they sought the guidance of the Oracle of Delphi. She told them of another land where they would soon come to found a city by the name Taras.
So around the year 708 B.C.E. the Parthenians sailed to the Italian peninsula and founded the colony of Taras. It is said that Phalanthos was shipwrecked before reaching land, but was saved by a dolphin that carried him to the shore.