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Denomination: Silver Nomos
CALABRIA, Tarentum. Circa 333-331/0 BC. AR Nomos (22mm, 7.88 g, 12h). Nude
horseman, wearing a shield on the left arm and holding two spears in the left hand, riding right, preparing to thrust the third spear held in right hand; Λ behind, N before, ΚΑΛ/[X] below /
Phalanthos, tousling with the right hand the crest of a helmet held in his left, riding dolphin
right; ΤΑΡΑΣ to left, ΚΑΛ below. VF, toned, areas of a flat strike. Nice metal.
Taras was the son of Poseidon, god of the sea. Most of the coinage from the
ancient city of Taras show the patron deity riding on the back of a dolphin, sometimes with
his father's trident in one hand. The same image is depicted on the modern city emblem.
The other side of the coin was usually dedicated to the Tarentines' particular love of horses
and horse racing.
One of the most popular stories of the founding of the city Taras is one involving dolphins. In
708 B.C. a group of Spartan refugees, following the instruction of the oracle at Delphi (whose
name comes from the word for dolphin, and who is the sacred oracle of Apollo, whose symbol is
the dolphin), set sail toward the southern end of the Italian peninsula to found a colony there. It
is said that Phalanthos, the leader of the Spartan colonists, was shipwrecked before reaching
land, but was saved by a dolphin that carried him to the shore.
This tale echoes the popular Greek myth of Taras, son of Poseidon who was also saved from
shipwreck by a dolphin. The city that was founded there was named Taras, in his honor, and the
city's patron was Apollo, thus it was a natural that the standard of the city would be a boy riding