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fine silver | 28 mm | 17.2 g
OBV: Slow quadriga driven r. by charioteer who leans forward above Nike flying r. crowning the horses in ex. GELOION (retrograde).
R: Forepart of man-headed bull r. about to be crowned by nymph Sosipolis on r. who stands facing looking l. wearing peplos.
This Geloan tetradrachm offers an example of the pan-Sicilian quadriga as it was generally conceived before the last decade of the fifth century B.C. The victorious team is shown at a stately walk, the wild action of the race already a thing of the past. The reverse features the local river-god Gelas, depicted as a bull with the face of a mature man. Echoing the victory motif of the obverse, the river-god is crowned by a female figure explicitly labeled as Sosipolis, Savior of her City. This enigmatic divinity may have been a local water nymph assimilated to Nike, and her appearance on the coinage may be associated with the pacification of the Sicilian hinterland in 440 B.C. Jenkins describes this reverse die as one of the finest and most interesting of the whole Gela series, noting that the nymph in her carefully drawn peplos relates to the many peplos-clad figures in the Olympia sculptures and elsewhere in Greek art.
The goddess Sosipolis was the guardian divinity of the city often shown crowning the river god Gelas. Gela was founded in 688 by a population including both Cretans and Rhodians. One of its tyrants Gelon made himself master of Syracuse at which time he transported a large portion of the city's population to his new capital. This city's prosperity began to wane until 466 when the dynasty of Gelon was expelled from Syracuse and refugees from Gela returned to their native town. The city once again enjoyed considerable prosperity until its destruction by the Carthagians in 405 BC.
Very brief history: Around 688 BC the city was founded by colonists from Rhodos and Crete 45 years after Syracuse. The city was named after the river Gela. The Greek had many colonies in the south of current Italy and for many centuries the Greek influence has been great here. Aischylos died in this city in 456 BC. From Gela other parts of the island were also hellenized. Much archeological research has been taken place in and around the city and the archaeological museum exhibits many artefacts from the earlier periods of the city's history among which there are a lot of vases. Both archaeology and writers from the classical period supply excellent sources for information on the earlier history of the city and surroundings. In 405 BC the city was sacked by Carthage. It became abandoned in 282 BC. The later city was founded in AD 1233 by Frederick II by the name Terranova di Sicilia by which it remained known until 1928.