When our program chairman asked me to repeat a paper presented before the Society on this subject a few years ago, I could think of no acceptable excuse to offer, and so, I present it again along with apologies for adding nothing to your enlightenment on numismatics.

You are all aware of the fact that as a resident of Tarentum, Pennsylvania., it is a natural for me to become interested in the coinage of this well known Spartan colony of the same name. Tarentum, or Taras, the Greek name, was one of some sixty or 90 Spartan colonies that flourished in the years 700 BC to 300 AD. It was one of the most important of the Greek states and was situated in the heel of the great boot formed by the Italian peninsula. As with many another Greek town, an effort was made to give its beginnings something of a supernatural nature. The people of Tarentum took pride in a legend that their city's founder, having, been shipwrecked, was carried ashore on the back of a dolphin to the site on which their city; was subsequently built. The dolphin with the figure of the youthful founder therefore became the badge of Tarentum, and this forms the chief type for most of its coinage. The reverse of this denomination is usually occupied by the figure of a mounted youth, for, as it grow in wealth and power, the city became famous for the horsemanship of its men, The downfall of the Tarentines came about through entrusting themselves to the leadership of generals whom they invited from Sparta and other Greek centers to defend them from their warlike neighbors. After their defeat by Pyrrhus, the most famous of these, Tarentum was not long able to withstand the growing power of Rome. It gradually sank to a place of but little importance in the ancient world. At this point, it might be significant to recall, in the earlier stages of the recent war just ended, the British fleet inflicted a damaging surprise attack on the Italian naval colony gathered in the Taranto harbor.

Tarentum coinage was at its height in the third and fourth centuries before Christ. The process of coinage then as of today consisted of using a die to stamp a design on the surface of an ingot or lump of metal of a standard size or weight. Those coinages usually bore inscriptions copied from or inspired by Greek originals. On this occasion it is with the more familiar type of the equestrian series that I propose to describe. These Tarentine "horsemen", as they are commonly designated, number among them the most varied, the most abundant, and in many respects the most beautiful of the Tarentino coinages, and show us the numismatic art of this city in its freest and most congenial development. This prolific issue, covering two and a half centuries of civic history exceeds that of all other Greek coinages of Italy and is itself a striking witness to the high degree of commercial prosperity attained in Tarentum when barbarian inroads and fratricidal enmities were dealing widespread ruin amongst the once flourishing communities that went to make "Great Greece."

The continuity of the type maintained, despite infinite variation of details, throughout so long a period of years, must be regarded as in great measure owing to the conservative instincts of citizens engaged in a widely ramifying trade with distant parts, which led them to adhere to designs that had once secured a currency in the commercial world.

The Tarentum coinage is embraced in the third expansion of Greek city coinages, the first stage originating in Asia and confined to those cities located in the narrow, crescent shaped strip of territory extending, around the western end of Asia Minor from the Black Sea on the north to the Mediterranean on the South.

The second stage began on the Island of Aegina and soon spread throughout the Greek peninsula and the neighboring islands now identified as modern Greece. The third stage took place in the Greek colonies of Italy and the Island of Sicily. Here began the issue of a series of coins destined to rival in artistic, economic, and historical importance those struck in Southeastern Europe and Asia Minor.

The stater was the basis of the coinage system or both gold and silver coins throughout the ancient world. However, these coins varied greatly in weight at different periods, in different localities, and in different metals, gold and electrum coins were for the most part minted in the forms of stators, double staters, and fractions of staters which appeared as thirds, sixths, twelfths, etc.

My collection consists of some forty odd pieces of silver coinage and one piece of gold. It was not acquired with any chronological series or type in mind, but only to secure a representative collection of the entire Tarentum coinage, and it is my pleasure to offer them as my exhibit for tonight’s meeting.