The decadrachm of Syracuse (Sicily, Italy) is one of the most famous Greek coins. On the reverse is the highly detailed head (complete with reed wreath, long earrings and bead necklace) of the nymph Arethusa, who played a starring role in the city’s foundation myth, while the obverse features a racing quadriga, interpreted as an allusion to the victory of the Syracusan tyrant Gelon at the Olympic Games in 488 BC. In addition to being quite beautiful, it is one of the few issues from antiquity signed by an artist, Euainetos, one of the most prestigious die-engravers of his time. His name appears under the dolphin beneath the nymph’s neck. The design of this coin, created by artists like Kimon, Eukleides and Euainetos himself, was so popular that it was imitated throughout the western Mediterranean.
These pieces, worth 10 drachms, became the symbol of Syracuse’s economic prosperity in the late fifth century BC. Struck during the turbulent reign of Dionysius I, the coins were probably intended to pay mercenaries.