Metapontion, Lucania, Italy

Historia Numorum

Metapontum was an Achaean colony of remote antiquity, which, after having been destroyed, was refounded from Sybaris, under the leadership of Leukippos, early in the sixth century B.C. It occupied a plain of extraordinary fertility on the Gulf of Tarentum, between the rivers Bradanos and Kasuentos. Its coinage in the earliest period consists of staters (8.359 grams maximum), thirds 2.722gm), sixths (1.361gm), and Twelfths (0.713gm), inscribed ΜΕΤΑΠ◇ΝΤS, usually abbreviated and often retrograde. In fabric the coins resemble those of the other Achaean cities, being thin plate-like disks with the reverse-type incuse.

Period I. Circ. B.C. 550-470.

FIG. 35.

Ear of corn in high relief, often accom- panied by a locust (Fig. 35).Ear of corn incuse; where there is a locust on the obverse a dolphin usually takes its place on the reverse.
Staters, 129 grs. max.; Thirds, 42 grs.
Same.Bull’s head facing, incuse.
Sixth, 21 grs.
Same.Three crescents with four pellets.

Towards the close of this first period the fabric of the coins becomes more compact, and the pieces gain in thickness what they lose in superficies. The Locust is often replaced by a Ram’s head or a Lizard.

The badge of Metapontum, the Ear of corn, would seem to imply that Demeter was the divinity chiefly honored there, though Busolt (i. 411) quotes authorities to show that it was Apollo rather than Demeter; connecting with this the offering of the Metapontines at Delphi of a θερος χρυσουν (Strab. vi. 264). May not, however, that offering have been simply the dedication of the παρασημον of the city ? (Macdonald, Coin Types, p. 65). The locust, or some other creature destructive to the crops, is, according to Lenormant (Grande Grèce, i. p. 128), intended as a sort of propitiation of the destroying influences in nature— the powers of death and destruction. It seems more probable, however, that it is merely a touch of local color, like the beetle on the famous tetradrachm of Aetna (q. v.).


Period II. Circ. B.C. 470-400.

In this period the incuse reverse disappears, and its place is taken by a reverse-type in relief.

ΜΕΤΑ Ear of corn. Symbol frequently a Locust.ΜΕΤΑΠ Five corn-grains in star pattern (B. M. C., p. 242)

FIG. 36.

ΜΕΤΑ retrogr., Ear of corn. Symbol frequently a Locust: cable border on both sides (Babelon, Traité, Pl. LXVI. 20).The River Acheloös in human form, bearded, and with bull’s horns and ears, naked but for chlamys, standing facing, holding phiale and long reed; inscr.
dolphin sometimes in field.
Same.Apollo naked, standing, holding laurel tree and bow; ill front sometimes an altar (Fig. 36)
Same.Herakles standing, naked, with club over shoulder.
Same.Herakles sacrificing at altar.
Same.Apollo seated, wearing chlamys, playing lyre; before him, laurel tree.
Same.Head of bull with human face in pro- file (Acheloös ?). Sixth.

The worship of Acheloös at Metapontum is proved by the remarkable inscription ‘Αχελοιο αεθλον, showing that games, for which these coins were struck, were celebrated in his honour.

Among the other divinities to whose worship at Metapontum the coins of the fifth century bear witness, are Herakles, who is said to have rested in the Metapontine plain while bringing the oxen of Geryon across Italy, and Apollo. The worship of Apollo was especially enjoined upon the Metapontines by Aristeas, the disciple and successor of Pythagoras. The figure of Apollo with the laurel tree, on the stater described above, was probably suggested by the statue mentioned by Herodotus as standing in the agora at Metapontum with laurel trees round about it (περιξ δε αυτον δαφναι εστασι, Herod. iv. 15).

Period III. Circ. B.C. 400-350.

In the period of finest art the following are the most remarkable types of the stater :—

Head of Herakles in lion-skin.ΜΕΤΑ, &c. Ear of corn (sometimes with locust).


FIG. 37.

Young head with ram’s horn and ear.ΜΕΤΑ, &c. Ear of corn (Fig. 37).
Female head. Inscr. ├ΟΜΟΝΟΙΑ (Fig. 38).ΜΕΤΑ, &c. Ear of corn.

FIG. 38.

Female head. Inscr. ├ΥΓΙΕΙΑΜΕΤΑ, &c. Ear of corn.
Female head. Inscr. ΔΑΜΑΤΗΡ  „  ,,  „   (ΒΑΛ Bird, &c.)
Female head; hair in sphendone.  „  ,,  „   (Murex.)
Female head; hair rolled.  „  ,,  „  (Vase.)
Female head, laur. Signed ΑΡΙΣΤΟΞΕ
Female head. Signed ΑΡΙΣΤΙ (?); behind head ΤΑΘΣ.  „  ,,  „   (Spink, Num. Circular, 1900, p. 3787.)
Female head; hair bound with cord wound four times round it.  „  ,,  „  (Honey-suckle.)
Female head with curly hair.  „  ,,  „  (ΖΟ.) [B. M. Guide, Pl. XXIV. 16.]
Female head with corn-wreath.  „  ,,  „  (Locust.)
Head of Zeus, sometimes with ΕΛΕΥΘΕΡΙΟΣ  „  ,,  „  (Poppy-head.) [B. M. Guide, Pl. XXXIV. 18.]
Head of young Dionysos. Signed ΠΟΛΥ  „  ,,  „  (Owl flying.)
Head of Apollo, laur. Inscr. ΑΠΟΛ  „  ,,  „  (Σ sometimes.)

The purity and beauty of the work exemplified on the numerous varieties of the heads on these coins leave nothing to be desired. Of the inscriptions which accompany them, those at full length are evidently epithets or appellations (e.g. ├ΥΓΙΕΙΑ, ΕΛΕΥΘΕΡΙΟΣ, ├ΟΜΟΝΟΙΑ), or the names of the divinities themselves (e.g. ΔΑΜΑΤΗΡ), while the abbreviated names may be the signatures’ of die-engravers, ΑΡΙΣΤΟΞΕ., ΑΠΟΛ., ΠΟΛΥ. Those in larger characters, usually on the reverse, are doubtless the signatures of monetary magistrates.

The goddess variously represented, and under various names, is probably Demeter or Persephone.

The young male head with ram’s horn and ear, may be either the Libyan Dionysos, or possibly Apollo Karneios, the god of flocks and herds.

The only small coins of this period appear to be Sixths with the young horned head, or with a bearded horned head, which may be Zeus Ammon.


Period IV. Circ. B.C. 350-330.



Head of Leukippos in Corinthian helmet ornamented with Skylla. Inscription ΛΕΥΚΙΠΠΟΣTwo ears of corn, ΣΙ [B. M. Guide, Pl. XXIV. 14]
wt. 44 grs.
Female head with flowing hair, wearing stephane.ΜΕΤΑΠΟΝ Ear of corn.
wt. 44 grs.


FIG. 39.

Head of bearded hero Leukippos in Corinthian helmet adorned with vic- torious chariot; symbol, forepart of lion.ΜΕΤΑΠΟΝΤΙΝΩΝ or ΜΕΤΑ Ear of corn (Fig. 39).
Distater, wt. 240 grs.
Similar. Inscr. ΛΕΥΚΙΠΠΟΣSame.
AR Stater, wt. 122 grs.

Magistrates’ names ΑΠΗ, ΑΜΙ, ΔΑ?, ├Η, &c.; various symbols.

Head of hero with slight whisker, in Corinthian helmet. Inscription ΘΑΡΡΑΓΟΡΑΣΜΕΤΑ Ear of corn (Imhoof-Blumer, Mon. gr., Pl. A. 2)
AR Stater.
Apollo standing with bow. [Hunter Cat., 1. Pl. VI. 20.] ΜΕΤΑ Ear of corn: the whole in olive-wreath.
½ Stater, wt. 52.5 grs.

In this period Metapontum appears to have assimilated her coinage to that of Thurium, and to have adopted a divisional system by two and four instead of by three and six.

Period V. Circ. B.C. 330-300 (some perhaps later).

On the coins of this period the head of Demeter (or Persephone) appears with flowing hair, usually in profile, but sometimes facing and accompanied by the epithet ΣΩΤΗΡΙΑ.

Another late type is a female head with the inscription ΝΙΚΑ. On the latest issues the execution is generally unworthy of the conception, and very careless.

It is improbable that any staters were struck in the name of Metapontum after the capture of the town by the Lucanians shortly before B.C. 300, for there are none of the reduced standard as at Tarentum and Heraclea, and magistrates’ names at full length do not occur.


Half-staters of declining weight are, however, met with, some of which may perhaps be assigned to the time of the Hannibalic occupation of the city, B.C. 212-207 (Evans, Horsemen, p. 206). The following are the usual types of the stater in Period V:—

FIG. 40.

Head of Demeter with corn-wreath, and (i) flowing hair, in profile, or (ii) facing (with ΣΩΤΗΡΙΑ); (iii) hair rolled; (iv) hair in sphendone; (v) veil hanging down behind; (vi) hair in net; (vii) veiled.ΜΕΤΑ, &c. Ear of corn (Fig. 40). Symbols: plough, ant, cornucopiae, amphora, vine-branch, cicada, star, Nike, satyr, tongs, griffin, rake, Artemis, club and fulmen, bucra- nium, leaf, caduceus, tripod, mouse, krater, &c. Magistrates: ΜΑΝ, ΦΙ, ΔΙ, ΛΥ, ΑΘΑ, ΔΑ, ΠΡΟ, ΦΑ, ΚΡΙ, &c. [B. M. Guide, Pl. XXXIV. 20 and 21.]
Female head, (i) wearing laureate stephanos (inscr. ΝΙΚΑ). (ii) with hair in sphendone adorned with stars (ΝΙΚΑ).ΜΕΤΑ Ear of corn. Symbols: locust, mouse, pomegranate, pear, &c. Ma- gistrate: ΣΤ, &c.
Head of Athena in Corinthian helmet.ΜΕΤΑ Ear of corn. Symbols: owl and club.
Head of young Dionysos three-quarter- face, ivy-crowned. Mag.: ΚΑΛ.ΜΕΤΑ Ear of corn. Symbol: serpent. Mag.: ΦΙΛ.


Head of Athena in Corinthian helmet. [Hunter Cat., 1. Pl. VI. 25.]ΜΕΤΑ Ear of corn. Symbol: owl.
½ Stater, 62-49 grs.
Owl on olive-branch, ΣΙ.ΜΕΤΑ Ear of corn.
½ Stater, wt. 49 grs.
Head in winged helmet (Roma ?).Ear of corn. (ΛΥΚ in mon.) Symbol: club.
Half-staters, 56-49 grs.
Head of Demeter with flowing hair. ΜΕΤΑ Ear of corn. Symbol: plough.
Diobol, wt. 21 grs.
ΜΕΤΑΠΟΝΤΙ Head of Athena in Corinthian helmet.Ear of corn. Symbols: plough, cornu- copiae, &c.
Diobol, wt. 21 grs.

BRONZE COINS. After, circ. B.C. 330. Inscr. ΜΕ, ΜΕΤ, ΜΕΤΑ.

Hermes sacrificing, ΕΥ.Ear of corn. Inscr. ΟΒΟΛΟΣ
Æ Size .85
ΜΕ Head of Demeter hair rolled.   „    „   ΟΒΟΛΟΣ.
Æ Size .8
Female head.  „  
Head of Herakles.  „  
Head of Zeus.Two ears of corn.
Head of Hermes.Three corn-grains.
Head of Athena.  „    „  


Head of Helios.Three corn-grains.
Young horned head.Ear of corn.
Head of Seilenos.  „  
Head of Artemis.Kantharos.
Head of Leukippos.Demeter with torch.
Head of Dionysos.Ear of corn.
Eagle on fulmen.Ear of corn and fulmen.
Athena fighting.Owl.
Female head in stephane.  „  
Tripod.  „  Inscr. ΤΕ and ΗΕ.

Of these bronze coins, which range in size from .85 to .45 inch, those with the inscription ΟΒΟΛΟΣ are interesting, as they prove that bronze was accepted at Metapontum merely as money of account. The small coins with ΤΕ and ΗΕ may likewise be Τεταρτημορια and Ημιτεταρτημορια.