Gelon, Tyrant of Syracuse 485-478 BC
Boehringer 45, Superb Extremely Fine
Chariotter driving walking quadriga right, holding kentron and reins; Nike above, flying right, crowning horses. Rev. Head of Arethusa right, wearing earring and necklace, hair tied with pearl headband; four dolphins around.
One of the greatest tyrants of antiquity, Gelon had been a cavalry commander under Hippocrates, who had established democracy in the city-state, succeeding him in 491 BC when Hippocrates was killed in battle. In 485 BC, Gelon at the head of his large army captured Syracuse without resistance. Syracuse then became his capital city. It was initially located on the small island of Ortygia, chosen for its natural harbors and spring water, but the community quickly spread to the main island. Gelon built a wall entirely around the city, protecting it from invasion. The city’s famous amphitheater, which Gelon had built, helped to make the city a center of Italian/Greek culture. It exists to this day, with large slave quarters underneath. In 480 BC, Gelon’s army defeated the Carthaginian invasion at Himera, thus securing Syracuse’s dominance and keeping Sicily free for nearly another century. This is known as the Golden Age of Syracuse.