Litra: coin of Syracuse (Sicily, Ancient Greece)


Litra, 405-367 BC: Syracuse, Sicily

Litra, 405-367 BC: Syracuse, Sicily

Sicily — the largest and most populous island in the Mediterranean Sea and one of the regions of the modern Italy. From the 7th century BC Sicily was colonized by settlers from Carthage and Greeks. Greek Syracuse (an ancient Greek settlement, one of the most influential cities of the ancient Mediterranean) controlled eastern Sicily while Carthage controlled the West. The local peoples (Sicels, Phoenicia...) gradually assimilated, or were expelled from the island. But already in 241 BC Sicily became the first Roman province, the granary of Rome.

Ruler: Dionysius I of Syracuse — Greek tyrant (405-367 BC) of Syracuse, in Sicily. He conquered several cities in Sicily and southern Italy, opposed Carthage's influence in Sicily and made Syracuse the most powerful of the Western Greek colonies.

Hippocampus or hippocamp — mythical sea horse with a fish tail.

Portrait of Athena in a Corinthian helmet.

Erased images of dolphins and the inscription "ΣYPA" (short for "ΣYPAKOΣIΩN").

The coin is made by casting.

As with many other ancient coins, there are difficulties with the identification of this specimen. It is about the fact that in various numismatic catalogs such a design and weight coin is defined not only as a litra, but also as a trias (1/3 litra) and even AE19.

  • Bronze: 19 mm - 9.02 g
  • Reference price: 29$

COIN LITRA — WHERE & WHEN (coins catalog: by names & emitents)
  1. ANCIENT GREECE in the central part of the Mediterranean Sea — SICILY, CALABRIA, CAMPANIA, MASSALIA (5th-3th centuries BC): litra = 12 onkia = 6 hexas = 4 tetras = 3 trias = 2 hemilitron

LITRA as coin name.
Litra (Greek “λίτρα”) is an ancient Greek, mainly Sicilian, coin and a unit of measurement of the weight of precious metals. The most famous among numismatists is the Syracuse litra (at that time it was a Greek settlement on the island of Sicily).
At first (5th century BC) these were small silver coins weighing up to 1 gram. Later (4th century BC) copper/bronze coins (AE, up to 10 grams) denominated in litra began to be issued.
It is also known about half a litra — a hemilitron. In addition to 1/2, other small coins were also used: 1/3, 1/4, 1/6, 1/12 litra (respectively: trias, tetras, hexas and onkia).
The main plot of the litra (and other ancient Greek coins) is mythology.
There is information that the Syracuse litra was equivalent to the Greek obol and was 1/5 of a drachma.
The name of the litra coin is borrowed from the Greek weight unit of the same name. In turn, in ancient times the Roman libra as weight unit was popular. The kinship of the terms "libra" and "litra" is undeniable.
However, there is some confusion: some sources indicate the equality of the Greek litra and the Roman libra as units of measurement of weight (354 grams), while others say that the litra had a weight of 1/3 of a libra.