Bits & Pieces... by David Sundman

The Olympics of Ancient Greece

(Photo of Decadrachm courtesy of Jonathan Kern)

This numismatic treasure from circa 400 B.C., presented to an ancient Greek Olympic Games winner 2,400 years ago, recalls how old and revered organized sport is, and the cultural roots of the Greek games. This famous coin was struck in Syracuse, the Greek city on the isle of Sicily. The dies were engraved by the master die maker, or celator, Kimon. The obverse depicts a chariot at full gallop, with the goddess Nike flying above, crowning the driver with a wreath of Victory. The Greek letters ATHLA (origin of the word Athlete) name the military harness, shield, helmet, etc. depicted as the prize for the victor of the race. The reverse shows the nymph Arethusa in superb classical style. This coin was worth ten Drachms, a large amount of money, and is extremely large. This example is pedigreed in famous collections to 1914, and is the plate coin featured on the front of two books on Greek coinage. It is currently for sale by the owner at $37,000. There are also two more Decadrachms, one at $17,000 and one at $27,000.