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Roma Numismatics Ltd > E-Sale 68Auction date: 27 February 2020
Lot number: 199

Lot description:


Etruria, Vetulonia Æ Sextans. 3rd century BC. Head of Nethuns right, wearing ketos headdress; two pellets below, Etruscan legend 'vatl' behind / Ornamental trident between two dolphins; two pellets flanking. EC I, 11.1–25 (O2/R2); HN Italy 203. 7.11g, 21mm, 7h.

Good Very Fine. Extremely Rare.

Ex Roma Numismatics Ltd, Auction XVI, 26 September 2018, lot 84;
Ex Collection of a Swiss Etruscologist, and outside of Italy prior to December 1992.

The coinage of Vetulonia, with its overwhelmingly maritime themes, attests to the importance of maritime trade and the sea in general to the Etruscans. This is moreover confirmed by the depiction of ships on frescoes, the presence of model ships in Etruscan tombs, and the enormous quantity of foreign goods that found their way to Etruria, significant quantities of which (Greek vases in particular) have been found in the aforementioned tombs. That the Etruscans themselves were skilled sailors and navigators is grudgingly corroborated by Greek and Roman writers who pay them the backhanded compliment of referring to them collectively as Tyrrhenian pirates (such was their domination of the waters off the coast of western Italy). Within their sphere of influence could be counted Sardinia, Corsica, southern France and even parts of Spain and Sicily. An alliance with Carthage prevented any significant Greek colonisation or incursion into their dominions; in 540 a combined Etruscan and Carthaginian task force of 120 warships descended on the Phokaian refugees who had settled at Alalia in Corsica, and having inflicted considerable losses, forced them to abandon the island. Etruscan mastery of the western coast of Italy would however be challenged by the rise of Syracuse, who followed the Athenian example of constructing a standing fleet of triremes – an expensive undertaking the Etruscans were unwilling or unable to match – and at the Battle of Cumae in 475 BC an Etruscan fleet was decisively defeated, considerably weakening their influence in Italy and costing them their valuable mastery of the sea.

Estimate: 1000 GBP