The crown jewel of ancient Greece was the city of Athens – home of one of the world’s earliest democracies, and a place where the arts were practiced in their most advanced forms. Although many gods were worshipped in cosmopolitan Athens, the goddess of her namesake, Athena, reigned supreme.
Naturally Athena was the goddess of choice in the colonies which Athens founded in Southern Italy. Among the most successful colonies was Thurium, a city which Athens built in place of Sybaris, a city famous for its wealth before it was destroyed by its neighbors sixty-five years before. This coin of Thurium honors both cities: on the front it shows the helmeted head of Athena, and on the back a butting bull, the symbol of Sybaris which appeared on most of that city’s coins. The Athena shown on this issue is Athena Promachus (‘the protector’), who in Athens was represented by a massive bronze statue on the Acropolis that could be seen from ships several miles off shore.