Archiv für den Monat April 2020

A rare tuna from Lampedusa

I recently discovered a small bronze, depicting a detailed picture of a fish, in an Ebay lot which sparked my interest. Since the other pieces came from Sicily, I started looking there. I soon had an exciting guess, so I bought the lot (at a good price, luckily).

The moment I held the coin in my hand, my assumption was confirmed: it is actually an early bronze from Lampedusa, one of about three or four specimen known, and apparently the second in the trade (the first I found at CNG , which also helped with identification).


The Lopadousa coin compared to a 1 Eurocent

The front shows a bearded, wreathed head looking to the right – maybe Zeus or another male local deity. The back shows a sea fish, obviously a tuna, and the legend LOPADOUSSAION, „… of Lopadoussa“, in the meaning of „coin…“ or „money of the people of Lopadousa“. The ancient name Lopadoussa or Lopadousa for the small Italian island of Lampedusa is mentioned by Strabo without giving any further information. PSeudo-Skylax also reports only „two or three towers on the island“. It is difficult to imagine that this tiny island must have been an autonomous state – but the coins prove it. The fact that the people had their own coinage shows that Lopadousa had a developed, although of course only local, market economy. The tuna on the back shows that fishing (and fish export?) played an important role in the island’s economy. In addition, coin money, which bore the city name, was always prestige, especially in the competition between Poleis among themselves.

Although in ancient sources there was never a „city“ Lopadoussa on the island of the same name, the coins testify to a developed society. It has long been discussed whether Lopadousa was a Phoenician / Carthaginian settlement or a Greek colony. The Greek legend definitely points to a orientation towards, if not belonging to the Greek culture – considering that many Punic cities in Sicily used their own alphabet for the coin inscriptions.


The tuna of Lopadousa


There is little evidence of the ancient history of Lampedusa, the literary sources rarely go beyond a mere mention, archaeological finds are mainly prehistoric. At the time of minting, the island seems to have enjoyed a certain autonomy and prosperity. When that was can only be estimated. Because of the delicacy of the letters, the detailed representation of the tuna and the severe portrait on the front, I would carefully date the coin to the second half of the fourth century BC.