Italian Idyll

by chuckofish

One of the necklaces I wear most frequently is a silver coin pendant. It belonged to my paternal grandmother, Mira Sargent Chamberlin.  The obverse shows a nymph


and the reverse shows victory putting a laurel on a man-headed bull.


The pictures are a little blurry, but it isn’t very big (about the size of a penny), so I had to get in close.  I’ve always wondered about the coin and recently endeavored to find out about it. Low and behold, the internet is full of information about such things (which is how I know about the nymph, victory, and man-headed bull). It turns out that it’s an Italian didrachm, from Neapolis (Naples) and dates to the 4th century BC. A better photographed example looks like this:


The city minted various versions between about 425 and 275, and mine seems to fall somewhere around 350. To give you some chronological perspective, at that point Rome was just beginning to expand a little, Neapolis was a Greek city, and Alexander the Great was still a child.

I’m sure there’s a great story behind the pendant. I imagine that Mira got it when the family lived in Italy but I wonder how she came by it? Maybe my father found it on the beach and gave it to his mother who then had it set and wore it proudly. Newell seemed to be an avid beach-comber.

newell 1 Or, perhaps more likely, they bought coin in some dark, mysterious antique shop. I don’t suppose we’ll ever know, but it’s pleasant to speculate. In any case, now I know a lot more about ancient coinage than I did before. Do you have any objects whose story you’d like to discover? Next time the contemporary world threatens to overwhelm you, do a little digging into the past. Who knows what you’ll find out!