Ancient Roman Coin
Circa 272-240 B.C.
Phalanthos on Dolphin on the obverse
Warrior on Horseback on the reverse
Silver coin set in 14k Gold
According to tradition, Taras was founded in 706 B.C.E. by colonists from Sparta. The story of its foundation is reflected in its most familiar coin type, a figure riding on a dolphin. Some identify the figure as Phalanthos, the leader of the Spartan colonists who was shipwrecked before he had reached Taras but was saved by a dolphin that carried him ashore. Phalanthos was worshipped as a hero in the city of Taras. Others identify the figure as the mythological Taras, the local hero for whom the city was named. A son of the sea god Poseidon, Triton was also saved from a shipwreck by a dolphin sent by his father. According to the account of Pausanias, both Phalanthos and Taras, as well as the helpful dolphin, were featured in a fifth-century statuary group set up by the Tarantines in the sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi to commemorate a victory over barbarians from the north.