According to Thucydides, the colony of Gela was founded in 680 B.C. by Rhodians and Cretans. It was located on a fertile plain near the mouth of the river Gela, for which the city was named. In the late sixth and early fifth centuries, the city flourished under the tyrants Hippokrates and Gelon, until Gelon seized Syracuse and moved part of the Geloan population there. The influence of Syracusan coinage is immediately evident in the obverse of this tetradrachm, which depicts the racing biga, its charioteer crowned by Nike, which had by this time become a standard type on Syracusan coins. The biga of the obverse might also refer generally to the Geloan aristocracy, which was known for its horse- breeding and equestrian abilities; the city was also famous for its cavalry, which the large number of coins produced in this period may have been intended to pay. The man-faced bull, which is the main coin-type of Gela in the fifth century, is a standard type for the Greek river god Acheloos, but here as elsewhere it probably represents the local river god. Its frontal eye in the profile head and highly patterned beard are characteristic of Archaic art.
How many hands have touched a coin in your pocket or your purse? What eras and lands have the coin traversed on its journey into our possession? As we reach into our pockets to pull out some change, we rarely hesitate to think of who touched the coin before us, or where the coin will venture to after us. More than money, coins are a symbol of the state that struck them, of a specific time and place, whether contemporary currencies or artifacts of a long forgotten empire. This stunning hand-struck coin reveals an expertise of craftsmanship and intricate sculptural detail that is often lacking in contemporary machine-made currencies. This coin is more than an artifact; it is a shining vestige of a powerful city’s ancient glory passed from the hands of civilization to civilization, from generation to generation. - (C.2038)