SICILY. Syracuse. Time of Dionysius I (405-367 BC). AV 20 litrae or trihemiobol (10mm, 1.15 gm, 8h). NGC AU 4/5 - 4/5. Struck ca. 405 BC. Head of young Heracles left, wearing lion skin headdress / Quadripartite incuse square, small head of Arethusa in central incuse circle, Σ-Y-P-A in each quarter. C. HGC 2, 1289. SNG ANS 351. Slightly rusty obverse die, otherwise a choice example.
Dionysius I or Dionysius the Elder (c. 432 – 367 BC) was a Greek tyrant of Syracuse, in what is now Sicily, southern Italy. He conquered several cities in Sicily and southern Italy, opposed Carthage's influence in Sicily and made Syracuse the most powerful of the Western Greek colonies. He was regarded by the ancients as an example of the worst kind of despot—cruel, suspicious and vindictive. He fought a war with Carthage from 397 BC to 392 BC with mixed success; his attempts to drive the Carthaginians entirely out of the island of Sicily failed, and at his death they were masters of at least a third of it. In the Peloponnesian War, he joined the side of the Spartans and assisted them with mercenaries. According to some sources, after gaining a prize for one of his tragedies, he was so elated that he drank himself to death. According to others, he was poisoned by his physicians at the instigation of his son, Dionysius the Younger, who succeeded him as ruler of Syracuse.