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Larissa of Thessaly

Larissa of Thessaly

In the early years of coinage, the Greek city states each issued their own coinage, meant for exchanges among its own people. As each of the cities opened more to inter-city trade, they began to adopt standards of coinage meant to insure that coins were of the same weight and had the same value as other coins of the same type. To distinguish and identify its own money, most cities struck coins with an emblem that symbolized their city-states. For Athens, it was the head of Athena and her owl. In Corinth, coins were struck bearing the winged horse Pegasus, and the island city of Aegina took the sea turtle as the symbol of its money. Thessaly, a small plains city bound by mountains, was most often represented by the horse and the bull, for those two animals were part of their daily lives.

In its earliest years, the coinage of Thessaly was uniform throughout the state, but during festival times, many of the cities struck their own coins. In 430 B.C., the city of Larissa began minting coins that carried the horse on one side, and the head of Larissa, a Greet water nymph, on the front. The coins were minted till about 340 B.C., nearly 100 years. The head of Larissa is most often shown in three quarter face, with her hair flowing outward toward the edges of the coin. The horses on the reverse were depicted in many different positions. The style of the coin was copied from the coins of Arethusa under Cimon, whose face bore a strikingly similar portrait of the Nereid Arethusa.

In Greek mythology, Larissa was a nymph of Argos who was a lover of Poseidon. She bore him three sons, Achaios, Phthios, and Pelasgos. She was the daughter of Pelasgus, who may have been the King of Argos. The city of Larissa and the fortress nearby were both named for Larissa.