Sicily: a meeting point of cultures

The geographical position of Sicily made it an important station on the maritime routes crossing the Mediterranean. Phoenicians settled on its western coast, which is attested by the spread of Punic pottery (1–3). The Greeks founded settlements in the east from the 8th century BC, staying in intense contact with other Greek centres, as is shown by the imported Corinthian (4) and Athenian vases (5–6). Locally-produced vessels continued and renewed the traditions of Greek pottery production at the same time (7–9).

Coinage was an important genre in the art of Greek cities in Sicily. Images on the coins often refer to victories in chariot races that took place in large sanctuaries (10–14), while the other side can display the deity worshipped in the given city: in Gela the river god Gelas (10), in Syracuse the nymph Arethusa (11–14). In the late 5th century BC a number of outstanding engravers worked in Syracuse who even signed the coins: one of them was Euainetos (13). Coins minted on models from Syracuse were also used in the Punic cities of Sicily, but bore Punic inscriptions and at times also Punic motifs (horse head, palm tree: 15–17). The influence of Syracusan coins is shown by the portrait of the nymph Arethusa, which also appeared on Campanian cups (18).