Denomination: AR Obol
Date: 398-395 BCE
Mint: Gaul, Massalia
Weight: 0.7 gram
Description: Obverse: Youthful head of Apollo left. Reverse: Wheel of four spokes with M A.
History: The ancient city of Massalia was founded around 600 BCE by Ionian Greeks where modern-day Marseille stands today. For hundreds of years, it retained a strong power as a city state, even coming to the aid of the Roman Republic against Carthage during the Second Punic War in 218-201 BC. After defeating the armies of Carthage Rome repaid Massalia by protecting them from the Gaul's. Ironically, after a simple show of strength, Massalia became the trade link between Rome and Gaul, securing its relationship with both nations for another couple hundred years. The city boasted a robust trading economy, along with a strong fleet of trading vessels. There is some evidence that the sailors of Massalia travelled beyond the Pillars of Hercules through the Strait of Gibraltar, and onto the western coast of Africa. Notably, Massalia traders held relationships with the Etruscan city states of the northern Italian peninsula. Many Etruscan Amphorae have been found in the city. Eventually, like many of the independent city states in the Roman Republic vicinity, Massalia eventually fell to the Romans in 49 BCE after a failed decision to support Pompey the Great against Julius Caesar.
Apollo, who's head is the figure on the obverse, was the son of Zeus and Leto and the twin brother of Artemis. He was the god of healing and medicine, of music and poetry, and was the leader of the Muses. As one would assume with such a passionate god, he was also a god of revenge and justice. Closely associated with the art of music he is often depicted with a lyre. Apollo’s music was said to be all-powerful, giving stability and bringing order into chaos. He received his instrument from its inventor Hermes as a part of a peace offering after the younger god attempted to steal Apollo's flock.