|Obverse of the piece in the British Museum|
c. 260 BC (ND)
|Measurements and composition|
|v · d · e|
The 3 stater or tristater coin is a non-dated coin that was issued by Ancient Carthage around 260 BC. At the time of issuance, Carthage was fighting the Roman Republic in the First Punic War (264–241 BC), and the coin, with a value of three staters or 12 shekels, may have been produced to recruit mercenaries or boost morale. It is believed to have been produced in Sicily. Like all Ancient Carthaginian currency, the tristater was eventually demonetized.
The coin is composed of electrum, a natural alloy of gold and silver. Pieces generally contain a gold content of between 24 and 35 percent. The coin weighs approximately 21.83 grams and measures roughly 30 millimeters in diameter, although these measurements vary. Like most coins, the tristater of Carthage is round in shape. Featured on the obverse is a left-facing depiction of Tanit, a mythological goddess worshiped in the Punic religion, with a barley wreath on her head, her ears studded with drop earrings, and her neck decorated with a necklace. A male horse (Equus ferus caballus) is shown galloping to the right on the coin's reverse. This horse may allude to the founding legend of the Carthaginian civilization, in which an oracle instructed Phoenician colonists to build a city where they located a horse's head. Engraved in the background of the reverse, behind the horse, is a date palm (Phoenix dactylifera), a representation of fertility. Such a graphic may have possibly been included because of the symbolism of the palm in the Carthaginian society, or perhaps to reference to the Carthaginian homeland of Phoenicia. At the very bottom of the coin is the Punic inscription "" (B'rst), which most modern numismatists and scholars believe translates as "in the land" or "in the territory". An alternative possibility commonly accepted in the past is that the word is Punic for "Brysa", a walled citadel located in Carthage.
In total, only 15 examples of this coin are known to exist, 12 of which are believed to have been recovered from the Porto Empedocle hoard. One example is currently in the possession of the British Museum, which acquired the specimen in 1987 from G. E. M. Lewis, the widow of R. W. B. Lewis, author of Carthaginian Gold and Electrum Coins.
- electrum tristater (value 12-shekels?) Siculo-Punic, ca. 260 BC
- Sotheby's (1993). Important Greek and Roman Coins
- The British Museum website