Silver Didrachm from Velia, Lucania, c. 293-280 BC
The coin shows the head of Athena wearing a crested Attic helmet decorated with a griffin, Φ on the neck-guard, and a monogram behind her. On the reverse is a lion, a caduceus with a fillet above and YEΛHTΩN written below.
According to Herodotus, in 545 BC Ionian Greeks fled Phokaia in modern Turkey, which was besieged by the Persians. Settling at Alalia in Corsica, the Phokaians were soon attacked by a combined force of Etruscans and Carthaginians, who dispatched a fleet of 120 warships to root out the Phokaians. Despite prevailing at the Battle of Alalia against a force twice their size, the Greek victory came at such a cost that they were left unable to defend themselves further, and the 6000 or so surviving citizens took to the sea, briefly stopping in Rhegion, before moving north along the coast to found the town of Hyele, later to be renamed Ele, and then, eventually, Velia. The location is nearly at the same latitude as Phokaia.
Velia began minting coins on the Phokaian standard soon after its foundation, and continued to do so until it joined Rome in 273 BC, having successfully maintained its independence against the aggressive Lucani.
According to Virgil’s Aeneid, Velia is the place where the body of Palinurus washed ashore. The ruins of Velia are located near the modern village of Velia in the Cilento region of Campania, Italy.