The last decades of the 5th century BC were a sad time for Sicily. In 409 BC the Carthaginians destroyed Selinus and Himera, and some years later Akragas, Gela and Camarina fell. This was the time in which in Syracuse Dionysius I came to power: due to his merits in the war against Carthage he was elected as commander with absolute power in 406. One year later, with the help of an armed force, he became tyrant of Syracuse (until 367 BC).
To pay his mercenaries and to cover other war-related expenses, Dionysius began to issue gold coins. They bore the head of Heracles on their obverse. The reverse bore a small depiction of the head of the nymph Arethusa within a quartered 'quadratum incusum'. The word SYRA on both sides of the coin indicated its origin.