Around 290 BC, the city of Rome began to push its sphere of influence into Magna Graecia, the regions of southern Italy extensively populated by Greek settlers. In that part of Italy, people had paid with gold, silver and bronze coins minted in Greek style for centuries. For the Romans, however, this form of money was unfamiliar, as the only coins issued in the Eternal City were heavy cast bronze coins.
To pay for the conduct of war in southern Italy, the Romans thus began to issue their own silver and bronze coins. This bronze litra is one of the first such minted Roman coins. It depicts on the obverse the head of the goddess Minerva in Greek style and on the reverse a horse's head.