Coin, silver tetradrachm, Ptolemy I; Late 4th to early 3rd Century BC; 180.96.8

Name/Title

Coin, silver tetradrachm, Ptolemy I

About this object

This tetradrachm was produced during the reign of King Ptolemy I, a companion and historian of Alexander the Great, who became the ruler Egypt following Alexander’s death. With no prominent heir, Alexander’s empire was eventually divided up by regions, and so began the Ptolemaic dynasty of Egypt that lasted almost 300 years.

The coin depicts the head of Alexander wearing an Elephant scalp, which represents the conquering of India – his final conquest of eastern territory before turning back for Macedon. Alexander had previously been portrayed wearing a lionskin cap to associate him with Heracles (see, for example, 202.06.4 in the Logie Collection). Here the elephant scalp was a way of differentiating Alexander from Heracles, giving Alexander his own unique heroic identity. Later Greco-Bactrian kings Demetrius and Lysias portrayed themselves in the same way to celebrate their own Indian conquests and to draw connections between themselves and the legendary Alexander.

The reverse side of this coin shows the goddess Athena Promachos striding forth in battle. ‘Promachos’ means ‘first in battle’, a position that Alexander himself took when leading his army. Athena is also closely associated with her father Zeus, whom Alexander claimed to be the son of as well.

Date Made

Late 4th to early 3rd Century BC

Period

Hellenistic

Place Made

Egypt

Medium and Materials

Metal; Silver

Inscription and Marks

Obverse side: Two mint marks appear on either side of Athena's legs and an inscription, reading ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΥ ('ALEXANDER') appears down the left side.

Measurements

Weight 14.79g
Diameter ca. 27mm

Subject and Association Keywords

Goddesses in art

Subject and Association Keywords

Animals in art

Subject and Association Keywords

Inscriptions, Greek

Subject and Association Keywords

Kings and rulers in art

Named Collection

The James Logie Memorial Collection, University of Canterbury, New Zealand

Credit Line

Donated by M. K. Steven

Object Type

Exchange Media

Object number

180.96.8

Copyright Licence  

All rights reserved

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