Coins of Alexander the Great and after.
The foundation for the future success of his son was laid by Philip II of Macedon. Gold coins in his name bears a depiction of fast biga on the reverse to immortalize a victory at the Olympics Games of the racehorse belonging to the king. Staters were mass-produced during his lifetime and about 50 years after his death (excluding barbaric imitations). "Philippi" are in 4th place among the mass issues of ancient gold coins, sharing this place of honor with the issues of the Ptolemies and the Lydian king Croesus.
But the first place undoubtedly belongs to the coins on behalf of Alexander the Great.
The obverse of its gold staters adorns the profile of Athena in a Corinthian helmet, and on the reverse side, the walking goddess of victory Nike is depicted with spread wings and a laurel wreath in her hand.
The issue of coins of this type began no later than 330 BC. The early issues of Alexander's staters, like his father's coins, are signed only with the king's name. Between about 325-323 BC the title "basileus" appears for the first time on coins, which later became an obligatory attribute on the coins of the Hellenistic monarchs.
Coins in the name of Alexander the Great are presented in our collection minted in 311-300 BC in Babylon with a tetradrachm and a stater. The ancient city submitted to the Macedonians without a fight and for a short time became the capital of the greatest empire, after which it gradually faded away forever. Its beauty and luxury, the free manners of the inhabitants went down in history and made this a household name, and the coins minted here are among the most beautiful among their kind.
The conquests of Alexander awakened from the state of treasures a huge mass of Persian gold, which, according to rather modest estimates, is at least 500 tons. The gold of the Achaemenides, which had been accumulated during the two centuries of the existence of the Persian state, literally immediately began to move, which in turn caused a revival of trade throughout the Oikumene. The average intensity of the minting of gold coins in 340-290 BC four times higher than that of the archaic and classical eras (540-340 BC) and 11 times later (290-40 BC).
Gold coins in the name of Alexander continued to be minted for about a century after his death, and staters with his portrait in a diadem with ram's horns until the time of the Mithridatic wars of 89-63. BC.
These coins were put into circulation by the Thracian king Lysimachus, in imitation of another diadochus - the Egyptian king Ptolemy I Soter, on whose coins the portrait of the deified Alexander was placed for the first time. They open an era when the image on the obverse of a coin of the reigning monarch, or the deified founder of the ruling dynasty, becomes a widespread practice.
The tradition of depicting the deified Alexander the Great in a diadem with the horn of Zeus-Ammon is associated with his famous trip to the sanctuary of Ammon, located in the Siwa oasis, among the sands of the Libyan desert.
Here from the mouth of the oracle he heard:
“Hello, my son! This is how God speaks to you."
“I accept your greetings, ” Alexander replied, “ and henceforth I will be called your son, if only you give me power over the whole earth” ...
From that moment on, Alexander not only allowed himself to be called the son of Zeus, but even gave an order to do so, thus strengthening the foundation of his own power, received not only by the right of succession to the throne, but by the absolute will of the Deity himself.
The importance of the cult of the deified Alexander was well understood by Ptolemy, who achieved the burial of the body of the king in the area subject to him, in Alexandria, making this city the capital of Egypt. Such an attitude towards the dead king, alien to the Hellenes, was quite consistent with the worldview of the Egyptians, and Ptolemy found an excellent opportunity to strengthen the foundation of his own royal dynasty, acting in the spirit of the traditions of Egypt during the time of the pharaohs.
The ram's horn is an attribute of the syncretic deity Zeus-Ammon, originally of Egyptian origin. It is also found on coins in honor of the deified Egyptian queen Arsinoe II, which will be discussed below.
The stater in the name of Lysimachus, presented in our collection, was minted ca. 260s BC. in Calchedon or Byzantium - the future heart of Byzantium Empire, the city of Constantinople.
The Thrace king Lysimachus and the Egyptian king Ptolemy I Soter, both were Alexander's bodyguards, rose under him and after his death received control of the regions that later became their kingdoms. They often united in the fight against other Diadochi, and sealed their alliance with dynastic marriages: Lysimachus himself was married to the daughter of Ptolemy (Arsinoe II), and the son of the Egyptian king, the future Ptolemy II Philadelphus, to the daughter of Lysimachus (Arsinoe I). The family history of these people is no less tragic and stormy than the era as a whole.
Arsinoe II, the wife of Lysimachus, initiated an intrigue at the court of the aged king in favor of her children, as a result of which, with the approval of his father, his eldest son and heir was killed. The family of the murdered man (Lysander's wife was also the daughter of Ptolemy I Soter) fled to Babylon to another diadochu Seleucus and urged him to war. As a result, Lysimachus was killed in a battle against Seleucus at the age of 70-80 years (281 BC). Become a widow with three childs, Arsinoe had to endure the betrayal of her second husband, who gave the order to kill her childs. Before her eyes, two younger princes died, and she herself was sent into exile in Samothrace. After 279 BC Arsinoe II arrived at the court of her brother, the Egyptian king Ptolemy II, and here also initiated an intrigue, as a result of which she was able to convince her brother of a conspiracy against him by his wife Arsinoe I, daughter of Lysimachus. And around 273 BC she took her place by marrying her own brother (by mother and father).
A monument to this history is minted in Alexandria in 272-260 BC. It's a massive gold coin "mnaieion" (oktadrachm) weighing approx. 28 grams. On its front side we see portraits of the spouses of Ptolemy II Philadelphus and Arsinoe II with the inscription "adelton" - "brother and sister", and on the reverse side of their deified parents (the inscription "theon"): the great founder of the dynasty Ptolemy I Soter and his beloved wife Berenices.
The coin got its name from the word “mine”, which means a unit of mass of about 350 grams, because the mnaieion itself was equal in value to this weight of silver. This is the first example in history of a dynastic coin and a paired image of spouses and co-rulers.
Despite the abundant resource of gold for which Egypt has been famous since ancient times, only one minor episode of coinage is known, probably by Pharaoh Nectanebo II around 361-343 BC. Therefore, it is the mass minting of gold by the Ptolemies that elevates Hellenistic Egypt to the 4th place among the issuers of universal gold ancient coins.
Fifth place in this ranking is shared by the coins of Carthage and the hektes of Phocaea and Mytilene.
Appian, the author of the Roman History, gave to Carthage the following assessment: “Their military power became equal to the Hellenic one, but in terms of wealth it was in second place after the Persian one.”
Founded ca. 814 BC natives of the Phoenician city of Tyra, a colony on the coast of North Africa near the modern city of Tunis eventually turned into a powerful city-state of Carthage. His research expeditions already in the 5th century BC reached the British Isles in the north and Mount Cameroon in the south. The Carthaginians were in close contact with representatives of many cultures of the Mediterranean, while maintaining the primitive traditions of the Middle Eastern cults of Baal and Astarte (Tanit) with the ritual of "molk" (biblical Moloch) - burning alive the first-born in the family as a sacrifice to the deity.
Minted around 310-290 BC the electrum stater of Carthage from our collection bears on the front side the profile of the goddess Tanit with spikelets woven into her hair. Apparently, such iconography is the result of a mixture of local and Sicilian cults of the goddesses Demeter and Persephone, officially adopted in Carthage in 396 BC. The image of a standing horse on the reverse side of the coin is possibly associated with the myth of the founding of the city. According to Virgil's Aeneid, the Phoenician colonists were instructed by Juno (or Tanit) to found a city on the spot where they would find a horse's head in the ground. The issue of electrum coins, instead of the previously minted gold ones, is most likely due to the difficult economic situation in the city. At this time, Carthage waged a long war with the tyrant of Syracuse, Agathocles, and was forced to seek any source of funding for its almost completely mercenary army.
The gem of the collection is a coin minted around 279/8 BC half stater or dekadrachm of the city of Syracuse. The coins of this city are deservedly considered as one of the most beautiful in history, and the image of Persephone with a touch of Punic influence on the obverse is quite consistent with this opinion. The strategist Giketa, in whose name the coin was minted, ruled in Syracuse for 9 years and was removed from power just before the arrival of the king of Epirus and the famous commander Pyrrhus on the island. Pyrrhus was married to the daughter of Agathocles, who had recently given birth to his son, therefore the Syracusians saw him as a legitimate contender for power in the city and expected him as a savior similar to Alexander the Great from the barbarian threat from Carthage. Pyrrhus really pressed the Carthaginians for some time, but his victories here did not bring the expected results, and as a result turned out to be "Pyrrhic".
In 264 BC the expansion of Rome went beyond Italy, which caused the Punic Wars and the struggle for the possession of Sicily, as a result of which Syracuse fell (212/11 BC) and Carthage was destroyed (146 BC).
The story of the last queen of Egypt from the Ptolemaic dynasty, Cleopatra VII, is widely known thanks to the popular plot in art of her love and the most prominent figures of the Roman Republic - Gaius Julius Caesar, and later Mark Antony. In 30 BC the last Egyptian queen passed away, and the ancient state of the pharaohs became a Roman province.
The world was entering an era of Roman hegemony...