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About This Artwork
Tetradrachm (Coin) Portraying Alexander the Great, 306-281 B.C., Issued by King Lysimachus of Thrace
Diam. 3.1 cm; 6.62 g
REV: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩ[Σ] ΛΥΣΙΜΑΧΟΥ
"[minted by] King Lysimachus"
Gift of Martin A. Ryerson, 1922.4924
Following the untimely demise of Alexander the Great in 323 b.c., his generals, friends, and heirs engaged in forty years of wars over his empire. Lysimachus (r. 323– 281 b.c.), one of Alexander’s companions and bodyguards, used the king’s image on his own coins in order to cast himself in the role of successor and legitimize his claim to the kingdom of Thrace. Alexander, responsible for establishing the conventions of royal portraiture, is depicted in his preferred manner: youthful and clean-shaven, with long locks of hair rising above his forehead and eyes cast heavenward. Additionally, he is shown with horns curling around his ears. These “horns of Ammon” symbolize Alexander’s claim that he was the son of the Egyptian god Ammon—a claim that was confirmed by the oracle at the sanctuary of the composite god Zeus-Ammon at Siwa, Egypt.
On the reverse of the coin Lysimachus exerts his own royal autonomy by naming himself “king.” The goddesses Athena and Nike (Victory) crown his name with laurels, which symbolized victory or honor. The lion on the shield at Athena’s side references Lysimachus’s famous exploit of killing a lion with his bare hands and reinforces his association with Alexander, who used the skin of the Nemean lion as a symbol of power and courage.
— Entry, Essential Guide, 2013, p. 70.
The Art Institute of Chicago, Ancient Art Galleries, Gallery 155, 1994 - February 22, 2004 and May 16, 2004 - February 2012.
"Power Struggles: Cleopatra's Relatives and Their Rivals," Gallery 155 (Coin Case), November 2001 - 2007.
Houston, TX, The Museum of Fine Arts Houston"The Centaur’s Smile: The Human Animal in Early Greek Art" 22 February – 16 May 2004.
CLEOPATRA; THE ANCIENT WORLD," Computer program, 1997, The Art Institute of Chicago.
Theresa Gross-Diaz in John Griffiths Pedley, Greek Art, Museum Studies: Ancient Art at The Art Institute of Chicago 20, no. 1 (1994), p. 50 (ill.), no. 33.
Alexander, Karen B. 2012. "From Plaster to Stone: Ancient Art at the Art Institute of Chicago." in Recasting the Past: Collecting and Presenting Antiquities at the Art Institute of Chicago, by Karen Manchester, p.29, fig.13. Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press.
Manchester, Karen. 2012. Recasting the Past: Collecting and Presenting Antiquities at the Art Institute of Chicago, p.46. Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press.