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About This Artwork
Octodrachm (Coin) Portraying Queen Arsinoë II, Ptolemaic Period, (after 270 B.C.), issued by King Ptolemy II or III
Diam. 2.9 cm; 27.76 g
REV: ΑΡΣΙΝΟΗΣ ΦΙΛΑΔΕΛΦΟΥ
Gift of Martin A. Ryerson, 1922.4934
Coinage of Hellenistic Rulers
The Hellenistic period spans the nearly three hundred years between the death of Alexander the Great of Macedonia (323 B.C.) and that of Cleopatra VII of Egypt (30 B.C.), a descendant of one of Alexander’s generals. The term Hellenistic is derived from Hellas, an ancient Greek word for Greece. It is used to describe both chronologically and culturally the era following Alexander’s conquest of Egypt and Asia, which resulted in the spread of Greek culture across a vast area. The melding of local and Greek artistic styles with the luxurious materials captured in the conquered lands resulted in magnificent artwork, including elegant coinage.
Following Alexander’s death, his empire was divided among his generals, who established independent kingdoms in Egypt; Persia; the eastern coast of the Aegean Sea, including Syria and Palestine; Greece and Macedonia; and Thrace. Almost immediately the generals began to covet each other’s land and power.Kingdom of the Ptolemies
Until the Hellenistic period, it was very rare for the portrait of a queen to appear on a coin. However, Arsinoe’s status as the daughter of Ptolemy I and the sister and wife of Ptolemy II earned her this posthumous honor. Arsinoe ruled equally with her brother-husband, contributing especially to the success of Egypt’s foreign policy.
—Permanent collection label
The Art Institute of Chicago, Ancient Art Galleries, Gallery 155, 1994 - February 22, 2004 and May 16, 2004 - February 2012.
Houston, TX, The Museum of Fine Arts Houston"The Centaur’s Smile: The Human Animal in Early Greek Art" 22 February – 16 May 2004.
"Neither Man nor Beast: Animal Images on Ancient Coins," August 29, 2007- February 2012
Berge, Louise and Karen Alexander. 1985. "Ancient Gold Work and Jewelry from Chicago Collections." The Ancient World. Vol. 11, nos. 1 and 2, p. 22.
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. Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press.