About this artwork
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
Upon the death of Alexander, his close colleague, Ptolemy I (r. 305–282 B.C.) claimed Egypt as his domain. He was the first Hellenistic king to replace Alexander’s face on his coinage with his own portrait. His dynasty lasted for three hundred years, until the death of Cleopatra, when Egypt was absorbed by the Roman Empire.
- Ancient Greek
- Pentadrachm (Coin) Portraying King Ptolemy I Soter
- 285 BC–247 BC
- Reverse: ΠΤΟΛΕΜΑΙΟΥ ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ
- Diam. 2.4 cm; 17.82 g
- Gift of Martin A. Ryerson