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Octadrachm (Coin) Portraying Arsinoe II

A work made of gold.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of gold.


261 BCE, Issued by Ptolemy II
Reign of Arsinoe II, Queen of Egypt, 276–270 BCE


Greek, Ptolemaic

About this artwork

The purpose of the first portrait coins was to identify the ruler. The front side became a mirror of the sovereign’s self-image. The back was often used to communicate the ruler’s accomplishments or intentions. The profile portrait was used because it suited the very shallow depth and limited surface of the coin. The tiny images were carved by engravers into bronze dies, one for the front and another for the back. The coins were then struck, one by one, in a process similar to how modern coins are created today.

In place of human ancestors, some rulers substituted real or mythic heroes or even the gods as their progenitors.

On the front (obverse) of this coin Queen Arsinoe (reigned 270–260 BCE) is portayed with a tiny horn curled around her ear. The horn was the symbol of the god Zeus-Ammon and implies that the queen was in fact, a goddess on earth. The back (reverse) of this coin depicts a double cornucapia bound with a fillet.


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Arts of the Ancient Mediterranean and Byzantium


Ancient Greek


Octadrachm (Coin) Portraying Arsinoe II


Egypt (Minted in)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.

Struck 276 BCE–261 BCE






Diam.: 2.9 cm (1 3/16 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of Mrs. Frederick Robinson

Reference Number


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Extended information about this artwork

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