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.
- Currently Off View
- Arts of the Ancient Mediterranean and Byzantium
- Ancient Egyptian
- Octadrachm (Coin) Portraying Arsinoe II
- Struck 276 BCE–261 BCE
- Reverse: ΑΡΣΙΝΟΗΣ ΦΙΛΑΔΕΛΦΟΥ
- Diam. 2.9 cm; 27.87 g
- Gift of Mrs. Frederick Robinson