Tertradrachm (Coin) Portraying Alexander the Great as Herakles

A work made of silver.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of silver.

Date:

336/323 BC

Artist:

Greek, minted in Amphipolis, Macedonia

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.

As Alexander the Great (r. 336–323 BC) swept across the Persian Empire, conquering kingdoms from the Mediterranean Sea to the Indus River, he paid his army with coins that portrayed him as he wished to be seen: youthful and clean-shaven with hair tousled and eyes cast skyward. The image became the model for subsequent royal portraiture.

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Ancient and Byzantine Art

Artist

Ancient Greek

Title

Tertradrachm (Coin) Portraying Alexander the Great as Herakles

Origin

Greece

Date

336 AD–323 AD

Medium

Silver

Dimensions

Diam. 2.7 cm; 16.96 g

Credit Line

Gift of William F. Dunham

Reference Number

1920.708

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email .

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