Tetradrachm (Coin) Portraying Alexander the Great

A work made of silver.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of silver.

Date:

306/281 BC, issued by King Lysimachus of Thrace

Artist:

Greek; minted in Ephesus, Asia Minor (modern Turkey)

About this artwork

Following the premature death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC, his generals, friends, and heirs engaged in forty years of wars over his empire. Lysimachus (r. 323–281 BC), one of Alexander’s companions and bodyguards, used the king’s image on his own coins in order to cast himself in the role of successor and legitimize his claim to the kingdom of Thrace. Alexander, responsible for establishing the conventions of royal portraiture, is depicted in his preferred manner: youthful and clean-shaven, with long locks of hair rising above his forehead and eyes cast upward. Additionally, he is shown with horns curling around his ears. These “horns of Ammon” symbolize Alexander’s claim that he was the son of the Egyptian god Ammon—a claim reportedly confirmed by the oracle at the sanctuary of Zeus-Ammon at Siwa, Egypt.

On the reverse of the coin, Lysimachus exerts his own royal autonomy by naming himself “king.” The goddesses Athena and Nike (Greek for “victory”) crown his name with laurels, which symbolized victory or honor. The lion on the shield at Athena’s side references Lysimachus’s famous exploit of killing a lion with his bare hands and reinforces his association with Alexander, who used the skin of the Nemean lion as a symbol of power and courage.

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Ancient and Byzantine Art

Artist

Ancient Greek

Title

Tetradrachm (Coin) Portraying Alexander the Great

Origin

Ephesus

Date

306 BC–281 BC

Medium

Silver

Inscriptions

Reverse: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩ[Σ] ΛΥΣΙΜΑΧΟΥ "[minted by] King Lysimachus"

Dimensions

Diam. 3.1 cm; 16.78 g

Credit Line

Gift of Martin A. Ryerson

Reference Number

1922.4924

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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