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
Until the Hellenistic period, it was very rare for the portrait of a queen to appear on a coin. However, Arsinoe’s status as the daughter of Ptolemy I and the sister and wife of Ptolemy II earned her this posthumous honor. Arsinoe ruled equally with her brother-husband, contributing especially to the success of Egypt’s foreign policy.
- Ancient Greek
- Octodrachm (Coin) Portraying Queen Arsinoë II
- 270 BC
- Reverse: ΑΡΣΙΝΟΗΣ ΦΙΛΑΔΕΛΦΟΥ
- Diam. 2.9 cm; 27.76 g
- Gift of Martin A. Ryerson