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Tetradrachm (Coin) Portraying Alexander the Great

A work made of silver.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of silver.


297-281 BCE, issued by King Lysimachus of Thrace (306–281 BCE)


Greek; Thrace

About this artwork

The Hellenistic period spans the nearly three hundred years between the death of Alexander the Great of
Macedonia (323 BCE) and that of Cleopatra VII of Egypt (30 BCE), 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.

Lysimachus (reigned 323–281 BCE), the general who succeeded Alexander as the ruler of Thrace, used the young ruler’s portrait on the front of this coin. However, on the back Lysimachus named himself “king” and pictured the goddesses Athena and Nike (Victory) crowning his name with laurels, which symbolized victory or honor. He also placed his personal badge—a lion’s fore-parts—under Athena’s hand. The badge referred to Lysimachus’s famous exploit of killing a lion with his bare hands, and reinforced his association with Alexander, who used the skin of the Nemean lion as one of his symbols of power and courage.


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Arts of the Ancient Mediterranean and Byzantium


Ancient Greek


Tetradrachm (Coin) Portraying Alexander the Great


Thrace (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.

297 BCE–281 BCE






Diam.: 3.1 cm (1 1/4 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of Mrs. William Nelson Pelouze

Reference Number


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Extended information about this artwork

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