NGC Ancients: Successors of Alexander

Posted on 11/8/2016

For more than two centuries, monarchs issued gold staters and silver tetradrachms with images initially introduced by King Alexander “the Great.”

The Macedonian King Alexander III ‘the Great’ (336-323 B.C.) introduced two of the most familiar coin types of the ancient Greek world. For silver he paired a portrait of the demi-god Heracles with the seated figure of the god Zeus, and for gold he matched the portrait of Athena with a standing figure of that same goddess.

Not only were untold millions of coins with these designs struck during Alexander’s reign, but for more than two centuries they were used by other monarchs and even by independent cities. Usually the monarchs who struck ‘Alexandrine-style’ coins did not identify themselves, but instead retained the name of Alexander as part of the design.

In some cases, however, the issuers revealed their identity by using their own name in place of Alexander’s. Below are some examples.

The first to issue an Alexander coin type in his own name was Philip III (323-319 B.C.), Alexander’s immediate successor as king of Macedon. He struck these coins in very large quantities along with at least an equal number of these coins on which Alexander’s name was retained. Shown here are a gold stater and a silver tetradrachm bearing Philip’s name.

Philip III Gold Stater
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Philip III Silver Tetradrachm
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Demetrius Poliorcetes was a Greek king who ruled from 306 to 283 B.C. in a variety of capacities, part of that time as king of Macedon. He mainly issued coins with his own designs, but on very rare occasions he paired his name with Alexander’s designs. Below are a gold stater and a silver tetradrachm of that type.

Demetrius Poliorcetes Gold Stater
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Demetrius Poliorcetes Silver Tetradrachm

A later Macedonian king, Antigonus II Gonatus (277-239 B.C.), followed a coinage policy similar to that of Demetrius Poliorcetes in which he almost exclusively issued coins with his own designs. However, he also issued the occasional coin in his own name that bore Alexander’s designs. Below is one of those extremely rare silver tetradrachms.

Antigonus II Gonatus Silver Tetradrachm
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In the neighboring region of Thrace, one of Alexander’s close companions, Lysimachus, reigned as a regent or strategos (323-305 B.C.) and then as king (305-281 B.C.). During the course of his long reign he added other territories to his holdings, primarily in Asia Minor. Though he introduced his own, original coin designs he also struck very large numbers of coins using the familiar designs of his former king, Alexander III. Some of these bore his own name; two examples, a gold stater and a silver tetradrachm, are shown below.

Lysimachus Gold Stater
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Lysimachus Silver Tetradrachm
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Three later rulers, the Thracian King Cavarus (c.230/225-218 B.C.), the Paeonian King Audoleon (c.315-286 B.C.) and the Spartan King Areus I (309-265 B.C.) also issued Alexandrine-style tetradrachms. All of these coins are very rare today, with the one of Areus I being a particularly famous rarity. One example of each is illustrated below.

Thracian King Cavarus Silver Tetradrachm

Paeonian King Audoleon Silver Tetradrachm
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Spartan King Areus I Silver Tetradrachm
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Two other issuers of Alexandrine-style coins were King Seleucus I (312-281 B.C.) and Antiochus I (281-261 B.C.). In succession (even with some overlap) this father and son ruled the Seleucid Kingdom, which was based in Syria but which in this era also included a large swath of the Near East.

Just like Lysimachus, Seleucus I had fought by the side of Alexander III and when he came to rule in Syria he issued substantial coinages using the types of Alexander. His son, Antiochus I, did likewise. As might be suspected, both produced coins of their own, original designs as well as Alexandrine types in their own names and in the name of Alexander. Shown below is a tetradrachm of Seleucus I and a stater and a tetradrachm of Antiochus I.

Seleucus I Silver Tetradrachm
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Antiochus I Gold Stater
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Antiochus I Silver Tetradrachm
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Interested in reading more articles on Ancient coins? Click here

Images courtesy of CNG.

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