Discover more from Ancient Numismatics
🦁Alexander the Great (Weekly Post 3)
The Greatest Conqueror in History
Alexander III is still remembered, to this day, for how he shaped the ancient world. Let’s take a look at one of the most influential men ever.
🏛️ - History
Alexander III, son of Philip II, assumed the Macedonian throne following his father’s assassination in 336 BC. During his 13 year reign, he conquered land stretching all the way from Greece to India, spreading Greek influence with him. Then, at just 32 years of age, on 11 June 323 BC, Alexander died. The cause - debated, but modern research suggests typhoid fever1. His death marked the end of an era, and the Macedonian empire, 2,000,000 miles² in size, was soon fought over and split up by the Diadochi2.
The famous Alexander Mosaic features Alexander riding his legendary horse Bucephalus3
🔱 - Mythology
Throughout antiquity and the middle ages, a collection of (mostly) fictional stories about Alexander grew in popularity. The ‘Alexander Romance’4, with its origins in the 2nd Century AD, was told by numerous later empires, with earlier versions written in Greek, Latin and Syriac, before being translated (and altered) to many European languages. The Canterbury Tales even acknowledges it!
Some fun myths:
Alexander was born on 21 July, 356 BC. This is precisely when the temple of Artemis was destroyed. Plutarch suggests the goddess was unable to save her temple because she was too busy ensuring Alexander’s birth went well!
In the city of Gordium, there lay a knot so complicated no one could untie it. It was prophesied that whoever could manage the impossible feat would conquer Asia. Alexander simply cut it in half!5
The Oracle of Delphi refused to talk to the king. After being dragged by Alexander to the temple in order that she speak, she told him “You are invincible, young one!”.
🪙 - The Coins
Alexander’s coins are certainly some of the most well known, minted over an incredible area. The silver drachms and tetradrachms (4-drachm coins), are the most notable of these, struck in the 100s of millions!
On the obverse of these coins, a head is depicted wearing the lion-skin headdress, won by Herakles in battle with the Nemean lion. Some say that this represents Herakles, some Alexander, and others a mix of the two (Herakles with attributes of Alexander). In any case, there is little doubt the king wanted to associate himself with such a god.
The reverse contains a depiction of Zeus (god of the sky) holding a staff and eagle. The legend ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΥ tells us that this is a coin “of Alexander”, and the fields are populated with all sorts of symbols - these coins were struck at an astonishing number of mints.
Worthy of note, also, is the fact that Alexander’s coinage continued to be struck in his name even after his death. This is truly a testament to the impact of Alexander, and his remarkable legacy.
This spectacular Tetradrachm of Alexander was struck at Tarsus6
💬 - Quote
“(There is) learning in suffering/experience.”
🔗 - Recommendation
Mike Nottelmann, a specialist in US coins, joins ancient coin expert Aaron Berk every couple of weeks for ‘The Ancient Coin Podcast with Aaron Berk’. Each episode, hosted on Youtube, lasts roughly an hour, and looks at all sorts of ancient coins. As a beginner, you can learn lots about the hobby with Mike, who asks Aaron questions. It’s something I always look forward to, and I would definitely recommend it.
You can find Aaron’s Youtube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/@aaronberk4568
Thanks so much for reading! If you liked this post, please consider telling your friends about Ancient Numismatics using the button below. Let’s give ancient history the attention it deserves!
Epiphanesnikophoros, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons