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Alexander III The Great, Macedonian Kingdom, 336 - 323 B.C.

Alexander the Great is arguably the most famous man of antiquity. Born a leader, his genius and charisma led the Macedonian Army across the world creating an empire that covered most of the then-known world, from Greece to India. He was regarded as god and his fame grew even greater after his premature death at thirty-three. His reign marks the beginning of the Hellenistic Age, a time when almost every aspect of human civilization flourished. His coinage is highly complex, struck in cities all over the ancient map and spanning over two hundred years. The representative types are the silver tetradrachms and drachms depicting an idealized portrait of Alexander in the guise of the mythical hero Heracles, and his gold staters depicting Athena.Map of Alexander's Empire


Pontic Kingdom, Mithradates VI, c. 120 - 63 B.C., In the Name of Alexander the Great

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Mithradates VI Megas (the Great) was king of Pontus in northern Anatolia from about 119 to 63 B.C. He was of both Greek and Persian origin, claiming descent from both Alexander the Great and King Darius I of Persia. Mithradates is remembered as one of Rome's most formidable and successful enemies, who engaged three of the most prominent generals of the late Roman Republic in the so-called Mithridatic Wars: Sulla, Lucullus, and Pompey the Great. On this coin, minted in the name of Alexander but with his own portrait replacing that of Herakles (Alexander), Mithradates VI presents himself as Alexander's successor, the "defender" of Greece, and the "great liberator" of the Greek world. His propaganda translated the Romans into "barbarians," as the Persian Empire was during Alexander's campaign. How many Greeks genuinely bought into this claim will never be known but it served its purpose. At least partially because of it, Mithradates VI was able to fight the First War with Rome on Greek soil, and maintain the allegiance of Greece. His campaign for the allegiance of the Greeks was aided in no small part by his enemy Sulla, who allowed his troops to sack Delphi and plunder many of the city's most famous treasures to help finance his military expenses. Mithridates likely issued this type during the second Mithridatic War to pay Scythian and Thracian mercenaries. After Mithradates VI was at last defeated by Pompey and in danger of capture by Rome, he attempted suicide. The poison failed because he had taken daily doses to build immunity. He then made his bodyguard and friend, Bituitus, kill him with a sword.


SH74513. Silver tetradrachm, CCCHBulg I p. 83, 24 (same dies), Price 1192, SNG Cop 725, SNG Oxford 2681, Müller Alexander -, VF, excellent portrait, dark toning, porous areas, marks, edge bump, weight 14.463 g, maximum diameter 27.7 mm, die axis 0o, Odessos (Varna, Bulgaria) mint, Second Mithradatic War, 83 - 81 B.C.; obverse Mithradates VI bust right as Herakles in Nemean lion scalp headdress; reverse BAΣIΛEΩΣ AΛEΞAN∆POY, Zeus seated left on backless throne, eagle in right, long scepter vertical in left, ΛAK left, O∆H in exergue; $450.00 (€391.50)
 


Barbaric Imitative with Types and In the Name of Alexander the Great, c. 223 - 200 B.C.

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This barbaric Alexandrine tetradrachm type, imitative of early posthumous issues from the Amphipolis mint, is usually identified in sales catalog listings as Eastern Celtic. It is not, however, listed in the major Eastern Celtic coin references, so presumably it is not ordinarily found in Bulgaria or Romania. We know of one example from the same dies that was found in Jordan.
CE75897. Silver tetradrachm, Price B6, Müller Alexander 108 - 121, SNG München -, SNG Alpha Bank -, SNG Saroglos -; imitative of types struck at Amphipolis, F, porous, uneven toning, weight 16.450 g, maximum diameter 26.2 mm, die axis 0o, uncertain (Middle Eastern?) tribal mint, c. 223 - 200 B.C.; obverse head of Herakles right, clad in lion skin headdress; reverse AΛEΞAN∆POY BAΣIΛEΩΣ, Zeus enthroned left, throne without back, right leg forward (archaic lifetime style), eagle in extended right, long scepter vertical behind in left; $175.00 (€152.25)
 


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Lifetime Issue.
BB74172. Bronze half unit, cf. Price 338 ff. (various control symbols), SNG Alpha Bank 746 ff. (same), F, green patina, light corrosion and encrustation, weight 3.359 g, maximum diameter 14.2 mm, die axis 90o, Macedonian mint, 336 - 323 B.C.; obverse diademed head of Apollo right; reverse AΛEΞAN∆POY, horse right, uncertain control symbol below; $40.00 (€34.80)
 


Kingdom of Thrace, Lysimachos, 305 - 281 B.C.

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Heraclea Pontica, on the coast of Bithynia in Asia Minor, at the mouth of the river Lycus, was founded by Megara c. 560 - 558 B.C. It was named after Herakles who was said to have entered the underworld through a cave on the adjoining Archerusian promontory (Cape Baba). The colonists soon subjugated the native Mariandynians but agreed to terms that none would be sold into slavery outside their homeland. Prospering from the rich, fertile adjacent lands and the sea-fisheries of its natural harbor, Heraclea soon extended its control along the coast as far east as Cytorus (Gideros, near Cide), eventually establishing colonies of its own (Cytorus, Callatis and Chersonesus). The prosperity of the city was destroyed in the Mithridatic Wars.Heraclea-Pontica

GS74866. Silver tetradrachm, Thompson 178, Müller 365, SNG Cop -, aVF, rough, bumps and scratches, some corrosion, flan defect on obverse top near edge, weight 15.601 g, maximum diameter 28.5 mm, die axis 0o, Herakleia Pontika (Karadeniz Ereğli, Turkey) mint, c. 288 - 281 BC; obverse diademed head of the deified Alexander right, with horn of Ammon; reverse Athena Nikephoros seated left, Nike in her right hand crowning king's name with wreath, left arm resting on grounded round shield behind, transverse spear against far side, HP monogram on throne, club left in exergue; $450.00 (€391.50)
 


Macedonian Kingdom, Alexander III The Great, 336 - 323 B.C.

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Lifetime Issue.
BB75488. Bronze unit, Price 266 ff. (various symbols), weight 6.077 g, maximum diameter 17.69 mm, Macedonian mint, 336 - 323 B.C.; obverse head of Herakles right, clad in Nemean Lion scalp headdress tied at neck; reverse AΛEΞAN∆POY, club, bow and quiver, uncertain control symbol below; $36.00 (€31.32) ON RESERVE


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Lifetime issue. This coin was issued during the lifetime and rule of Alexander the Great. Most Alexander coins were issued after his death.
BB75453. Silver drachm, Price 2090; Müller Alexander 763; SNG Cop 895; SNG Alpha Bank 629; SNG Saroglos 771; SNG München -, F, toned, scratches, weight 4.089 g, maximum diameter 16.9 mm, die axis 0o, Ionia, Miletos mint, 325 - 323 B.C.; obverse head of Herakles right, clad in Nemean Lion scalp headdress tied at neck; reverse AΛEΞAN∆POY, Zeus enthroned left, eagle in extended right, long scepter vertical behind in left, legs not crossed, ∆H monogram left; ex Amphora coins; $120.00 (€104.40)
 


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Lifetime Issue.
BB75455. Bronze half unit, cf. Price 338 ff. (various control symbols), SNG Alpha Bank 746 ff. (same), F, green patina, edge chips9999, weight 3.943 g, maximum diameter 15.5 mm, die axis 270o, Macedonian mint, 336 - 323 B.C.; obverse diademed head of Apollo right; reverse AΛEΞAN∆POY, horse right, uncertain control symbol below; $36.00 (€31.32)
 


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Herakles is most often depicted on coinage wearing the scalp of the Nemean lion over his head. The first of Herakles' twelve labors, set by King Eurystheus (his cousin), was to slay the Nemean lion and bring back its skin. Herakles discovered arrows and his club were useless against it because its golden fur was impervious to mortal weapons. Its claws were sharper than swords and could cut through any armor. Herakles stunned the beast with his club and, using his immense strength, strangled it to death. During the fight the lion bit off one of his fingers. After slaying the lion, he tried to skin it with a knife from his belt, but failed. Wise Athena, noticing the hero's plight, told him to use one of the lion's own claws to skin the pelt.
BB75470. Bronze unit, Price 373, aF, green patina, rough, corrosion, weight 5.234 g, maximum diameter 18.4 mm, Macedonian mint, c. 325 - 310 B.C.; obverse head of Herakles right, clad in Nemean Lion scalp headdress tied at neck; reverse B thunderbolt A, club above, bow in quiver below; $30.00 (€26.10)
 


Mesembria, Thrace, c. 125 - 65 B.C., Civic Issue in the Types and Name of Alexander the Great

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Mesembria, Nesebar Bulgaria today, was a Doric settlement on a Black Sea island just off mainland Thrace. Today it is a seaside resort and a man-made isthmus connects it to the coast. The city struck Alexandrine tetradrachms possibly as early as 275 B.C. It is likely Mesembria issued the very last Alexandrine tetradrachms, possibly even under Roman rule, as late as 65 B.C.
GS74508. Silver tetradrachm, Price 1128; Müller Alexander 487, gVF, double struck, obverse die damage, edge crack, weight 33.92 g, maximum diameter 16.348 mm, die axis 0o, Mesambria (Nesebar, Bulgaria) mint, c. 125 - 65 B.C.; obverse head of Herakles right, wearing Nemean lion-scalp headdress; reverse Zeus seated left, right leg drawn back, eagle in extended right, long scepter vertical behind in left, ∆IO horizontal under arm in inner left field, AΛEΞAN∆POY downward on left, BAΣIΛEΩΣ downward on right, MEΣAM below; ex Pecunem Gitbud & Naumann auction 27 (4 Jan 2015), lot 110; $250.00 (€217.50)
 


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The B A on the reverse abbreviates BAΣIΛEΩΣ AΛEΞAN∆POY, King Alexander. It may actually refer to Alexander IV, Alexander the Great's son with the Bactrian princess Roxana. After Alexander's death, the Macedonian generals made his infant son and his mentally handicapped brother, Philip III, joint kings. They were both only pawns. The generals divided the empire among themselves. Philip III was imprisoned upon his return to Macedonia, and executed in 317 B.C. Alexander IV and his mother Roxana were executed in 311 B.C.
GB74822. Bronze AE Unit, SNG Alpha Bank 782, Price 376, SNG Cop 1026, Weber II 2146, SNG München -, Müller Alexander -, F, green patina, porous, corrosion, weight 5.494 g, maximum diameter 17.0 mm, die axis 90o, Macedonia, Amphipolis(?) mint, c. 325 - 310 B.C.; obverse head of Herakles right, clad in Nemean Lion scalp headdress tied at neck; reverse quiver right atop within bow with string downward, above B A, club left over thunderbolt below; $38.00 (€33.06)
 










REFERENCES

Arena, V. "New Acquisitions at the British Museum: additions to Price, Alexander, and the 1870 Larnaca Hoard" in NC 2003.
Cohen, E. Dated Coins of Antiquity: A comprehensive catalogue of the coins and how their numbers came about. (CNG, Lancaster, PA, 2011).
Davesne, A. & G. Le Rider. Le trésor de Meydancikkale. (Paris, 1989).
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Gaebler, H. Die antiken Münzen von Makedonia und Paionia, Die antiken Münzen Nord-Griechenlands Vol. III. (Berlin, 1935).
Head, B. V. British Museum Catalogue of Greek Coins, Macedonia, etc. (London, 1879).
Hersh, C. "Additions and Corrections to Martin J. Price's 'The Coinage in the name of Alexander the Great and Philip Arrhidaeus'" in Studies Price.
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Le Rider, G. Alexander the Great: Coinage, Finances, and Policy. (Philadelphia, 2007).
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von Prokesch-Osten, A. "Liste des Alexandres de ma collection qui ne se trouvent pas dans le catalogue de Mr. L. Müller" in NZ 1 (Constantinople, 1869). pp. 31 - 64.
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Wartenberg, U. & J.H. Kagan, "Some Comments on a New Hoard from the Balkan Sea" in Travaux Le Rider.

Catalog current as of Saturday, August 29, 2015.
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Alexander the Great Greek Coins