Ancient Greek coinage had been in use for around six centuries before Greece became part of the Roman Empire. Hand made in the same way Roman coins are (struck using a cast die), these coins had a variety of images and symbols which can be connected to Greek Heroes and Gods. This symbolism could be used to prove an individuals power and right to rule within the ancient world.
For my Money Monday handing session in the summer, I chose to focus on Greek coinage and connections that could be found to Alexander the Great (356-323 BC). Son of Phillip II of Macedon and part of the Argead dynasty, Alexander became king at 20 years old and ruled one of the largest ancient empires by the age of 30. Covering an area of 2,000,000 sq mi, Alexanders empire included modern day Egypt, Turkey, Syria, Iraq and covered an area as far east as India. Greek influence in these areas would last for 200-300 years after Alexanders death.
This map shows the extent of Alexanders empire before his death in 323 BC.
The Greek coins within the Roman Baths collection show a rich variety of connections to Alexander the Great and a number were selected to use during the handling session. Key themes included Alexander's connection to the hero Heracles; who the Argead dynasty claimed to be descended from, Alexander's connection to Zeus and his deification in Egypt and the spread of Hellenistic culture across his empire.
The coins often show the image of Alexander wearing the skin of a lion, portraying himself in the image of Heracles after he slew the Nemean lion. The lion is a recurring theme and can be seen on a number of the coins within the Roman Baths collection
|Hemistater of Macedon with lions head|
The next coin that was used for the handling session shows Alexander as a God. Pronounced a son of Amun in Egypt by the oracle, Alexander referred to Zeus-Ammon as his true father. The ram horns seen on the first image are a symbol of his divinity. The writing on the reverse (second image) shows this was a coin of King Lysimachus of Thrace who came to rule part of Alexander's Empire after his death. The use of the image of Alexander was used by Lysimachus to show his right to rule during the war of the ‘diadochi’ or successors.
When looking at the coinage of an individual, it can tell us a lot about their personality and what they see or think of themselves. This makes this type of coinage invaluable to our understanding of the period.