Posted tagged ‘persian empire’

The coinage of Alexander The Great

June 3, 2012

Perhaps no other ruler throughout history was as influential in the design of coins and money as Alexander the Great. The coins minted during his reign influenced the future of coinage on three continents, and incorporated symbols that are still widely used in coins today. Of course, coinage was only one of the facets of history affected by Alexander. Widely acknowledged as one of the greatest generals that ever lived, Alexander was only 20 years old when he became the king of Macedonia. In just thirteen short years, he changed the face of the world. By the time of his death in 323 B.C., he brought the entirety of the Persian Empire under Greek rule. From the borders of India to the Adriatic Sea, from Egypt to the Black Sea, Alexander’s victories expanded the Greek empire across three continents. And across those three continents and that vast empire, the coinage approved by Alexander became the standard on which currency would be based for centuries to come.

The most common of those coins, and those most commonly referred to as an Alexander, were silver coins bearing the head of Heracles on the front and a seated Zeus on the reverse, along with the king’s name. These were minted during Alexander’s life, and continued to be minted in the twenty years following his death by Macedonian generals who divided his kingdom, and for another two centuries by independent cities as international coinage. Thus, there are thousands of Alexanders still in existence. Like the Constantines of Imperial Rome, though, there are so many types and designs that a coin collector could easily specialize in Alexanders alone. Unlike the Constantines however, the differences among Alexanders exist in mint marks and minute differences that makes dating silver Alexander tetradrachms challenging, at best.

Of course, the silver tetradrachms that are most commonly referred to were only one of the denominations of coins minted under Alexander and in his wake. The following were the most common types:

Alexander gold stater
Standardized at 8.67 grams, the gold stater was one of the highest denomination coins. It showed the helmeted head of Athena on the front, and the standing figure of Nike, the goddess of victory, on the reverse. Nike holds a wreath in her extended left hand and a naval standard in the left. The word ALEXANDROU is imprinted vertically behind Nike.

Alexander silver drachmas
Silver tetradrachms (four drachmas) and drachmas bore the head of Heracles wearing a lion skin facing right on the front. On the rear, Zeus is seated on a throne, facing left, holding a scepter in one hand and an eagle in the other. The word ALEXANDROU is vertically imprinted behind Zeus.

Alexander bronze coins
The bronze Alexander coins represent the widest variations in both denominations and design. The most commonly found bronze Alexanders feature the head of Heracles on the front, and a quiver and club on the back. The variations of other denominations differ in back design, and include a horseman and Macedonian shield designs.

MACEDONIA: Alexander style SEAL, a global brand

March 2, 2012

Intaglio shows seated Zeus clothed in sacred robe holding over one shoulder a scepter symbolizing lightning, with eagle of victory in hand. This is similar design to the huge, 13m ‘wonder of world’ statue of Zeus with winged Nike overseeing Olympic games at Elis, a uniting brand for the factious Greeks.

The teenage Alexander the Great was Royal Seal-holder for his father, Macedonian King Philip II, when he attacked Chalcedon in Asia. (Philip won horse-races at Olympics; his mother Olympias said Alexander was really a son of Zeus.) With the eagle, the design became the brand for Alexander’s lightning victories against the Persian Empire.

 He won his victories wearing a talisman of chrysoprase, a golden-green chalcedony. Silver coins bearing Alexander’s brand aided commerce beyond his empire as the first world currency. Later coins show a goddess, as do denarius coins of Roman Caesar Tiberius branded as pontifex maximus,(the tribute penny of Matt 22:19). The eagle appears on Legion standards and empire symbols today. The 2300 year brand was transformed as Britannia on Roman and modern UK money.©

Macedonian History : Prophecies about Greeks defeating the Persian Empire

September 24, 2011


Macedonian HistoryDuring Alexander’s Pan-Hellenic Campaign in Asia, ancient sources occasionally mention prophecies which foretell the defeat of Persians by the Greeks. Here we present the most important of them.

1. The Chaldean Prophecy – Greeks will overthrow the Persian Empire

 Curtius Rufus (3.3.6-7)

“Already in a state of anciety over his immediate concerns, he was further troubled by dreams of impending events, which derived either from his mental agitation or from a genuine premonition fo the future. He dreamed that Alexander’s camp was alight with a blazing fire. Shortly after this Alexander was brought to him in the same clothes Darius himself had worn and then rode on horseback through Babylon before suddenly vanishing along with his horse.

The soothsayers had further compounded his worries by offering conflicting interpretations.  Some declared the dream was auspicious for the king: the enemy camp had been in flames and Darius had seen Alexander brought before him without his royal robes, in the dress of a Persian commoner.

Others disagreed, predicting that his dreaming of the Macedonian camp ablaze portended glory for Alexander; that he was going to seize control even of Asia was perfectly clear, since Darius had worn those very clothes when he was declared king. As generally happens, too, past omens had bee brought back to mind by the present worry. They recalled that at the start of his reign Darius had issued orders for the shape of the scabbard of the Persian scimitar to be alterd to the shape used by the Greeks, and that theChaldeans had immediately interpreted this as meaning that rule over the Persians would pass to those people whose arms Darius had copied.


2. Eclipse of the Moon – Egyptian seers declare that the sun is the Greeks while the moon the Persians who will suffer defeat.  

Curtius Rufus 4.10.1-7

Alexander encamped there for two days and had marching orders proclaimed for the third, but at about the first watch there was an eclipse of the moon. First the moon lost its usual brightness, and them became suffused with a blood-red colour which caused a general dimness in the light it shed […]

Alexander summoned a full meeting of his generals and officers in his tent and ordered the Egyptian seers (whome he belived to possess epert knowledge of the sky and the stars) to give their opinion. They were well aware that the annual cycle follows a pattern of changes, that the moon is eclipsed when it passes behind the earth or is blocked by the sun, but they did not give this explanation, which they themselves knew, to the common soldiers. Instead they declared that the sun represented the Greeks and the moon the Persians, and that an eclipse fo the moon predicted disaster and slaughter for those nations. They then listed examples from history of Persian kings whom a lunar eclipse had demonstrated to have fought without divine approval. Nothing exercises greater control over the masses than superstition.[..]Thus the dissemination of the Egyptians’ responses restored hope and confidence to the dispirited soldiers.


3. Jewish Priests show Alexander the Book of Daniel – One of the Greeks should destroy the Persian Empire

[Antiquities of the Jews 11.329]

And when he [Alexander] went up into the temple, he offered sacrifice to God, according to the high priest’s direction, and magnificently treated both the high priest and the priests. And when the Book of Daniel was showed him 1 wherein Daniel declared that one of the Greeks should destroy the empire of the Persians, he supposed that himself was the person intended.


aristander Alexanders Pan Hellenic Campaign   Prophecies that Greeks should conquer the Persian Empire

Alexander with Aristander from the movie “Alexander” (2004)


4. Book of Daniel – Alexander the king of Greece overthrows the Persian Empire

Daniel 8
Daniel’s Vision of a Ram and a Goat

1 In the third year of King Belshazzar’s reign, I, Daniel, had a vision, after the one that had already appeared to me.
2 In my vision I saw myself in the citadel of Susa in the province of Elam; in the vision I was beside the Ulai Canal.

3 I looked up, and there before me was a ram with two horns, standing beside the canal, and the horns were long. One of the horns was longer than the other but grew up later.

4 I watched the ram as he charged towards the west and the north and the south. No animal could stand against him, and none could rescue from his power. He did as he pleased and became great.

5 As I was thinking about this, suddenly a goat with a prominent horn between his eyes came from the west, crossing the whole earth without touching the ground.

6 He came towards the two-horned ram I had seen standing beside the canal and charged at him in great rage.

7 I saw him attack the ram furiously, striking the ram and shattering his two horns. The ram was powerless to stand against him; the goat knocked him to the ground and trampled on him, and none could rescue the ram from his power.

8 The goat became very great, but at the height of his power his large horn was broken off, and in its place four prominent horns grew up towards the four winds of heaven.


19 He said: I am going to tell you what will happen later in the time of wrath, because the vision concerns the appointed time of the end.

20 The two-horned ram that you saw represents the kings of Media and Persia.

21 The shaggy goat is the king of Greece, and the large horn between his eyes is the first king.

22 The four horns that replaced the one that was broken off represent four kingdoms that will emerge from his nation but will not have the same power.;&version=64;


5. The Sibylline Prophecies

The Sibylline Prophecies were a miscellaneous collection of Jewish and Christian portents of future disasters and were accumulated among Christians of Late Antiquity


{p. 64}

And the race of the Lydians rich in gold.
And then shall Hellenes, proud and impure,
Then shall a Macedonian nation rule,

210 Great, shrewd, who as a fearful cloud of war
Shall come to mortals. But the God of heaven
Shall utterly destroy them from the depth.
And then shall be another kingdom, white
And many-headed, from the western sea,
215 Which shall rule much land, and shake many men,
And to all kings bring terror afterwards,
And out of many cities shall destroy
Much gold and silver; but in the vast earth
There will again be gold, and silver too,
220 And ornament. And they will oppress mortals;
And to those men shall great disaster be,
When they begin unrighteous arrogance.
And forthwith in them there shall be a force
Of wickedness, male will consort with male,
225 And children they will place in dens of shame;
And in those days there shall be among men
A great affliction, and it shall disturb
All things, and break all things, and fill all things
With evils by a shameful covetousness,
230 And by ill-gotten wealth in many lands,

[208. Hellenes.–The Græco-Macedonian kingdom is here evidently intended.

213. Another kingdom.–That of Rome, here called white, or brilliant, in allusion to the white toga worn by the Roman magistrates. Competitors for office were called candidati, because of the white robe in which they presented themselves. Martial (Epig., viii, 65, 6) speaks of candida cultu Roma–“Rome white in apparel,” The epithet many-headed has been supposed to point to Rome while she was yet a republic and had her hundred or more senators as rulers. But there may be an allusion to the biblical symbolism of Dan. vii, 6, and Rev. xiii, 1.]


{p. 65}

But most of all in Macedonia.
And it shall stir up hatred, and all guile
Shalt be with them even to the seventh kingdom,
Of which a king of Egypt shall be king
235 Who shall be a descendant from the Greeks

And then the nation of the mighty God
Shall be again strong and they shall be guides
Of life to all men. But why did God place
This also in my mind to tell: what first,
240 And what next, and what evil last shall be
On all men? Which of these shall take the lead?
First on the Titans will God visit evil.
For they shall pay to mighty Cronos’s sons
The penal satisfaction, since they bound
245 Both Cronos and the mother dearly loved.
Again shall there be tyrants for the Greeks
And fierce kings overweening and impure,
Adulterous and altogether bad;
And for men shall be no more rest from war.
250 And the dread Phrygians shall perish all,
And unto Troy shall evil come that day.
And to the Persians and Assyrians
Evil shall straightaway come, and to all Egypt
And Libya and the Ethiopians,
255 And to the Carians and Pamphylians–

[233]. Seventh kingdom.–Or seventh king (comp. line 765) of the Greek Egyptian dynasty. This would point to Ptolemy Philometer it we reckon Alexander the Great as the first king, but Ptolemy Physcon if the line of the Ptolemies alone are reckoned. Ewald adopts this latter view, Alexandre the former. All the Ptolemies were of Greek (or Macedonian) origin.

237. Again strong.–The writer seems in the spirit and hope of Old Testament prophets to conceive a triumph for the chosen people, is following hard upon the evils of his own time.

242-245.–This passage is in part a repetition of lines 188-190 above.]


765 The seventh of Egypt, shall rule his own land,
Reckoned from the dominion of the Greeks,
Which countless Macedonian men shall rule

………………………………………….. .
910 And a great store of bows and arrows barbed;
For forest wood shall not be cut for
But, wretched Hellas, stop thy arroganceAnd be wise; and entreat the Immortal One
Magnanimous, and be upon thy guard.

[900-903. Cited by Justin Martyr, Cohort. ad Græcos, xvi [G., 6, 273].

907-911. Comp. lines 815-816 above, and note.

912. Wretched Hellas.–Addressed apparently to the Greek dominion of Egypt under the Ptolemies.

6. The Persian story of ZULQARNEEN – Alexander the Grecian


It has been mentioned above that, according to the majority of historians, there were no other prophets sent between Nûh and Ebrahim, except Hûd and Sâlah. Some of the ancients, however, tell us that the greater Zulqarneen had been honoured after Sâlah and before Ebrahim with the exalted dignity of ambassadorship and prophecy; and Mujâhad has informed us after A’bdullah Bin O’mar—u. w. b., etc.—that the greater Zulqarneen was one of the prophets sent by God, and that the reason for the truth of this assertion is, because the glorious Lord of unity had honoured him with the allocution, ‘O Zulqar*neen!’* which cannot be addressed except to the perfect essences and virtuous spirits of prophets, u. w. b. p. According to the most correct tradition Zulqarneen was not Alexander the Grecian, whose biography is recorded in the history of the kings of Persia, because his genealogy ascends to Yâfuth the son of Nûh, whereas Alexander the Greek is one of the descendants of A’yss the son of Esahâq, of the children of Sâm the son of Nûh.


Coins of Alexander the Great

March 13, 2011
alex makedon Η ... επέλαση του Μεγαλέξανδρου στο Λούβρο
by Andrew McIntyre

In order to understand the coinage of Alexander the Great, it is necessary first to explain the ancient Greek world. There were no specific nations and no specific country called Greece in the ancient world. Greek-speaking people had settled all over the Mediterranean. They established cities from Spain to the Black Sea in southern Russia.

Alexander’s Life
Alexander became ruler of Macedonia in 336 BC after the murder of his father Philip II. Ancient Macedonia was situated in the northeastern area of modern day Greece. Macedonia had grown strong under Philip II. Even though Alexander was only 20, he launched a massive military expedition against the Persian Empire. The area of contention between the Persians and the Greeks was Asia Minor (modern day Turkey – the Turks had not arrived yet). Most of the coastal cites of Asia Minor were inhabitated by Greek-speaking people, but they were ruled by the Persian Empire. Alexander invaded Asia Minor to liberate the Greeks and drive out the Persians. Alexander’s armies swept down into Egypt and then circled back, taking territory the whole way to borders of India. Alexander’s armies defeated every army for 13 years. While traveling back home through Babylon, Alexander died at the age of 33 in 323 BC. The coins minted under his name from 336 to 323 BC are referred to as lifetime issues and command a high price today.

Alexander’s Death
After Alexander’s death, the newly established Empire was divided up among Alexander’s generals and his family. There were many kingdoms formed out this Alexandrian Empire but the three principal kingdoms were the Macedonian Kingdom, Seleucid Kingdom, and Ptolemy Kingdom. The Macedonian Kingdom covered mainland Greece, the Seleucid Kingdom was Syria to Afghanistan including parts of Asia Minor. The Ptolemy Kingdom consisted of Egypt, Israel and Lebanon. The famous Cleopatra (VII), lover of Mark Antony and Julius Caesar, came from the Ptolemy royal family. She was the last Ptolemaic ruler of Egypt. The borders of all these kingdoms changed frequently. The cities throughout this fractured empire continued to mint coins using Alexander’s name for the next 250 years. These coins are posthumous issues and naturally make up the bulk of the Alexander coins found today.

Coin Types
The two dominant coins of Alexander were the drachm (drachma) and the tetradrachm (tetra = 4). The drachm is about 18 mm wide and weighs about 4.2 grams of silver (size of a penny). The tetradrachm size varies according to when and where it was minted but ranges from 25-40 mm wide and weighs 17.2 grams of silver (larger than a quarter). Alexander coins were considered sound money as the receiver knew that the coin was of a certain weight of silver. The value of the coin principally came from what it was made of, not who issued the coin. The weights of the coins were regulated by city officials called magistrates. It is often their official symbols and monograms that we find on the coins. Ancient forgers used to coat copper coins with silver and try to pass them off as pure silver coins. It is not uncommon to find an ancient banker’s mark or a test cut in ancient coins. By piercing the coin, the person could tell if the silver ran through the coin. The Alexander coinage was principally used to pay soldiers, tribute (levies & taxes), and later protection money to the barbarians. It was not for the purpose of establishing the free flow of commerce. Coins were also made of gold and bronze, but we will principally deal with the silver issues here. When Alexander was alive, there were about 26 mints producing his coinage. After his death, Greek rulers and cities throughout the former Alexandrian Empire produced Alexander coinage at 52 mints at its peak. In all about 91 different mints produced Alexander coinage over the 250 years. The last Alexanders were minted at Mesembria around 65 B.C.

Coin Design
The Alexander coin has Herakles (or Hercules as the Romans called him) on the front (obverse). On the back (reverse) was the supreme god, Zeus, who was the father of Herakles. Zeus sits on his throne holding a scepter and eagle. Although some people have argued the image of Herakles was Alexander himself, there is no convincing evidence of this and the face of Herakles is different in different regions. Herakles was the greatest hero of the Greeks. Born of the Greek god Zeus and made mortal, Herakles attained divine status by accomplishing 12 great tasks on Earth known as the 12 Labors of Herakles. The idea of a man becoming a god obviously was an attractive image for Alexander. The headdress that appears on the head of Herakles is the lion skin of the fierce Nemean lion that was killed by Herakles during his first labor.

This is a lifetime issue – 325-323 B.C – The legs of Zeus are side by side)

There are two main styles on the back (reverse). One has Zeus with his legs side by side and another style has one leg behind the other. While most lifetime issues have Zeus with his legs side by side and most posthumous issues have one leg behind the other, it is best to consult a reference book to be sure as there are exceptions.

This is a posthumous issue. One leg of Zeus is behind the other) © Gorny Mosch.

Coin Inscriptions.
There are two types of inscriptions found on the reverse of Alexander coins. The primary inscription is ALEXANDROU (of Alexander) and ALEXANDROU BASILEWS (of Alexander the King). The “of” refers to the “coin of Alexander”. The title “King” found on certain coins varied according to region and time period. The Greek speaking people were not partial to the idea of being ruled by any king and therefore the title is not generally found on Alexander coins of mainland Greece.

Coin Dating
Today, our world timeline is based upon the traditional birth date of Jesus Christ. B.C. is Before Christ and A.D. is Latin for Anno Domino which means year of our lord. Sometimes this dating system is documented as B.C.E (Before the Common Era) and C.E (Common Era) to remove the religious terminology but the origin is the still the same. There was no uniform dating system for the ancient world. Some kingdoms later dated their coins according to when a ruler came to power (Ptolemy, Seleucid Kingdoms). Therefore, by knowing when a ruler was in power, we can date some coins. Most ancient coins, unfortunately, had no such archaic dating system on them. The Greeks, however, did place a mind numbing variety of symbols and monograms on many coins. Some monograms were abbreviations of cities or names of officals, and some still remain a mystery. Through scholarly investigation of common coin styles and a little Indiana Jones deciphering, most coins can be placed into a specific date range and assigned to a particular city or region.

Books and References
The Coinage In The Name Of Alexander The Great and Philip Arrhidaeus by Martin Jessop Price. This is most detailed book to date on Alexander coins. This book was published by the British Museum and the Swiss Numismatic Society in 1991. It costs between $275 to $400, if you can find a copy. I know of only two sources. The Swiss Numismatic Society and WWW.VANDERDUSSEN.COM in the Netherlands. The book documents about 4,000 Alexander coins and their variations. It should be noted that as of 2005, Martin’s Price work is 14 years old and he was not infallible in his interpretations. New evidence has come to light about Alexander coins since his work was published that would indicate he was possibly incorrect on some of his conclusions about certains mints and certain coins.

Studies in the Macedonian Coinage of Alexander the Great by Hyla A. Troxell published by The American Numismatic Society, New York 1997 is the most recent Alexander coin book. Troxell follows up on the work done by Martin Price, but focusing mostly on the large Alexander Coinage issued in Alexander’s homeland of Macedonia. She presents corrections to Price’s work, revised dating of some coinages based upon her studies and coin hoards that were discovered after Martin Price’s book was published. This book should be seen as an update of Martin Price’s work with Troxell giving her own conclusions. This book is worthwhile buying and some used copies can be bought for around $40.

Coin Prices
Alexander tetradrachms range from $50 to $3,000 depending on condition, rarity and desirability. Alexander drachms range from $40 to $400. It is best to research and attribute the coin before you buy it as sellers can make mistakes in cataloging coins. The cost difference between a quality Alexander coin that is a lifetime issue versus a posthumous one can be substantial. If you don’t have the reference book, try visiting WWW.COINARCHIVES.COM. If a seller references a coin, use that reference in the search box and see what comes up.

It is important to remember there are Alexanders that are genuine but may look different from the coin referenced. Martin Price in his Alexander book was not trying to document every Alexander coin but a representation mostly of coins in the British Museum. For example, for the mint of Perga, Martin Price documented 26 Alexanders in photographs and 33 Alexanders in descriptions. Hans Colin in his die study of Perga* documented 361 Alexander varieties made up of 73 different obverses and 217 reverses. If the coin is a slight variation of the referenced coin, a seller will often indicate that by using “var” after the reference.

Coin Sources
Alexander coins principally come on the market from existing collections or from newly discovered hoards. In the ancient world, there were no banks. If you had money and needed to keep it safe, you buried it. Sometimes the owner could not come back to claim it and then it sat in the ground 2,000 years until some farmer’s plough ran into it. Hoard coins go to auction houses and are mostly bought by dealers.

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