Alexander Coin, c. 325-323 BC
17.22 (weight) g
Minted in Babylon (modern Babil Governate, Iraq)


This silver coin, known as a tetradrachm, was minted during the rule of King Alexander III of Macedon (otherwise known as Alexander the Great), one of the most brilliant military leaders of the ancient world. He was responsible for conquering the vast Persian Empire, which included Egypt among other areas.
Tetradrachms weigh 17.2 grammes (the Attic weight standard) and range from 25-40mm. Like all Ancient Greek coins, they were handmade, using a disk of silver cast in a mould and then struck with a hammer using engraved dies. Unlike modern coins (which are machine made and thus of a uniform diameter) the value is in the weight of the coin, which was regulated by city officials. Therefore, variations in the diameter–or the fact that the coins were not perfectly round–did not matter to the value.
The coin’s obverse (or front) shows the hero Herakles wearing the Nemean lion skin as a headdress. Herakles wrestled the Nemean lion as one of his legendary 12 labours. Alexander’s family claimed descent from Herakles. The reverse depicts Zeus, king of the gods, seated, along with his emblems of a sceptre and an eagle.
Alexander coins were produced as a useful coinage by many different places over a 250 year period long after any political link had subsided. This coin is a Lifetime Issue, and was produced in Babylon, one of over two dozen mints producing coinage during the ruler’s lifetime. Babylon was an important centre, from which many of Alexander’s soldiers were dismissed, and thus paid off.


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