Weight: 42.200 g
CM 1926-4-2-1 (PCG IV.A.4)
Room 22: Alexander the Great
Silver decadrachm of Alexander the Great
Greek, around 324 BC
The only image of Alexander to survive from his lifetime
In 326 BC Alexander the Great's conquest of the world had taken him as far east as India, where he fought a successful battle at the River Hydaspes with the Indian king Porus. It is generally accepted that this coin is from a series issued by the victorious Alexander, perhaps after his return to Babylon in 324 BC, although there is no firm evidence for its place of production, and Alexander's name is absent from these coins and their accompanying issues.
If they were issued by Alexander then they are remarkable historical documents. On the front of the coin is depicted a figure on horseback, presumably Alexander, attacking a figure riding an elephant, perhaps intended to represent Porus, or a generic Indian warrior. On the back is a standing figure wearing a Macedonian cloak, a Persian head-dress and Greek armour. He is almost certainly intended to represent Alexander the Great, but carries in his hand a thunderbolt, a clear sign of divinity. If Alexander was the issuer of these coins, it is undeniable that he is making claims to divinity in his own lifetime.
G.K. Jenkins, Ancient Greek coins (London, Seaby, 1990)
I.A. Carradice, Greek coins (London, The British Museum Press, 1996)
O. Mørkholm, Early Hellenistic coinage (Cambridge University Press, 1991)
M.J. Price, 'The "Porus" coinage of Alexander the Great: a symbol of concord and community', Studia Paulo Naster Oblata (1982)