Silver tetradrachm of Agathocles

Bactrian, about 190-180 BC
Afghanistan and north-west Pakistan

The rightful heir to the throne?

Agathocles was a king of Bactria, an ancient Greek kingdom in central Asia. He attempted to show his legitimacy by linking portraits of his illustrious predecessors on the front of his silver tetradrachms, with his own name and titles on the back.

This coin carries the portrait of Demetrius I (reigned around 200-190 BC), wearing the elephant-scalp head-dress of Alexander the Great. The elephant-scalp is a reference to the conquest of territories in India accomplished by both these kings. Herakles appears on the reverse, holding a club and lionskin, with the Greek legend 'of king Agathocles the Just' ranged on three sides. The monogram to the left of the standing figure may indicate the mint.

Other coins issued by Agathocles to emphasis his rightful claim to the throne depict Alexander the Great (reigned 336-323 BC), the Seleucid king Antiochus II (reigned around 266-246 BC), Diodotus Soter, the first independent king of Bactria in around 240 BC, and the later Greco-Bactrian king, Euthydemus I (reigned around 230-200 BC).

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More information


E. Errington and J. Cribb (eds), The Crossroads of Asia: transf (Cambridge, Ancient India and Iran Trust, 1992)


Diameter: 33.000 mm
Weight: 16.220 g

Museum number

CM 1923-11-7-1



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