Silver tetradrachm of Alexander the Great

Mint of Amphipolis (modern Amfípolis, northern Greece), 336-323 BC

The wealth and power of Macedon

The kings of Macedon began to issue coinage in the early fifth century BC. Although northern Greece was rich in precious metal resources, the Macedonian kings were not initially powerful enough to gain constant access to mines. When Philip II came to the throne in 359 BC he embarked upon an ambitious plan of conquest. In nearby Thrace the cities of Amphipolis and Crenides both became part of his empire. Amphipolis had rich silver mines, while Crenides, which Philip renamed Philippi, had wealthy gold mines. Philippi alone was said to have provided him with 1000 talents (26,000 kg) per year. This enabled Philip to produce a vast series of gold coins which became one of the staple currencies of the Greek world.

Building upon his father's success in Greece, Alexander III (Alexander the Great, reigned 336-323 BC) set about the conquest of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. By the time of his death at the age of 31, he ruled most of the known world from Greece to Afghanistan. Initially Alexander continued to mint Philip's gold and silver coins. Soon, however, the need for a silver coinage that could be widely used in Greece caused him to begin a new coinage on the Athenian weight-standard. His new silver coins, with the head of Herakles on one side and a seated figure of Zeus on the other, also became one of the staple coinages of the Greek world. They were widely imitated within the empire he had forged.

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More information


G.K. Jenkins, Ancient Greek coins (London, Seaby, 1990)

M.J. Price, The coinage in the name of Ale (London / Zurich, Swiss Numismatic Society, 1991)

I.A. Carradice, Greek coins (London, The British Museum Press, 1996)

O. Mørkholm, Early Hellenistic coinage (Cambridge University Press, 1991)

I.A. Carradice and M.J. Price, Coinage in the Greek world (London, Seaby, 1988)


Diameter: 25.000 mm
Weight: 17.180 g

Museum number

CM 1921-1-9-6



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