Silver tetradrachm of Artaxerxes III

Achaemenid Persian Empire, around 343 BC
From the Mint of Memphis, Egypt

A Greek coin of a Persian king minted in Egypt

The ancient Egyptian kings did not issue coins. As in the Near Eastern kingdoms of Babylon and Assyria, precious metal was used for trade but it was valued according to its weight, not as coin. However, soon after silver coinage appeared in Greece in the sixth century BC, Greek coins begin to appear in hoards in Egypt.

Ironically, it was the enemy of the Greek states, the Achaemenid Persian Empire, that brought the minting of 'Greek' silver coinage to Egypt. In 343 BC the Persian king Artaxerxes III (reigned 358-338 BC) marched on Egypt to quell a local rebellion. While in the country he issued a large series of silver imitations of Athenian coinage.

The coinage of Athens was seen as a widely acceptable and attractive currency, and was thus an obvious choice for imitation. The issues of Artaxerxes III are recognisable as such because his name appears on the reverse in a local Egyptian script. The inscription here reads 'Artaxerxes Pharaoh. Life, Prosperity, Wealth'.

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More information

Bibliography

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

M.J. Price, 'New Owls for the Pharaoh', Minerva-2, 1.1 (1990)

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

Dimensions

Diameter: 22.000 mm
Weight: 16.910 g

Museum number

CM 1990-1-21-1

CGR76837

Location

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