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Silver tetradrachm of Seleucus I

 

Weight: 16.870 g
Diameter: 27.000 mm

CM 1969-5-25-1

Room 52: Ancient Iran

    Silver tetradrachm of Seleucus I

    Susa, 305-281 BC
    Minted at Susa, Seleucid Persia (Iran); from excavations at the site of Pasargadae, Iran

    The legacy of Alexander on a silver coin of one of his successors

    The conquests of Alexander the Great changed the world for ever. Following Alexander's death in 323 BC his generals divided his empire between themselves and began to squabble over his legacy. The image of Alexander played an important part in the period of turmoil that followed, as his successors tried to cast themselves as his heir. Various monarchs used coin designs in this context.

    Seleucus I Nicator (305-281 BC) gained control of the entire eastern portion of Alexander's former empire, from Syria to Afghanistan. He chose, like others of the first generation of Alexander's successors, to legitimatise his position through appeals to the twin principles of inheritance and conquest. The designs of this issue of coins, produced at the mint of Susa in modern Iran, give emphasis to these elements. On the obverse (front) of this coin appears a portrait of Alexander the Great wearing a leopard-skin helmet, probably assimilated with the god Dionysos. The reverse shows a figure of Nike crowning a trophy. It is perhaps intended, like the Porus medallion depicting Alexander, to commemorate a victory by Seleucus in the east.

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

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

    E.T. Newell, The coinage of the eastern Sel (New York, American Numismatic Society, 1977)

    R.R.R. Smith, Hellenistic royal portraits (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1988)

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

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

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