Coin of Lysimachos of Thrace (obverse: Alexander the Great as Zeus Ammon; reverse: seated Athena holding Nike)

c. 300 BCE
Coins, Medallions and Plaques
Diameter: 1 1/4 in. (3.175 cm) Depth: 3/16 in. (0.476 cm)
Classical Art
Dallas Museum of Art, given in memory of Jerry L. Abramson by his estate

General Description

This coin issued by Lysimachos, who ruled Thrace from 306 to 281 BCE, features a portrait of Alexander of Macedon (known to history as Alexander the Great) on the obverse, and seated Athena holding Nike on the reverse. It shows Alexander in profile wearing the curled ram's-horn headdress that identifies him as the Greek-Egyptian god Zeus-Amun. The portrait has the same low forehead, high-bridged nose, large lips, and thick neck as a well-known sculpture of Alexander by Lysippos.

Alexander (ruled 336-323 BCE) ascended to power when his father Philip II of Macedonia was assassinated in 361 BCE. He rapidly consolidated his power and then led a united Greece in a war of revenge and conquest against the Persians. In 334 BCE, he crushed the Persian army and conquered Syria and Phoenicia. By 331 BCE, he had occupied Egypt and founded the seaport he named Alexandria. The Egyptian priests of Amun recognized him as the son of a god, an idea promulgated by portraits like this that would have exchanged many hands during the course of circulation, sending the message of his divinity to the far-reaching corners of the empire.

In 331 BCE, Alexander reached the Persian capital of Persepolis, where his troops accidentally burned down the palace. He continued east until 326 BCE, when he reached the western part of India (now present-day Pakistan). Finally his troops refused to go any farther. On the way home, Alexander died of fever in 323 BCE. He was only 33 years old.

Heather Bowling, Digital Collections Content Coordinator, 2016.

Web Resources

Archaeological Museum, Istanbul, Turkey
Compare to a well-known portrait of Alexander the Great, thought to be a Hellenistic copy (200 B.C.E.) of a statue, possibly after a 4th century B.C.E. original.