Tetradrachm. Obverse: Head of Alexander the Great.
Silver; Diam. 3.1 cm: 16.62 g
Minted in Thrace; 306–281 BCE
Gift of Martin A. Ryerson; Art Institute of Chicago: 1922.4924
© Courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago


This silver tetradrachm portraying Alexander the Great, very similar to those minted in Egypt by Ptolemy I, illustrates the attempt by the diadochoi, especially Lysimachus, Ptolemy Soter, and Seleukos Nicator, to associate themselves with the victorious general as a way to legitimize by proxy their claim to power. Here, Alexander is clad in an elephant’s scalp, symbol of his unprecedented campaigns in India; he wears an aegis (a scaly animal skin used as a collar), tied under his chin by two writhing snakes; and one of a pair of ram’s horns is visible around his ear, identifying him as the god Ammon’s descendant.

K. Manchester. Recasting the Past: Collecting and Presenting Antiquities at the Art Institute of Chicago. Art Institute of Chicago, 2012. 46.