The coinage of Alexander The Great

Perhaps no other ruler throughout history was as influential in the design of coins and money as Alexander the Great. The coins minted during his reign influenced the future of coinage on three continents, and incorporated symbols that are still widely used in coins today. Of course, coinage was only one of the facets of history affected by Alexander. Widely acknowledged as one of the greatest generals that ever lived, Alexander was only 20 years old when he became the king of Macedonia. In just thirteen short years, he changed the face of the world. By the time of his death in 323 B.C., he brought the entirety of the Persian Empire under Greek rule. From the borders of India to the Adriatic Sea, from Egypt to the Black Sea, Alexander’s victories expanded the Greek empire across three continents. And across those three continents and that vast empire, the coinage approved by Alexander became the standard on which currency would be based for centuries to come.

The most common of those coins, and those most commonly referred to as an Alexander, were silver coins bearing the head of Heracles on the front and a seated Zeus on the reverse, along with the king’s name. These were minted during Alexander’s life, and continued to be minted in the twenty years following his death by Macedonian generals who divided his kingdom, and for another two centuries by independent cities as international coinage. Thus, there are thousands of Alexanders still in existence. Like the Constantines of Imperial Rome, though, there are so many types and designs that a coin collector could easily specialize in Alexanders alone. Unlike the Constantines however, the differences among Alexanders exist in mint marks and minute differences that makes dating silver Alexander tetradrachms challenging, at best.

Of course, the silver tetradrachms that are most commonly referred to were only one of the denominations of coins minted under Alexander and in his wake. The following were the most common types:

Alexander gold stater
Standardized at 8.67 grams, the gold stater was one of the highest denomination coins. It showed the helmeted head of Athena on the front, and the standing figure of Nike, the goddess of victory, on the reverse. Nike holds a wreath in her extended left hand and a naval standard in the left. The word ALEXANDROU is imprinted vertically behind Nike.

Alexander silver drachmas
Silver tetradrachms (four drachmas) and drachmas bore the head of Heracles wearing a lion skin facing right on the front. On the rear, Zeus is seated on a throne, facing left, holding a scepter in one hand and an eagle in the other. The word ALEXANDROU is vertically imprinted behind Zeus.

Alexander bronze coins
The bronze Alexander coins represent the widest variations in both denominations and design. The most commonly found bronze Alexanders feature the head of Heracles on the front, and a quiver and club on the back. The variations of other denominations differ in back design, and include a horseman and Macedonian shield designs.

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