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First Royal Portrait, 305 BCE

First Royal Portrait.jpg

Material- Silver

Denomination- Tetradrachm

Size-1 inch in diameter

Ptolemy I was the first ruler of Judea to place his own portrait on his coins (some numismatists believe he was the first person ever to mint a coin with his own likeness). The silver tetradrachm (four-drachm coin) shown here, from 305 B.C.E., depicts Ptolemy I wearing a diadem, or royal headband. On the reverse, an eagle stands erect on a thunderbolt, encircled by a legend reading “of King Ptolemy.” Eagles and thunderbolts were symbols of kingly power in Greece in the Archaic (c. 8th-7th centuries B.C.E.) and Classical (c. 6th-4th centuries B.C.E.) periods, when they were associated with Zeus, father of the Greek gods and “king” of the pantheon. By using such mythological imagery on his coins, Ptolemy I presented himself as a Greek king in the tradition of Alexander the Great and the Athenian rulers of the fifth century B.C.E.

“Spending Your Way Through Jewish History,” BAR May-Jun 2003.

Posted in: Hellenistic Period

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