Alexander the Great, son of Philip II of Macedon, is arguably the most important historical figure in the ancient world. Born on July 20th, 356 BC, he was an astute, if somewhat headstrong student, and was schooled by various famous teachers, notably Aristotle. By the time of his death at the age of 32, he had personally supervised one of the largest land-based military expeditions of all time, and had conquered the whole of the then known world from Asia Minor across the whole of Persia, Anatolia, Syria, Phoenicia, Judea, Gaza, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Bactria, parts of India, Afghanistan and Pakistan. A legend in his own lifetime, he became known as much for his excesses and cruelty as his extraordinary military prowess but was nonetheless a comparatively fair and temperate man. Perhaps due to his supposed descent from Achilles and Herakles, he essentially became deified during the Hellenistic period. The Greeks celebrated Alexander in art and song, and his legend continued under the Romans, who had a fascination with military campaigns and tactics.
How many hands have touched a coin in your pocket or your purse? What eras and lands have the coin traversed on its journey into our possession? As we reach into our pockets to pull out some change, we rarely hesitate to think of who touched the coin before us, or where the coin will venture to after us. More than money, coins are a symbol of the state that struck them, of a specific time and place, whether currency in the age we live or an artifact of a long forgotten empire. Worth a month’s pay, a silver coin like this would have rewarded the bravery and fortitude of the officers serving under one of history’s most celebrated generals, Alexander the Great. While his vast kingdom dissolved after his death, the carefully cultivated legend of Alexander will continue to live on not only in our history books and museums, but also in artifacts like this coin: concrete remnants of ancient empires passed from the hands of civilization to civilization, from generation to generation. - (C.4979)