Kyrenaica was on a plateau in present-day Libya, settled by Greeks from the island of Thera about 630 B.C. Its principal city was Kyrene. In the winter of 332/31 B.C., the Kyrenaians entered into an alliance with Alexander the Great, and from that time until it was acquired by Ptolemaic Egypt, the city of Kyrene issued a series of coins with the head of Zeus Ammon on the obverse. Ammon was the chief imperial god of ancient Egypt, who became known to the Greeks through their colonization of Kyrene and identified with their chief god Zeus. His was the most important cult in Kyrene, where a Hellenized version of him was worshipped as Zeus Ammon. In Greek cities he was usually depicted as a Zeus-like figure but with the ram's horns of the Egyptian Ammon added. On the reverse of this coin, the silphium plant is depicted. The city's wealth depended upon the now-extinct silphium plant, grown only in Kyrene, which became the regular device for the city's coins. Its stalk was eaten as a vegetable, and the sap from its stem and root was used as a seasoning, a perfume, and a contraceptive drug.
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. This stunning hand-struck coin reveals an expertise of craftsmanship and intricate sculptural detail that is often lacking in contemporary machine-made currencies. This coin is more than an artifact; it is a memorial an ancient city passed down from the hands of one generation to another, from one civilization to another. - (C.7490)