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Collection Highlights

Stater depicting Ptolemy I

Stater depicting Ptolemy I
© BA Antiquities Museum/C. Gerigk

other angles
Registration Number(s)
BAAM Serial Bibliotheca Alexandrina Antiquities Museum Number 1037

Inv.Inventory
 H/I/I
Inv.Inventory
 (SCA) 284

where to find


showcase M1

Stater depicting Ptolemy I

Category:
Coins
Date:
Graeco-Roman Period, Ptolemaic Period, reign of Ptolemy I (c. 310-306 BCE)
Provenance:
Lower Egypt, Alexandria, Abukir, Heracleion (Thonis) (Excavations of 2001)
Material(s):
Non-organic material, metal, gold
Diameter:
1.74 cm;
Thickness:
0.31 cm;
Weight:
7.14 gr
Hall:
Submerged Antiquities, showcase M1


Description

Obverse: Head of Ptolemy I decorated with a diadem. He's wearing a necklace around his neck.
Reverse: A Greek inscription in two lines -(Coin) of King Ptolemy- above Alexander the Great, bearing a lightning bolt in his right hand, on a chariot pulled by four elephants.

Egyptian Coins

The ancient Egyptians had long been familiar with the use of precious metals as money, valued by weight, when coinage first began to circulate in Egypt around 500 BC. The earliest coins found in Egypt are silver pieces from the Greek Aegean area and gold coins from Sardes in western Turkey.
In the fifth century BC by far the most common coins circulating in Egypt were the silver "owls" of Athens, and the first-known coins minted in Egypt, dating from the fourth century BC, were imitation of these. Most Egyptian "owls" (the owl was the symbol of the goddess Athena) were probably minted at Memphis.

As Alexander the Great (336-323 BC) conquered the Persian Empire he introduced his gold and silver coinage to Egypt and the mint of Memphis joined the production of these "Alexanders". The output of this mint also included small bronze coins bearing the head of Alexander, and that was the first use of Alexander's portrait on coinage.

Ptolemaic Coins

After the death of Alexander and the break-up of his empire, Egypt fell in the hands of Ptolemy who moved the mint from Memphis to the new city of Alexandria. Throughout the Ptolemaic period Alexandria was the only mint for Egypt, though Ptolemaic possessions abroad, such as Cyrenaica (Libya), Cypress and the Levant coastlands (Palestine and Lebanon), had also mints.
Ptolemy I also made important changes to weight standards and coin designs. The silver coins usually carried on the obverse a portrait of Ptolemy I, and on the reverse the eagle of Zeus. The gold coinage, which was issued more frequently by the Ptolemies than was usual elsewhere in the Greek world, had a wider range of regal portraits. A notable feature of Ptolemaic coinage was the issuing of very large bronze coins. Most of these usually depicted the head of Zeus and his eagle.


The information given here is subject to modification/update as a result of ongoing research.

Bibliography
  • Goddio, Franck ed. Egypt's Sunken Treasures. Martin-Gropius Bau, Berlin: 13 May– 4 September 2006. Munich: Prestel, 2006.
  • Cribb, Joe, Barrie Cook, and Ian Carradice. The Coin Atlas. New York: Macdonald and Co Ltd, 1996.
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