Obverse: Deified Head of Alexander the Great Facing Right
Reverse: Athena Nikephoros Enthroned Facing Left Holding Nike
Lysimachos was born around 360 B.C. to Thessalian Greek parents who had migrated to Macedonia. He served in the army of Philip II and was appointed to the select somatophylakes (royal bodyguards) under Alexander the Great. After Alexander’s death, he was given a satrapy consisting of Thrace and parts of northwestern Asia Minor. He supported the various coalitions that included Seleukos, Ptolemy and Kassandros against the growing power of Antigonos Monophthalmos. Like the other major successor generals, he proclaimed himself king in 305/4 B.C. and built his capital, Lysimacheia, in the Thracian Chersonesos. Lysimachos was instrumental in the final destruction of Antigonos at the battle of Ipsos in 301. It fell to him and his army to hold the Antigonid forces in Asia Minor until Seleukos could arrive from the east with his war elephants and deliver the coup de grace. Because of the great risks that he undertook, Lysimachos received the majority of Antigonos' possessions in Asia Minor. Despite some difficulties with native Thracian tribal chiefs, Lysimachos wrested the very throne of Macedonia from Demetrios Poliorketes in 285. Unfortunately, Lysimachos was unable to conciliate his subjects to himself. Eventually, the peoples of Asia Minor, gorwing discontent with Lysimachos’ rule and over-taxation, invited Seleukos to save them. The ensuing contest was decided on the field of Koroupedion in 291 B.C. when Lysimachos fell to the forces of Seleukos I.
How many hands have touched a coin in your pocket or 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 might have touched the coin before us, or where the coin will venture to after it leaves our hands. More than money, coins are a symbol of the state that struck them, of a specific time and location, whether active currencies in the age we live or artifacts 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. Like most successors, Lysimachos adopted the imagery of Alexander the Great in order to bolter his legitimacy as an independent ruler. Although Athena was favored by Alexander, the particular iconography used here on the reverse was popularized by the Successors. The goddess is shown as Nikephoros, 'the victory bearer' and holds Nike to indicate this function. Victory was an important concept for Hellenistic rulers because without victory it was impossible to be taken seriously as a king. Thus Nike is seen here to be crowning the name of Lysimachos with a laurel wreath. This coin seeks to establish the legitimacy of Lysimachos’ rule. However, today this ancient artifact is more than a testament to a leader, it is concrete remnants of an ancient empire passed from the hands of civilization to civilization, from generation to generation.