Obverse: Portrait of Helios
Reverse: A Rose
The island nation of Rhodes was an immensely successful commercial power of the Aegean. They strategically sided with Athens but, when in jeopardy, negotiated favorable surrenders to Sparta, Alexander the Great, and Demetrios Poliorketes, allowing them to sustain at least some degree of independence based on neutrality. Rhodes was named for the rose, depicted on the reverse of this coin. A portrait of Helios, the sun god, wearing a crown of rays graces the obverse. This image was based upon the head of the great statue of Helios, better known as the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The Colossus memorialized the war with Demetrios Poliorketes. He unsuccessfully attacked the city for over a year, around 305-304 B.C. Eventually, a settlement was negotiated and Poliorketes abandoned his siege towers constructed from valuable timbers that the Rhodeans in turn sold off for shipbuilding. The proceeds from this sale were invested in the huge (105 ft.) bronze statue of Helios standing at the entrance of the harbor. While the famous statue served as a reminder of the city's fortitude during the siege and became a tourist attraction, it only stood until 227 B.C. when it was toppled by an earthquake.
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 ancient coin is more than an artifact; it is a memorial to the glories of Rhodes passed from the hands of civilization to civilization, from generation to generation.