In the archaic
The choice of types in this formative period of Greek numismatics is of special interest. Traditions were being established which were to have a lasting influence on all subsequent coinage, right down to the present day. It was recognized, almost from the start, that there was a completely new medium for artistic expression, whilst the issuing authorities saw the opportunity of advertising the special characteristics of their states The great diversity of deities in the Greek pantheon and the different interpretations of the roles enslaved by each nod and goddess provided scope for much local variation in religious beliefs. It is hardly surprising, therefore, those religious subjects were dominant in the earliest phases of coinage. In this way, the individuality of each city could be proclaimed whilst the artist was given the greatest scope for his talents in representing the grandeur and mystery of the Olympians and their minions.
Although religious types dominated the obverses and reverses of the Greek coinage down to the age of Alexander the Great, nevertheless there are many issues which do not fall within this category. The corn-ear of Metapontion, the crab of Akragas, the shield of Boeotia, the bee of Ephesos and the silphium plant of Kyrene are all emblematic types, being the official ‘badges’ of their states. Even here, however, there are religious connotations: the ear of corn is associated with Demeter and Persephone, whilst the bee was sacred to Artemis who was especially revered by the Ephesians. Other ‘badges’, such as the amphora,
With the establishment of the great Hellenistic Kingdoms in the period following the death of Alexander came a most important development in the evolution of Greek coin types— the beginnings of royal portraiture. The names of the Macedonian Kings had appeared regularly on the coinage from the first half of the 5th Century B.C., but no effigy had ever been produced by the die-engravers, not even of the great Alexander himself. Several of Alexander’s successors, however, placed their portraits on their coins and once the tradition was established.