GREEK HISTORY AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF COINAGE

These great political changes were reflected in the coinage. As already mentioned, the first half of the 4th Century B.C., during which many of the city-states enjoyed their final period of autonomy, produced some of the artistic masterpieces of the Greek coinage. Noteworthy are the magnificent tetradrachms of Amphipolis with facing head of Apollo; those of Olynthos, in the name of the Chalkidians, with reverse type lyre; some of the staters issued at Olympia by the Eleans, with noble heads of Zeus and his consort Hera; and the fine staters of the Arkadians depicting, on the reverse, Pan seated upon a rock. Some of the earlier issues of Philip II of Macedon are also of a high artistic standard; but as the territorial extent of Philip’s realm was extended and the coinage was produced in ever-increasing quantities, so the quality of the workmanship declined.

This is particularly noticeable in the coins issued after his death, though still in the name of Philip. Alexander’s money was an imperial coinage in every sense, unlike anything which the Greek world had seen before, with the possible exception of the Athenian tetradrachms of the Periklean age. But it set the pattern for centuries to come— mass produced regal issues largely replacing autonomous coins of individual cities. Inevitably this brought about a decline in artistic standards. When many of the cities regained a degree of independence, in the 2nd Century B.C., the process had gone too far to be reversed. Some individual pieces amongst the autonomous coins of the late Hellenistic age might be called attractive rather than beautiful.

Silver tetradrachm of Alexander the Great (336-323 B.C.)
Gold stater of Philip III Arrhida
(323-317 B.C.)




On the death of Alexander at Babylon (June, 323 B.C.) his vast realm, stretching from Macedon to India, became the object of endless disputes between his generals. These ‘wars of the Diadochi’ ultimately led to the formation of a number of independent kingdoms, though in the early years the appearance of unity was maintained. Officially, Alexander was succeeded by his infant son, Alexander IV, and by an idiot-brother or the great king, called Arrhidaeus, now named Philip (III). During the minority of the boy-kings the responsibility for admini¬stering the huge empire rested with men such as Perdikkas, Antipater, Antigonos the One-eyed, Ptolemy, Seleukos and Lysimachos. These were die true successors of Alexander and some of them went on to found dynasties which endured for many generations. The unfortunate Alexander IV and Philip III met violent ends; both were dead within twelve years of Alexander the Great’s decease.

Silver tetradrachm of Ptolemy I of Egypt, circa 310-305 B.C.

Other than the original Kingdom of Macedon, the two great realms to emerge from these struggles were the Kingdom of Egypt, founded by Ptolemy, and the dominions of Seleukos, commonly known as the Seleukid Empire, comprising the greater part of Alexander’s conquests. About the middle of the 3rd Century B.C. the Seleukid Empire was further divided when the eastern provinces of Baktria and Parthia each achieved independence; the latter destined to survive for nearly five centuries and to become the troublesome eastern neighbor of the Roman Empire. Meanwhile, in the west the power of Rome was rapidly growing. Following her victory over Carthage in the First Punic War (241 B.C.) Rome acquired her first province Sicily and to this was added to Spain in the closing years of the century. At about the same time came the first conflict with the Macedonian Kingdom, now ruled by the energetic Philip V.

Silver tetradrachm of Philip V of Macedon (221-179 B.C.)

In 197 B.C., at the battle of Kynoskephalai, the Romans inflicted a heavy defeat on Philip. The following year the Roman general Flamininus made his celebrated proclamation of the ‘Freedom of Greece’ at the Isthmian Games. But in reality, Greece had merely become subject to a new and more powerful master. The once proud Macedonian Kingdom lingered on for three decades more, under Philip V and his son Perseus, but was finally destroyed by the Romans in 168 B.C. Macedonia was divided into four republics and in 146 B.C. was reduced to provincial status.

Silver tetradrachm of Antiochos the Great (223-187 B.C.)

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