Kingdom of Macedon, Alexander III 'the Great' AV Distater. 'Amphipolis', circa 325-323 BC. Head of Athena to right, wearing triple crested Corinthian helmet decorated with coiled serpent / Nike standing to left, holding wreath in outstretched right hand and stylis over left shoulder; thunderbolt to left, ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΥ to right. Price 163a (same dies); Müller 1; for the date, Troxell, Studies Group A, cf. p. 128 for date. 17.25g, 22mm, 8h.
Good Extremely Fine; well-centered and exceptionally well-preserved - an exquisite specimen. Extremely Rare; only one other example offered at auction in the past twenty years.
From a private collection in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany.
Alexander's stunning conquest of the Persian Achaemenid Empire delivered into his hands a vast wealth of proportions so incredible that it was scarcely believable. At the time of the death of Alexander's father Philip II in 336 BC the Macedonian state was indebted to the sum of five hundred talents of silver. Yet less than five years later Alexander was the wealthiest man on the face of the earth and the Macedonian kingdom spanned some three thousand miles at its greatest length. The treasuries of Susa, Babylon and Persepolis rendered a treasure estimated at some one hundred and eighty thousand talents.
A significant quantity of the captured gold was sent back to Amphipolis where a part was used for the striking of the Alexandrine distaters, the heaviest gold coins the world had yet known. Valued at forty silver drachms, this new denomination meant that Alexander's discharged veteran soldiers could be paid out their one talent in 120 distaters. In practice, the relatively low output of gold distaters compared with the staters seems to suggest that perhaps they fulfilled a more ceremonial than practical role. Nevertheless, mercantile inscriptions from Amphipolis referring to big staters of Alexander (stateres megaloi) alongside regular staters in transactions show that they must have featured in commerce.
The iconic Athena-Nike design honours the goddess of wisdom and war at a point at which Alexander's great military exploits reached a pinnacle. The reverse image of Nike holding a ship's mast potentially alludes to a naval accomplishment, perhaps recalling the Greek victory over the Persian empire at Salamis in 480 BC and tying Alexander's own victory into a larger victorious narrative. However, others interpret it as a reference to Alexander's own naval exploits, such as the crossing of the Hellespont in 334 BC or the siege of Tyre in 332 BC.