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by Archaeology Newsroom

Coin Portraits (part II)

The head of Herakles as it appears on the royal coins chosen by Alexander the Great raises the question for scholars whether or not this portrait depicts Alexander himself. The specialists dealing with the subject reject, on the basis of literary sources, the possibility that coin portraits of Alexander existed, since he had forbidden any other artist but Appeles, Lysippos and Pyrgoteles to portray him in any medium. In early Hellenistic portraits, Alexander is represented either as Ammon-Zeus or wearing an elephant hide on his head. In the age of the Successors, Demetrios I Poliorcetes is the first to dare have his figure depicted on coins ,one of the most beautiful idealized portraits of the Hellenistic period was thus created. The coins of Philip V and of Titus Flaminius best illustrate the process from the idealized to the personalized and realistic representation of a figure. The coin portrait of Perseus, the last Macedonian king, executed by Zoilos, has a place among the most skilfull representations, while that of Philaeterus, the founder of the Pergamene Dynasty is distinguished for its dynamic character The coin portraits of the Dynasty of Mithridates of Pontos are works of Greek engravers, emigrants to the coast of the Black Sea, who are considered to be keen artists. The series of portraits just mentioned is rounded off by a unique silver tetradtachmum representing Mithridates V Evergetes .This is regarded as connecting the realistic school with the new tendency for idealized portraits. The head of Berenice II and that of Ptolemy V, of the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC. respectively, belong among impressive coin portraits. The coin portrait of Cleopatra VII is worth mentioning in which not only the features of her face are depicted but also qualities of her character are shown.