Gold Stater of King Lysimachus of Thrace, Lampsakos mint, Black Sea region, struck c. 297/6-282/1 BC

On the coin, the head of the deified Alexander the Great wearing a diadem with fluttering ends and with the horn of Ammon around his ear. On the reverse, Athena, wearing robes and a helmet, seated on a throne, holding Nike and resting her elbow on large round shield adorned with a gorgoneion; on the inner left, a race torch; on the throne, monogram. M.

Lysimachus was a Macedonian officer and diadochus (successor) of Alexander the Great, who eventually became king of Thrace, Asia Minor and Macedon. He had been one of Alexander’s trusted bodyguards during his Persian campaigns.

Since Alexander didn’t leave an heir when he died in 323 BC, a power struggle soon erupted between various diadochi for control of the empire. They argued about who should rule which part and each of them tried to make themselves look like his lawful heir. One of the best ways to do this this was to mint coins with Alexander’s picture, but with their own name inscribed on them. That is exatly what Lysimachus did.

Lysimachus did eventually issue coinage solely in his name, like the one pictured here, which featured a different design than the one originally employed by Alexander. This coin features an idealized portrait of the deified Alexander on the obverse, and a seated Athena holding Nike on the reverse. These types of Lysimachus’ coins were popular enough in commerce to be adopted and imitated in other places, and by other kings up until the 1st century BC. The coins of Lysimachus are some of the most beautiful and realistic portraits from Hellenistic Greece.