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Tetradrachm (Coin) Portraying Ptolemy I

A work made of silver.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of silver.


176-175 BCE, Reign of Ptolemy VI (181–145 BCE)


Greek, Ptolemaic

About this artwork

The purpose of the first portrait coins was to identify the ruler. The front side became a mirror of the sovereign’s self-image. The back was often used to communicate the ruler’s accomplishments or intentions. The profile portrait was used because it suited the very shallow depth and limited surface of the coin. The tiny images were carved by engravers into bronze dies, one for the front and another for the back. The coins were then struck, one by one, in a process similar to how modern coins are created today.

Since few citizens actually saw their sovereign, recognizable symbols such as crowns, robes, and regalia served to identify the ruler.

Alexander the Great’s successors copied his style of crown, a simple headband known as a fillet.


Currently Off View


Arts of the Ancient Mediterranean and Byzantium


Ancient Greek


Tetradrachm (Coin) Portraying Ptolemy I


Ancient Egypt (Minted in)


176 BCE–175 BCE




Diam.: 2.5 cm (1 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of William F. Dunham

Reference Number


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Extended information about this artwork

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