About this artwork
The Hellenistic period spans the nearly three hundred years between the death of Alexander the Great of Macedonia (323 B.C.) and that of Cleopatra VII of Egypt (30 B.C.), a descendant of one of Alexander’s generals. The term Hellenistic is derived from Hellas, an ancient Greek word for Greece. It is used to describe both chronologically and culturally the era following Alexander’s conquest of Egypt and Asia, which resulted in the spread of Greek culture across a vast area. The melding of local and Greek artistic styles with the luxurious materials captured in the conquered lands resulted in magnificent artwork, including elegant coinage.
Following Alexander’s death, his empire was divided among his generals, who established independent kingdoms in Egypt; Persia; the eastern coast of the Aegean Sea, including Syria and Palestine; Greece and Macedonia; and Thrace. Almost immediately the generals began to covet each other’s land and power.
The kingdom that Alexander’s general, Seleucus, pieced together from the old Persian Empire was enormous, but fragile. No sooner had his son Antiochos (r. 281–261 B.C.) inherited the kingship from his father than territories pulled away to form independent fiefdoms. To add to his struggles, he had to fight off an invasion of barbarian Goths, which earned him his nickname Soter (Greek for savior).
- Currently Off View
- Arts of the Ancient Mediterranean and Byzantium
- Ancient Greek
- Tetradrachm (Coin) Portraying King Antiochus I Soter
- Ancient Near East
- 281 BCE–261 BCE
- Diam. 2.8 cm; 17.02 g
- Gift of William F. Dunham