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Tetradrachm (Coin) Depicting the God Zeus

A work made of silver.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of silver.

Date:

Reign of Phillip II (359–336 BCE)

Artist:

Greek; minted in Pella, ancient Macedon, Greece

About this artwork

The official record of quadrennial games honoring the supreme Greek god Zeus at a sanctuary dedicated to him at Olympia began in 776 BC. With few interruptions, they took place every four years for about 1,100 years. In AD 394, the Christian emperor Theodosius I (r. 379–95) abolished them as pagan rites.

The most prestigious competition remained the footrace, but eventually it was supplanted in popularity by the horse races. Horses were symbols of socioeconomic status, since only the privileged could afford to buy, feed, and train them and transport their teams and trainers to Olympia every four years. In time, many of the victors in the horse races included kings and tyrants.

Philip II, king of Macedon, who minted this coin, owned the horse that won the race in Olympia in 356 BC. The same year his son was born; he would grow up to become Alexander the Great (356–332 BC). The head of Zeus on the front referred to Philip’s claim that his family descended from the god. On the back Philip commemorated his victory in the horse races of the Olympic Games with an image of a jockey astride his mount.

On View

Ancient and Byzantine Art, Gallery 151

Culture

Ancient Greek

Title

Tetradrachm (Coin) Depicting the God Zeus

Origin

Pella

Date

Struck 359 BC–336 BC

Medium

Silver

Inscriptions

Reverse: ΦΙΛΙΠΠΟΥ "(minted by) Philip"

Dimensions

Diam. 2.6 cm; 14.47 g

Credit Line

Gift of Martin A. Ryerson

Reference Number

1922.4923

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.

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