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 BCE. With few interruptions, they took place every four years for about 1,100 years. In 394, CE the Christian emperor Theodosius I (reigned 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 BCE. The same year his son was born; he would grow up to become Alexander the Great (356–332 BCE). 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.
- Currently Off View
- Arts of the Ancient Mediterranean and Byzantium
- Ancient Greek
- Tetradrachm (Coin) Depicting the God Zeus
- Struck 359 BCE–336 BCE
- Reverse: ΦΙΛΙΠΠΟΥ "(minted by) Philip"
- Diam. 2.6 cm; 14.47 g
- Gift of Martin A. Ryerson