Coins of Greek and Roman Antiquities


Greek and Roman Antiquities

Portrait of Ptolemy III

Portrait of Kleopatra VII


Portrait of Berenike II







1. Portrait of Ptolemy III

Gold octadrachm of Ptolemy IV, 221-203 BC.
Mint of Alexandria, Diameter 2.8 cms. CM. BMC. 34.

The expressive portrait on this coin is that of Ptolemy III; he carries the attributes of several gods. The trident behind his head connects him with Poseidom, while the radiate crown on his head associates him with the sun god Helios.


2. Portrait of Kleopatra VII

Bronze 50 drachma-piece of Kleopatra VII, 52-30 BC.
Mint of Alexandria. Diameter 2.7 cms. CM. BMC. 5.

The portrait of Kleopatra is one of the few surviving representations of this famous queen. It was during her reign that the Ptolemaic dynasty came to an end. Her features are expressed in a more realistic fashion than those of her predecessors, and her hair is arranged in a 'melon coiffure'.


3. Demetrios

Silver tetradrachm of Demetrios of Bactria.
c.190 BC. Diameter 3.3 cms. CM.BMC.1.

The king wears an elephant scalp like Alexander the Great; this emphasizes his connection to the conqueror of India.


4. Portrait of Berenike II

Gold octadrachm of Ptolemy III, 246-221 BC.
Mint of Alexandria. Diameter 2.8 cms. CM. 1923. 11-8.1.

The veiled head of the queen shows a full face with rather heavy features and large eyes - presumably an idealized image rather than an actual portrait.


5. Antimachos

Silver tetradrachm of Antimachos, king of Bactria.
c.180 BC. Diameter 3 cms. CM. 1888. 12-8. 114.

The king Antimachos, about whom very little is known apart from his coinage, is portrayed with a broad-brimmed Macedonian hat, under which he is wearing the royal diadem.

As in the case of other Bactrian kings, there is a deliberate iconographic link with the Macedonian kings.


6. Augustus

Gold aureus of Augustus, early 1st century AD.
Diameter 2 cms. CM. BMC. 366.

The coinage of Augustus marks a change in the style of Roman portraiture which set a pattern for the subsequent fifty years. Republican portraits, both on coins and statues, had presented their subjects in a way that conveyed the authority of their ancestors, frequently depicting them in old age. Portraits on Roman coins of the late first century BC and early first century AD mark a partial return to Hellenistic ruler-portraits, presenting the Roman leader in an idealized manner. This is particularly obvious in the case of Augustus and Tiberius, his successor, whose earliest portraits resemble those of Augustus. It is clear that these portraits are not intended to be closely realistic representations of actual appearance. Indeed, Augustus's biographer Suetonius, has left us a description of his appearance which contrasts with the image presented on his coins: 'he had clear brigt eyes...few teeth, which were small and dirty...his eyebrows met and his nose jutted out and then turned inwards'. Instead, the emperor's portrait embodies his political ideals.



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