Kings of Macedon. Alexander III ‘the Great’. 336-323 BC.

Kings of Macedon. Alexander III ‘the Great’. 336-323 BC.


Tarsos mint. Struck under Menes or Philotas, c. 327-323 BC. AR Tetradrachm, 17.06g (27mm, 2h). Head of Herakles right, wearing lion skin / AΛEΞANΔPOY, Zeus Aëtophoros seated left; plow in left field, Θ below throne, small globule above right arm.

References:  Price 3032; Newell, Tarsos 38 (obv. die unlisted); ANS 1951.116.13 (same obv. die).

Grade:  Choice EF. Struck from fine style dies on a broad flan.  (gk1196)

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In 1919, Edward T. Newell of the American Numismatic Society (ANS) wrote an in-depth article on the Cilician city of Tarsos went it was under the rule of Alexander the Great. Newell had already started writing about Alexander extensively as early as 1911 in the American Journal of Numismatics. While L. Müller had undertaken an attempt to classify the massive coinage of Alexandria in 1855, he was largely unsuccessful but nonetheless is credited with the breakthroughs on the study of this monumental series. Martin Price published his grand analysis, still used to this day, in 1991 through a cooperation between the British Museum and the ANS. Before this, Newell was diligent in publishing copious analyses on the coinage of Alexander.

The mint of Tarsos is fascinating. It was one of the earlier of the conquered cities for Alexander (c. 333 BC). Tarsos was located in close proximity to silver mines and thus its output of coinage from the Persian satrapy was immense. Of notable interest is the striking similarity of the seated imagery of Zeus between the late satrapy coinage from Tarsos (on the obverse) and the subsequent imperial coinage of Alexander (on the reverse). There is no question that the continuation ouput of the mint was seamless from the Persian to Macedonian rule. Undoubtedly the same die engravers were further tasked with the enormous output from Alexander. Similarities are all but the same with the exception of the legend and the eagle being switched out for grapes (on other issues the eagle returns). 

Interesting to note that around the time that this issue was struck (c. 327) a special issue of Persic staters were struck only for municipal purposes and were locally used. Conversely, the Alexander staters were used for military reasons. No reference to a local magistrate appears on these coins. The only reference to the minting city was reflected with a simple letter on the obverse under the throne of Zeus.