Macedonian Kingdom, Alexander III, the Great. 336-323 BC. Damascus, c. 330-320 BC

Macedonian Kingdom, Alexander III, the Great. 336-323 BC. Damascus, c. 330-320 BC


AR Tetradrachm, 16.39g (24mm, 12h). Head of Zeus wearing lion skin headdress right / Zeus enthroned left holding eagle on outstretched hand. Symbol of forepart of ram below. Alexander's name in Greek behind throne.

Pedigree: Ex R.P. Collection. Ex Hirsch 187, 1995, Lot 278

Grade: Very desirable type. Overall consistent wear on both obverse and reverse. Good VF (gk1280)

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Alexander the Great conquered Damascus in 333 BC, just a few short years after his reign began. The Battle of Issus in that same year was the beginning of the end of Persian rule. After this event, the city remained under Hellenistic rule for over 1,000 years. Damascus, which was known as the “pearl of the east” was always a thriving city. Many scholars believe that it is the oldest inhabited city in the world (see Britannica on Damascus).

The world knows how “great” Alexander III really was. It is apparent at least from the empire he created in a short time period. The biggest the Greek world had ever been before. The specifics of Alexander’s life however are purely conjecture. Alexander had an official historian named Kallisthenes but nothing of his writings survives. He also died for unknown reasons in c. 327 BC. The most utilized histories come from the 1st century Roman historian Arrian. This obviously creates a massive break in the historical timeline and the believability of it all since he was writing over 300 years after Alexander’s death. Other resources that his life is based on are questionable as to how accurate they truly are. They are hypomnemata or “notebooks” that were written by the historian Diodorus Siculus, another 1st century author who based his own writings on Alexander from Kleitarchos (Cleitarcus) whom no one is even certain as to when he lived. Some have suggested that he lived at the same time as Alexander. However, this is debatable as later research suggests that Kleitarchos might have lived in the 2nd century AD (see the papyri of Oxyrhynchus for more information on this). Another reference which existed but is now lost are the Ephemerides, or “royal journals” from Eumenes, the personal secretary of Alexander. Plutarch wrote extensively about Alexander, even quoting his conversations with Darius, the Persian King, but these are not to be totally trusted. In the end, while we don’t have concrete conversations recorded between Alexander and his confidants, we do know for certain the battles he waged, won and the lands he conquered.