Seleucid Kings of Syria. Seleukos I Nikator. 312-281 BC. Susa mint, c. 305/4-295 BC

Seleucid Kings of Syria. Seleukos I Nikator. 312-281 BC. Susa mint, c. 305/4-295 BC


AR Obol, 0.63g (10mm, 10h). Head of hero (Alexander or Seleukos?) right, wearing helmet covered with panther skin and adorned with the ear and horns of a bull / [BAΣIΛEΩΣ] ΣEΛEYKOY, Nike standing right, holding in both hands a wreath that she places on trophy to right; [H to lower left], AX in lower middle field.

Pedigree: Ex Triton XVIII, 6-7 Jan 2015, lot 132. Ex Sunrise collection

References: SC Ad87; ESMS –; ESM –; HGC 9, 59; Sunrise 177 (this coin)

Grade: Slightly rough but fantastic strike for such a small coin. EF (gk1299c)

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Controversy surrounds how ‘great’ Alexander really was, but what is certain is that his empire was vast spreading all the way to the Hindu Kush.  When Alexander died in 323 BC his empire was fiercely fought over by his generals and close advisors. The Seleucid empire was the largest of all the successor states that formed after his death. Just after Alexander’s death, Seleucus was not given a portion of the empire, instead he was relegated to oversee the Companion Cavalry under Perdiccas, the regent of Macedon.  Not satisfied with his outlook, Seleucus began the battle for his own piece of the empire. First in 321, he was one of the people who took part in the assassination of Perdiccas. With the regent gone there was a meeting to repartition the empire and Seleucus was assigned as satrap of Babylonia. This brought him into contact with Antigonus Monophthalmus (Antigonus “the one-eyed”) who some five years later started to question his stewardship.  Seleucus fled to Ptolemy, the who made him commander of his fleet in Egypt. After the defeat of Demetrius, the son of Antigonus in 312 BC in Gaza, Seleucus received permission from Ptolemy to overtake the city of Babylon. This important date marks the beginning of the great Seleucid empire.

This coinage celebrates the conquest of the orient by Seleucus. It was minted in Susa, one of the first mints to strike coins under Seleucus. The obverse shows either Seleucus or Alexander in helmet with elephant tusks. Elephants were symbolic to the Seleucids due to the pact made with the Mauryan king Chandragupta. The ruler gave Seleucus a gift of 500 war elephants in exchange for the cession of some of his land that was taken as conquest.  The reverse shows Nike crowning a trophy. These coins are among the first to show the king of the empire under his own might and not that of Alexander.