Egypt, Alexandria. Hadrian. 117-138 AD. Dated RY 18 (AD 133/134)

Egypt, Alexandria. Hadrian. 117-138 AD. Dated RY 18 (AD 133/134)


Æ Drachm, 28.85g (35mm, 12h). VT KAIC TPAIAN • [A∆PIA]NOC CЄB, bareheaded bust left, slight drapery / Isis Pharia, holding billowing sail, sailing right before the Pharos of Alexandria, which is surmounted by a statue and two Tritons; L IH (date) above

Pedigree: From the Giovanni Maria Staffieri Collection, purchased from Renzo Canavesi, Sagno, 1996. Ex Renzo Canavesi Collection (Sagno); Dr. Piero Beretta Collection (Milan); Giovanni Dattari Collection, no. 7719

References: Köln 1123; Dattari (Savio) 7719 (this coin); K&G 32.587; RPC III 5896/11 (this coin, illustrated on pl. 292); Emmett 1002.18 (R3); Staffieri, Alexandria In Nummis 72 (this coin).

Grade: EF, dark brown surfaces with touches of green. Wonderful artistic bust of Hadrian, and very rare compared to the typical laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust to the right (re1060)

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The coinage of Alexandria is rich in the meshing of two histories; the Egyptian and Roman. Egypt was a place of power in the time of the Pharaohs, legendary and awe-inspiring when one considers the Kingdoms that existed so long ago. Once Alexander the Great conquered the great city and upon his death the Ptolemies became the new government things changed. Under Ptolemy I the library of Alexandria came into existence. This library was considered the best in the known world. After a few impactful interactions with the Romans, the Egyptian culture, while still rich, was married to the Roman way of life.

The reverse of this coin shows a beautiful image of Isis Pharia holding a billowing sail and in front the Pharos of Alexandria. Isis Pharia was an Egyptian goddess but her virtues spread throughout the Greco-Roman world. She was a mother, wife and matron of the arts and magic. She was friends with the downtrodden as well as the wealthy. Everyone was dear to her. The Romans credited her with the invention of the sail. According to Pliny, Isis Pharia was from Pharos which had a bridge that connected her to Alexandria. This coin shows the Lighthouse of Alexandria just beyond her. The Lighthouse was one of the seven wonders of the world and was suggested to be built during the reign of Ptolemy I but completed by his son Ptolemy II in the 3rd century BC. It survived hundreds of years but was thought be destroyed sometime in the 1400’s.

These large bronze coins help to celebrate the existence of the Alexandria’s Lighthouse and its mystical connection with the goddess. It is a lovely piece that the emperor Hadrian was paying tribute.