Featured The Personification of Alexandria

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by ancient coin hunter, Mar 31, 2020.

  1. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter 3rd Century Usurper

    On many coins of Roman Egypt you will find the personification of Alexandria. The history of the personification of Alexandria is somewhat obscure, though it originated after the accession of Ptolemy I Soter in the 330’s B.C.

    Perhaps the first depiction of the nascent goddess is found in a mosaic in Thmuis (Mendes) created by the Hellenistic artist Sophilos, now in the Greco-Roman Museum in Alexandria.


    The woman depicted is Queen Berenike II, who ruled jointly with her husband Ptolemy III Eurgetes, as the personification of Alexandria, with her crown showing a ship’s prow, while she has an anchor-shaped brooch for her robes, symbols of the Ptolemaic Kingdom’s naval prowess and success in the Mediterranean Sea. [1]

    The first Roman emperor to portray Alexandria on his coinage was Nero, who struck so many coins in Alexandria that the output of the mint represents roughly half of the known examples of Billon Tetradrachms that have survived to date.


    Vespasian continued the trend, once he had nailed down suzerainty in the Eastern provinces including Egypt. [2]

    From the time of Hadrian is this silver denarius with the reverse legend Alexandria, depicting the goddess, and also commemorating the presence of Hadrian in the City and his trip down the Nile with Antinous. [3]


    Alexandria standing left, sistrum in right hand, snake in basket in left hand.

    Another depiction of Alexandria from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is illustrated below in the form of a golden goblet.



    This new coin procured from @John Anthony (JAZ Numismatics) also shows the personification of Alexandria. The coin is quite historical and commemorates Hadrian’s arrival in Egypt in the year 130-131.


    Hadrian. 117-138 AD.

    Æ Drachm, 36mm, 22.1g, 11h; Alexandria, Year 15 = 130/1 AD.

    Obverse: AVT KAI - TRAI AΔPIA CEB; Bust laureate, draped, cuirassed right.

    Reverse: Alexandria kisses the hand of the arriving emperor; he is laureate and togate, stands left, extends right hand to Alexandria and holds scepter in left; she stands right wearing elephant skin headdress, guides the emperor's hand to her mouth with her right hand, and holds two wheat ears downwards with her left hand; in lower field L - IE.

    Reference: Cologne 1034; Emmett 964/15.

    [1] Ebrahim, Fathia (2016) Personification of Province of Egypt and Alexandria in Roman Art, The Conference Book of the General Union of Arab Archaeologists.

    [2] Watson, Peter (2014) A Brief Introduction to Egyptian Coins and Currency, Author House.

    [3] Poole, Sir Reginald Stuart (1892) Catalogue of the Coins of Alexandria and the Nomes, British Museum Department of Coins and Medals.

    Please feel free to post your examples of the Personification of Alexandria!
  2. Avatar

    Guest User Guest

    to hide this ad.
  3. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Well-Known Member

    A.C.H., Thanks for the interesting article :D. I'd love to sip my red wine from that golden goblet :p.
  4. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter 3rd Century Usurper

    Me too. A nice Merlot would do wonders, have to wait til dinner time though!
  5. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member

    Methinks my red toned Hadrian/Alexandria denarius has been partaking of the red wine a bit too much. :joyful: Seriously, soaking in wine is not a recognized coin conservation technique but I have known a few collectors who were, themselves, well....well.... overly saturated.
  6. kaparthy

    kaparthy Well-Known Member

    Coma Berenices in Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coma_Berenices
    (Note that the temple later given to Aphrodite was originally for Arsinoe II. Women ruled.)

    "Euesperides had existed in the area from around 525 BC. In the 3rd century BC, it was relocated and refounded as the Ptolemaic city of Berenice. Berenice prospered under the Romans, and after the 3rd century AD it superseded Cyrene and Barca as the center of Cyrenaica." Today, we call it Benghazi. --https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benghazi

    Burnham's Celestial Handbook shows three coins of Berenike II. Citing Historia Numorum, Burnham says that her maritime empire extended to Thrace.
    ancient coin hunter likes this.
  7. Ocatarinetabellatchitchix

    Ocatarinetabellatchitchix Well-Known Member

    Excellent write-up @ancient coin hunter . I learned a lot and tonight I will be able to say : I'm going to bed less stupid!
  8. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana

    That's a great reverse type, @ancient coin hunter, but...
    :eek: .... no no no NO! :stop:

    Here's my SS gift from last year, with Alexandria and Hadrian demonstrating a slightly less risky form of greeting. Still, sanitise after that handshake, guys! :doctor:

    Hadrian - EGYPT Alexandria Tetradrachm 2019 CT SS.jpg

    Ideally, though, Alexandria should just self-isolate, as she does on @dougsmit's denarius. Incidentally, an Alexandria is the only missing piece in my 'Travel series' denarii collection. Maybe if plied with enough red wine Doug will send me that lovely red-toned beauty of his. :shame:
  9. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter 3rd Century Usurper

    NO! Indeed. I had the same thought about our present contagion. Maybe Hadrian was wearing surgical gloves???
    zumbly likes this.
  10. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    Excellent write-up.

    Here is my favourite Alexandria city-type.

    RPC2414b.jpg Vespasian
    AR Tetradrachm, 11.94g
    Alexandria mint, 69-70 AD
    Obv: AYTOK KAIΣ ΣEBA OYVEΣΠAΣIANOY; Head of Vespasian, laureate, r., date LB before neck
    Rev: AΛEΞAN-ΔPEIA; Alexandria standing, l., with wreath and sceptre
    RPC 2414 (19 spec.).
    Ex Roma E16, 28 February 2015, lot 269.
  11. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter 3rd Century Usurper

    Nice tet of Vespasian @David Atherton !
  12. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter 3rd Century Usurper

    Just received the coin in the mail. Here a couple of snaps:


  13. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member

    I'm sorry but lady Alexandria was stopped at the border since neither of our countries want anything to do with tourists or immigrants these days. She will have to stay here and spend a week in a tub of hand sanitizer for trying.
    ancient coin hunter likes this.
  14. Justin Lee

    Justin Lee I learn by doing

    Very nice write up, ACH. I have a similar Nero as your's, so I won't share it. But if that was the first portrayal of the personification of Alexandria within their closed economy, maybe this was the last??

    Diocletian, Ruled 284-305 AD
    AE Tetradrachm, Egypt, Alexandria
    Struck 285/286 AD

    Obverse: A K Γ OYAΛ ΔIOKΛHTIANOC CЄB, Laureate and cuirassed bust of Diocletian to right.
    Reverse: Alexandria, mural crown, standing left, holding bust of Serapis and sceptre, date L-B across field (year 2=285/286 AD).
    References: Emmett 4025, Dattari 5622, Köln 3210
    Ex: Naville Numismatics, Auction 49, Lot #203 (5-12-2019)
  15. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter 3rd Century Usurper

    That's a great Diocletian type @Justin Lee - I just have an Eirene type. Could it be the last depiction of Alexandria?
    Justin Lee likes this.
  16. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana

    I'll just admire at a distance for now. :D
    Hadrian alexandria 1343411l.jpg HADRIAN
    AE Drachm. 23.84g, 34.8mm. EGYPT, Alexandria, RY 15 (AD 130/1). Köln 1037; Milne 1314; Emmett 966. O: AVT KAI TRAI ADRIA CEB, laureate, draped, cuirassed bust right, seen from the back. R: Hadrian, laureate and togate, holding short, eagle-tipped sceptre in left hand, driving quadriga of walking horses right; before the horses, Alexandria standing wearing elephant headdress, short chiton, peplos and boots, raising right hand and holding vexillum in left; L IE (date) in exergue.
  17. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter 3rd Century Usurper

    That's a great coin @zumbly - I'm pretty much amazed at the variety of drachm reverse types struck during the reigns of Hadrian and the Antonines - though admittedly less during Aurelius' reign. I'm hoping to get into the zodiac coins one day (when I can find one for less than $3,000 hopefully).
    zumbly likes this.
  18. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana

    A few of those are extreme rarities are going to be hard to find (in any condition), but there are a couple of the more common types that don't have to be too pricey if you're willing to settle for them being in modest grade.

    Helios in Leo:
    Antoninus Pius - Drachm Zodiac Leo Helios 2248.jpg

    Venus in Tarus
    Antoninus Pius - Drachm Zodiac Venus in Tarus 3796.jpg
Draft saved Draft deleted

Share This Page