Wednesday, October 17, 2012

an ancient usage: Alexander as Heracles

Alexander the Great was presented as Heracles in many images minted onto coins. The image below shows a silver tetradrachm struck at Amphipolis in the Kingdom of Macedon around 320-319 BC. That date occurs a few years after Alexander's death. The coin's reverse shows Zeus of the Phidian type holding an eagle in his right hand.
Alexander III ‘the Great’ (336-323 BC), silver tetradrachm, "Amphipolis" mint, Kingdom of Macedon
Head of Herakles right, wearing lion skin / AΛΕΞΑΝΔΡOΥ, Zeus Aëtophoros seated left; monogram in the left field. ‘Amphipolis’ mint. Struck under Antipater or Polyperchon, circa 320-319 BC. 25mm, 16.9 grams; Troxell, Studies, Group I2.
 The head of the Nemean Lion, which protects the crown of Alexander's head, is essential iconography for Heracles; the face of Alexander is unmistakable for its type. The merging of mythical and historical personae is a striking 4th-century usage of classical myth.

What does Alexander gain by casting himself as humanity's greatest hero?
What does Antiper (or Polyperchon) gain by minting a coin with Alexander's likeness on it?
Does the coin overtly connect the facing images, Heracles and the majestic Zeus?

Students in ClCv241 may NOT treat this mythological usage for Reception Papers. The prompt calls for students to treat modern usages of classical myths. The spirit of this usage, however, shows the very sort of usage that can become a topic for a good paper in this class.

Students might, rather, write about the first 2-euro coin minted by Greece (2002) which depicts the Rape of Europa: click.

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