Ptolemaic Kings of Egypt, Ptolemy II,  Alexandria, Octadrachm, 285-246 BC 27.61g. Unpublished. Obverse: ΘEΩN, jugate busts right of Ptolemy I, diademed and wearing aegis, and Berenike I, diademed and veiled, serpent staff left at border. Reverse: AΔEΛNΩ(N),  jugate busts right of Ptolemy II, diademed and draped, and Arsinoe II, diademed and veiled, shield to left. Well centered and struck in bright yellow gold.
Lot 165*
Ptolemaic Kings of Egypt, Ptolemy II, Alexandria, Octadrachm, 285-246 BC 27.61g. Unpublished. Obverse: ΘEΩN, jugate busts right of Ptolemy I, diademed and wearing aegis, and Berenike I, diademed and veiled, serpent staff left at border. Reverse: AΔEΛNΩ(N), jugate busts right of Ptolemy II, diademed and draped, and Arsinoe II, diademed and veiled, shield to left. Well centered and struck in bright yellow gold.
Sold for £6,840 (US$ 11,710) inc. premium
Lot Details
Ptolemaic Kings of Egypt, Ptolemy II, Alexandria, Octadrachm, 285-246 BC
27.61g. Unpublished. Obverse: ΘEΩN, jugate busts right of Ptolemy I, diademed and wearing aegis, and Berenike I, diademed and veiled, serpent staff left at border. Reverse: AΔEΛNΩ(N),
jugate busts right of Ptolemy II, diademed and draped, and Arsinoe II, diademed and veiled, shield to left. Well centered and struck in bright yellow gold.
Extremely fine. (1)

Footnotes

  • For the Egyptian priesthood, Hermes was the Greek equivalent of Thoth, the god of scribes and, by extension, the god of law. In Egyptian cosmology, it was the essential role of the pharaoh/king to uphold the cosmic order and prevent chaos by serving as the intermediary between gods and men. Earthly law was the same concept on a lower plane; it prevented society from descending into chaos. It's just possible, then, that the serpent staff behind the head of Ptolemy I represents an attempt to develop a visual symbol, in terms of Greek iconography, for the concept of order (Egyptian Ma'at). Ptolemy V was explicitly compared to Hermes "The Great and Great" in an inscription (OGIS I, 90, line 19). The inscription refers to the provision of justice (literally, "the just thing," which is not quite the same) for all. Huss says this is the only time this comparison was made in this reign.

    It is almost unheard of to find something new on a large and well-known issue such as this, but this is in fact the case. The caduceus behind the head of Ptolemy I is totally unknown. If a new symbol were found on a coin of the Roman Republic it would mean nothing. In this case, it is very important.

    The Ptolemaic kings of Egypt inherited vast wealth along with the kingdom of Egypt from Alexander the Great, who had conquered the country in 332 BC. Thanks to supplies of gold from Nubia within the kingdom itself, the Ptolemies were able to issue coinage in gold far more frequently than contemporary kings.

    This issue was produced by the second Ptolemaic ruler, Ptolemy II Philadelphos (284-246 BC). He was given the epithet Philadelphos, which means 'sister (or brother)-loving' in Greek, due to his marriage, in Egyptian style, to his sister Arsinoe II.

    The portraits on the obverse of this coin are of Ptolemy I Soter (305-282 BC) and his queen Berenike I, the legend above them reads 'Theoi' ('gods'), indicating that Ptolemy II had deified his parents. The portraits on the reverse are of Ptolemy II Philadelphos and his queen and sister, Arsinoe II, with the inscription 'Philadelphoi' ('brother- and sister-loving').

    The whole design of this coin, through both its portraits and legends serves to reinforce the impression of dynastic harmony within the royal family of Egypt.
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