Ptolemaic Kings of Egypt, Berenike II, Wife of Ptolemy III, 246-221 BC, Octadrachm, Alexandria
27.66g. cf. Svoronos-1113; SNG Cop-169. Diademed & veiled head of Berenike II right, diademed and veiled with dotted border. Reverse: ΒΕΡΕΝΙΚΕΗΣ-ΒΑΣΙΛΙΣΣΗΣ. Cornucopia bound with fillet, plain border. This is an early, elegant portrait of Berenike II.
Berenike II was the daughter of Magas of Cyrene and Apama and was born c. 267. Soon after her father's death she married the Macedonian prince Demetrios the Fair but, after finding him in bed with her mother (!) she had him killed and then married Ptolemy III of Egypt. When Ptolemy III was on campaign in Syria she cut off her hair and dedicated it to Aphrodite to ensure his safe return. The hair mysteriously disappeared and was then thought to have been carried up to the heavens where it became known as the constellation Coma Berenices. She was murdered by her mercuric son Ptolemy IV in 221, shortly after the death of Ptolemy III. In some ways the gold coinage of the Ptolemies of Egypt is astounding in its magnificence, and also in how many pieces have managed to survive, especially the octadrachms of Arsinoe II. Nevertheless, we have to assume that originally the number struck must have been truly enormous and that the vast, vast majority of those issued were long ago melted down and used for other things. The number of Roman, Byzantine and Islamic coins that were struck using the metal from Ptolemaic issues must have been myriad too, though they, in turn, have mostly been turned into other coins as well.