(43) Macedon, Demetrios Poliorketes - AR tetradrachm, c. 290 B.C.,
17.21 g. (inv. 91.060).
Obverse: Diademed and horned head of Demetrios r.
Reverse: Nude Poseidon standing l., with r. foot on rock, r. arm over r. thigh, l. holding trident; monograms in l. and r. fields; : of King Demetrios.
Provenance: Münzen und Medaillen, 1971.
Bibliography: O. Mørkholm, Early Hellenistic Coinage from the Accession of Alexander to the Peace of Apamea (336-188 B.C.) (Cambridge 1991) 77-81.
Demetrios was the son of Antigonos Monophthalmos (the One-eyed), who assumed control of Asia after the death of Alexander the Great. Demetrios earned his nickname Poliorketes (Besieger) from his extensive use of siege machines in an unsuccessful attempt to take the island of Rhodes in 305 B.C. After their forces were defeated and Antigonos was killed at the Battle of Ipsos in 301 B.C., Demetrios fled with a large fleet and attempted to establish a base for his power first in Cilicia and then in Greece and Macedonia. Like other successors of Alexander, Demetrios at first issued coins with Alexander's types, although he quickly replaced Alexander's name with his own and added the royal title of basileus that both he and his father had assumed in 306 B.C. Soon he established a number of his own types, culminating in the types for these tetradrachms, which were issued in large numbers from c. 290 B.C. in preparation for Demetrios' invasion of Asia Minor. The invasion ended disastrously and Demetrios was imprisoned by Seleukos; he died in captivity in 283 B.C.
On the obverse is a youthful, idealized head of Demetrios with the royal diadem and the horns of a bull, the animal sacred to Demetrios' patron deity, Poseidon. With these aspects of divinity Demetrios became the first of Alexander's successors to assimilate elements of Alexander's deified portrait (see no. 45) and the first living ruler to portray himself as a divinity on his coins. The bull's horns were intended to suggest that he stood in the same relationship to Poseidon as Alexander had to Zeus Ammon. The portrait is individualized, but the upward gaze and flowing hair are meant to evoke the image of Alexander.
On the reverse is Demetrios' patron deity, Poseidon, apparently inspired by the original of the Lateran Poseidon, a statue usually attributed to Lysippos, the court sculptor of Alexander. Demetrios' association with Poseidon dated to his naval victory off Cyprus in 306 B.C., after which he considered himself lord of the sea.
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