On the coins depicting the deified Alexander, the Successors had already established their independence by inscribing the reverses with their own names, but it was a much bolder step to replace the image of the revered Alexander with their own likenesses. The first to do so was the determined and independent Ptolemy I, who around 304 B.C. put his own astonishingly individualized portrait on gold staters and soon afterward on his tetradrachms (no. 54). His decision to do so was undoubtedly motivated by Ptolemy's increasing economic, military, and cultural distance from the other Successors. At first glance, and particularly in contrast with the idealized portraits of Alexander, Ptolemy's portrait seems strongly, even harshly realistic, with its emphasis upon his deep-set eyes, beaked nose, and prominent chin. But Ptolemy was over sixty when this portrait type was introduced, and there are few signs of age. He has the luxuriant hair and upward gaze of the deified Alexander, as well as a divine attribute, around his neck an aegis, an attribute of his patron deity, Zeus.

Another of the Successors, Demetrios Poliorketes (the Besieger) (336-283 B.C.), moved much more boldly to associate his own portrait type with that of Alexander. In about 290 B.C., in preparation for an invasion of Asia Minor, he issued large numbers of tetradrachms (no. 43) depicting himself with the royal diadem and the horns of a bull, attribute of the sea god Poseidon, whom he had adopted as his patron deity after he destroyed Ptolemy's fleet in 306 B.C. With these attributes of divinity, the audacious Demetrios implied obvious parallels with Alexander and became the first living ruler to claim his own divinity on his coins. The portrait itself appears somewhat individualized in its profile, but with its tousled hair and upward gaze it was clearly meant to recall the image of Alexander.

Of all the successors of Alexander, Ptolemy was the most successful in establishing a stable dynasty, which endured until Egypt was defeated by the Romans in 31 B.C. The Ptolemaic rulers used the portraits on their coins to emphasize the continuity and legitimacy of the dynasty. Their silver, bronze, and some of their gold coins continued to depict Ptolemy I (nos. 55, 56, 59). Ptolemy II (308-246 B.C) followed ancient Egyptian pharaonic practice by marrying his sister, Arsinoe II (c. 316-270 B.C), and established the Ptolemaic ruler cult by deifying his father and mother. He and his successors issued gold octodrachms that summed up Ptolemaic dynastic pretensions in a remarkably concise way (no. 56). The obverse depicts busts of Ptolemy II and Arsinoe II with features bearing a striking family resemblance to those of their parents, Ptolemy I and Berenike I, depicted together on the reverse. The legends on the obverse and reverse proclaim the cult name of Ptolemy II and Arsinoe II, the "divine siblings." Ptolemy II also issued coins in honor of his wife, and Ptolemy III (c. 280-221 B.C.) issued coins with portraits of his wife, Berenike II (c. 273-221 B.C) (no. 57). The relatively large number of coin portraits of the women of the Ptolemaic family is indicative of the status and influence they had and also attests to their role in the continuity of the dynasty. Members of the family also often issued coins in honor of their predecessors. One of the most interesting is the octodrachm of Ptolemy IV (c. 244-205 B.C.) conferring upon his father, Ptolemy III, an extraordinary array of divine attributes, the aegis associated with Zeus that had been an attribute of Ptolemy I (nos. 54, 55, 59), a scepter ending with a trident, an attribute of the sea god Poseidon that refers to Ptolemaic naval power, and a radiate diadem, reference to the sun god, Helios (no. 58).


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