The designs on coins are often laden with symbolism. Kings, queens and presidents have used them to express ideas or to display their own likeness. The ancient Greeks were notorious for their love of symbolism, and on this coin of the legendary Greek king and conqueror, ‘Alexander the Great,’ we find some of the best ever produced, as he portrays himself as the Greeks’ greatest warrier/god, Hercules.
The front of this coin shows the Greek hero Herakles, who is better known by the name Hercules, which the Romans gave him. He was important to Alexander’s hereditary line, as they claimed to be descended from the mythological hero. It is largely based on this fact that, although born and living mostly in Macedonia, Alexander’s family also claimed to be of full Greek blood.
Despite the claim of having the blood of the gods, most of their neighbors in the main part of Greece considered them to be uncultured barbarians. The back shows Zeus, the most powerful Greek god, seated on a throne. He holds an eagle in his outstretched hand, and a scepter as a symbol of supreme authority. Since Zeus was the most powerful of all the Greek gods, his appearance on Alexander’s coinage symbolizes Alexander’s status as leader of all the Greeks.