After the death of Alexander ‘The Great’ a massive empire fell into the care of his most powerful generals and advisors. Each controlled a portion of the empire until Alexander’s sons came of age and could take his place as king. But this never occurred and his empire was broken into the smaller kingdoms, which were formed after his death.
Taking control of Egypt was a Macedonian general named Ptolemy I, who had known Alexander since he was a child and had loyally served him in good times and bad.
The front of this large silver coin shows the grimacing portrait of the aged Ptolemy, who was honored by his son, Ptolemy II. The design on the back of this coin is dedicated to the king of the Olympian gods, Zeus, and was adopted by Ptolemy I as a royal badge of his dynasty.
The back shows Zeus’ animal companion, the eagle, which clenches in its talons the god’s principal weapons, a thunderbolt. Both the eagle and the thunderbolt were associated with Zeus because, in addition to being chief of all the Olympian gods, he had specific dominion over the heavens and the skies.