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Alexander III ‘the Great’ 336-323 BC, c 325-323 BC
AR ‘Medallion’ of 5 Shekels or Dekadrachm c 325-323 BC
This coin type clearly commemorates the great victory of Alexander against Poros at the Hydaspes (Jhelam) River. After his victories over the Persian Empire Alexander had set his sights on India, As he advanced through modern day Pakistan, he was opposed by the Indian King Poros, ruler of the Pauravas. Alexander had to ensure that there would be no danger to the flanks of his army. King Poros positioned himself on the banks of the Hydaspes River which he felt was a good defensive location as the river was at that time swollen due to monsoon rains. In this battle Poros’ best weapon was a line of war elephants. The Macedonian soldiers had already encountered such animals in the victorious battle at Gaugamela and Alexander risked the crossing. Alexander’s strategy had two aims: first, leading the enemy astray by hiding the mass of the Macedonian cavalry, and second, attacking the crews of the elephant squadron. Both maneuvers proved to be a success: the Macedonian cavalrymen engaged the enemy only when Poros, misinterpreting the situation, had lined up his troops. When the Macedonian cavalry had put to flight a wing of Poros’ army, the Macedonians began to attack the elephant crews. Alexander’s mount Boukephalos perished during the river crossing when Alexander was attacked by Poros’ son. Alexander’s victory at Hydaspes annexed Punjab into his empire which later became Indo-Greek Kingdom. Two new cities, Boukephalia and Nicaea, were founded by Alexander and within this commemorative setting the ‘Poros’ dekadrachms were issued. Alexander’s regalia on these coins are likely Iranian rather than Indian suggesting this is a Babylonian issue. It is unlikely this issue was aristeia, (awards for meritorious service) handed out after the conflict as Alexander and Poros became allies subsequent to the battle. It also seems unlikely that Alexander would decide to issue medallions or coins as aristeia after a long campaign when simple distribution of the plentiful spoils of the battle would be adequate. Alexander-type coinage was produce from at least two Babylonia mints; an imperial mint and ‘local’ (‘satrapal’) mint. Coins of the imperial Babylon mint were from relatively thin good metal quality flans, struck evenly with refined style. The ‘Poros Coinage’ showed deficiencies and must have been from the ‘local’ (‘satrapal’) Babylon mint. It demonstrated thick porous metal flans, unevenly struck and less refined styles. Since the coins were likely produced at the local mint one may conclude they were not meant to be an official commemorative issue to be gifted by Alexander to his Macedonian commanders. This also makes sense considering Alexander never issued commemorative coinage his victory at Gaugamela. Gaugamela represented a far greater achievement than Hydaspes as it signaled the defeat of the Persian Empire, the greatest Macedonian adversary. Obverse Alexander on Boukephalos rearing to the right, wearing military attire and holding couched xyston (a long thrusting spear) in right hand is attacking toward an elephant retreating right, upon which sits a helmeted mahout, holding goad and spear in left hand, turning around to throw another spear held aloft in his right hand, and, behind him, another helmeted figure and a Ξ above. Reverse standing Alexander, wearing military attire and sword holding a thunderbolt in his extended right hand while his left hand is holding a spear set on ground. Meanwhile Nike is flying above crowning him with wreath held in both her hands and a monogram is to the left.
Mint: Babylon satrapal (local) mint
Provenance: Provenace Ex Triton XVI, 8-9 January 2013, lot 184. Ex Gemini II, 11 January 2006, lot 144. Ex Nelson Bunker Hunt Collection (Sotheby\\\\\\\'s, New York, 19-20 June 1991, lot 229); ex NFA V, 23-24 February 1978, lot 81; ex Leu 13, 29 April 1975, lot 130. Ex Babylon Hoard 1973 (CH I 38). Courtesy Harlan J Berk, LTD.

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