Thursday, July 6, 2017
How to buy Ancient Coins part 2: Heroes
The Greeks believed in Heroes. They had a different idea of heroes than we do. For the Greeks a Hero was someone who acted out the Will of the Gods - or a particular God or Goddess. In fact, to the Greeks, the God or Goddess descended and entered the human and then acted through them. Quite Literally.
The earliest human heroes were warriors such as Alexander the Great, the first human hero to be pictured on a coin. In fact, the portrait coins of Alexander the Great are most probably the earliest extant sculpture portraying a known historical figure with some degree of realistic accuracy.
How important is that in both the history or art and the history of human accomplishment?
In the earliest portraits Alexander is pictured wearing Apollo's Laurel Wreath which identifies him directly with that God. In later portraits he is adorned with the horns of Zeus Ammon, identifying him with that God.
In fact, heroes such was Alexander were deified and worshiped after their death.
After Alexander, many Greek rulers were pictured realistically on coinage. The first Roman (excepting Quintus Labienus) to put his portrait on a coin is Julius Caesar. He is also pictured wearing weaths that identify him with deities. Like Alexander he also traced his lineage back to a God and also like Alexander he was deified and worshiped after his death.
And, like Alexander his finest portrait coins were executed by artists of the highest caliber. After Julius Caesar, each and every Caesar and most of their wives and many of their children were pictured on coinage
Fine style portraits of these historical Generals and Kings and Princes are all of as yet unappreciated historical and artistic value when compared with most other art forms.
Really, as long as there are Lincoln Pennies and post modern doodles that trade for more than these ancient artworks, I think they can be safely considered to be vastly undervalued.
The trick is to find coinage a) of the finest style and then b) in as well conserved state of preservation you can find and afford.