Thursday, January 08, 2004

Coin of the Week - A Tetradrachm of Ptolemy II

On the Obverse: The portrait of Ptolemy II
On the Reverse: An Eagle standing and the inscription Ptolemy Basileus "Ptolemy the King"

Dating from 285-246 BC, this silver Tetradrachm of Ptolemy II Philadelphius, the ruler of Egypt and part of the Greek/Macedonian Ptolemaic dynasty that controlled Egypt after Alexander the Great's death. (The last of the Ptolemies was of course, Cleopatra.

Philadelphius means brother or sister loving, and he lived up to the name. Ptolemy II married his full sister Arsinoe, following the Pharonic tradition of the Pharoah often being married to his sister. (This approach tends to keep your family tree quite orderly and also has some advantages for real estate and inheritance transactions).

Ptolemy II is responsible for having the 70 (possibly 72 or 75) Jewish scholars come from Jerusalem to translate the Pentateuch into a Greek version to be placed into the Great Library collection. This is the origin of the Septuagint (meaning 70) or Greek translation of the bible which was heavily relied upon by non-Hebrew speakers off the age and later by the early Christians. (Click Septuagint) for more detailed information).

Ptolemy II also instituted the Ptolemaic Games in honor of his father Ptolemy I, which were supposed to take place every four years and both rival and surpass the Olympic games. As you can see it failed to win out, after all, when have you last heard someone say they couldn't wait to watch the next Ptolemaics recently?

The coin is currently estimated at $225 in VF condition at Harlan J in their bid or buy sale. Not a bad price for a coin of a famous ruler and for a large silver coin that is at least 2249 years old.

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