This decadrachm represents special issues of the local Babylonian coinage, which normally took the form of lion staters. The obverse type of the tetradrachm was traditionally interpreted as commemorating Alexander’s defeat of the Indian king Poros at the battle of the Hydaspes. Pointing out that Alexander treated Poros with honor after the battle, Price argued that that he was unlikely to have denigrated his new ally on his coinage. The tetradrachms portray the Indian elephant and long bow, well attested elements of Poros’ army, but again Price argued that both weapons were ineffective in the battle of the Hydaspes. Price concluded that the coins were issued in the course of Alexander’s Indian campaigns, not afterward and that the obverse of the decadrachm very likely portrays the defeat of Poros while he was still Alexander’s enemy. Price emphasized that these coins could serve as symbols of Alexander’s policy of “concord and community” vis-a-vis the conquered peoples of the east. This interpretation does not adequately explain why such propaganda should have employed Indian themes to impress a Babylonian or Elymaean audience, nor does it account for the production of the decadrachm, an unprecedented coin denomination in the region, and one that was almost always a presentation piece. It seems less strained to view these coins as part of the victory donative paid out to the army upon Alexander’s return to Babylon, in this case to native auxiliaries. Price claimed that the specimens in the Iraq, 1973 hoard were too worn to have been struck in 325, but the typical poor striking of these coins makes it difficult to assess actual wear. A thorough review and critique of earlier scholarship is available in Holt’s Alexander the Great and the Mystery of the Elephant Medallions. Holt offers an exhaustive analysis of the iconography of these issues; especially illuminating is his perception that the reverse type of the decadrachms, showing Alexander holding a thunderbolt, gives him credit for the monsoon that aided his army in the battle against Poros. Holt identifies the elephant decadrachms and tetradrachms as aristeia, awards for meritorious service on the battlefield. Like Price, he argues that these coins must have been produced in the course of Alexander’s campaign (though after rather than before the battle of the Hydaspes); the poor striking technique and lack of metrological control are offered as evidence for their issue by a temporary or Indian mint. These deficiencies are also consistent with an origin at the satrapal workshop of Babylon. Founded by Mazaeus, this facility was distinct from Alexander’s royal mint and specialized in the production of lion staters during Alexander’s lifetime, see H. Nicolet-Pierre, “Argent et or frappes en Babylonie entre 331 et 311 ou de Mazdai a Seleucos,” Travaux Le Rider, pp. 285-286. The lion staters of this workshop are often poorly struck and notoriously irregular in weight. Striking coins the size of decadrachms would have been a particular challenge for a mint with such rudimentary technical skills. Gemini2, 144
Alexander on Bucephalus right, lancing at a mahout and his master on Indian elephant right, both of whom look backward, the master grasping the end of Alexander’s sarissa with his right hand, the mahout brandishing spear in raised right hand and holding two spears in left
Alexander wearing military attire and sword, standing facing, head left, holding thunderbolt in extended right hand, left hand holding spear set on ground to right; above, Nike flying right, crowning him with wreath held in both her hands; monogram to left
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