(Greek: Πέλλα), is an ancient city located in Central Macedonia, Greece, best known as the historical capital of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon in the time of Alexander the Great. On the site of the ancient city is the Archaeological Museum of Pella.
Philip II of Macedon was King of Macedon and father of Alexander the Great and Philip III Arrhidaeus. The silver tetradrachms of this type is extensive and differentiated principally by the different symbols and letters which appear. These symbols and letters, known as control marks, were used to identify the officials responsible for a particular issue of coinage.
Philip II was the father of Alexander the Great and the youngest son of King Amyntas III. He took the throne in 359 BCE upon the death of his elder brothers, at a time when Macedonia was a poorly organized, economically insignificant, and militarily weak kingdom.
Philip’s leadership and vision of Macedonia’s future allowed him to succeed in unifying the intensely fragmented city-states of Greece under his rule in little more than 20 years.
Early in his reign, Philip focused on conquering the town of Crenides, quickly succeeding and renaming it to Philippi. He established a significant military presence to control their mines which provided him the financial backing for his future expansion. He converted his newly acquired bullion into a vast supply of coins; his tetradrachms and staters became some of the best known currencies of the day.
Despite being the king of Macedonia, Philip faced an uphill battle: the Greeks feared but did not respect him. Macedonians spoke a different language and were considered less cultured than the Greeks, thought to be barbaric, uncouth, and boorish.
The contemporary historian Demosthenes documented Philip’s struggles, describing him as “the finest orator” and a “Greek of Greeks” but that “ill-conditioned fellows in Athens” continued to “call him a barbarian.”
Only “true” Greeks were allowed to participate in the Olympics, and Philip was determined to convince his Athenian opposition that he was indeed worthy to be considered Greek. After successfully uniting Macedonia and Thessaly, Philip could make a legitimate claim to membership in Greek organizations and was no longer technically considered a barbarian, although this did not convince the public.
Philip entered his horse into the keles, a 1.2km horseback race, in the 106th Olympics in 356 BCE and won. This was a two-fold victory: having been admitted officially into the games and winning, he solidified his standing as a true Greek.
He proceeded to win two more times, in the 107th Olympics in 352 BCE in the four-horse chariot race and in the 108th Olympics in 348 BCE in the two-horse chariot race.
The fastest way to spread current news and political messages was through coinage as modern paper wasn’t invented in Europe until the 1700s and lambskin, vellum, and papyrus were expensive. Philip chose his coin types carefully. By minting ancient greek coins commemorating his Olympic success, Philip was producing propaganda which popularized his claim as a true Greek and noted his favor with the gods.
From sculptures uncovered in the excavation of Philip’s tomb in 1977, it has become evident that there are some subtle but clearly intentional similarities between Philip’s actual appearance and that of Zeus on his tetradrachms. The artist adopted some of Philip’s facial attributes in the depiction of Zeus, likely intending to further assert Philip’s divinity and claim to the broader throne of Greece.
After his death, the ancient greek coins tetradrachms continued to be minted under Philip’s sons, but their style degraded considerably. The portrait on the obverse progressively lost its majesty and the horse became smaller as the jockey became larger, disrupting the proportion and aesthetics of the coin.
Relative to the earliest coins minted during his lifetime, the posthumous tetradrachms are much more plentiful, and their prevalence tends to negatively influence the overall perception of the series because of their inferior artistry. These coins were later copied and deviated even further from the original by several Celtic tribes as a primary pattern for the coinages in Gaul, Britain, and Eastern Europe, who adopted a much more abstract design in their execution.
The Greeks believed that victory at the Olympics was dictated and controlled by the gods, who would select as winner the competitor they alone deemed worthy or liked the best, rather than the athlete with the best trainer or equipment. It was also believed that the gods would treat Olympic winners favorably in battle, aiding Philip in his acceptance as a Greek leader and therefore helping his efforts to unite and control Greece, paving the way for his son Alexander’s later conquering of most of the known world.
Philip’s primary issue of ancient greek coins was a series of tetradrachms bearing an obverse portrait of Zeus and on the reverse, a muscular horse ridden by a young, slim jockey shown running his victory lap and holding a palm branch, a symbol given to the victor.
Laureate head of Zeus right
Youth, holding palm frond, on horseback right; below horse, kantharos; Λ below foreleg
ΦΙΛΙΠ – ΠΟΥ
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