Alexandria's founded by Alexander

Alexandria's founded by Alexander the Great (by year BC): 334 Alexandria in Troia (Turkey) - 333 Alexandria at Issus/Alexandrette (Iskenderun, Turkey) - 332 Alexandria of Caria/by the Latmos (Alinda, Turkey) - 331 Alexandria Mygdoniae - 331 Alexandria (Egypt) - 330 Alexandria Ariana (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Dragiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in the Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Termez, Afghanistan) - 328 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene / Alexandria on the Indus (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Xylinepolis (Patala, India) - 325 Alexandria in Carminia (Gulashkird, Iran) - 324 Alexandria-on-the-Tigris/Antiochia-in-Susiana/Charax (Spasinou Charax on the Tigris, Iraq) - ?Alexandria of Carmahle? (Kahnu)

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Alexander Medallion: Exploring the Origins of a Unique Artefact By O. Bopearachchi and F. Holt

Osmund Bopearachchi and Frank Holt have co-written this book “The Alexander Medallion, Exploring the Origins of a Unique Artefact” (ISBN 978-2-95166-796-9).

It treats in detail a golden coin showing us Alexander with the elephant headdress, the horns of Ammon, the Gorgon around his neck and the coiling snakes worn as an aegis, but with an unfamiliar face. With his wide-open eyes, crooked nose and wild curls he reminds us of the picture on the mosaic from Pompeii. For once, his image has not been idealized! It is a rare portrait created during the lifetime of Alexander the Great that survived into modernity. The reverse of the coin shows a cute dancing elephant; this image together with the elephant skin on Alexander’s head connect the coin immediately to his battle against Porus on the Hydaspes in India that took place in 326 BC. This is Alexander as he saw himself - invulnerable, verging on godhood, immortalized in the moment of his triumph.

The medallion was part of a hoard found at Mir Zakah in north-eastern Afghanistan where it had been hidden in a well for more than two thousand years. An estimated 550,000 coins together with hundreds of other objects of silver and gold have been retrieved from this well, the oldest pieces dating back to the 5th century BC and the most recent ones to the 2nd century AD.

The entire context of this hoard and the Alexander Medallion, in particular, is largely complicated by the fact that it was found in a war zone. Located on a vague border between Afghanistan and the northwest of Pakistan where warlords impose and apply laws of their own, nobody really knows what is going on. Any treasure quickly moves from hand to hand and is ushered out of the country to potential buyers in America and Europe. The hoard has been stuffed in sacks of about 50 kg each and found their way to the obscure bazaars of Peshawar where the coins were sold by the sack. A quick examination by Bopearachchi revealed that they were from different origins, Greek city states, Seleucid, Indo-Greek, Indo-Scythian, Indo-Parthian, and even Kushan.

In their book, both authors examine the authenticity of the medallion and also very effectively attack and eliminate the many critics contesting it. The medallion is, of course, being compared with other existing Alexander coins minted in the wake of his victory over Porus, with and without elephants, made of gold or silver. Bottom line is that both Osmund Bopearachchi and Frank Holt accept the medallion as being authentic and that it was minted during Alexander’s lifetime after his invasion of India in 326 BC. As Holt puts it: Since we cannot prove this is a forgery we can only assume it is genuine.

In the end, some three tons of these valuable coins are stashed in the vaults of a bank in Basle, Switzerland awaiting a multimillionaire buyer in spite of repeated calls (including UNESCO's) to at least allow numismatic scholars to study the content.

This book gives something to think about and only lifts a corner of the veil surrounding illegal artefacts that are bought and sold all over the planet. It sketches an excellent view of this secret world surrounding illegal art-business. It is extremely well written and illustrated with magnificent photographs.

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