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 in Areia (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Dragiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Ai-Khanoum OR 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 Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria on the Indus - 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)

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Danake or Obol?

Some ancient sources mention a small silver coin that is labeled as a “danake” and this calls for further investigation.

The Greek word danake is copied from the Persian danak, a small silver coin more or less equivalent to the Greek obol (1/6 of a drachma). The danake, together with the silver half-danake seems to be a provincial coinage used mainly in Asia Minor. It was probably linked to coins from Sidon and Aradus, but in later years it was used by Greeks elsewhere and also in other metals like gold.

Gold danakes were often found in graves and examples are known from Lemnos, Euboia but also as far as Epiros – some of them stamped with a picture like for instance that of a Gorgon. A case is known from a tomb of the 4th century BC in Thessaly where the lips of the buried woman were sealed with a gold danake. It is speculated that this idea is related to Orphic or Dionysiac mysteries.

The danake often replaced the obol and their names were used alternatively. The obol was given to the dead enabling them to pay the ferryman Charon for their voyage into the underworld and it seems that on certain occasions the danake was used to the same end. On the other hand, numismatists established that the Greeks used the label danake for small foreign coins without fixed denomination.


The above leads me to the most remarkable find of all, the double gold danake with a picture of Alexander the Great. This coin, interestingly, is being described as showing the head of Alexander on the front and a nude Alexander sitting on a rock and Bucephalus on the reverse. Based on the picture of the danake published by the Archaeology News Network I cannot match this description as it looks as if this side shows Alexander on horseback.

It is striking that in the 3rd century AD a gold coin of some value was no longer used in burials. Charon’s obol was often replaced by the danake among which those depicting Alexander the Great - a way for the ruling class to remember their glorious past. This means that seven centuries after Alexander’s death, he was still very much revered! 

I am certain that Alexander himself would never have dreamed of being useful to this point!

[Picture from Archaeology News Network]

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