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The 'other' Alexander


kirispupis
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Everyone's heard of Alexander the Great. But have you heard of the Alexander Who Was Not So Great? 

Yes, in Alexander III's own lifetime there was the fabulously confusing Alexander I, more often referred to as Alexander the Molossian to avoid a mix up with the first major king of Macedonia. Alexander the Molossian's introduction into high society was rudely interrupted when, during his wedding to Alexander III's full sister Kleopatra, the Macedonian king Philip II was assassinated.

The whole wedding had been designed as a strengthened alliance between the the two states. In a previous episode, the Molossian's sister, Olympias, had returned to Epeiros all pissed off at her husband. She couldn't stand that he was sleeping with other women, marrying other women, having children with other women, and - most horribly at all - dishonoring her own Alexander. She was demanding war. So, the Molossian had ventured down to Pella, chatted with Philip II, perhaps slept with him, and after a great night of drinking the two had setup this wedding. And now it was ruined.

There was a lot of awkwardness. Should the wedding presents be sent back? Those honeymoon tickets to Tahiti certainly needed to be cancelled. Nevertheless, while everyone was sorting out the mess and Alexander III and his mother Olympias were making a list for the next 'Survivor Macedonia' series (spoiler: everyone selected was eliminated), Alexander the Molossian took his bride back to Epeiros and got busy.

They had two children: Neoptolomos and Cadmeia. Neoptolomos would later star in their own 'Survivor Epeiros' episode, in which he was paired with Pyrrhos and was eliminated. Cadmeia remains a mystery, and there's some archeological evidence (some plaques mentioning descendants of Olympias) that her line may have continued as the last descendants of Philip II.

As we all know, Alexander the Great marched off to Persia in 334 BCE where he achieved great success. Indeed, his likeness was on every child's lunch box across Greece and the Balkans, and the Molossian was insanely jealous. Well, if Alexander was going to take the eastern half of the world, he would take the western. There was only one slight problem. The Molossian had the congeniality of a slug. He also didn't have much of an army.

All that changed one day when he was reading the newspaper.

Wanted. One megalomaniac to aid and command our city against some pesky Italians. Must have experience with phalanxes. Exiles and bastards need not apply. Please send list of previous wars, two references, and a resume.

The Molossian immediately applied and was soon leading a force of Tarantines and mercenaries against several Italic tribes. He was successful at first, and dreams of empire soon filled his head. He would start with Italy and then proceed through the rest of Europe. The only problem was, the Italians - his allies included - didn't really want to be conquered. Those bastards!

Eventually, his allies tired of him and he was double crossed and killed.

Far away, Alexander the Great was reading his newspaper when he learned of the Molossian's death. He shook his head and moved on to the comics. In Epeiros, his wife cleared out his garage for her own carriage, took his throne, and redecorated the palace. She would rule Epeiros alone for several more years.

I have several coins minted by Alexander I Molossos. This is the first I purchased.

70486439_alexanderIMolossos.jpg.6f52ff07915d0f51bb37d8db988c58fe.jpg

Alexander the Molossian
Bruttium, Croton 334-331 BCE
AE 12mm 3.37g
Attianese, Calabria Graeca, 267,510
Ex Collection of M. Weder
Ex Münzen & Medaillen GmbH

 

This was minted in Italy to pay his troops. One thing I really love about it is it came from the collection of Markus Robert Weder (1953-2016), who was more known for his work in Roman numismatics but worked in the British Museum and for Leu. I don't have many coins, given my budget, that have much of a provenance, but I think it's cool that someone who worked for the British Museum(!) found this coin and liked it enough to acquire it.

As the coin above was minted in Italy, I wanted something minted in Epeiros itself, so I purchased this one.

Kleopatra.jpg.63fe3e38e52ccd0c1156015c5d7132a6.jpg

Epeiros.The Molossi
AE Circa 360-330/25 BCE
Ex Bertolami Auction 44 (Sep 2017)
Ex Catawiki

This is the closest coin I can attribute to Kleopatra, the only woman recognized for ruling alone during this period. Adea aka Eurydike would later hold Macedonia itself for over a year, though in name it was controlled by her husband Philip III, and in practice by her.

Not long ago, I was perusing the Harlan J Berk auction, when I found this coin and immediately purchased it.

268980654_AlexanderI(2).jpg.dbe0eb4e3fc8006194b169bfc8fd401e.jpg

Alexander, King of the Molossians
Epirus, 342-330 BCE; c. 334-332 BCE
AE 15.5-16.5mm, 3.57g
Obv: Eagle standing r. between tripod and laurel spray.
Rx: ΑΛΕΞA /ΤΟΥ ΝΕ above and below thunderbolt; all within wreath.
BM-6, SNG Cop-90, Sear-1987.
Ex Mark Gibbons Collection
Ex Harlan J Berk

 

Why did I buy it, when I already had the other one? Well, in truth I mistook it for the type above - that was minted in Epeiros. I probably did this because Harlan J Berk mistakenly listed the mint as Epeiros instead of an Italian one, but I should have known. I've had my eye out for a better copy and had mixed up the types. Note that when I was photographing this coin I realized that I'd photographed the first one sideways. On this copy the name is much easier to read. I also believe the two are different types, since the mint mark appears different. Perhaps they were minted in different cities, but I haven't looked into the reference works (if they're online) to verify this.

Feel free to post your own coins of the era!

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Another stunner! BIG coingrats! And I always enjoy not only the amount of research that you do but also your writing style😎

Zeus above you know how much I long for just one night with that Epeirot shield...

longing-longingly.gif.5a83f4a5d8f60da4953cf0acfb449056.gif

And boy did those Epeirots love the name Alexander. It gets downright confusing🤪

One of them, whom even had a kid of his own named Alexander, was a cousin of Alexander the Great, once removed on his mom's side, named Pyrrhos of Epiros!

And man did he have some Beeaauuutiful coins🤩 Oh, and he was one of the greatest generals of all time and all that... but coins!!!

16029536987605157954538919483773-removebg-preview.png.ea7718be7d602ab3cb9c5693da756964.png2135475_1630245518.l-removebg-preview.png.8c8947e6c6c73e6f15816fc501f22604.pngScreenshot_20201221-121205_PicCollage-removebg-preview.png.806fb9ec0217500fba217bad0f8fd70f.pngScreenshot_20201221-121121_PicCollage-removebg-preview.png.5631b39892396d32acbeff769403f968.pngshare4938191895733806573.png.261f03299cdd52d5a83b431a72fa139e.png

Edited by Ryro
To bring joy to the world
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Nice group of Pyrrhos coins!

I only have this one.

331A7734-Edit.jpg.0adc64960850a8b186316e1dd6685531.jpg

Pyrrhos of Epiros
Pella 287-285 BCE or 274-273 BCE
AE 17mm 4.42g 5h
AMNG III/2, -. HGC 3, 272. SNG Alpha Bank 970
Ex Nomos

 

As for the Epeiros shield coin, if I ever come across another one you'll be the first to know. 🙂

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@RyroA quick search shows this as unsold in Obolos just over a year ago. It's a long shot obviously, but there's no downside in shooting them a quick email and asking the status. If it was their coin, as opposed to a consignment, they really might still have it. If the link doesn't work, it's Obolos 20, lot 725:

https://pro.coinarchives.com/a/lotviewer.php?LotID=1889824&AucID=4425&Lot=725

Just to tantalize you a bit more, here it is:

image00725.jpg

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1 hour ago, Phil Davis said:

@RyroA quick search shows this as unsold in Obolos just over a year ago. It's a long shot obviously, but there's no downside in shooting them a quick email and asking the status. If it was their coin, as opposed to a consignment, they really might still have it. If the link doesn't work, it's Obolos 20, lot 725:

https://pro.coinarchives.com/a/lotviewer.php?LotID=1889824&AucID=4425&Lot=725

Just to tantalize you a bit more, here it is:

image00725.jpg

You ROCK @Phil Davis! I've reached out. We shall see if they respond...

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1 hour ago, Phil Davis said:

@RyroA quick search shows this as unsold in Obolos just over a year ago. It's a long shot obviously, but there's no downside in shooting them a quick email and asking the status. If it was their coin, as opposed to a consignment, they really might still have it. If the link doesn't work, it's Obolos 20, lot 725:

Not to cast rain on a happy day, but I wonder whether this is the same coin I own. It was Catawiki that gave me the Bertolami reference. I've updated my attribution based on the original listing to:

Epeiros.The Molossi
AE Circa 360-330/25 BCE
Æ 19mm, 6.16g
Vertical thunderbolt on shield
R/ Vertical thunderbolt within wreath
SNG Copenhagen 53.
Ex Bertolami Auction 44 (Sep 2017)
Ex Catawiki

The two coins are the same size and differ by .02g. The images look extremely similar. It's possible that Nomos sold it to Catawiki (based in the Netherlands), who then sold it to me. AFAIK this is a common practice for coins that don't sell. Roma is one of the few that does relist theirs. The Nomos auction was in 3/2021 and I bought my coin in 12/2021.

Interestingly, you can tell from all of our photos than none of us really has an idea on the orientation of the coin. 🙂 

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