Alexander the Great’s conquest of the Persian Empire “liberated” vast stores of gold and silver that had been locked away for centuries in the Great Achaemenid King’s treasuries in Sardes, Susa, Persepolis and Babylon. At the beginning of Alexander’s reign in 336 BC, the Macedonian Kingdom was reportedly in debt to the tune of 500 silver talents (a talent being 6,000 silver drachms and a “king’s ransom” in earliest Greek times). To give an idea of the vast loot his conquests amassed, at Susa alone Alexander seized 50,000 talents of silver and 40,000 of gold. This huge intake of bullion resulted in the creation of unseen denominations such as the gold Distater. Tariffed at two staters and ten silver tetradrachms, about 20 day’s wages for a Macedonian soldier during wartime. The beautiful Distater was likely employed first to reward his generals for their courage and later to pay off many of Alexander’s veteran soldiers, who were rewarded for their loyalty with the equivalent of a silver talent. With the new denomination, a talent could be paid out as 120 gold distaters. Despite their size and enormous buying power, gold distaters evidently circulated heavily, until they were eventually melted down, most specimens found today display considerable wear and numerous contact marks. Truly the first Gold High Relief of the Ancient World. This is the finest we have handled.
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