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Lysimachos, King of Thrace, 305 - 281 B.C.

Ancient Coins of Lysimachos in the Forum Ancient Coins shop

Lysimachos (or Lysimachus), one of Alexander the Great's personal bodyguards, was appointed strategos (general) in Thrace and the Chersonesos after Alexander's death. He became one of the diadochi (successors of Alexander) who were initially generals and governors, but who continuously allied and warred with each other and eventually divided the empire. In 309, he founded his capital Lysimachia in a commanding situation on the neck connecting the Chersonesos with the mainland. In 306, he followed the example of Antigonus in taking the title of king, ruling Thrace, Asia Minor and Macedonia. In 281, he was killed in battle against Seleucus, another successor of Alexander.

During Alexander's Persian campaigns he was one of his personal bodyguards and distinguished himself in India.

A story popular in Roman times told that that Alexander punished Lysimachus, for trying to help Callisthenes, by locking him in a cage with a lion. Callisthenes, a historian who criticized Alexander's adoption of Persian customs (particularly that he be regarded as a god), had been accused of treason and imprisoned (where he later died, possibly from torture). Lysimachus killed the beast by tearing out its tongue (Justin 15.3). In Plutarch's Life of Demetrius, Lysimachus exposes his scars to ambassadors "and told them of the battle he had fought with the beast when Alexander had shut him up in a cage with it" (Plutarch Demetr. 27).

After Alexander's death Lysimachos was appointed strategos in Thrace and the Chersonese, where he was chiefly occupied with fighting against the Odrysian king Seuthes. In 315 he joined Cassander, Ptolemy and Seleucus against Antigonus. Antigonus diverted his attention by stirring up Thracian and Scythian tribes against him. In 309, he founded his capital Lysimachia in a commanding situation on the neck connecting the Chersonese with the mainland. In 306, he followed the example of Antigonus in taking the title of king.

Margaret Thompson notes that many of the Lysimachos dies from a large number of mints appear to have been the work of the same man. She concludes, "It is not impossible that an individual die-cutter traveled from place to place, but on the whole it seems more likely that there were central workshops for the production of dies and that the dies were then distributed to meet the needs of the various mints."

Lysimachia was built by Lysimachus in 309 B.C., when he was preparing for a struggle with his rivals; for the new city, located on the isthmus, commanded the road from Sestos to the north and the mainland of Thrace. To obtain inhabitants for his new city, Lysimachus destroyed the neighboring town of Cardia, the birthplace of the historian Hieronymus, and settled the inhabitants of it and other Chersonese cities here. Lysimachus no doubt made Lysimachia the capital of his kingdom and it must have rapidly risen to great splendor and prosperity.

In 306 B.D., Lysimachos followed the example of Antigonus in taking the title of king, ruling Thrace, Asia Minor and Macedonia. The fiction of an undivided empire had been destroyed long ago by the murder of Philip III in 317 and the imprisonment of Roxane and they young Alexander IV in the same year.

In 305 B.C., Anatolia was controlled by Antigonos I Monophthalmos, a Satrap of the Macedonian Kingdom, who had made himself king in 306 B.C. In 301, at the Battle of Ipsus in Phrygia, Antigonus and his son Demetrius Poliorcetes were defeated by Lysimachus and Seleucus. Antigonus was killed in the battle. Lysimachus added the greater part of Anatolia, including Ionia to his European possessions.

In 302, Lysimachos, reinforced by troops from Cassander, entered Asia Minor, where he met with little resistance. On the approach of Antigonus he retired into winter quarters near Heraclea, marrying its widowed queen Amastris, a Persian princess. Seleucus joined him in 301, and at the battle of Ipsus, Antigonus was slain. His dominions were divided among the victors, Lysimachos receiving the greater part of Asia Minor. Feeling that Seleucus was becoming dangerously great, he now allied himself with Ptolemy, marrying his daughter Arsinoe. Amastris, who had divorced herself from him, returned to Heraclea.

Antigonus controlled Kolophon until general Prepelaus sized the area for Lysimachus in 302 B.C.

The close and unwavering friendship between Kassander and Lysimachus was unusual among the successors of Alexander, who are otherwise infamous for their treachery and double-dealing. Before Kassander died in 297, Lysimachos likely received much of his coinage, especially tetradrachms, from his close friend. Throughout the Kassander's reign, Lysimachos followed Kassander's example by issuing Alexandrine types in gold and silver, and only issuing bronze in his own name. After Kassander died, Lysimachus' struck his own unique types and began substantial emissions of tetradrachms. Lysimachus' new coinage was, however, a somewhat conservative change; to the end he refrained from the propaganda of a personal portrait.

In 297, when Demetrius renewed hostilities, Lysimachos seized his towns in Asia Minor, but in 294 concluded a peace whereby Demetrius was recognized as ruler of Macedonia. Lysimachos tried to carry his power beyond the Danube, but was defeated and taken prisoner by the Getae, who, however, set him free on amicable terms. Demetrius subsequently threatened Thrace, but had to retire in consequence of a rising in Boeotia, and an attack from Pyrrhus of Epirus. In 288 Lysimachos and Pyrrhus in turn invaded Macedonia, and drove Demetrius out of the country. Pyrrhus was at first allowed to remain in possession of Macedonia with the title of king, but in 285 he was expelled by Lysimachos.

Lysimachos captured Ephesos c. 295 B.C. and renamed it Arsinoe in honor of his wife. Thompson noted, "Some staters and tetradrachms were struck but the mint's chief output was drachms."

Thompson notes that Lampsacus was Lysimachos largest mint in Asia Minor, with approximately 150 known obverse dies. Output from Lampsacus declined when Amphipolis began its extensive coinage c. 288 B.C. Lampsacus was known as center for worship of Priapus, who was said to have been born there.

In 287 Magnesia apparently rebelled in support of Demetrius, but Lysimachos recaptured the city in 286. In 282 the city fell to Seleucus.

Sardes was a treasury of Lysimachus and one of his most active mints. Demetrius Poliorcetes captured the city in 287. Lysimachus regained it in 286, but it appears he did not reopen the mint. All the coins are pre-286 style. Lysimachus permanently lost Sardes when it was captured by Seleukos in 282.

Thompson notes that Pyrrhus held Pella until 286 B.C. It was one of the last, if not the last, mint opened by Lysimachos. Twenty-six obverse dies are known for the tetradrachms.

Thompson notes, the style of all the Parium staters (five known obverse dies) belongs to the later years of Lysimachos reign.

In 301 B.C., Lysimachus made Philetaerus commander of Pergamon, where he kept a treasury of nine thousand talents of silver. In 282 Philetaerus revolted and called on Seleucus for aid. Lysimachus was defeated by Seleucus and killed at the Battle of Corupedium in 281 B.C.

Domestic troubles embittered the last years of Lysimachos' life. Amastris had been murdered by her two sons; Lysimachos put them to death. Arsinoe asked the gift of Heraclea, and he granted her request, though he had promised to free the city. In 284 Arsinoe, desirous of gaining the succession for her sons in preference to Agathocles (the eldest son of Lysimachos), intrigued against him with the help of her brother Ptolemy Ceraunus; they accused Agathocles of conspiring with Seleucus to seize the throne, and he was put to death. This atrocious deed of Lysimachos aroused great indignation. Many of the cities of Asia revolted, and his most trusted friends deserted him. The widow of Agathocles fled to Seleucus, who at once invaded the territory of Lysimachos in Asia. Lysimachos crossed the Hellespont, and in 281 a decisive battle took place at the plain of Corus (Corupedion) in Lydia. Lysimachos was killed; after some days his body, watched by a faithful dog, was found on the field, and given up to his son Alexander, by whom it was interred at Lysimachia.

After Lysimachus was killed in battle, his wife, Arsinoe II, married her half-brother Ptolemy Keraunos, but he immediately killed two of her sons. Arsinoe then fled to her full brother Ptolemy of Egypt. After Ptolemy's wife was banished, they married. The Greeks of Alexandria promptly nicknamed them Philadelphoi (brother-loving).


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Historia Numorum

Lysimachus, King of Thrace, etc., B.C. 323-281.

The money of this king is more plentiful than that of any other of the successors of Alexander. His reign may be divided into three periods. I. B.C. 323-311, from the death of Alexander to that of the young Alexander (the son of Roxana). In this period Lysimachus, as Regent in Thrace, struck money in the name of Alexander the Great and of Philip Aridaeus with Alexandrine types. II. B.C. 311-306, from the death of the son of Roxana to the date of the adoption by Lysimachus of the title Βασιλευς. The coins of this period still bear the name of Alexander, though the letters ΛΥ are frequently added. III. B.C. 306-281, coins inscribed ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΛΥΣΙΜΑΧΟΥ, at first with types of Alexander, and later with Lysimachus’ own types, as follows :—

coin image
FIG. 170.

285

Head of the deified Alexander with horn of Ammon (Fig. 170). Athena Nikephoros seated.
AV, AR Attic wt.
[B. M. Guide, Pl. XXVIII. 18, 19; XXXI. 19, 20.]
Young head (Ares ?) in close-fitting helmet. Lion. Half lion, or lion’s head.
Æ Various sizes.
Helmeted head. Trophy.
Æ Various sizes.
Head of young Herakles. Corn-wreath.
Æ Various sizes.

The money of Lysimachus was issued from numerous mints, in Thrace B.C. 311-281, in Macedon B.C. 286-281, and in Asia Minor B.C. 302-281. After the death of Lysimachus his coins were imitated, indiscriminately with those of Alexander, by numerous autonomous cities, by no means exclusively in Thrace (see Müller, Münzen des Königs Lysimachos, and B. M. Guide, Pl. XLI. 1; LIII. 3, 4; LXIV. 3, 4).