The Iconography of Elephants on Egyptian Coins during the Græco-Roman Period

Document Type : Original Research Articles



This article focuses on the representation of different types of elephant on coins uncovered from Egypt in the Græco-Roman period. It equally highlights on the iconography of the Ptolemaic kings and Roman emperors on such coins. The representation of four elephants on numismatic evidence uncovered from Græco-Roman Egypt may have served as an emblem of the victoryof Alexander the Great over the Persian king Porusin Hydases battle which occurred in May 326 B.C. This coincides with the representation of the Macedonian king wearing the elephant scalp headdress which signified his conquest of India. Later on, the elephant skin headdress began to be associated with a female figure as a remarkable sign of Alexandria. Unlike their depictions on the Roman-dated coins, it will be concluded that accurate details of the representations of facial features of the Ptolemaic king and the elephant are remarkable features of the Ptolemaic coins. The four Indian elephants driven by the king or the Roman emperor are mostly represented on coins to symbolize the victory of Alexander the Great over the Persian king and his successful conquest of India. The elephant scalp representing the Indian species may have similarly been used to refer to the Macedonian conquest of India. Later, the appearance of the skin of the African elephant accompanied with the female figure was meant to symbolize Alexandria city.


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