SELEUKID KINGS OF SYRIA. Seleukos I Nikator, 312-281 BC. Tetradrachm (Silver, 26 mm, 16.86 g, 7 h), Susa, circa 304-298/7. Bust of Alexander the Great, with the features of Seleukos, as Dionysos to right, wearing Attic helmet covered with a panther skin and adorned with bull's ear and horns, ear guards lowered and panther skin tied around neck. Rev. ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ - ΣΕΛΕΥΚΟΥ Nike standing right, placing wreath on top of a trophy of arms to her right; to lower left, monogram; between Nike and trophy, monogram. SC 173.4. An impressive piece with a fine portrait. Light doubling, otherwise, nearly extremely fine.
This famous type commemorates Seleukos' victories in his eastern campaign of 305-303, during the course of which he reestablished Macedonian control over Iran and Central Asia. The King's advance into the Indus valley turned out to be less successful, as it resulted in the permanent loss of the Indian provinces. Sources are scarce, but we learn that Seleukos eventually ceded the whole region, in exchange for 500 war elephants, to the Mauryan King Chandragupta (Sandrakottos in Greek), who is also said to have married his daughter. We do not know whether Chandragupta defeated the Macedonians in battle or Seleukos realized that maintaining control over the Indus valley would be too costly in the long run. The agreement, however, proved to be to the kings' mutual benefit as it enabled Chandragupta to continue his conquest of southern India, while the 500 Indian war elephants helped Seleukos win the Fourth War of the Diadochi. The present coin alludes to these events by elevating Seleukos to the level of Dionysos and Alexander, both of whom were famously known to have reached India. Interestingly enough, the issue appears to have circulated almost exclusively in Persis and thus may have been specifically designed to visualize Seleukos' might to his regional garrison troops and the rebellious local population.