«Historical Maps»

Euboia, ca. 290 BC

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Demetrios Poliorcetes (ca. 336-283) was one of the powerful successors of Alexander the Great. He attained everything. He even managed to be worshiped as God. Why and how he did so is the topic of this podcast.

 

Come along with us on our journey through the world of money. Today we are stopping on the island of Euboea. We are approximately in the year 290 B.C.

 

Euboea is an island off the coast of Greece. It had belonged to the kingdom of Macedonia since the middle of the 4th century. But with the death of Alexander the Great, the huge empire had fallen apart. Now many people were fighting over seizing the biggest possible chunks of Alexander's legacy.

 

Demetrius Poliorcetes was one of these people. He earned his surname, Poliorcetes, which means 'The Besieger of Cities', when he laid siege to Athens, Rhodes and many other wealthy and powerful cities. The machinery he deployed in doing so, became legendary. Demetrius experienced it again and again: on his orders, walls came tumbling down. He decided who would be killed and who would be sold into slavery. He felt infinitely superior to all the normal people.

 

Demetrius Poliorcetes must have believed he was nothing less than a god. Was he not as powerful as Poseidon, when he commanded his fleet? He, Demetrius, decided which ship sailed on in peace and which was sunk. In Hellenistic Greece, someone like him was thought to be a divine hero, and so Demetrius associated himself with the lord of the seas and the earthquakes, with Poseidon.

 

There is evidence of a small bullhorn on his coins to show this relationship.

It didn't matter what form an illustration of Demetrius took. There were always bullhorns incorporated into his magnificent head of hair.

 

In ancient times, it was thought that the bull was the holy animal of the god Poseidon. In the untamed power of wild bulls, they recognised the power of rolling waves, the overwhelming destructive power of earthquakes.

 

The roots of bullfighting reach far, far back into history - into a time when mankind was defenceless against the power of the sea and earthquakes. Maybe they believed they were buying the mercy of the ruler of the forces of nature, by putting his holy animal, the bull, into the arena.

 

But religious beliefs change. By 300 B.C., the Athenians no longer believed in the power of Poseidon. Demetrius Poliorcetes now awarded them security or doom. And so they wrote a hymn in his honour. They sang:

 

„For other gods are either far away, or they cannot hear, or they do not exist, or they do not pay us any regard, but you we can see in full presence, not in wood and not in stone, but in truth. And so we praise you.“

 

At the time, Demetrius was at the peak of his power. But, in the year 301, his father, Antigonus the One-eyed, lost the decisive battle of Ipsus. Antigonus paid with his life. Demetrius was able to save himself, but he had lost everything. He was homeless and sailed around the Mediterranean with his fleet as a pirate.

 

Demetrius started from the beginning again. He painstakingly conquered city after city, island after island. First of all he managed to bring the Kingdom of Macedonia under his control, then Greece. The Island of Euboea now belonged to his empire, too, where our coin was minted.

 

And yet Demetrius, the godhead, was to lose everything once again. He wanted to conquer Asia and failed. Demetrius was taken captive. Even when they treated him with reverence, what was there left for him to do? Demetrius spent his days in debauchery and carousing. His body went along with this for three years. Then he died. Fat, bloated and human, all too human.

 

Thank you for listening. And you can find more podcasts about coins and money on the Sunflower Foundation Web page.