Medallion with Olympias
This piece is part of a series of large gold medallions that was commissioned to honor Emperor Caracalla, representing him as the descendant of Alexander the Great. These medallions, found at Abu Qir in Egypt, demonstrate the artistry and technical prowess achieved by an imperial mint, perhaps that of Ephesus or Perinthus (both cities in western Asia Minor).
Olympias, mother of Alexander the Great, is depicted here in profile. The back shows a “nereid” (sea nymph), perhaps Thetis, the mother of Achilles, riding on a hippocamp, a mythical sea-creature. Thus, the medallion forms part of a double comparison: Caracalla is compared to Alexander, the conqueror of the East; Alexander is compared to Achilles, a hero of the Trojan War.
Period, ca. 215-243 CE. Now in the Walters Art Museum.