Saturday, November 23, 2013

Ancient gemstone with portrait of Alexander the Great

In late 2009 a rare and surprising archaeological discovery was made at Tel Dor: A gemstone engraved with the portrait of Alexander the Great was uncovered during excavations.

The Tel Dor researchers have noted that it is surprising that a work of art such as this would be found in Israel, on the periphery of the Hellenistic world. "It is generally assumed that the master artists – such as the one who engraved the image of Alexander on this particular gemstone – were mainly employed by the leading Hellenistic courts in the capital cities, such as those in Alexandria in Egypt and Seleucia in Syria. This new discovery is evidence that local elites in secondary centers, such as Tel Dor, appreciated superior objects of art and could afford ownership of such items," the researchers stated.
Alexander was probably the first Greek to commission artists to depict his image – as part of a personality cult that was transformed into a propaganda tool.

Rulers and dictators have implemented this form of propaganda ever since. The artists cleverly combined realistic elements of the ruler's image along with the classical ideal of beauty as determined by Hellenistic art, royal attributes, and divine elements originating in Hellenistic and Eastern art. These attributes legitimized Alexander's kingship in the eyes of his subjects in all the domains he conquered.

These portraits were distributed throughout the empire, were featured on statues and mosaics in public places and were engraved on small items such as coins and seals. The image of Alexander remained a popular motif for generations that followed his death.