Description:This Greek coin depicts the head of Medusa on an Aegis, which was an animal-skin shield that was carried by Athena and Zeus. In classical antiquity and today, the image of the head of Medusa finds expression in the evil-averting device known as the Gorgoneion. Medusa was a terrifying dragon like creature that lived on the farthest side of the western sea, shunned because her glance turned people to stone. The hero Perseus volunteered to kill Medusa and bring back her head, which he used as a weapon until giving it to the goddess Athena to place on her shield.
For the Greeks, the Medusa image was believed to ward off evil spirits along with your enemies. Even Alexander the Great had an image of Medusa on his breastplate for battle. Nike is shown on the reverse of this coin, winged and holding a palm frond. As the goddess of strength, speed, and victory, Nike would fly around the battlefields rewarding the victors with glory and fame.
This coin was minted in the city of Amastris, in the ancient Greek region of Paphlagonia, located along the Black Sea Coast in present-day Turkey. Amastris was founded around 300 BC and became a thriving seaport. When this coin was minted, Amastris was part of the Kingdom of Pontus, ruled by Mithridates VI. His reign lasted 57 years and Mithridates was seen as the protector of Greek cities and culture along the Black Sea and in Asia. As the last great Hellenistic ruler, Mithridates VI was brought down only after repeated wars with the Roman Republic.