IT DEPENDS ON who you ask and what you mean by invented.
Was the selfie invented by Robert Cornelius in 1839 when he produced a daguerreotype image of himself? Cameras were so primitive then he had to remove the lens cover, run to position, stand for a minute and then run back and put the lens cap back on. He claimed invention when he marked the back of the finished photo "The first light Picture ever taken."
Or was it the developer of the Brownie Kodak camera in 1900 that made self-portraits more widespread? If you think the selfie is tied to front facing cell phone cameras maybe you give the nod to the Sony Ericsson company for the Z1010 mobile phone they released in late 2003. Some say the first use of the word selfie appeared in an Internet forum in 2002.
But if you think that the essence of the selfie is a self-portrait that can be widely distributed then you need to look much further back in time. My candidate?
I nominate Cyrus the Great. He was the first to distribute his image using a relatively new and widespread media – coins - sometime between 550 and 539 BC. Leader of the largest empire the world had seen, his territory stretched from the Mediterranean Sea into the Indus Valley including all of the ancient Near East, Southwest Asia and parts of Central Asia and the Caucasus.
Cyrus used the coin medium perfected by the great Lydian leader Croesus when he defeated Croesus’ army and annexed his territory. While coins existed earlier, Croesus had standardized the weights and purity of his coins in a way that made them into international medium of exchange. With such wide distribution, ancient coins became a perfect way to communicate with a large and mostly illiterate population.
But Croesus never put his own image on his coins. It was left to Cyrus to make that innovation when he had an image of himself kneeling and drawing a bow placed on the coinage he adopted from Croesus. The image (shown above) may be crude by modern standards but so was the technology. The dies used to hand stamp the images onto his coins were engraved by hand.
Above, from the Ancient Selfies™ collection, front side of a coin issued by Cyrus the Great.
The venture moola blog comes to you from Atlanta, Georgia. Find it at readjanus.com. Copyright Clinton Richardson.
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Clinton Richardson, has been writing and photographing for decades. His acclaimed venture strategy series is now in its 5th edition. His Ancient Selfies is an International Book Awards Finalist and an eLit Award Gold Medal Winner. Many of his images can be seen online at TrekPic.com.