Finest Known Tetradrachm of Mithradates Eupator
KINGS of PONTOS. Mithradates VI Eupator.
From the Sheikh Saud Al-Thani and JDL Collections
Callataÿ Plate Coin
Circa 120-63 BC. AR Tetradrachm (35.5mm, 16.62 g, 11h). Pergamon mint. Dated month 12, year 223 BE (September 74 BC). Diademed head right / ∫Å%5¬EW% Â5QrÅdÅtoU EU∏Åtoro%
, stag grazing left; to left, star-in-crescent above ˝˚s
(year); to right, n
(month) in exergue; all within Dionysiac wreath of ivy and fruit. Callataÿ p. 21, dies D55/R4, a = M.-M. Bendenoun and F. de Callataÿ, Coins of the Ancient World: History's Priceless Treasures. A Portrait of the JDL Collection
(Geneva: Tradart Institut, 2009), 22 (this coin); HGC 7, 340; DCA 692; BMC Black Sea 1; du Chastel 245; Leu 42, lot 269 (same dies). Almost FDC, virtually as struck, with a lovely old cabinet tone. Undoubtedly the finest specimen known. A spectacular portrait struck on an exceptionally broad flan.
From the collection of Sheikh Saud Al-Thani. Ex JDL Collection (Numismatica Ars Classica 74 and Tradart 18 [joint sale], 18 November 2013), lot 289 (hammer 65,000 CHF); The Numismatic Auction II (12 December 1983), lot 122.
Mithradates is the Hellenistic monarch par excellence, his career driven by megalomaniacal ambitions leading to murderous assaults upon family and followers and disastrous foreign adventures against superior forces. His idealized portraiture attempts to mimic the gods with its bold staring gaze and unruly, free-flowing hair, but at its most extreme is a personification of hysteria in its Dionysiac sense. The wreath of ivy on the reverse reinforces Mithradates' link with the god as well as making a connection with the cistaphoric coinage that circulated in the area. The stag probably represents the civic center of Ephesos and the mintmark is of Pergamon, all part of the new Pontic kingdom, symbolized by the star and crescent. His empire collapsed before the armies of Sulla and Lucullus, and Mithradates ended his own life in exile in the far region of the Crimea, pursued to the end by vengeful Romans and family.