KINGS of PONTOS. Mithradates VI.
|Sale: CNG 63, Lot: 385. Estimate $500.
Closing Date: Wednesday, 21 May 2003.
Sold For $605. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.
120-63 BC. AV Stater (8.19 gm). Istros mint. Struck during the First Mithradatic War, 88-86 BC. Diademed head of the deified Alexander the Great right, wearing horn of Ammon / Athena seated left, holding Nike, left elbow resting on her shield, spear behind; DI
above knee, IS
on throne, trident in exergue. De Callataÿ pg. 139 (D1/R1); SNG Copenhagen (Thrace) 1094 (same dies). EF. ($500)
The remarkably individualistic features of the portrait on this exceptional die are sometimes identified as Ariarathes IX, king of Cappadocia. Ariarathes was the son of Mithradates VI and joined his father in the invasion of Thrace in 88 BC, where he died two years later.
Gold staters issued from the Black Sea mints of Istros, Tomis, and Kallatis, though struck in the name of Lysimachus, were issued by Mithradates VI of Pontus. De Callataÿ contends that the primary purpose of these issues were to pay mercenaries and for war materials related to his campaigns against the Romans during the First Mithradatic War. This Pontic king was the Saddam Hussein of his day, a skilled survivor who remained a thorn in the side of the Romans throughout his life, despite an unending string of defeats by some of Rome’s most capable generals. Though a non-Greek himself, he tried to claim Alexander the Great’s legacy and unite all Greek-speaking peoples in opposition to the Romans.
At the age of 18, Mithradates overthrew his mother’s regency and embarked on a career of conquest, bringing most of the lands around the Black Sea into his domain. His expansionist aims inevitably brought him into conflict with Rome, and in preparation for the coming war he built up the largest army in Asia, unleashing it in 88 BC in what would be the First Mithradatic War. He sought to undermine the Roman power base by ordering the massacre of every Roman citizen in Asia in which nearly 80,000 people perished.
The Romans were not intimidated, and when Mithradates crossed over to Greece proper as 'Liberator', the Roman legions under Sulla smashed his army. Mithradates retreated to Pontus, from where he continued to skirmish with the Romans, suffering more defeats to the general Lucullus. In 63, having suffered a final defeat by Pompey and facing a revolt by his own son Pharnakes, the elderly king tried to commit suicide by taking poison, but he had inured himself to its affects by years of small counterdoses, and had to be stabbed by one of his mercenaries.