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Historical Article

Attica, Athens - a Mithradatic Partisan



This coin is the only known drachm from this issue of the magistrates Aristion and Philon, an issue that is of particular historical importance, as it is the first numismatic evidence of the close ties between Mithradates VI of Pontos and Athens as early as 98 BC. By the early years of the 1st century BC, Mithradates' skillful use of diplomacy, propaganda, and conquests made the Pontic king appear as a viable champion of Greek interests. Aristion, an influential Athenian politician, adhered to a faction that believed it was in Athens' interest to align itself with Mithradates against Rome. The present issue reflects this goal. Here Aristion and his co-magistrate Philon employ the Pontic Pegasos, the badge of Mithradates which appears on the king's royal issues and civic issues of his affiliated mints. In 87 BC, during the First Mithradatic War, with the support of Mithradates' general Archelaos, Aristion declared himself tyrant of Athens and struck coins bearing his name and 'King Mithradates' as the magistrates (Thompson 1143-1146), an issue believed to have been used for the king's military necessities. Sulla responded by besieging Athens, which suffered miserably for months. As starvation set in, the Romans stormed the walls, and the city quickly fell. Aristion and his supporters tried to hold out in the Acropolis, but were forced to surrender due to a lack of food. Soon afterward, Sulla ordered Aristion's exÉcution. For more details on the linkage between the two issues of Aristion and their Mithradatic connections, see De Callataÿ, pp. 301-305.

ATTICA, Athens. Circa 168/5-50 BC. AR New Style Drachm (3.80 g, 1h). Struck circa 97/6 BC. Head of Athena right, wearing triple-crested Attic helmet decorated with a palmette and griffin on the bowl / Α−ΘΕ, owl standing right, head facing, on amphora; to right, Pegasos grazing left; magistrates ΑΡΙ−ΣΤ/ΙΩΝ and ΦΙΛ/ΩΝ; all within wreath. Cf. Thompson 959-989 (tetradrachms). Unpublished as a drachm.