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Research Coins: Feature Auction

Triton XXI, Lot: 438. Estimate $2000.
Sold for $5500. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

KINGS of PONTOS. Mithradates VI Eupator. Circa 120-63 BC. AR Tetradrachm (32.5mm, 16.42 g, 1h). Amisos or Sinope mint. Undated issue, struck circa 115-105 BC. Diademed head right / BAΣIΛEΩΣ MIΘPAΔATOY EYΠATOPOΣ, Pegasos grazing left; star-in-crescent to left, monogram to right; all within Dionysiac wreath of ivy and fruit. Callataÿ p. 9, dies D17/R8, example c (this coin); HGC 7, 336; SNG Fitzwilliam 4054 (same obv. die); BMC 4 (same dies); Gulbenkian 936 = Jameson 2155 = RG pl. suppl. B, 8 (same obv. die). Good VF, toned, a few marks under tone, minor double strike on reverse.

Ex Freeman & Sear FPL 1 (Winter/Spring 1994), no. 219; Galerie des Monnaies & Spink (10 October 1977), lot 217 and front cover.

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 cistophoric 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.