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Research Coins: Feature Auction

Sale: Triton VII, Lot: 417. Estimate $150. 
Closing Date: Monday, 12 January 2004. 
Sold For $150. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

KINGS of PARTHIA. Mithradates II. Circa October 122 - October 91 BC. AR Drachm (3.79 gm). Ekbatana mint. Struck circa 119-109 BC. Diademed bust left; neck torque ends in sea-horse / BASILEWS MEGALOU ARS-AKOU EPIFANOUS, Arsakes I seated right on omphalos, holding bow. Sellwood 24.10; Shore 70; BMC Parthia pg. 26, 12; MACW 514. EF, slight obverse double-strike. ($150)

Ex Spink Taisei 52 (with Numismatica Ars Classica, 26-27 November 1994), lot 1947.

Mithradates II, the Great and Saviour of the Empire, was probably an older half-brother of Artabanos “the Younger”, son of Artabanos I (see note following previous lot). After the death of his younger brother and victory over the rebellious southern provinces, he quickly set out for the north to liquidate the nomad menace. His S25 variety with the epithet SWTHR, "the Saviour," from the mints of Ekbatana, Rhagae, and probably one in eastern Parthia (the last two are recent discoveries) and the subsequent S24 drachms, attest to his complete pacification of the northern invaders. An important historical notice from Oct./Nov. 119 BC in a Babylonian cuneiform text reveals that one of Mithradates’ expeditions against the north-eastern warriors was to avenge the death of his brother, Artabanos. This may well be a reference to the young king Artabanos “the Younger” who died while battling the “Guti.”

After a final emission with the title BASILEUS MEGAS, S26, the Great King Mithradates divided his vast empire among his satraps, appointed vassal rulers, and adopted the grandiloquent epithet BASILEUS BASILEWN MEGAS, “The Great King of Kings” in Nov./Dec. 109 BC. This appears on his penultimate and final coinages, i.e., S27 and S28 drachms, depicting him diademed and in a tiara of different designs, respectively. In 93/2 BC, however, the King of Kings’ authority was challenged by the next ruler, Sinatruces, who finally prevailed around October 91 BC.

The erroneous interpretation of a passage in Josephus (Ant. Jud. XIII.384-6), citing a Parthian “King Mithradates” whose forces defeated and captured the Seleukid ruler Demetrius III (96-87 BC), had led to the extension of the reign of Mithradates II to about 88/7 BC. But a cuneiform text places the death of the latter in about Oct. 91 BC and confirms that Josephus’ citation relates to a later Mithradates (see lot 430, below).