Featured A Parthian fourree

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Parthicus, Oct 6, 2019.

  1. Parthicus

    Parthicus Well-Known Member

    I recently purchased this coin from Forum:
    Orodes II fourree.jpg
    Parthian Empire. Fourree drachm (3.35 g, 21 mm). Orodes II (57-38 BC). "Kangavar" mint. Obverse: Diademed bust left. Reverse: Seated archer, K below, surrounded by standard seven-line Greek legend. Sellwood 45.21v., Shore 230v. This coin: Purchased from Forum Ancient Coins, September 2019; ex. Maxwell Hunt Collection.

    (Note: Historical section on Orodes II and Kangavar is recycled; new text about fourrees follows.)

    Orodes II was a son of the Parthian king Phraates III. Around 57 BC, he teamed up with his brother Mithradates III to murder their father and seize power. The brothers soon quarreled, and after a couple of years Orodes II was able to defeat and kill his brother and claim the throne uncontested. He fought several times against Rome, most importantly the Battle of Carrhae in 53 BC where the Roman Triumvir Crassus was killed. In 38 BC his favorite son and heir apparent was killed fighting in Roman Syria, leaving a distraught Orodes to name one of his other sons, Phraates IV, his designated successor. This was a terrible choice. Phraates promptly killed his father, then killed all thirty of so of his brothers (and their families) to avoid potential rivals. Kangavar was (and still is) a city in northwestern Iran, not far from Hamadan (Ecbatana). The city is mentioned in a 1st century AD source, and archaeologists have found a possible temple of Anahita, but overall the city seems to have always been rather small and unimportant.

    Although Kangavar is a scarce mint for Parthian coins, my main interest in this piece was the fact that it appears to be a fourree (i.e. a base metal coin plated with silver in ancient times). Fourree coins are well-known to collectors of Roman coins, although scholarly opinion is split on whether such coins were official mint issues or unofficial forgeries (or possibly some issues were official while others were counterfeits). Fourree Parthian coins are considerably scarcer, but do occur throughout the series, and not a lot of research seems to have been done on them. I found two useful pages on Parthian fourrees (one by our own @dougsmit -perhaps he would care to comment here?):
    http://www.parthia.com/parthia_fourree.htm
    https://www.forumancientcoins.com/dougsmith/feac69par.html

    My coin was sold by Forum as a fourree, and I agree, although the base metal core is not exposed. There is surface unevenness at 3-6 o'clock and 8-9 o'clock on the reverse that seem to be caused by folds of the foil used to plate the core. The weight of 3.35 grams is quite low for silver drachms of Orodes II. There is also some slight crudeness in the design, especially in the style of the reverse inscription (harder to read than normal). However, the style of the bust is absolutely normal for Orodes II from the Kangavar mint. Based on this, I feel unable to give an opinion whether this fourree was an official mint product or not. As scholars love to write, "further research is needed." Please post your coins of Orodes II, fourrees, or whatever else you think is relevant.
     
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  3. Bob L.

    Bob L. Well-Known Member

    To the best of my knowledge, this is my only coin that is likely a fouree, below. Like yours, Parthicus, there is no break in the plating and so no base metal is exposed, but the weight is exceptionally low for a tet at 8.68 gm.

    It is ex-David Sellwood Collection, part of a two-coin lot in Baldwin's Auction 90, and was described in their catalog listing as "probably plated" - based on the weight. I agree with that assessment - which was, presumably, from Sellwood's own cataloging entry for it.


    normal_Sellwood_79__type_Vologases_III_tetradrachm.jpg
     
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2019
  4. Bob L.

    Bob L. Well-Known Member

  5. Jwt708

    Jwt708 Well-Known Member

    Interesting fourees guys! I have none, or any coins from these rulers, but I found the posts interesting.
     
    CopperCouple likes this.
  6. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    I have noting o my theories presented in the links above. When I wrote my page, the number of Parthian fourrees seen was much lower than now. The variations seen in all the links BobL listed just convinces me more than ever that you can not make one blanket statement to cover all coins. I still believe my coin was overstruck on a fourree and have no way of knowing whether the striker knew that the coin was fourree or whether he was given a bucket of denarii and told to convert them to local currency. If could prove that this was a fact for my coin (and I can't) it would prove absolutely nothing about any of another dozen plated Parthian coins made in different times under different circumstances. Stolen dies? The idea does nothing for me but I can't prove anything wrong with the scanty evidence that exists. If we had dozens of specimens from the same time and place all struck from the same dies or dies that appear similar in style I might be more inclined to see a pattern but the material simply is not there. Certainly some fourrees were struck with unofficial or barbarous dies. Some appear possibly official especially when we allow for some mints being quite different from others. We do not need supposed final words based on evidence from our poor understanding of Parthian coins, their dozen or so mints and political situations lost to time. We can only accept the fact that what we know and what we wish we knew may not always coincide.
     
  7. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    Interesting thread. A while back I got a drachm of Mithradates II that I've suspected of being a fourree. As with the OP, no core is exposed and it is light weight (3.31 grams). Workmanship is pretty crude too.
    Parthia - Mithridates II drachm Nov 2018 (0).jpg

    Parthia Drachm
    Mithradates II (123-88 B.C.)

    Ecbatana Mint
    Long-bearded bust left / Beardless archer seated right on throne, holding bow in right hand; ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩN ΜΕΓΑΛΟΥ ΑΡΣΑΚΟΥ ΕΠΙΦΑΝΟΥΣ in five lines.
    Sellwood 27.2
    (3.31 grams / 19 mm)
     
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