Featured Aretas III conquers Damascus

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Parthicus, Mar 22, 2020.

  1. Parthicus

    Parthicus Well-Known Member

    Here's another coin I bought at the November 2019 Baltimore show, a scarcer Nabataean bronze:
    Nabataea Aretas III.jpg
    Nabataean Kingdom. Damascus mint. AE 19. Aretas III (87-62 BC). Obverse: Diademed head of Aretas III right. Reverse: Tyche of Damascus seated left, holding cornucopia, river god below, Greek legend around "Basileos Aretou Philellenos" (Of King Aretas, Friend of the Greeks). SNG ANS 1421-1424. This coin: Purchased at the Baltimore coin show, November 2019 from Ephesus Numismatics.

    The Nabataeans ruled a kingdom centered on the famous city of Petra in what is now Jordan, spending much of that time as a Roman client state until they were finally absorbed as a province by Trajan. Many here on the CoinTalk Ancients board are familiar with the later bronze coins that feature jugate busts of the king and queen together, however this type features just a "very Hellenistic" bust of the king, and is also notable for being struck at Damascus rather than at Petra like most of the Nabataean series.

    Aretas III took the throne in 87 BC upon the death of his brother, Obodas I. In 85 BC, he conquered the city of Damascus from the badly-declining Seleucids. He also started a campaign of bringing Hellenistic and Roman-style architecture to Petra. In 67 BC, Aretas got involved in the power struggle in Judaea between John Hyrcanus II and his younger brother, the rebel Aristobulus II. Aristobulus claimed the titles of both King and High Priest, and John Hyrcanus fled to Petra. Aretas agreed to help him regain the throne in exchange for concessions of some border areas. He sent a large force which besieged Jerusalem in 65 BC. At this point, the Romans (in the person of Pompey's deputy Marcus Aemilius Scaurus) told Aretas to back off, and he retreated back to his own territory, losing a battle against Aristobulus along the way. Pompey, however (possibly thinking that Hyrcanus was weaker and thus would make a better vassal) declared that Hyrcanus was the rightful king, and captured Jerusalem himself in 63 BC. In 62 BC, Scaurus was sent to besiege Petra, but facing difficult terrain and lack of supplies, had to negotiate instead of fight. Aretas paid a large amount of silver and recognized Roman superiority over Nabataea, in exchange for peace and recognition of his own rule.

    This coin is a scarce type, as explained above. While it doesn't have the interesting and distinctive style of later Nabataean coins, I like it as a historical artifact of a tumultuous period in history. Please post your coins of Aretas III, or other Nabataean coins, or whatever else is related.
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  3. svessien

    svessien Senior Member

    Nice coin, Parthicus!

    Scaurus on his part took full advantage of this great «victory» when taking the position as moneyer in 58 BC, depicting Aretas on his knees begging for mercy:

    Curtisimo, TIF, Alegandron and 8 others like this.
  4. David@PCC

    David@PCC Well-Known Member

    That's nicer than these typical come. It also has come to my attention that I have no coins of Artetas III :(
    Aretas IV
    Mint: Petra
    AR Drachm
    RY 20 to 29, 11 to 20 AD
    Obvs: Laureate head of Aretas right.
    Revs: Jugate busts of Aretas, laureate, and Shaquilat, draped.
    13x14mm, 3.50g
    Ref: Meshorer, Nabataea -; Schmitt-Korte -
    Note: Appears to be unpublished in the standard references with regnal year 20 and different obverse legend.
    Curtisimo, TIF, Alegandron and 8 others like this.
  5. Parthicus

    Parthicus Well-Known Member

    Good choice of related coin, and appropriate given the coin I plan to post next...
  6. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    No Nabataeans in my collection...regrettably. So, I offer some sidebar coins...

    I have a Scaurus...

    RR Aemilius Scaurus and Plautius Hypsaeus 58 BC AR Denarius camel scorpion quadriga 4.1g 19mm Rome Cr 422-1b

    And will raise with Trajan Arabia

    RI Trajan CE 98-117 AR drachm Struck CE 114-116 Arabia Petraea Bostra - Camel SNG ANS 1158
  7. philologus_1

    philologus_1 Well-Known Member

    Scarce indeed! Hoover credits it as R1. While bronze coins of Aretas IV abound, those of Aretas III are rarely seen. I have the same type as the O.P. (Many of you will know from whom I purchased mine due to the the background material & color.)
    KINGS NABATAEA, Aretas III, Circa 87-60 BC.
    Damascus mint.
    20 mm. 6.47 gr.
    Obv: Diademed head right.
    Rev: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΑΡΕΤΑ ΦΙΛΕΛΛΗΝΟΣ; Tyche of Damascus seated left, holding cornucopia; monogram to outer left; river god swimming underneath.
    Attrib.: Meshorer, Nabataea 6. HGC 10, 674 (R1).

    I like the type in part because while the coin is decidedly Nabataean, it was patterned in the style of the Seleucids from whom he wrested Damascus.
  8. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    Thanks @Parthicus - a nice coin and your write-up of the context makes it easy to appreciate. The Romans were good at enriching themselves and expanding their "alliances" e.g. "Aretas paid a large amount of silver and recognized Roman superiority over Nabataea, in exchange for peace and recognition of his own rule."

    Here's my not so pretty and more common AE coin of Aretas IV Philopatris with jugate busts and cornucopiae. I'm not sure how Aretas III and IV were related if at all (other than by name) and there were several Kings between them : Obodas II, Malichus I, Obodas III.
    Aretas IV Jugate Nabataea.jpg
    Nabataean Kingdom, Aretas IV, with Shuqailat, 9 B.C.-A.D. 40, AE unit, Petra mint, struck A.D. 20-40.
    Obv: Jugate, draped busts of Aretas and Shaqilat right
    Rev: Crossed cornucopias, letters between horns
    Parthicus, Bing and Johndakerftw like this.
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