Arsakes XVI and the Third Mithridatic War

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Sulla80, Dec 6, 2019.

  1. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    Capture.JPG This coin, 30.16, which Sellwood assigned to an Unknown King (II), as Shore 134 maps to Orodes I, in Sear maps to Gotares I, Mitchiner to Mithradates II, Wroth to Artabanus II, and Gardner, Plate II #9, to Phraates II. So clearly there has been some discussion over the years about who this type belongs to. Besides the question of “who” is on this coin, I was pulled in by the portrait on this Parthian drachm, the unusually misshapen flan, and toning.
    Arsaces XVI drachm Blu1.jpg
    Parthia, Arsakes XVI, AR Drachm, Rhagae mint
    Obv: short-bearded bust left wearing diadem, hair covering ear; single-pellet-ended torque; circular border of pellets
    Rev: beardless archer wearing bashlyk and cloak seated right on throne; empty cloak sleeve ends in pellet reaching well below seat level, holding bow in right hand; no border; five-line Greek inscription = ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΜΕΓΑΛΟΥ ΑΡΣΑΚΟΥ ΘΕΟΠΑΤΟΡΟΣ ΕΥΕΡΓΕΤΟΥ == “Great King Arsakes, Son of Deified Father, (and) Just
    Ref: Sellwood 30.16

    Assar assigns this coin to Arsakes XVI in The Sunrise Collection, Numismatic Art of Persia, Bradley Nelson Editor

    This was the Arsakes who challenged Orodes I in 78/77 BC and overthrew him in Bablylon ~75 BC and to whom King Mithridates VI of Pontus, together with Tigranes I, wrote to for aid against the Romans circa 68-69BC during the Third Mithridatic War:

    King Mithridates to King Arsaces (XVI): Greetings. All those who in the time of their prosperity are asked to form an offensive alliance ought to consider, first, whether it is possible for them to keep peace at that time; and secondly, whether what is asked of them is wholly right and safe, honorable or dishonorable. If it were possible for you to enjoy lasting peace, if no treacherous foes were near your borders, if to crush the Roman power would not bring you glorious fame, I should not venture to sue for your alliance, and it would be vain for me to hope to unite my misfortunes with your prosperity.
    - Sallust Histories 4.69

    Other facets of the story can be found in these sources:
    - Plutarch Lucullus 30.1-2
    - Dio Roman History 36.1.1
    - Appian Mithidatic Wars 13.87

    This encounter between Rome and Parthia comes about 25 years after the first challenging meeting between Mithradates II's ambassador and Sulla on the banks of the Euphrates. Arsakes XVI may have been the son of Mithradates II hence the line on this coin “ΘΕΟΠΑΤΟΡΟΣ” son of deified father. Assar, in Sunrise, also writes that Arsakes XVI may have struck coins 68-61 BC while campaigning to oust Phraates III.

    The Third Mithridatic War (73–63 BC) ends with Roman domination and the story of Mithridates' antitoxin causing troubles in his suicide attempt. An overview of that can be found here.

    As always, comments, corrections, and additions to any of the above are appreciated. Post your misshapen flans, coins of 73–63 BC, or anything also you find interesting or entertaining.
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  3. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    I think this sums up why I can not get into collecting these seriously. I can deal with not knowing which coins were issued by which Arsakes but the parade of experts each with a revision that brings us back to where we started not knowing leaves me cold. I started with Sellwood and still prefer to use his numbers to catalog coins even though I can not always attach his name or any name to any particular coin. I particularly do not like the idea of numbering the Arsakes series since XVI implies he followed XV and preceded XVII when it seems there were often multiple Arsakes overlapping and coming and going in various parts of the region.

    I do find the ragged flan interesting and ask if this is common on coins of this ruler. When I see such a coin I wonder if it may have resulted from overstriking on a previous coin hammered flat first to erase the old type. It also could be the last dribble of silver poured from a pot that did not form a regularly shaped flan. Such ideas are nothing more than brainstorming and would require studying thousands of coins to feel even a little comfortable of one being the truth. I do find the coin more interesting because of this additional feature and am happy to see it in the collection of someone who finds it interesting because of and not in spite of its oddity.
  4. Bob L.

    Bob L. Well-Known Member

    Great portrait and toning on that coin, Sulla80. To add to the confusion, Sellwood himself originally (meaning in the first edition of his book) had this issue assigned to Gotarzes I. He adjusted that to Unknown King II in the second edition. Here are two tets of this fellow, whoever he is.

  5. Jwt708

    Jwt708 Well-Known Member

    I know so little about these rulers and the kingdoms...

    I have two Parthian coins I really purchased because I didn't have any and I liked the way they looked.

    Gotarzes II, c. AD 40-51
    AR Drachm, 21mm, 3.3g, 12h; Ecbatana mint.
    Obv.: Bust left, beard cut away to triangular shape on coin, wearing double banded diadem with double loop, earring visible, dotted border.
    Rev.: Archer enthroned right, monogram below bow, seven line inscription ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩN ΑΡΣΑΚΟY EYEPΓETOY ΔΙΚΑΙΟY ΕΠIΦΑNOYΣ ΦΙΛΕΛΛΗΝΟΣ , stylised.

    PARTHIAN KINGDOM. Mithradates II, 123-88 BC
    AR drachm, 22mm, 4.1g; 12h. Ekbatana mint, struck circa 109-96/5 BC.
    Obv.: Long-bearded bust left wearing diadem, circular border of pellets.
    Rev.: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ − ΒΑΣ − IΛΕΩΝ − ΜΕΓΑΛΟΥ / ΑΡΣΑΚΟΥ / ΕΠΙΦΑΝΟΥΣ; Beardless archer wearing bashlyk and cloak seated right on throne, holding bow in right hand.
    Spaniard, Curtisimo, Ryro and 5 others like this.
  6. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    Interesting and informative thread.

    I think I do have an "Unknown King" Parthian drachm:

    Parthia - Unknown King Drachm Dec 2013 (0a).jpg

    Parthia Drachm

    Unknown King II
    (c. 80-70 B.C.)

    Mint Rhagae
    Diademed bust left, border of pellets / ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ /ΜΕΓΑΛΟΥ / ΑΡΣΑΚΟΥ / ΘΕΟΠΑΤΩΡΟΣ ΕΥΕΡΓΕΤΟΥ Archer seated right on throne holding bow.
    Sellwood 30.16
    (3.81 grams / 19 mm)

    Attribution Note:

    Based on the archer's empty sleeve, which ends in a pellet (or two?) below the seat:

    On obverse neck torque ends in single pellet. On reverse archer's empty cloak arm ending in pellet, well below throne seat.
    Mint: Rhagae"

    I got this information from:


    Here's another one that confused me - Mithridates III? Wikipedia seems to call him IV (with a short-bearded drachm as illustration):

    Parthia - Mithridates III drachma Nov 2019 (0).jpg

    Parthia Drachm
    Mithradates III
    (57-54 B.C.)

    Ecbatana Mint
    Diademed bust left with short beard, segmented necklace / Archer seated right on throne holding bow, B behind, (T?) above throne, Greek inscription.
    Sellwood 40.2
    (3.97 grams / 20 x 17 mm)
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2019
  7. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    Here's another Arsakes XVI 30.16 with a very different portrait from the OP coin.
    Arsaces XVI 2 drachm.jpg
    Parthia, Arsakes XVI, AR Drachm, Rhagae mint
    Ref: Sellwood 30.16
    Some of this is what I find interesting (as much as frustrating/confusing), following footnotes and sources to see "what evidence" is supporting the revised story line. I also find the numbering of Arsakes as XVI different than what I would expect...

    Thanks, I didn't realize there were such differences between 1st and 2nd Edition.

    Good looking coins, it's a slippery slope, I started with a Septimius PART MAX with captives...

    Yes, between Sellwood and Sunrise (Assar) there is a renumbering of the Mithradates:
    Sellwood 40 (Mithradates III) -> Sunrise (Mithradates IV)
    Sellwood 41 (Mithradates III) -> Sunrise (Mithradates IV)
    Sellwood 44 (Orodes II) -> Sunrise (Mithradates IV)
    Sellwood 82 (Mithradates IV) -> Sunrise (Mithradates V)
    Mithradates 1-4.jpg
    left to right (missing IV by Assar's numbering):
    • Mithradates I 164-132 BC
    • Mithradates II 121-91 BC
    • Mithradates III 87-80 BC
    • Mithradates V AD 129-140
    This map/cross-reference from Chris Hopkins is very useful - as is the site in general.
  8. Alegandron

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

    LOL, wow, I thought I would have fun showing coins rom that 10-year time-span in other parts of the Ancient World... I dana have much! And, nuttin' from Parthia!

    RR C Hosidius C F Geta 68 BCE Diana bow quiver Boar Hound spear Sear 346 Craw 407-2.jpg
    RR C Hosidius C F Geta 68 BCE Diana bow quiver Boar Hound spear Sear 346 Craw 407-2

    RR Plaetorius Cest 67 BC AR Den Helmtd Diety quiv cornuc S-C Eagle tbolt S 349 Cr 409-1 VF.jpg
    RR Plaetorius Cest 67 BC AR Den Helmtd Diety quiv cornuc S-C Eagle tbolt S 349 Cr 409-1 VF

    PONTOS Amisos 85-65 BCE Æ24 12.2g Mithradates VI as Perseus r Phrygian helmet Pegasos grazing l Malloy 33b HGC 7 239
  9. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    Thanks @Alegandron - I was thinking the 10 year window would do just that - nice to see some RRs - Plaetorius is one of many RRs that I don't have, and your Mithridates VI is a nice one!

    Here's one more - Arsakes XVI - this one 30.15 with a sea horse end on the torque that differentiates it.
    Arsaces XVI short slv.jpg
    Kings of Parthia, Arsakes XVI, 78-62 BC, AR Drachm, Ecbatana mint
    Obv: short bearded diademed and draped bust left, hair covering ear, torque ends in sea horse
    Rev: Archer (Arsakes I) enthroned right, empty cloak sleeve pointed and reaching only to the seat level, five-line Greek inscription = ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΜΕΓΑΛΟΥ ΑΡΣΑΚΟΥ ΘΕΟΠΑΤΟΡΟΣ ΕΥΕΡΓΕΤΟΥ
    Ref: Sellwood 30.15 (Unknown King)
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2019
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