Featured Bosporan kingdom : Sauromates II El stater

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Cucumbor, Jun 1, 2020.

  1. Cucumbor

    Cucumbor Well-Known Member

    Hi CT folks !

    Why this ?

    I have for long been admiring electrum staters issued by the bosporan kings. I like the oriental style to them, and the dual portraits on some of them are terrific : as a client state of Rome, the bosporan kingdom was somewhat autonomous, but not to the point where the kings would forget to pay tribute to the Master by not putting their portraits on their coinage.

    I have no ancient gold coinage yet, but I had the intuition of electrum having a special flavour. Gold and silver : tell me the truth, when you’re about eating a vanilla/chocolate ice cream, I bet you feel a preference for vanilla, no chocolate, no vanilla, no chocolate,….. don’t you ?

    I had selected a few items at the late april Naville auction. This one was one of them, but out of my range, should things go the right way. They didn’t, so I could concentrate my budget on just one bigger target, and here it is !

    Bosporan kingdom – El stater, dated 491 (194-195 CE)
    BACIΛΕωC CAVPOMATOV (anticlockwise). Draped and diademed bust of Sauromates II right
    Laureate head of Septimius Severus right. Star in right field. Retrograd VPA at exergue (year 491)
    7,69 gr – 20 mm
    Ref : MacDonald # 502/2, Sear # 5476 var

    Although we’ve had an outstanding thread by @Roman Collector about the bosporan kingdom not long ago (https://www.cointalk.com/threads/a-great-great-great-grandson-of-marc-antony.359361/#post-4475029) I thought the following might be of interest nevertheless, especially as it takes place at another time of the era.

    Also, while doing some research about the bosporan kingdom and the coin, I stumbled across a thread by @TIF, about a similar, but slightly better, stater as mine : https://www.cointalk.com/threads/weeell-doggies-sauromates-ii-septimius-severus-stater.269821/

    Anyway, here are an attempt to summarise History of the bosporan kingdom and Sauromates II. I didn’t find so many ressources that I could avoid taking informations from various Wikipedia pages (credit is given at the end of the article)

    The bosporan kingdom

    The Bosporan Kingdom, also known as the Kingdom of the Cimmerian Bosporus was an ancient Greco-Scythian state. The Bosporan Kingdom was centred around the Kerch Strait between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, known in antiquity as the Cimmerian Bosporus from where the kingdom's name derived (it was not named after the more famous Bosphorus beside Istanbul at the other end of the Black Sea). It was the first truly 'Hellenistic' state in the sense that a mixed population adopted the Greek language and civilization. The Bosporan Kingdom became the longest surviving Roman client kingdom.

    According to Greek historian Diodorus Siculus the region was governed between 480 and 438 BCE by a line of kings called the Archaeanactidae, probably a ruling family, usurped by a thracian tyrant called Spartocus (438–431 BCE). Spartocus founded a dynasty which seems to have endured until c. 108 BCE, known as the Spartocids. Paerisades V (125-108 BCE), the last of his dynasty, offered his kingdom to Mithridates VI in exchange of the protection for his people and for himself.

    Mithradates VI also known as Mithradates the Great (Megas) and Eupator Dionysius, was king of Pontus and Armenia Minor in northern Anatolia from about 120–63 BCE. Mithridates is remembered as one of the Roman Republic’s most formidable and successful enemies, who engaged three of the prominent generals from the late Roman Republic in the Mithridatic Wars: Sulla, Lucullus and Pompey. He has been called the greatest ruler of the Kingdom of Pontus

    Royaume sous MithridatesVI-2.png
    By Javierfv1212 (talk) - I (Javierfv1212 (talk)) created this work entirely by myself. Sources, Cambridge Ancient history volume 9, Penguin atlas of Greek history and the Foreign Policy of Mithridates VI Eupator., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7342782

    After the death of Mithridates VI (63 BCE), his youngest son Pharnaces II (63–47 BCE) supplicated to Pompey, and then tried to regain his dominion during Julius Caesar's Civil War, but was defeated by Caesar at Zela and was later killed by his former governor and son-in-law Asander.

    By Classical Numismatic Group, Inc. http://www.cngcoins.com, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=75911450

    It then became very complicated politics, not something we would see nowadays, I bet :D

    Asander had married Pharnaces II's daughter Dynamis. Asander and Dynamis were the ruling monarchs until Caesar commanded a paternal uncle of Dynamis, Mithridates II to declare war on the Bosporan Kingdom and claimed the kingship for himself. Asander and Dynamis were defeated by Caesar's ally and went into political exile. However, after Caesar's death in 44 BCE, the Bosporan Kingdom was restored to Asander and Dynamis by Caesar's great nephew and heir Octavian. Asander ruled as an archon and later as king until his death in 17 BCE. After the death of Asander, Dynamis was compelled to marry a Roman usurper called Scribonius, but the Romans under Agrippa intervened and established Polemon I of Pontus (16–8 BCE) in his place. Polemon married Dynamis in 16 BCE and she died in 14 BCE. Polemon ruled as king until his death in 8 BCE. After the death of Polemon, Aspurgus, the son of Dynamis and Asander, succeeded Polemon.

    The Bosporan Kingdom of Aspurgus was a client state of the Roman Empire, protected by Roman garrisons. Aspurgus (8 BCE – 38 CE) founded a dynasty of kings which endured with a couple of interruptions until 341 CE. Aspurgus adopted the Imperial Roman names "Tiberius Julius" when he received Roman citizenship and enjoyed the patronage of the first two Roman Emperors, Augustus and Tiberius. All of the following kings adopted these two Roman names followed by a third name, of Thracian (Kotys, Rhescuporis or Rhoemetalces) or local origin (such as Sauromates, Eupator, Ininthimeus, Pharsanzes, Synges, Terianes, Theothorses or Rhadamsades).

    The kingdom was probably finally overrun by the Huns, who defeated the nearby Alans in 375/376 CE and moved rapidly westwards towards the Roman empire.

    The kings adopted a new calendar (the "Pontic era") introduced by Mithridates VI, starting with 297 BCE to date their coins.

    Sauromates II

    Tiberius Julius Sauromates II was the son and heir of the Bosporan King Eupator by an unnamed woman. Sauromates II was named in honor of Sauromates I, a paternal ancestor of his and a previous Bosporan King.


    Reminder (yes, it’s only ten lines above, but we’ve already forgotten ;) ) : his bosporan royal dynasty had been established in the 1st century CE by Tiberius Julius Aspurgus and his son Mithridates (i.e. the son and grandson, respectively, of Asander and Dynamis). Aspurgus and Mithridates were not only related to the ruling house of Thrace, but were also descendants of both Mithridates VI Eupator of Pontus and the Roman triumvir Mark Antony through Antonia Tryphaena, Queen of Thrace and her mother Pythodorida of Pontus.

    When Eupator died in 173/174 CE, Sauromates II succeeded his father. He reigned as Bosporan King from that date until his death in 210/211 CE. He was a contemporary of the Roman Emperors Marcus Aurelius, Commodus, Pertinax, Didius Julianus, Septimius Severus and Caracalla.

    Sauromates II had two sons from an unnamed woman, Rhescuporis II and Cotys III. Rhescuporis II succeeded Sauromates II in 210/211 CE, then Cotys III succeeded Rhescuporis II.

    Bosporan kingdom coinage

    Although considered rare among collectors prior to the demise of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, Bosporan coins are now well known on the international coin markets, hinting at the quantities produced. Several large series were produced by Bosporan cities from the 5th century BC, particularly in Panticapaeum. Gold staters of Panticapaeum bearing Pan's head and a griffin are especially remarkable for their weight and fine workmanship.

    There are coins with the names of the later Spartocids and a complete series of dated solidi issued by the later or Achaemenian dynasty. In them may be noticed the swift degeneration of the gold solidus through silver and potin to bronze.

    In order to improve the flagging economy of his kingdom, Sauromates II initiated a series of monetary reforms in 186 that, over the course of a decade, gradually reduced the weight of his bronze coinage while increasing the circulation of the golden stater. In the last decade of the 2nd century AD, the coins of Sauromates II also commonly featured the portrait of Septimius Severus; it is not known whether or not this was a command given by the Roman emperor to his client or if the Bosporan king did this on his own volition.


    Two threads by CT fellows Roman Collector and TIF :



    A website dedicated to the coingae of the bosporan kingdom (in russian) :


    Wikipedia pages related to History and some characters in the play :




    Feel free to post anything relevant : Sauromates related items, Bosporan kingdom, staters, electrum...and susage of course

    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 4, 2020
  2. Avatar

    Guest User Guest

    to hide this ad.
  3. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    I have no thing to add except this was an amazing article.

    The closest relevant coin I have is this Mithradates VI coin that I paid like $7 for.
    Mithradates VI Sear 3642.JPG
    Curtisimo, TIF, Alegandron and 7 others like this.
  4. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana

    Beautiful Bosporan stater and great writeup, Q. A wonderful addition to your enviable collection! I've looked closely at a few of these before, but haven't been able to score one yet.

    I agree those are amazing, but some of the bronzes aren't bad either. :shame:

    CIMMERIAN BOSPORUS, Pantikapaion
    AE22. 7.61g, 21.7mm. CIMMERIAN BOSPORUS, Pantikapaion, circa 310-303 BC. Anokhin 1023; MacDonald 69; HGC 7, 113. O: Bearded head of Satyr (or Pan), right. R: Π-A-N, forepart of griffin left, sturgeon left below.
    Ex @Shea19 Collection; ex Lodge Antiquities

    As for this, I have to confess, for me it's abit more like... ahhhh chocolate... oh, vanilla, yeah okay... but, where's the chocolate again?... mmmmmh, there it is! :D
    Curtisimo, lordmarcovan, TIF and 9 others like this.
  5. Sulla80

    Sulla80 Well-Known Member

    A beautiful stater - congrats. I have only one EL stater of the Bosporus Kingdom from a later period in the evolution of their portrait style (Bosporan impressionism?). While Sauromates II was a bit heavy handed with the gold - this one is nearly pure vanilla or was it chocolate?
    Bosporos Philip I Rhescuporis IV.jpg
    Rhescuporis IV, with Philip I circa AD 242/3-276/7, Billion Stater (20.3mm, 7.2 g).
    Date: Bosporan Era 540 (AD 244/5)
    Obv: BΛCIΛEωC ΠHCKOΠoRIK Diademed and draped bust of Rheskouporis IV right
    Rev: Laureate and draped bust of Philip I right; club before, AMΦ (date) below.
    Ref: MacDonald 602; Anokhin 691; Stanislavskii 640
    Curtisimo, TIF, Alegandron and 7 others like this.
  6. Limes

    Limes Well-Known Member

    No coin to share, but great write up and I will have to go through it a couple more times to understand who is who and did what :)
    arnoldoe and Cucumbor like this.
  7. pprp

    pprp Well-Known Member

    Funnily enough the word Sauromates in Greek literally means someones whose eyes are like a lizard's eyes...However the etymology is (?) different pointing to Sarmatia and the skythian tribe (allegedly the name comes from the red hair they had?).
    Cucumbor likes this.
  8. Andres2

    Andres2 Well-Known Member

    Great write up, thanks Cucumbor.

    Curtisimo, TIF, Marsyas Mike and 8 others like this.
  9. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Well-Known Member

    Q, Thanks for an excellent article & congratulations on a great pick-up :D! Both portraits are exceptional, especially the portrait of Sauromates II. Do you have any idea why the reverse die is so much smaller o_O? I've got a number of handsome provincial coins of Septimius Severus, but no gold :(. One of my favorites is pictured below.

    H.A. #26102 (2).jpg
    Thrace, Augusta Traiana, Septimius Severus, AD 193 - 211. AE 27 mm, 15.51 gm, 6 h. Reverse: Homonoia with cornucopia & patera at altar.
    Curtisimo, TIF, Alegandron and 7 others like this.
  10. Shea19

    Shea19 Well-Known Member

    Great write-up and beautiful coin, @Cucumbor. I sold my nicest coin from Bosporus last year, but it ended up in a much much nicer collection...great to see it again in this thread!

    The only remaining coin I have from Bosporus is this fun budget bronze of King Aspurgus with Caligula.


    Kings of Bosporus, Aspurgus with Gaius Caligula, AE 12 Units, (22mm, 6.45g), Bare head of Caligula right, ΓΑΙΟΥ ΚΑΙΣΑΡΟΣ ΓΕΡΜΑΝΙΚΟΥ / Diademed head of Aspurgus right; monogram of Aspurgus to left. RPC I 1904.
    Curtisimo, TIF, Alegandron and 4 others like this.
  11. Cucumbor

    Cucumbor Well-Known Member

    Thanks. No I have no idea, but it gives an unusual look to the coin. Maybe was Sauromates thinking :"well, OK, I'll put his fricken face, but smaller than mine for everyone to know who is the boss" or Something like this

    Having it pedigreed to a fellow CT member is even better, thanks for letting me know this

  12. Shea19

    Shea19 Well-Known Member

    Q, I was referring to the coin that zumbly posted above, that one had been mine. Sorry for any confusion. :)
  13. Cucumbor

    Cucumbor Well-Known Member

    Oh, I see.
    No problem
  14. randygeki

    randygeki Coin Collector

    Cucumbor likes this.
  15. Romancollector

    Romancollector Well-Known Member

    Very nice addition Cucumbor!
    Cucumbor likes this.
  16. Alegandron

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

    WOW, Cuke! Super write up. Love the coin. And now, I really want one because of the write up, and your coin!

    I also like EL. Just good stuff!

    Me: Nothin from Bosphorus... bummer.

    Mithradates VI

    PONTOS Amisos 85-65 BCE Æ24 12.2g Mithradates VI as Perseus r Phrygian helmet Pegasos grazing l Malloy 33b HGC 7 239
    Curtisimo, Andres2, Shea19 and 5 others like this.
  17. eparch

    eparch Well-Known Member

    The style of mine is somewhat crude

    upload_2020-6-4_10-54-6.png upload_2020-6-4_10-54-19.png
    Obverse: diademed bust of Eupator BACIΛЄωC ЄVATOPOC.

    Reverse: Facing heads of Lucius Verus and Marcus Aurelius , a sword between them.

    Electron, diameter 19-20 mm, weight 7.98 g.
  18. TIF

    TIF Always learning.

    Very nice, Cuke! The style is much better than most coins of the Bosporan kingdom.

    Here my Bospo Seppie. The style may not be great but the pedigree rocks :D.

    KINGS OF BOSPORUS, Sauromates II
    Bosporan Era 495 (CE 198/9)
    EL stater, 19 mm, 7.72 gm, 12h
    Obv: BACIΛЄωC CAVPOMATOV; diademed and draped bust of Sauromates right
    Rev: laureate head of Septimius Severus right; pellet to right; ЄЧV (date) below
    Ref: Frolova p. 177 and pl. XXXIII, 9-10 (same dies as illustrations); Anokhin 576a; MacDonald 506/2
    ex Dr. Lawrence A. Adams collection
    ex Buddy Ebsen Collection (Superior, 7 June 1987, lot 4114)

    Curtisimo, Andres2, Shea19 and 6 others like this.
  19. Cucumbor

    Cucumbor Well-Known Member

    Thank you all.

    @TIF, even though the style on yours is unusual, to say the least, the portrait of Septimius Severus is very strong, and could have been drawn by an impressionist artist. I love it !

Draft saved Draft deleted

Share This Page