Featured Mithrdates, He Died Old

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by kevin McGonigal, Jun 29, 2020.

  1. kevin McGonigal

    kevin McGonigal Well-Known Member

    If one were to ask the average person to name a dangerous enemy of Rome, the most dangerous enemy Rome ever had, the answer might be in the form of a people or a nation, the Gauls, the Carthaginians, the Parthians or most likely, the Germanic barbarians. Perhaps the name of an individual might be offered, Brennus, Pyrrhus, certainly Hannibal, Arminius, any of several Sappors of Persia, maybe Attila. I would offer this person though, a king difficult to describe or fathom, but one who in his day must have been terrifying to Romans who found themselves in his clutches, namely Mithradates (sometimes spelled with an "I" as Mithridates) Eupator or Mithradates VI, King of Pontus, and for while a lot more than that.

    Mithradates Vi was born ca, 132 BC, the son of a Pontic monarch who had any number of children not born of his wife. As such, the young Mithradates had plenty of competition for the throne which meant a good deal of avoiding his murderous relatives (including his mother) until at about the age of 14 he ran off to live among barbarous tribes of the Black sea region where he acquired a number of future supporters and learned a number of languages which would serve him in good stead. By the time he returned to the court of Pontus he was a huge, immensely strong and physically powerful young man who had acquired a "presence' which overawed the competition. Not surprisingly he was aggressive when it came to expanding his kingdom's territory. Nothing new there except that Rome, having recently acquired territory in Asia Minor, was also now interested in the region. Somehow, Mithradates came to the conclusion that with both Persian and Greek blood he was the best person, indeed ordained by the gods ( his name means, "Gift of Mithras) to defend both peoples from an expanding Rome and turned simple conquest into a divine mission. Much of the region of Asia Minor, even the Greek Peninsula, bought it, or rather had to buy into it after Mithradates orchestrated a one day massacre in 88 BC that killed some 80,000 Romans and Italians, a massacre that rivaled the later Sicilian Vespers and St. Bartholomew's Day slaughters of latter times.

    There now ensued a kind of decades long, wack-a-mole struggle involving some of Rome's most capable military leaders, Sulla, Lucullus and Pompey as each in turn defeated the armies of Eastern and Greek troops under the direct command of Mithradates, only to discover that, phoenix like, he rose from that ashes of his defeated forces, then recreated more armies and continued the good fight. What enabled Mithradates to keep up this 25 year long struggle was that much of Asia Minor and Greece had come to hate Rome's provincial governors and publicani who were constantly extorting from and robbing the provincials. Mithradates did pretty much the same thing but he was seen as one of their own and his extorted funds were spent in their own back yards.

    Inevitably Rome ground down the forces of Mithradates whose brutality just barely managed to exceed that of Rome's and Rome could deploy forces over a much larger area than could the King of Pontus. Pompey was able to detach the other kingdoms of the region from allegiance to Mithradates (by honest administration as much as by brute force). When it looked like continued resistance to Rome was a losing proposition, abandoned by his allies, challenged by his son and surviving heir, Pharnaces, Mithradates tried to commit suicide by poison, which did not work, and had himself killed by a devoted follower in 63 BC. By the way, it's hard to sympathize with the king. Before his own death he had ordered the death of his eldest son and heir, and then the slaughter of his entire harem. If readers wish to know more about the man, his life was well attested by the Roman historians (not very favorably) not only by the more well know writers but even the more obscure ones like Pliny the Elder, Cassius Dio and Appian and there are several good recent books out there (The Poison King). However, for whatever reasons, neither then or later, did he attract the attention and interest that some other enemies of Rome have. Now for a last mention about Mithridates before the coins. Look at the title of this post, "Mithradates, He died old". The more recent poet, A.E. Houseman has written an interesting poem about our subject. If you would like to know why Mithradates' attempt at poisoning himself failed, look up and read the poem and the story.

    Finding coins related to Mithradates is not easy. For reasons unknown to us, Mithradates did not put his image on most of his coinage. He seems to have preferred images of Alexander the Great, who also attempted a fusion of Greek and Persian ideals, divinities (which may or may not look like him) and a few that do have his image on them, so any collector trying to build up a collection of coins related to the Pontic king may have to content himself with "at the time of" rather than coins, the ones with his image definitely on them.

    The coins below are as follows. First is a gold stater issued in the city of Tomis for Mithradates. On the obverse, in imitation of a coin of Lysimachus, is Alexander the Great in a flowing headdress, said to be the way Mithradates like to wear his own hair. On the reverse is Athena, seated, inscribed Basileus Lysimachus. It weighs 8.3 grams and is Sear 1708. This coin came with a ticket that said that rusty dies were used on this coin, supposedly common with the out of the way mint of Tomis. The second is a drachma of Cappadocia. Not quite everyone in Asia Minor bought into the plans of Mithradates, including this kingdom which bore the reign of a son of Mithradates but upon his death rejected the Pontic king, and set up their own new dynasty which advertised it self as a "friend of the Romans". This drachma is of the second king after the death of the son of Mithradates, issued after the Great king's death. The ruler is King Ariobarzanes issued about 50 BC On the reverse the king is described as pious and "Philoromaios", friend of the Romans. it weighs 3.9 grams and is Sear 7304 (I think). The bronze coin is one issued in Pontus itself with a Gorgon head on the obverse and an advancing Nike on the reverse and was issued in the Pontic city of Amisus. This is probably the most common coin associated with the Pontic great King. It is Sear 3642. Anyone with more coins of Mithradates, please post them so that we have a few more, maybe even one with the king himself and don't forget to look up the poem.

    IMG_1438[5696]mithradates obv.jpg IMG_1438[5696]mithradates obv.jpg IMG_1439[5694]Mithradates rev..jpg
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2020
    dlhill132, Chris B, Sardar and 23 others like this.
  2. Avatar

    Guest User Guest

    to hide this ad.
  3. CoinDoctorYT

    CoinDoctorYT Well-Known Member

    An absolute legend. Great post.
    kevin McGonigal likes this.
  4. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    Great write-up and coins, Kevin.

    This gives me an excuse to post one I just got - the obverse shows Perseus, but I notice some sources say that he has Mithridates' features. Never met the man (or hero/demi-god), so I have no opinion on the matter. I really like the Pegasus on these:

    Pontos - Mithridates Pegasus AE Jun 2020 (0).jpg
    Pontos, Amisos Æ 17
    Mithradates VI Eupator
    (c. 100-95 or 80-70 B.C.)

    Head of Perseus right, wearing helmet with griffin head. / AΜΙΣΟΥ, Pegasus drinking left, two monograms below.
    SNG BM Black Sea 1213-1215; HGC 7, 239.
    (12.20 grams / 21 mm)
    zumbly, ominus1, Ryro and 8 others like this.
  5. kevin McGonigal

    kevin McGonigal Well-Known Member

    That Pegasus, or some reasonable facsimile shows up on some of his mother coins
    Carl Wilmont and Marsyas Mike like this.
  6. Alegandron

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

    Thanks for the great write up, @kevin McGonigal , and those are great coins! AV, AR, and AE represented... well done! Gorgeous examples.

    As requested, please see my few coins of this incredible man. I agree that he was one of those unique individuals making a significant impact on history. AND! Yes, he died OLD, despite the odds!

    I would argue, yes, he was probably one of the more dangerous persons that threatened Rome, and that he consistently threatened Rome for such a long period. Fascinating man. He also took poisons all his life to build up immunity. I understand he tried to kill himself when he was older with poison...and failed because of his immunity.

    I would also argue that Carthage was probably the greatest threat to Rome, not as a person, but as an entity. Carthage was out to extinguish Rome in its earlier history. These were wars of extermination, as well as who would DOMINATE the Ancient World. Three Punic Wars were fought from 264 BCE to 146 BCE. However, Rome and Carthage were competing well before the First Punic War. The Romans both hated and feared Carthage for an extended period, and the first two Punic Wars were to fight to the death. Not to the death of persons, or soldiers. But the fight to the death of a whole people or nation. The Third Punic War exterminated the Carthage people. This was purely out of prolonged FEAR by the Romans of the Carthage people and their potential for domination of their known World. My thoughts. :D

    PONTOS, Amisos.
    Circa 85-65 BC.
    Æ24, 12.2g, 1h;
    Struck under Mithradates VI.
    Obv.: Head of Mithradates VI as Perseus right, wearing diadem and Phrygian helmet
    Rev.: Pegasos grazing left; ΑΜΙΣΟΥ, monogram in exergue.
    Reference: Malloy 33b; HGC 7, 239.

    CARTHAGE at its Height
    Ca. 300-264 BCE
    AE 19mm, 5.62 g, 11 h
    Mint on Sardinia
    Wreathed head of Tanit left
    Head of horse right; Punic ‘ayin to right.
    CNP 252ay; MAA 57x; SNG Copenhagen 151
    Ex: JP Righetti collection
    Ex: Agora
    Chris B, Sardar, zumbly and 13 others like this.
  7. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Khnum-Hotep

  8. CoinDoctorYT

    CoinDoctorYT Well-Known Member

    Those are very nice coins.
    kevin McGonigal likes this.
  9. Parthicus

    Parthicus Well-Known Member

    Great post! No Mithradates VI portrait here, but I do have a nice drachm of Ariobarzanes I of Cappadocia (96-63 BC), who had to fight for his throne against Mithradates' son:
    Cappadocia Ariobarzanes.jpg
  10. PeteB

    PeteB Well-Known Member

    Smyrna, Ionia; 87-85 B.C. (revolt against Rome; time of Mithradates VI, Eupator, 120-63 B.C.); Æ (25mm; 3.74 gm; 12h). Obv: diademed hd. of Mithradates VI, r. Rev: Nike advancing r. holding palm and wreath, the latter crowning the city name ZMYPNAIΩN; to left, names of magistrates ΕΡΜΟΓΕΝΗΣ and ΦΡΙΞΟΣ. SNG Cop 1206.
  11. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    If you read more than one account of Mithradates VI, you may note that the story is rather different when told from a Greek point of view rather than the Roman. Like any matter of modern history, it can be difficult to find a fair appraisal of the matter. History is written by the victors. Mithradates lost.
    Sardar, Nathan B., ominus1 and 4 others like this.
  12. NewStyleKing

    NewStyleKing Beware of Greeks bearing wreaths

    Once again by popular demand,
    Mithradates V1 Eupator 89/88 BC Tetradrachm
    Obs: Diademed head of Mithradates Eupator right
    Pontus Mint 16.31 gm 30mm
    Rev: Drinking Pegasos left
    Mint mark RF , above,date ΘΣ
    6 rayed star in crescent LF
    de Callatay: Obs: D55 Rev:Not in plates/NEW
    All surrounded by a Dionysic wreath of ivy & fruit
    Mithradates Vl Eupator Tetradrachm c 119- 63 BC
    Obverse-Mithradates as Herakles wearing lionskin.
    Probably minted 88-72 B.C
    16.22gm 30.18mm
    Amongst the last tetradrachms to be "of King Alexander " type made.
    Reverse- Zeus seated holding eagle.
    Inscription under arm : ΛΑΚΩ
    Exergue OΔΗ = Odessos Pontus
    Price 1192 de Callatay D5 R7a
    Alegandron, zumbly, Herodotus and 9 others like this.
  13. Pavlos

    Pavlos You pick out the big men. I'll make them brave!

    Nice write up and I really like the gold stater minted in Tomis.
    Mithridates VI is one of my favorite generals and I actively collect coins from him. As you mentioned, portrait coins from him are difficult to come by, and since his tetradrachms are out of my budget range I still managed to get some nice portrait coins from him.

    Ariarathes IX Eusebes Philopator (circa 100-85 B.C.) AR Drachm. Mint B (Eusebeia-Mazaka). Dated RY 13 or 15 (88/7 or 86/5 BC).
    Diademed head right, with Mithradatic style portrait.
    Reverse: BAΣΙΛΕΩΣ APIAPAΘOY EYΣEBOYΣ, Athena Nikephoros standing left; monogram to inner left, [date in exergue].
    Reference: Callataÿ p. 181, obv. die D37 var. (slightly different monogram);

    Ionia, Smyrna. Circa 88/85-75 B.C. Æ coin. Mithradatic Wars issue. Hermogenes and Phrixos, magistrates.
    Diademed head of Mithradates VI of Pontos right
    Reverse: Nike standing right, holding wreath and palm frond; ΣΜΥΡΝΑΙΩΝ to right, EPMOΓENHΣ/ΦPIΞOΣ in two lines to left.
    Reference: Milne, Autonomous 340.
    14.39g; 25mm

    Alexander III. "the Great". AR Tetradrachm. Civic issue, Odessos mint (80-72/1 B.C.). Struck in the times of Mithridates VI of Pontos.
    Head of Herakles wearing lion's skin right, with the features of Mithradates VI.
    Reverse: BAΣIΛEΩΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΥ, Zeus Aëtophoros seated left; ΛΑΚΩ above knee, ΟΔΗ in exergue.
    Reference: Callataÿ Group 3; Topalov, Odesos 80; Price 1193; HGC 3, 1589.
    16.12g; 29mm
  14. NewStyleKing

    NewStyleKing Beware of Greeks bearing wreaths

    History is written by the victors except in in one case. The Brexit vote was not accepted by the University of Warwick politics & international studies "intelligensia" who amongst other such "experts" talked it down and wrote articles in all the "right kind of clever journals.
    When I queried this one of them tried to get me sacked!
    Still their intellectual prowess means they are still living in the UK waiting for it to hit the buffers whilst drawing a wage!
    svessien likes this.
  15. kevin McGonigal

    kevin McGonigal Well-Known Member

    Yes, I would agree about Carthage as an entity. I would say Carthage actually had the advantage at the start of the First Punic War. Its mistake was to underestimate Rome. The Second Punic War was one that could have gone either way but Carthage squandered its advantage with Hannibal as its commander, allowing local politics to cripple its most effective leader. The Third Punic War was an unnecessary bullying payback that Carthage could never win.
    Alegandron likes this.
  16. kevin McGonigal

    kevin McGonigal Well-Known Member

    It's a lot easier reading these inscriptions on the tetradrachmas.
  17. kevin McGonigal

    kevin McGonigal Well-Known Member

    I have read several, including having had a professor of Classics who actually like the guy. I don't think I'd want him living next door to me.
  18. kevin McGonigal

    kevin McGonigal Well-Known Member

    Just what I was looking for.
    NewStyleKing likes this.
  19. NewStyleKing

    NewStyleKing Beware of Greeks bearing wreaths

    Nicomedes lV Philopator tetradrachm 88/7 BC
    Obv: Diademed head of Nicomedes lll right
    Rev: Zeus Stratios standing in Himeiton holding wreath in LH and Sceptre in other.
    Eagle on thunderbolt under Left arm, below monogram, below ΙΣ date Bithynian-Pontic era 210 = 88/7 BC
    16.19g 34.4 mm
    de Callatay: NEW

    The name and titles are typically of Nicomedes lll and generally so is the portrait, but here I wonder if this is more like Nick lV himself.
    Not much here , I guess, to enamour the "Queen of Bithynia" himself, ( Gaius Julius Caesar), except the idea of Royalty and what it could mean.

    At the time this tetradrachm was minted Mithradates's puppet Socrates Chresto was in charge and Nicomedes was in Rome asking for help!
    As with most invasions there would be hold outs that got by-passed and this is where this tetradrachm was possibly minted.

  20. Alegandron

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

    Exactly as I see it.
    kevin McGonigal likes this.
  21. svessien

    svessien Senior Member

    Sweet coins as always, @NewStyleKing
    You don’t happen to have one of the coins minted by Sulla during the siege of Athens too? They say these were of so good quality that they circulated for a long time after. ( Think I got that from Sutherland).
    kevin McGonigal likes this.
Draft saved Draft deleted

Share This Page