Phraates II is comin' to town

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Parthicus, Nov 16, 2019.

  1. Parthicus

    Parthicus Well-Known Member

    Before I can start posting my Baltimore show acquisitions, I have to get through a small backlog of previous purchases. (Because that's how my brain works.) So, here's an interesting and scarce Parthian I won from CNG a few months ago:
    Phraates II Tambrax.jpg
    Parthian Kingdom. Tambrax mint. Phraates II (c.132-127 BC). AR drachm (20 mm, 3.48 g). Obverse: Diademed head of Phraates II left w/short curly beard and bobbed hair, behind head TAM. Reverse: Archer (Arsakes I) seated on omphalos, four-line Greek legend with guide lines "Basileos Megalou Arsakou Theopatoros" ("Of the Great King Arsakes, whose father was a God"). Trace of graffiti at 3 o'clock on obverse, slightly scyphate flan. Sellwood 16.11, Shore 50, Sunrise 272. This coin: Classical Numismatic Group eAuction 452, lot 515.

    Phraates II was the son of the great Parthian king Mithradates I and succeeded him to the throne. Phraates was very young when he became king (his earliest coin portraits show barely any beard) and he may have had his mother as co-regent for the first couple of years. In 130 BC, the Seleukid king Antiochos VII Sidetes decided to reconquer the vast territories that had been lost to the Parthians during Mithradates I's reign, and invaded with a vast army which soon occupied Babylonia and Media. Phraates released from captivity Demetrios II, former Seleukid king who had been captured by Mithradates in 138 BC, hoping he could stir up trouble and divide the loyalties of the Seleukid troops. This doesn't seem to have had much effect, but nonetheless the Parthians destroyed the Seleukid army in 129 BC, killing Antiochos as well. Unfortunately, Phraates had called in a large back-up army from the Scythian (Saka) tribes, who arrived too late to participate in the battle against the Seleukids and were denied their share of the spoils. (Note: Refusing to pay large armies of semi-barbarian troops is generally a bad idea.) The Scythians began heading home, but they pillaged the Parthian territories along the way, causing great destruction and forcing Phraates to lead his troops against the Scythians and try to protect his people. The Scythians were eventually driven back, but Phraates was killed in battle in late 127 BC.

    This coin is part of a fairly extensive series of drachms of Phraates II which list mint monograms or abbreviations on the obverse. Assar believes these were minted by Phraates during his campaign against the Scythians, to pay his army as it advanced through the kingdom. There are a number of different mint cities in the series, some of them well-known (Ekbatana, Rhagae, Nisa), others less famous (Tambrax, Apameia, Epardus) and a few that have not been identified. There seems to be almost nothing known about Tambrax. About the only information I could find was a brief reference in the historian Polybius, during a discussion of the Parthian wars of a previous Seleukid king, Antiochos III, c.212-205 BC. Antiochos III entered Hyrcania (a region to the southeast of the Caspian Sea) and "reached Tambrax, an unwalled city of great size and containing a royal palace, and there encamped." The local population fled to a nearby walled city called Sirynx... and we hear nothing more about Tambrax.

    I won this coin at $140 final bid, which seems to be a fairly low price for one of these "city" coins of Phraates II in this condition. Please post your coins of Phraates II, Antiochos VII, or whatever else is related.
    chrsmat71, 7Calbrey, zumbly and 8 others like this.
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  3. fretboard

    fretboard Defender of Old Coinage!

    Great looking coin and history! :D
  4. Andres2

    Andres2 Well-Known Member

    Great coin and write up, thanks.

    per request Antiochus VII:

  5. Mat

    Mat Ancient Coincoholic

    Very nice, I like the reverse.
  6. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    ANTIOCHUS VII (Seleukid Kingdom
    OBVERSE: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΑΝΤΙΟΧΟΥ ΕΥΕΡΓΕΤΟΥ ; Anchor, date below, ΑΠΡ (year 181)
    REVERSE: Lily
    Struck at Jerusalem, Judea 132-130 BC
    5.2g, 16mm
  7. SeptimusT

    SeptimusT Well-Known Member

    Awesome coin! These archer reverse types are very interesting because they keep showing up on different issues for centuries; the earliest are Seleucid, I believe. Here's a distant descendant of your coin:

    Sogdiana, Samarkand, 4th-5th century AD; 10mm, 0.24g (Zeimel phase 4, late)
    : Bearded male head left; no evident inscription
    Reverse: Schematic figure facing right within scyphate incuse, holding bow, 'throne' (?) behind
  8. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    Nice score and great writeup, @Parthicus. I keep telling myself I need to get more into Parthians.

    The seated archer types predate the Seleukid period by a fair bit. The reverse of this Satrapal Cilician stater bears a remarkable resemblance to the Parthian coins, though the archer is seated on a chair rather than an omphalos.

    Cilicia Tarsos - Stater Tarkumuwa new 2325.jpg
    CILICIA, Tarsos. Tarkumuwa (Datames), Satrap
    AR Stater. 10.7g, 24.5mm. CILICIA, Tarsos, circa 375 BC. Tarkumuwa (Datames), as Satrap. SNG Levante 85 (this coin); Casabonne Type 2; Moysey Issue 6; SNG France 282 = de Luynes 2839 = Traité II 609. O: Baaltars seated right, torso facing, holding grain ear, grape-bunch, and eagle-tipped scepter; lotus below throne; all within crenelated wall. R: Satrap, wearing Persian dress, seated right, holding arrow; winged solar disk to upper right, bow to lower right; c/m: bull standing right within incuse square.
    Ex Eduardo Levante Collection

    You might be interested in this paper that goes into some depth on the subject.
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