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A scarce Parthian bronze of Vonones I


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(photo borrowed from seller because I had trouble photographing such a small coin)


Parthian Kingdom. Ekbatana mint. AE chalkos (1.17 g, 12 mm). Vonones I (8-12 CE). Obverse: Diademed bust of king left, Greek legend before and above "Basileus Onwnhes" (King Vonones). Reverse: Nike walking right, Ekbatana mintmark before. Sellwood 60.10, Shore 564. This coin: Pars Coins Auction 34, lot 53 (January 23, 2023).

Vonones I was the eldest son of the Parthian king Phraates IV (38-2 BC). Around 10 or 9 BC, he and three of his brothers were sent to live at Rome. The Romans depicted this as "submission" of Parthia to Rome, but it also served to clear the way for Parthian succession by their much younger brother Phraatakes. In 2 BC, Phraatakes and his mother Musa murdered Phraates and seized the throne. That exciting tale of intrigue, murder, and incest deserves its own write-up, which I've given before over on CoinTalk ( https://www.cointalk.com/threads/if...-dont-you-just-marry-her.350979/#post-3911792 ). After the overthrow of Phraatakes and Musa in 4 AD, the Parthian nobles installed a new king, Orodes III, in 6 AD. However, they soon afterwards got rid of him for "excessive cruelty" (and considering how cruel some of the other Parthian kings were, he must have been a monster if that was the reason for his downfall). The Parthian nobles now asked Rome for one of the sons of Phraates IV to be returned as their king, and Vonones was duly sent. Vonones, however, had become much too Westernized during his stay at Rome, and he no longer cared for the manly Parthian pastimes of hunting, feasting, and horsemanship. The nobles summoned another member of the royal Arsakid family, Artabanos (IV), who was serving as king of Media Atropatene (roughly modern Azerbaijan), who attempted to overthrow Vonones but initially failed. A couple of years later Artabanos tried again and this time successfully deposed Vonones, who fled to Armenia and served for a time as the Armenian king. Vonones was removed from the Armenian throne about 17 AD (the exact date varies by source) and remanded to the custody of the Roman governor of Syria. After he attempted to stir up trouble among tribal chiefs in the Mesopotamian frontier near Parthia, he was sent farther away, to Cilicia. In 19 AD he bribed his guards and attempted to flee back to Armenia, but he was killed before reaching the frontier. A son of Vonones, Meherdates, would later stage his own rebellion in Parthia in 49-51 AD.

The coins of Vonones I stand out in the Parthian series for the king's unusual choice to list his full personal name in the legends, instead of just the dynastic name of Arsakes. This is a great boon to historians and numismatists, as it gives a solid anchor in the assignment of coin types to specific kings. While this coin is not very well preserved, I bought it because it is rather rare (Shore rates bronzes of Vonones I at rarity "R" in his Rarity and Value Guide) and it completes my denomination set for Vonones I, as I already have a tetradrachm and a drachm:


Please post your coins of Vonones I, or whatever else is related.

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That's a neat little coin and a tough one to find!...Congrats...

The Chalkos denomination, at least imo, are not high on the list for many collectors  but they do seem to hold a price?...Do you think this is down purely to rarity?....Your tet reverse looks to have been overstruck on a portrait?.....Really nice!

I do have two Chalkous..But I think you might have seen these before?


Parthia, Vologases VI 208-228 AD, AE Chalkous, 10mm-1.25gm. Ecbatana Mint.
Obverse Bearded, diademed bust of king left, wearing torque and tiara decorated with hooks, a line with pellets and an ear flap, dotted border around
Reverse Eagle standing left with wings open
Reference Sellwood 88.29, Shore 640
Purchased from Coin India- vcoins November 2021.
Ex-Tom Mallon collection. Published on his website, The Coins and History of Asia. This coin is also published on the Parthia.com website:
http://parthia.com/vologases6.htm .


Vardanes I (40-47 AD)

Vardanes I (40-47 AD)
AE Chalkous 11mm/1.8gr..
Obverse- Bust left with short beard, wearing diadem and spiral torque; hair in three distinct waves with earring visible; diadem pendants shown as three lines; circular border of pellets.
Reverse- Monogram ΜΤΘ; legend as dashes
Mint- Mithradatkart-Near modern Askabad in Turkmenistan.
Ref- Sellwood 64 type variant (ΜΤΘ monogram) This is quite a rare type

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@Kamnaskires: I can't imagine why that tetradrachm looks familiar to you 🤔  (Note to the uninitiated: I bought this coin from Bob a couple of years ago, so naturally it looks familiar to him.  Just a little joke on my part.)

@Spaniard: Yes, that is indeed an under type on the reverse of the tetradrachm.  Many of Vonones' tets are overstruck on tets of Phraatakes and Musa, and on this coin a fair bit of Phraatakes' face survived the restraining.  The overstrikes always seem to be on Phraatakes and Musa tets, not on the far more abundant coins of Phraates IV, so it's possible that it was a sort of revenge by Vonones against his father's killers.  As for the popularity of Parthian chalkoi, I'd agree that rarity is important.  I probably wouldn't have been interested in this coin if it were, say, a common piece of Orodes II in the same condition.

@Sulla80: Yes, it's interesting that Vonones used the same reverse type on all three denominations. (His only other reverse type is a chalkos that features just the Ekbatana mintmark for design.)  His coins were innovative not just in including the king's name.

@ACCLA-Mike: Nice coin, I think your example is actually nicer than my OP coin. 

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