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Vologases IV tetradrachm with month and year date


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Parthian Kingdom. Seleukia on the Tigris mint. AR/billon tetradrachm. Vologases IV (147-191 CE), dated Apellaios 464 Seleukid Era (= November 152 CE). Obverse: King's bearded bust left, wearing tiara with long earflaps, B behind. Reverse: King seated on throne left, receiving diadem from Tyche, seven-line Greek legend around (mostly off flan) "Basileos basileon Arsakou Olagasou dikaiou epiphanous philellenos" (Of King of Kings Arsakes Vologases, Just, Illustrious, Lover of the Greeks), above figures date 464, in exergue month Apellaiou. Sellwood 84.13. This coin: Purchased at Baltimore Whitman Coin Expo from Allen G. Berman, November 9, 2023.

Vologases IV was the son of Mithradates IV (renumbered by recent scholarship as Mithradates V) and appears to have taken the Parthian throne peacefully in late 147 CE. In 161, he invaded Armenia, deposing the Roman-supported king and installing his own nominee. The Roman prefect of Cappadocia attacked, but was soundly defeated, and the Parthians proceeded into Roman Syria. Lucius Verus (co-emperor with Marcus Aurelius) was sent to Antioch to deal with the situation, but chose to stay in the city living in luxury and leave all the actual fighting to his (fortunately very competent) generals. In 163 the Romans retook Artaxata, the capital of Armenia, and next year started a major campaign in Parthian Mesopotamia. The key cities of Seleukia on the Tigris, Ktesiphon, and Babylon were all captured, and Seleukia and the winter palace at Ktesiphon were destroyed in 165. However, a plague soon struck the Roman troops, who would inadvertently bring back an epidemic that would devastate the Roman Empire. (The plague was attributed to divine wrath at the impiety of the troops, who had looted a statue of Apollo at Seleukia and brought it back to Rome to install at the temple of Palatine Apollo.) The Romans eventually reached as far as Media, but soon pulled back, leaving the large cities of central Mesopotamia for the Parthians to re-occupy. The Parthians re-captured Armenia but were again driven out, with Roman troops now taking Edessa and Nisibis in northern Mesopotamia, and managing to hold this territory. The war petered out by 167, with Rome holding Armenia and some of northern Mesopotamia, while Parthia managed to retain its key wealthy cities of central/ southern Mesopotamia. Essentially nothing else is known of Vologases IV's reign. He died in 191 CE, and was succeeded by Vologases V and Osroes II (the latter apparently a rebel, who is known only from his coinage).

Parthian tetradrachms from Phraates IV (38-2 BCE) and later are normally dated to both year and month. For most reigns, however, it is rare to find the month intact because it was the bottom-most line of legend (the second in exergue) which was frequently struck off the flan. Vologases IV, however, changes the formatting slightly to include "dikaiou" (just) as the bottommost line, with the month above, thus leaving the month often still readable on the final struck coin. This particular specimen is also memorable (to me, anyway) because during the coin show I accidentally dropped it onto the hard convention center floor. (Fortunately the coin wasn't damaged.) Please post your coins of Vologases IV, or related coins, or coins that you accidentally dropped onto a hard floor.


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Here are 3 examples from Bono Simonetta's collection that were published in his 1971 paper - Simonetta, B. 1971. Un interessante tesoretto di tetradrammi di Vologeses III. Rivista Italiana di Numismatica, 73: 57-62. pl. Simonetta numbers the King as Vologases III which is also the numbering re-adopted in the current Sylloge Nummorum Parthicorum series. 


Sellwood 84.62 BI Tetradrachm (26mm, 13.26g, 12h). Dated ϘΥ [ΑΠ]ΕΛΛΑ[IΟΥ] = November 490 SE = November 178 CE.


Sellwood 84.64 BI Tetradrachm (27mm, 12.09g, 1h). ϘΥ [Δ]ΥΣТ[ΡΟΥ = February 490 SE = February 179 CE.


Sellwood 84.92 BI Tetradrachm (28mm, 13.16g, 1h). ΔϘΥ ΠΕΡΙΤ[ΙΟΥ] = January 494 SE = January 183 CE.


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I very much like these exactly because of the precise dates. Mine is Apellaios (November) 152 AD, too:


Parthian Empire, under Vologases IV, AR tetradrachm, SE 464, month Apellaios (November 152 AD), Seleukeia on the Tigris mint. Obv: Diademed and draped bust l., wearing tiara; B behind. Rev: [SEΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ / Β]ΑΣΙΛΕΩ[Ν - ΑΡΣΑΚΟY / O]ΛΑΓΑΣΟ[Υ - ΔΙΚΑΙΟY - Ε]ΠΙΦΑΝΟY[Σ / ΦΙΛΕΛΛΗΝΟΣ], date: ΔΞY – ΑΠΕΛΑΙΟΥ; Vologases seated l. on throne, Tyche standing r. before him, presenting a diadem and holding sceptre. 27mm, 13.81g. Ref: Sellwood 84.13.

Edited by Ursus
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