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A Parthian Tetradrachm: Artabanus II


Sulla80

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A maintained version of this writeup can be found here with additional coins and references: https://www.sullacoins.com/post/a-fierce-parthian-portrait

@Parthicus has a great coin as his avatar - one that I have admired since I first saw it - I am not sure how many years ago, he posted in a Top 10 list. 

image.png.6e8a2e7d982545a7414dba3a8320650e.png

A tetradrachm of Artabanos II, who reigned during the time of Augustus.  His coin is one that Sellwood identified as 63.5 from the month Gorpaios (August) identified by the monogram under the horse on the reverse and year 27 AD identified by the Seleucid era date T Λ H around the king's head on the reverse.  

After many years of admiring - I found one to buy (they don't show up very often, especially not in a price range that I am willing to spend).   This coin differs in the date: July, 27 AD and Sellwood number: 63.4.  Artabanos has been assigned a variety of suffixes by various authors from Artabanos II to III to IV....as decoded here by Chris Hopkins @ Parthia.Com

image.png.c309db1621f5ba0814d6f35d864216ce.png

image.png.17d1232ec07e3ae75303cc416757ba44.png

Kings of Parthia, Artabanos II (or III or IV), Circa AD 10-38, BI Tetradrachm (27mm, 13.24 g, 12h), Seleukeia on the Tigris mint, dated Holöos 338 SE (July, AD 27)

Obv: Diademed facing bust

Ref: Artabanos on horseback left, receiving palm from Tyche standing right; T Λ H (year) oriented around Artabanos, monogram (month) below horse

Ref: Sellwood 63.4 (Artabanos II); Shore 336 (Artabanos II), Sunrise 411 (Artabanos IV)

We have a letter from Artabanus that defends the election of a  treasurer in Susa in the Louvre - with this as the concluding sentence:

"...we decide in general that the [illegality which] has been pointed out be expressly forgiven, no denial or investigation either general or specific being required (?). Year 268 Audnaeus 17"

image.png.64ec05cc1b6a1094d8f0089e820d2262.png

Image CC BY-SA 3.0 from Wikimedia Commons.

See details here:

https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015010575713&seq=432

C. B. Welles, "Letter of Artaban III, King of Parthia, to Seleucia on the Eulaeus (Susa), validating the election of the city treasurer. Audnaeus 17, A.D. 21", Royal Correspondence in the Hellenistic Period (Chicago: Ares, 1979), pp. 299-306.

The Encyclopedia Iranica has a nice overview for Artabanos II:

"Artabanus II was brought to the throne by a wave of “national consciousness” among the Parthian nobles, who disapproved of Vonones, installed with Roman backing in A.D. 8/9, and, in their eyes, “made soft” by long residence in the West. "

-Encyclopedia Iranica https://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/artabanus-parth#pt2

Post coins you took a long time to find, coins of Artabanus II (III or IV) or Parthian tetradrachms, or anything else that you find interesting or relevant.

Edited by Sulla80
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3 hours ago, Sulla80 said:

@Parthicus has a great coin as his avatar - one that I have admired since I first saw it - I am not sure how many years ago, he posted in a Top 10 list. 

image.png.6e8a2e7d982545a7414dba3a8320650e.png

A tetradrachm of Artabanos II, who reigned during the time of Augustus.  His coin is one that Sellwood identified as 63.5 from the month Gorpaios (August) identified by the monogram under the horse on the reverse and year 27 AD identified by the Seleucid era date T Λ H around the king's head on the reverse.  

After many years of admiring - I found one to buy (they don't show up very often, especially not in a price range that I am willing to spend).   This coin differs in the date: July, 27 AD and Sellwood number: 63.4.  Artabanos has been assigned a variety of suffixes by various authors from Artabanos II to III to IV....as decoded here by Chris Hopkins @ Parthia.Com

image.png.c309db1621f5ba0814d6f35d864216ce.png

image.png.17d1232ec07e3ae75303cc416757ba44.png

Kings of Parthia, Artabanos II (or III or IV), Circa AD 10-38, BI Tetradrachm (27mm, 13.24 g, 12h), Seleukeia on the Tigris mint, dated Holöos 338 SE (July, AD 27)

Obv: Diademed facing bust

Ref: Artabanos on horseback left, receiving palm from Tyche standing right; T Λ H (year) oriented around Artabanos, monogram (month) below horse

Ref: Sellwood 63.4 (Artabanos II); Shore 336 (Artabanos II), Sunrise 411 (Artabanos IV)

We have a letter from Artabanus that defends the election of a  treasurer in Susa in the Louvre - with this as the concluding sentence:

"...we decide in general that the [illegality which] has been pointed out be expressly forgiven, no denial or investigation either general or specific being required (?). Year 268 Audnaeus 17"

image.png.64ec05cc1b6a1094d8f0089e820d2262.png

Image CC BY-SA 3.0 from Wikimedia Commons.

See details here:

https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015010575713&seq=432

C. B. Welles, "Letter of Artaban III, King of Parthia, to Seleucia on the Eulaeus (Susa), validating the election of the city treasurer. Audnaeus 17, A.D. 21", Royal Correspondence in the Hellenistic Period (Chicago: Ares, 1979), pp. 299-306.

The Encyclopedia Iranica has a nice overview for Artabaos II:

"Artabanus II was brought to the throne by a wave of “national consciousness” among the Parthian nobles, who disapproved of Vonones, installed with Roman backing in A.D. 8/9, and, in their eyes, “made soft” by long residence in the West. "

-Encyclopedia Iranica https://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/artabanus-parth#pt2

Post coins you took a long time to find, coins of Artabanus II (III or IV) or Parthian tetradrachms, or anything else that you find interesting or relevant.

The front-facing Parthian portraits are fascinating 🤩.

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Thanks for the appreciation @Sulla80, glad I inspired you to purchase an example of this type.  Fred Shore notes in his book:

"The rare series of tetradrachms of Artabanos with facing bust show a fierce warrior-king, certainly an image we would expect from a king who regained his throne wearing the rags he wore as a solitary hunter in exile.  They probably present a closer picture of what a Parthian really looked like than any other portrait coin."

While these tetradrachms are fairly rare, his standard drachms from the Ekbatana mint (Sellwood type 63.6) are one of the most common Parthian coins.  Here's an example with some interesting doubling on the reverse:

image.jpeg.a23cc2a7d2b3c8fb793b37d8a88464c4.jpeg

 

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Just to add to the confusion (as often happens with Parthian coins), the drachm that @Sulla80 posted is from a different king, Artabanos III (or IV, or V, depending on which revision you accept) who reigned c. 80- 90 CE, the coin type is Sellwood 74.6.  This can be distinguished from Artie II by a more degraded "Greek" legend on the reverse, especially in the top two lines "Basileos basileon"- Artie II has the first sigmas in both words as a squared C and the E is normal, while Artie III turns the sigmas into a single vertical line, and the E loses its top and bottom tines to become something like I- . Also, look at the space under the archer's legs- Artie II has a line of several small dots, while Artie III has a + sign.  The reverses of Parthian drachms are pretty monotonous in overall design, but they can give important clues for ID.

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Thanks @Parthicus - I had this one (Artabanus III) mis-identified.  This coin of Artabanus IV is not as easy to mix up 🙂

ArtabanosIVParthia.jpg.a40f88b4e8d7a282616ec21f7f5df3b0.jpg

Parthia, Artabanos IV, circa 10-38, Drachm, BI 18mm, 3.49g, Mithradatkart
Obv: Diademed bust of Artabanos IV to left; to left, star-in-crecent
Rev: Blundered legend consisting entirely of pellets Archer (Arsakes I) seated right, holding bow; below bow, blundered legend of Mithradatkart; behind, monogram
Ref: Sellwood 63.13. Cf. Shore 347

Edited by Sulla80
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