Numismatica Ars Classica > Auction 133Auction date: 21 November 2022
Lot number: 101

Price realized: 17,000 CHF   (Approx. 17,868 USD / 17,247 EUR)   Note: Prices do not include buyer's fees.
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Lot description:


Greek Coins. Kings of Bosporus, Pharnaces circa 63 – 46.
Stater, Panticapaeum 51-50 (year 245), AV 8.02 g. Diademed head r. Rev. BAΣIΛEΩΣ / BAΣIΛE – ΩN Apollo seated l., holding laurel branch in extended r. hand over tripod, l. arm resting on kithara at his side; behind, EMΣ and monogram. Below, MEΓAΛOY ΦAPNAKOY. Golenko-Karyszowski, NC 1972, p. 37, 6 (these dies). A. N. Zograph, Ancient Coinage, part II, pl. XLIV, 3.
Rare. Struck on a very broad flan, minor traces of double striking on obverse
and almost invisible marks on reverse, otherwise good extremely fine

As Rome sought to tighten its authority over the lands it had inherited in 133 B.C. from the last Pergamene king, Attallus III, and even to expand its reach, there were a few formidable kings and numerous petty rulers who had to be reckoned with. Chief among them was the Pontic King Mithradates VI (120-63), who caused so much devastation to Romans, their property, and their political interests for such a prolonged period that his infamy equalled that of Hannibal. Finally, in 63 B.C. options for Mithradates VI had expired, and the king who with such pride had throughout his life immunized himself against poisons committed suicide by consuming a lethal dose of poison, which seemingly was followed up with a sword thrust. This courageous and resourceful king seems to have been pushed to the brink by the betrayal of his son Pharnaces II, who in exchange for this act had been assured the throne of the Cimmerian Bosporus. His new allies, the Romans, declared him and his subjects 'friends and allies of the Roman people' (amicorum et socium populi Romani). Though he had gained his throne through treachery against his father, in collusion with a sworn enemy, Pharnaces ruled for seventeen years, and on his coinage he unashamedly uses the title 'Great King of Kings'. No other Pontic or Bosporan king had done so, and his successor, Asander (47-22 B.C.), reverted to the title 'King'. Pharnaces' portraits are modelled after those of the Macedonian king Alexander III, yet that was a tradition he inherited from his father, and it cannot necessarily be seen as an individual trait. Pharnaces is described in the ancient sources as treacherous, power-hungry and haughty. Though a roman client king, he had inherited from his father a desire for conquest, and he invaded Asia Minor, via Colchis, while Pompey and Julius Caesar were at war. His betrayal was rewarded by Caesar with a crushing defeat at Zela in 47 B.C., after which he famously stated: "I came, I saw, I conquered." Pharnaces was allowed by Caesar to continue his rule, and his life ended only after taking the field against the rebel-successor Asander. The Romans initially opposed Asander, but Octavian soon endorsed him as king. Stylistically, Pharnaces' gold staters form a tightly knit group, and it is possible – even likely – that the same engraver produced every die for his staters. They are known only for a period of five years, dated to the years 243 to 247 of the Bithynian Era (55/4-51/0 B.C.). In their 1972 study of these staters, Golenko and Karyszkowski note: "We cannot refer to any circumstances in the internal history of the Bosporan kingdom which could be connected with the sudden appearance and then the unexpected cessation of the gold coins. ... The coins, therefore, seem to have been a mere political gesture rather than a thought-out economic enterprise". Asander was far more assertive with his coinage, issuing staters dated by his regal years rather than to the Bithynian Era; he is known to have issued them in all four of his years as Archon (1-4) and for all but four of his over twenty years as King (5-29).


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Estimate: 10000 CHF