|Numismatica Ars Classica > Auction 106||Auction date: 9 May 2018|
|Lot number: 247|
Kings of Pontus, Mithradates IV, circa 170/169 – 150. Tetradrachm circa 169-150, AR 15.99 g. Diademed and draped busts r. of Mithradates IV and Laodice. Rev. ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩ[Σ] / ΜΙΘΡΑΔΑΤΟΥ - ΒΑΣΙΛΙΣΣΗΣ / ΛΑΟΔΙΚΗΣ / ΦΙΛΑΔΕΛΦΩΝ Zeus, with thunderbolt, and Hera standing facing side by side, both holding sceptre. Recueil Géneral 7, pl. Supplement A, 8 (this coin). Jameson 1365 (this coin). SNG von Aulock 6675. Hellenistic Kingdoms 206. Kraay-Hirmer pl. 210, 772.
Extremely rare. An issue of great fascination with two pleasant Hellenistic
portraits, surface somewhat porous, otherwise good very fine / very fine
Ex NAC sale 2, 1990, 173. From the Jameson and Harald Salvesen collections.
Mithradates IV Philopator succeeded his brother, Pharnakes I, as king of Pontus and took great pains to undo the damage to the Pontic kingdom caused by Pharnakes's conflicts with the neighbouring Bithynian and Attalid kingdoms. He supported Attalos II against Prousias II of Bithynia in 154 B.C., which also made him a friend of Rome. The friendly relationship that he established between Pontus and the Romans remained firm until it was shattered irreparably by Mithradates VI Eupator and the Asiatic Vespers of 89/8 B.C.
Although little else is known about the reign of Mithradates IV, his coins reveal much about the king's desire to present himself as a Hellenistic Greek monarch equal to the Antigonid, Seleucid, and Ptolemaic kings who could trace their bloodlines back to the famous generals of Alexander the Great. Despite his Iranian ancestry and possession of a backwater kingdom on the Black Sea, this tetradrachm firmly places him in the tradition of Hellenistic royal superpowers. The portrait of Mithradates IV appears wearing the diadem, the universal symbol of Hellenistic kingship, and jugate with the head of his wife, Laodice, who also happened to be his sister. The royal jugate portrait was first pioneered by Ptolemy II Philadelphos for gold coins celebrating the deification of his father and mother as well as of himself and his own sister-wife, Arsinoe II.
While marriage between brother and sister had a long tradition among the pharaohs and therefore Ptolemy II and Arsinoe II could be seen as continuing the native Egyptian custom, it was not acceptable in mainstream Greek culture. In an attempt to make his brother-sister marriage more palatable to Greeks, the apologists of Ptolemy II appealed to his divinity, pointing out that Zeus and Hera were also brother and sister. The reverse type of Mithradates IV's tetradrachm also seems to make the same argument, depicting the full-length figures of Zeus and Hera as a parallel for the portraits of the king and Laodice on the obverse. The type was presumably aimed at a Greek audience (outside of Pontus?) since brother-sister marriages were not unknown among ancient Iranian elites and would not have required any special explanation - and certainly not one appealing to Greek gods - to the native Iranian population of Pontus.
In addition to the aspiration to royal greatness in the footsteps of the Ptolemaic kings expressed by this coin, the treatment of the portraits is remarkable. Unlike the frequent tendency towards idealization in Hellenistic royal coin portraits, the portraits of Mithradates VI and Laodixe approach a veristic style that seems to underline the non-Greek ethnicity of the Pontic king and queen. The un-Greek character of the royal portraits are at odds with the other features of the coin that virtually scream Greek royal culture following the Ptolemaic model. As such, this coin brilliantly encapsulates the spirit of the Hellenistic Age, in which many non-Greeks sought to elevate themselves through the adoption of Greek cultural elements.
Estimate: 30000 CHF