Tetradrachm of Mithradates II
By: Terrance Cheesman
The Parthian Kingdom occupied the region of modern day Iraq and Iran. Starting in north eastern Iran, the Parthians conquered Iran by 230 B.C. and Iraq by 170 B.C. They were a constant menace to the Greek kingdoms in Syria and Turkey, and later to the Romans when they conquered the Greeks. Mithradates II who reigned from 123 to 88 B.C. witnessed the beginning of the Roman domination of the eastern Mediterranean. He was the first to make contact with the Romans when his ambassadors made contact with the Roman general Sulla.
This tetradrachm was minted at Seleukia on the Tigris, very close to modern day Baghdad. The portrait is a magnificent blend of late hellenistic Greek portraiture and the oriental emblems of kingship. The face and beard are quite natural but is surrounded with an elaborate hair style and robe. The simple Greek style diadem is tied to the back of his head with a long ribbon. The overall impression is one of grace and power which contrasts so much with the rest of the coinage.
The reverse features an image of the founder of the Kingdom Arcakes. He is in the dress of a Parthian cavalryman seated on a low stool, holding out his bow. The legend reads Araskes Greatest King God Manifest. All Parthian kings took the names Araskes, which has caused numerous problems to modern scholarship.
Previously published in the ENS “The Planchet” Magazine Vol-56 Issue-04