• sulla80

A Father's Support

Updated: Dec 22, 2020

I have three drachms of Ariarathes IX, with very different portraits. I had not read the article by Mørkholm until I after I purchased the coins. The coins are from the same ruler. One from his first year of reign (A) and the other from his second (B) and the third from his fourth (Δ).


Before we get to these portraits, here is a little of the tangled family network and historical context. Mithridates V of neighboring Pontus had Ariarathes VI marry his eldest daughter, Laodice. Laodice was sister to the future Mithradates VI of Pontus. Laodice and Ariarathes VI had 3 children together, a girl and two boys, Nysa and Ariarathes VII and VIII. Later, Mithradates VI, had his brother-in-law killed by a Cappadocian nobleman and traitor, Gordius, and Ariarathers VII became king. Ariarathes VII, objected to his father's murderer being in the Cappadocian court:


"When the young Ariarthes [VII] understood his intention, he expressed great indignation that the murderer of his father should be recalled from banishment, especially by his uncle, and assembled a great army. Mithridates, after bringing into the field eighty thousand foot, ten thousand horse, and six hundred chariots armed with scythes, (while Ariarathes [VII], by the aid of the neighboring princes, had no less a force), fearing the uncertain event of a battle, turned his thoughts to treachery..."

-Justine, Epitome, XXXVIII.1


By Justin's account, Mithridates "killed his nephew, after drawing him aside from his friends as if to confer with him secretly, in the sight of both armies", circa 100BC. Here's a coin of Ariarathes VII:

Kings of Cappadocia, Ariarathes VII Philometor (mother loving), circa 112/110-100 BC., AR drachm, year 1 = 111 (?) Obv: Diademed head of Ariarathes VII to right Rev: BAΣΙΛΕΩΣ / APIAPAΘOY / ΦΙΛOMHTOPOΣ , Athena standing left, holding Nike on her extended right hand and spear and shield with her left; inner left, ΓΛI; in exergue, [A] (? date)


The legends can be a bit tricky to read:

To control Cappadocia, Mithridates then put his eight year old son on the throne under the name of Ariarathes IX. Here's the coin of Ariarathes IX, with the first portrait style of three:

Kings of Cappadocia, Ariarathes IX Eusebes Philopator, circa 100-85 BC, AR Drachm, Series 1

Obv: Diademed head right

Rev: BAΣΙΛΕΩΣ APIAPAΘOY EYΣEBOYΣ, Athena Nikephoros standing left; monogram to inner left, T to right; A (date) in exergue

Ref: Simonetta 6 (Ariarathes V.); Mørkholm Series 1 #3 obv 1(?)


A faction of Cappadocians rebelled supporting the more justified heir, Ariarathes VIII.


"The Cappadocians, however, being harassed by the cruelty and licentiousness of their rulers, revolted from Mithridates, and sent for the brother of their king, who was also called Ariarathes, from Asia where he was being educated. Upon this prince Mithridates again made war, defeated him, and drove him from Cappadocia; and not long after the young man died of a disease brought on by anxiety."

-Justin, Epitome, XXXVIII.2.1


Mørkholm proposes that there were two mints used in a short time – mint A where the most of the coins of Ariarathes IX were minted, and a second mint B used for a short time by Ariarathes VIII and then taken over by Ariarathes IX, who used the mint for a short time and then closed it. Die links, hoard evidence and portrait style are the supporting evidence. Here are two coins from Mint B of Ariarathes VIII with legend EΠIΦANOY on the reverse.

Kings of Cappadocia, Ariarathes VIII Eusebes Epiphanes,  AR Drachm, dated RY 2 = 99/8 BC, Mint B

Obv: Diademed head right

Rev: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΑΡΙΑΡΑΘOV EΠIΦANOYΣ, Athena Nikephoros standing left, with spear and shield; T to inner left; B (date) in exergue

Kings of Cappadocia, Ariarathes VIII Eusebes Epiphanes,  AR Drachm, dated RY ?, Mint B

Obv: Diademed head right

Rev: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΑΡΙΑΡΑΘOV EΠIΦANOYΣ, Athena Nikephoros standing left, with spear and shield; T to inner left; date (off-flan or not present)


The rebellion was quelled before long and the rival, Ariarathes VIII, was expelled and died of disease shortly after. And here is a the second portrait on a coin from Mint B (second regnal year) attributed by Mørkholm to Ariarathes IX after he gained control of this mint and before he closed it.

Kings of Cappadocia, Mint B, Ariarathes IX Eusebes, 100-95 BC, dated RY 2=99/8 BC, AR drachm

Obv: Diademed head of Ariarathes to right / BAΣΙΛΕΩΣ APIAPAΘOY EYΣEBOYΣ

Rev: Athena Nikephoros standing left, to inner left, T, to inner right, Λ, B (date) in exergue


The third, and very different portrait style for Ariarathes IX, can be seen in this coin, from year 4 of his reign, from the time of this uprising. Otto Mørkholm’s article explains why these portraits are so different. Mørkholm suggests that the portrait incorporates features of Mithridates VI with those of his son, to send a message to the Cappadocians that under his son’s reign, they are ruled by Mithridates VI.

Kings of Cappadocia, Ariarathes IX Eusebes Philopator, circa 100-85 BC. AR Drachm, Mint A (Eusebeia-Mazaka), Dated RY 4 (97/6 BC)

Obv: Diademed head right, with the features of Mithradates VI of Pontos

Rev: BAΣΙΛΕΩΣ APIAPAΘOY EYΣEBOY, Athena Nikephoros standing left; monogram to inner left, Δ (date) in exergue



The first portrait was originally attributed by Simonetta to Ariarathes V but Mørkholm uses hoard evidence, and die links to move it to Ariarathes IX. This coin was issued in the first year of the reign of Ariarathes IX. (See more on Morkholm v. Simonetta in this post)


To conclude the story, here is a drachm from Capadoccia of Ariobarzanes who was chosen by the Cappadocian people as King after the Romans deposed Ariarathes IX. This coin has a particularly elegant and expressive portrait:

Kings of Cappadocia, Ariobarzanes I Philoromaios, 96-63 BC, AR Drachm, 17mm, 3.98 g, dated RY 25 (71/0 BC)

Obv: Diademed head right

Rev: Athena Nikephoros standing left; monogram in inner left field, KE (date) in exergue.

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