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Paying the Troops

These coin are not pretty by most standards, but they are interesting for the history they witnessed ~2100 years ago during the First Mithridatic War. When paying your soldiers, money should look like money. It doesn't hurt to put your face on it ensure people don't forget who paid them. It is can't hurt to link yourself with a great ruler and a god or goddess. The first two coins today were minted to fund Mithridates' war and his troops. The third was minted under Roman control after the war. (For more context on this war see Sulla & Marius).

Thrace, Byzantion, AR Tetradrachm (16.0g, 32mm, 12h), in the name and types of Lysimachos, circa 90-80 BC

Obv: Diademed head of the deified Alexander to right, with horn of Ammon

Rev: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΛΥΣΙΜΑΧΟΥ, Athena Nikephoros seated to left, elbow resting on shield, transverse spear in background; monogram to inner left, BY below throne, ornate trident to left in exergue

Ref: De Callataÿ Group 3 (unlisted dies); Müller 207

De Callataÿ assigns these coins to the "strike of the numerous Lysimachi of Group 3 seems to coincide with the First Mithridatic War (or just after?)" and in a 2013 paper based on a CNG overstruck coin of Mithridates assigns Group 4 to just after the treaty of Dardanos (85 BC) agreed with Sulla to settle the First Mithridatic War and free up Sulla to rush back to Rome where his rivals had taken hold again.

Mithridates VI wasn't wedded to his own currency: in Byzantion he minted tetradrachms in the name of Lysimachos. In Odessos or Mesambria he minted tetradrachms in the name of Alexander III "The Great". These coins outnumber his own personal tetradrachms which featured his portrait. this one shown to compare portraits (not my coin)

Roughly July 85 BC the portraits of Mithridates on his own tetradrachms goes from "realistic" to "idealized" and the staters at this time stop showing the mark of Pergamon which supports that Mithridates likely abandoned the city in early summer, narrowly escaping capture during the siege of Pergamon by Fimbria.

"The end of the year 85 - The adoption of the idealized style for the tetradrachms, which occurred in the month of July 85 (BIΣ-I), does not seem to have been accompanied by a reorganization of the workshop as the two moneyers from April continue to sign the issues until October. The longevity of these two moneyers is far from being comparable, the first active more than 4 years, while the second is only attested for 7 months. On another matter, the change of style does not mean a slowdown in minting, which continued without interruption until the end of 85: 7 dies 24 examples" 
-De Callatay, Des Guerres Mithradatiques, p44 (my own translation)

THRACE, Mesambria, circa 100-72/1 BC BC in the name of Alexander III 'the Great' (336-323 BC), AR Tetradrachm (16.17g, 33mm)

Obv: Head of Herakles right, wearing lion skin.

Rev: BAΣIΛEΩΣ AΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΥ. Zeus seated left on throne, holding eagle and sceptre. Controls: ΔIO in left field; MEΣAMPI in exergue.

Ref: Price 1129. Condition: Very fine. Weight: 16.17 g. Diameter: 33 mm. Karayotov *37 O97-R315 Callatay p340 a/D5-R1

This next coin is a more rare "final issue" in the name of Alexander at Odessos with the full name of Lakon. Issues of Lakon, as noted by Callataÿ, appear to progress adding letters to his name (La-, Lak-, Lako-). This coin, with Lakon's full name and a portrait that does not have the pronounced features of Mithridates suggests that was issued after the city was taken by the Romans under Lucullus in 72/1 BC. Lucullus, the Roman general who served under Lucius Cornelius Sulla during the first Mithridatic War and stayed in Asia Minor after the war to collected the taxes that Sulla imposed.

Thrace, Odessos, circa 72/1 BC. AR Tetradrachm (32mm, 15.75 g, 12h). In the name and types of Alexander III of Macedon. Lakon, magistrate

Obv: Head of Herakles right, wearing lion skin

Rev: Zeus Aëtophoros seated left; ΛΑΚΩN in inner left field, ΟΔH in exergue

Ref: Cf. Callataÿ Group 3; Topalov, Odesos 79; Price 1194; CNG 94, lot 159 (same dies).

For Cistophoric Tetradrachms minted under Lucullus see: A Sullan Era Tetradrachm

Where are these cities? They are all on the Black Sea coast:

Mithridates survives this first War with Rome, and Sulla's peace treaty was not a great victory.

"But Sulla perceived that his soldiers were incensed at the peace which he had made; they thought it a terrible thing to see the most hostile of kings, who had caused one hundred and fifty thousand of the Romans in Asia to be massacred in a single day​ to go sailing off with wealth and spoils from Asia, which he had for four years continued to plunder and levy taxes on."
Plutarch, Life of Sulla 24.4 


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