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Tigranes II Overstrike

At first the "headdress" on this coin caught my attention - what is going on here? This coin is an interesting strike by Tigranes II over a coin from Arados, that is an artifact of Tigranes' conquest of Syria and Phoenicia.

Kings of Armenia, Tigranes II 'the Great', Æ (21mm, 5.53g), traveling military mint?, circa 70-66 BC

Obv: Draped bust to right, wearing five-pointed tiara decorated with star between two eagles

Rev: BAΣIΛEΩΣ TIΓPANOY, Tyche seated to right on rock, holding laurel branch, river-god swimming right swimming to right below

Note: this coin falls in a weight range that Nercessian calls a Dichalkon (4-6g) although Nurpetlian and Foss offer an alternative that coins from 4-8g were all one denomination with image of Tyche on reverse and the coins were minted without attention to individual coin weights as long as the right number of coins was produced from a given weight of bronze.


Which Tyche?

Tyche is variously described on this coin as from Antioch or Artaxata or Tigranocerta. Without clarity on the mint anything more than "Tyche & river-god" seems to be speculative although this image of Tyche is most closely associated with Antioch on the Orontes.


What coin is under this coin of Tigranes?

Looking at the top of Tigranes head you can make our the outline of a face and perhaps a turreted crown of Tyche on the obverse:

and on the reverse you can just see some evidence that could be the front of a bull or maybe Neptune's head:


The most common undertype is the Astarte/leaping bull type from the city of Arados. This example from Arados is dated and was minted in 87/6 BC.

Phoenicia, Arados Æ 20mm. Dated CY 173 = 87/6 BC. Veiled head of goddess Astarte, wearing stephanos to right / zebu or humped bull galloping to left; AN and monogram above; below, POΓ (date) above N and Phoenician 𐤀 (aleph or A). BMC 329; Duyrat 4456. 7.03g, 21mm, 1h. Aleph represents the ox, or head of cattle in Phoenician.


A second option could be the Tyche with Neptune/Poseidon on the reverse. This coin from Savoca's 108th Silver Auction in 2021:

I am leaning toward Tyche with the turreted crown that I think I see at the back of Tigranes' head, but I am certainly left with some ambiguity.


Why did Tigranes overstrike these coins?

Jack Nercessian & Levon Saryan published a catalog of over-struck Artaxiad coins that includes 102 coins of Tigranes II with a majority of these over-struck with a Tyche reverse by Tigranes (86 coins). The authors suggests that these coin could be the product of a traveling mint, that was over-striking captured money to pay wages to soldiers as Tigranes and his armies moved down the Phoenician coast. Others propose alternatively that these coins made it back to Tigranocerta for restriking.


Where is Arados?

Arados was an island city settled by Phoenicians in the second millennium BC, in the Syrian Sea. Today it is the modern city of Arwad Syria.

The Empire of Tigranes the Great, 95-66 BC, Nareklm, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons 


Did Tigranes Capture Arados?

Clive Foss notes that continuous production of silver tetradrachms throughout Tigranes' reign suggest that the Arados retained its independence and Tigranes did not conquer the city. The over-strikes more likely were captured from the mainland where coins of Arados would have circulated widely.

“Tigranes conquered most of Phoenicia and had advanced as far as Ake-Ptolemais (now Acre in Israel) by 69 BC.
During these campaigns the Armenian forces probably acquired large quantities of Phoenician coin as loot from the mainland, where Aradian coinage would have circulated widely. Overstriking of these probably reflects the needs of the vast armies involved, (over)estimated by one source at 300,000 men. Whether the coins so acquired would have formed part of one great lot or represent continuous acquisitions cannot be determined.”
-C. Foss, 1986

The Sullan Connection?

Tigranes was an ally to Mithridates VI of Pontus, and married Cleopatra the daughter of Mithridates of Pontus and Laodice in 94 BC. With Rome distracted by the Social Wars and Parthia distracted by a civil was of succession after the death of Mithridates II of Parthia, Tigranes and Mithridates ousted Ariobarzanes as king of Cappadocia. Ariobarzanes fled to Rome and Sulla was sent to Asia minor, restoring Ariobarzanes to the throne around 92 BC.


Tigranes II went on to expand his empire.

"The most significant aspect of Tigranes’ career was his conquest and occupation of Syria and Phoenicia (83-69 BC). Antioch, the famed capital of the Seleucid dynasty and one of the most important cities in the East, had become a battleground for warring factions. The people of Antioch, thoroughly frustrated with the fratricidal Seleucids, longed for a ruler who would bring them peace and dynastic stability.
According to Justin, Tigranes was invited to occupy the city, but Strabo records that Tigranes had to conquer the city against opposition. In any event, Tigranes assumed control of the city, with its famous mint, in the year 83 B.C. and held it until 69 or perhaps 66 BC, giving the city more than fifteen years of peaceful and effective rule."
-Nercessian & Saryan, 1996

In 68/9 BC, Tigranes was defeated in the Mithridatic Wars by Lucullus, Sulla's general in Asia minor. Tigranes was betrayed to Pompey by his son, and surrendered to Pompey. Pompey divided the kingdom between Tigranes, who kept Armenia Major and his son Tigranes the Younger, who took Sophene. He remained a client king to Rome until his death in 56 BC.


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