top of page
  • Writer's picturesulla80

Trajan Aims for Parthia

At the end of the reign of Rabbel II, King of Nabatea (78-106 AD), in 106 AD, Trajan annexed his kingdom and created the Roman province of Arabia Petraea. The details are lacking, however the shift to Roman control seems to have been relatively non-violent. A road was built to connect the Red Sea to Bostra, Via Traiana Nova.

Where is Arabea Petraea?

Map showing Arabia Petraea, from Public Domain image by Andrei Nacu, via Wikimedia Commons

This denarius highlights the province with a personified Arabia on the reverse and a camel at her feet.

Trajan, AD 98-117,Rome, Denarius AR

Obv: IMP TRAIANO AVG GER DAC P M T R P, laureate head right, with slight drapery

Rev: COS V P P S P Q R OPTIMO PRINC, Arabia standing left, holding a branch and a bundle of cinnamon sticks; at her feet, a camel walking left

Ref: RIC 142; RSC 89; BMC 297.

This very similar denarius, on a standard that Metcalf estimates at 3.25g, was issued in a mint that is speculatively set in Bostra, Woytek and Butcher suggest Antioch - but overall the mint location is still a mystery. This coin predates Trajan taking the title OPTIMO (APICTѠ) in August 114 AD.

Traian (98-117 AD), Arabia Mint (or perhaps Antioch on Orontes?), AR Drachm, 3.06g, minted Jan 1 - Dec 9 112 AD

Obv: AΥTOKΡ KAIC NEP TPAIAN CEB ΓEΡM ΔAK, laureate bust right, with slight drapery

Rev: ΔHMAPX ЄΞ IϚ YΠATϚ, Arabia standing left holding branch and bundle of cinnamon sticks; at feet, camel left

Ref: Plate 13 #15 as identified in Metcalf, W. E. (1975). THE TELL KALAK HOARD AND TRAJAN’S ARABIAN MINT. Museum Notes (American Numismatic Society), 20, 39–108.

Around 114 AD, Rome's emperor, Trajan, set his sights on Parthia. Parthia was a bit dysfunctional at the time with several relatives competing for control. Trajan was irritated with the Parthians for pushing Roman ally Tiridates off the throne of Armenia. Osroes, who ruled 108/9-127/28 AD, had deposed Tiridates, who had been installed by Nero, and replaced him with his nephew Axidares.

Trajan decided to head to Antioch (Syria). Meherdotes, with his son, invaded Mesopotamia, then he died falling off his horse, and his son, Sanatrukes, became emperor. Trajan seeing an opportunity in Sanatrukes' disgruntled cousins, made Parmathaspates, son of Osroes, the King of Parthia.

This coin celebrates this event (not mine - See ACSearch) :

The reverse declares: REX PARTHIS DATVS - "A King Given to Parthians".

"Seleucia was also captured by Erucius Clarus and Julius Alexander, lieutenants, and was burned. Trajan, fearing that the Parthians, too, might begin a revolt, desired to give them a king of their own. Accordingly, when he came to Ctesiphon, he called together in a great plain all the Romans and likewise all the Parthians that were there at the time; then he mounted a lofty platform, and after describing in grandiloquent language what he had accomplished, he appointed Parthamaspates king over the Parthians and set the diadem upon his head."

There is no certainty on which Parthian issued this coin, however Assar (Sunshine) highlights some light evidence in John Malalas Book 11.6 p.145 (calling Sanatrukes "emperor of the Persians") suggesting that it is more likely that Sanatrukes rather than Parthamaspates was in control of Ekbatana when this coin was minted.

Parthian Empire, Sanatrukes / Parthamaspates (c. AD 116), AR Drachm, 3.85g, Ekbatana

Obv: diademed bust left, wearing tiara with earflaps

Rev: archer seated right on throne, holding bow, monogram beneath bow

The Greek legend is garbled - here's what I see:some "King of Kings" and "Epiphanes" with lots of "blah blah": ΒΑIΙΛEΛ ΒΑIΙΛEΛ BAIIΛNOY VIXVIOΛ IIΛLII_Q •IIIY• ΠPΦANOY IIΛΛHX

here's a second of the same coin (different dies):

Parthian Empire, Sanatrukes / Parthamaspates (c. AD 116), AR Drachm, 3.54g, Ekbatana

One other Trajan Note: Malalas (a page later on 146) mentions that Trajan was in Antioch when "the wrath of God struck" - reference to the earthquake that Trajan survived in Antioch....Trajan died in 117 AD with his ambitions in Parthia unfulfilled.


86 views2 comments

Recent Posts

See All

2 comentarios

Alfred Kowsky
Alfred Kowsky
22 ene 2022

Sulla, Trajan had a very ambitious program of expansion. Your denarius is a lovely example & the Parthian drachm has a wonderful portrait 🙂. Pictured below is a dated tetradrachm of Trajan from my collection. The dies for this coin were made in Tyre, Phoenicia for use in Antioch, Syria.

Antioch, Syria. Trajan, AD 98-117 (struck year 18, AD 113/4). AR Tetradrachm: 14.18 gm, 26 mm, 5 h. McAlee 463. NGC Ch XF, Strike 5/5, Surface 4/5.

Me gusta
22 ene 2022
Contestando a

Al, I always enjoy your notes and coins - this one is particularly high on my wishlist. I am holding out for one as nice as yours! I added one more coin above of Sanatrukes.



Me gusta
bottom of page