Attica, Athens - The Siege of Athens

Article Image

In the First Mithradatic War the Roman forces under Sulla first directed their attention to the city of Athens, which was then ruled by the tyrant Aristion, a puppet of Mithradates. Upon his arrival, Sulla threw up earthworks encompassing not only the city but also the port of Piraeos. Despite several attempts by Archelaos, the Mithradatic commander in Asia, to raise the siege, Athens remained firmly blockaded.

During the year or so of siege, Sulla stripped shrines and Sibyls alike of wealth to fund his war effort. From these and other sources of precious metal Sulla appears to have chosen to strike a currency that would be familiar and acceptable to the surrounding regions. The monogram series seem to have been the first issue, for which Thompson suggested a starting date of 86 BC, after Sulla captured Athens. Another series displaying a trophy are regarded as the second issue, and presumably were struck shortly before Sulla left Athens to return to Rome. It has been suggested however that Sulla would have also struck coins of Athenian type during the period of the siege itself, a sensible notion that would seem to make the trophy series fitting for a post-siege issue.

Attica, Athens AR New Style Tetradrachm. Issue of Sulla, circa 86-84 BC. Helmeted head of Athena right / Owl standing right on amphora, monogram left and right, A on Amphora; all within wreath. Thompson 1313; Svoronos pl. 78, 11. 16.71g, 30mm, 12h.

Extremely Fine, attractively toned. Rare.

Ex CNG 64, 24 September 2003, lot 212.