Kingdom of Pontos, Mithradates VI Eupator - First Mithradatic War

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Struck at the height of the First Mithradatic War, the year 86 saw a complete reversal of Mithradates’ fortunes, as Sulla first reduced Athens by a lengthy siege and then proceeded to annihilate Mithradates’ armies in two pitched battles.

Sulla’s army took Athens on February 12 after a brutal year-long siege. Athens had chosen the wrong side in this struggle, and his battle hardened legions, veterans of the Social War, thoroughly sacked the city. Soon afterwards he captured the harbour of Piraios, which he thoroughly looted and ravaged by fire.

The Persian commander Archelaos’ naval blockage of Attica eventually forced Sulla to march into Boiotia seeking sustenance for his army, despite his concerns about exposing himself to the superior Pontic cavalry forces. At Chaeroneia in Boiotia Sulla’s army of 40,000 was confronted by Archelaos’ force, which numbered some 120,000 infantry and cavalry. The result of the engagement was a crushing defeat for the Pontic army. Appian and Plutarch claim that only 10,000 survived and escaped to the nearby town. They add that 14 Romans were not accounted for at the end of the battle, two of which returned at nightfall, making the Roman casualty count an unbelievable 12 soldiers. This defeat would be closely followed by another equally disastrous encounter at Orchomenos, leading to the total collapse of the Pontic forces in Greece.

This gold stater fully embodies the grand ambitions and megalomaniacal notions of Mithradates VI. Portraying himself on his coinage with an uplifted gaze and Dionysiac free flowing hair (an association strengthened on the reverse with the Dionysiac wreath of ivy), we are undoubtedly expected to see in Mithradates a divinely-inspired heroic king who fights for Greek freedom against the ruthless and expansionist Romans.

Kingdom of Pontos, Mithradates VI Eupator AV Stater. Pergamene year Γ (3 = 86 BC). Diademed head right / Stag grazing left; BAΣIΛEΩΣ above, MIΘPAΔATOY EYΠATOPOΣ in two lines below; to left, star-in-crescent and to right: Γ above monogram; monogram in exergue; all within Dionysiac wreath of ivy and fruit. Callataÿ 1997, D8-9. 8.40g, 20mm, 12h.

Good Very Fine. Very Rare.