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Achaemenid Empire, Pharnabazos as satrap AR Tetradrachm. Kyzikos, circa 398-396/5 BC. Head of Pharnabazos right, wearing satrapal cap tied below his chin, and diadem; ΦAP-N-[A]-BA around / Ornate ship's prow left, decorated with a griffin and apotropaic eye; before and aft, two dolphins downward; below, tunny left; all within shallow incuse circle. Maffre 1-11 (uncertain dies); SNG France 395; SNG von Aulock 1216; BMC 12; ACGC 951; Franke & Hirmer 718. 14.33g, 26mm, 10h.

Very Fine; corroded surfaces and harshly cleaned in parts. Very Rare; one of fourteen known examples, and one of only six in private hands.

From the inventory of a North American dealer.

This exceptional coin was struck by Pharnabazos, satrap of Hellespontine Phrygia, during a time of war between Sparta and the Achaemenid empire, for the financing of the Persian navy over which he had been given responsibility in 398 BC. Minted at Kyzikos from this time until circa 396/5 when the mint was temporarily closed due to the close proximity of Spartan forces, this coinage is now very rare, with only fourteen known surviving examples, however Maffre (Le monnayage de Pharnabaze frappé dans l'atelier de Cyzique, NumChron 164, 2004 pp. 1-32) noted that it is likely a vast number were originally produced to pay for the construction and maintenance of the fleet and the service of thousands of men (pp. 25-28).

A member of the Persian nobility, Pharnabazos had already proved himself to be both a competent military commander and diplomat, having entered into negotiations with Sparta in 413/2 BC (see Thucydides 8.99ff) which saw the latter receive military and economic support against Athens in the closing phase of the Peloponnesian War (this phase referred to as the Ionian War [412-405 BC]). Pharnabazos not only provided monetary assistance, but was himself active against the Athenians (see Xenophon Hellenica 1.1.6: Pharnabazos rides his horse into the sea while fighting during the Battle of Abydos in 411 BC). As a result of this alliance, Persia was able to re-annex Greek towns in Asia Minor and extract tribute. This had been specifically agreed to by Sparta in the treaty that sealed the alliance and it had also been agreed that Sparta would not invade or injure the land which was now owned by the Persians; however by 400 BC an emboldened Sparta had broken the agreement and declared war on Persia, claiming to wish now to liberate the towns under Persian rule. With the outbreak of war, Pharnabazos was the first to realise the military necessity of launching a Persian counter-attack at sea and on land. Alongside the exiled Konon of Athens, Pharnabazos held military command over the navy, and at Knidos in 394 BC the Persian fleet comprised of Phoenician, Cilician and Cypriot contingents effectively wiped the Spartans from the sea, ending Sparta’s short-lived naval dominance of the Aegean (see Xenophon Hellenica 4.8.1).  

However, despite this success, Sparta remained undefeated on land, and concerned by a resurgence of the Athenian empire from out of the chaos, the Persians concluded a peace treaty with Sparta in 387/6 BC known as the King’s Peace, or the Peace of Antalkidas, affirming Spartan hegemony in Greece and Persian control over the Greek towns in Asia. Pharnabazos was recalled with honour by the great king Artaxerxes II following the peace treaty and permitted to marry the king’s daughter Apama. He was later given command of an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to reclaim the rebellious satrapy of Egypt, following which failure in 373 (by which time he was now over seventy) nothing more is heard of him.

Achaemenid Empire, Pharnabazos as satrap AR Tetradrachm. (rxvi378)

Price: £15,384.00

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  • (Rates for 17/10/2018)
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