Leu Numismatik

Auction 15  –  1 June 2024

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Leu Numismatik, Auction 15

Celtic, Greek, Roman, Byzantine Coins and Aurum Barbarorum

Sa, 01.06.2024, from 1:00 PM CEST
Pre bids are accepted until:
Sa, 01.06.2024, until 6:00 AM CEST

Description

★ Among the finest known tetradrachms of Tigranes the Younger ★

KINGS OF ARMENIA. Tigranes the Younger, 77/6-66 BC. Tetradrachm (Silver, 27 mm, 16.18 g, 1 h), Tigranokerta (?), circa 71/0-69/8. Draped bust of Tigranes the Younger to right, wearing five-pointed tiara decorated with a comet star. Rev. BAΣIΛEΩΣ - TIΓPANOY Eutychides' Tyche of Antiochia, turreted and veiled, seated right on rock, holding long palm frond in her right hand; below, river-god Orontes swimming right; in field to right, Π; in exergue, in small letters, ΔHMO; all within wreath. Kovacs pl. 12, 152 ( same dies ) = SCADA Group 2, A4/P1 (as 'Tigranes II' from the 'Damaskos satellite mint'). Extremely rare, an issue of great historical interest. Well struck, perfectly centered and undoubtedly among the finest known tetradrachms of Tigranes the Younger. Light die roughness on the obverse, otherwise, good very fine.

From a European collection, formed before 2005.

While earlier authors denied Tigranes the Younger, the son of Tigranes II, any independent coinage, Kovacs has convincingly argued that the extremely rare issues featuring a comet with a tail but no eagles on the tiara should be attributed to the rebellious prince. The young Tigranes, maternally a grandson of the great Pontic king Mithradates VI Eupator, served as a general under his father since the early 70s BC and was acknowledged by him as co-ruler. Dated coins bearing his portrait from the years 71/0-69/8 BC suggest a stay in Damaskos, from where the Tigranids expelled the Ituraean ruler Ptolemy, but the city was lost again due to the onset of conflict with the Romans in 69 BC. In 66 BC, Tigranes the Younger rose against his father with the help of the Parthians but was defeated by him, after which he betrayed the old king to Pompey, who advanced into Armenia the same year. However, the monarch preempted his deposition by a humiliating submission to the Roman general.

Pompey, apparently mistrustful of the young Tigranes due to his connections with the Parthians, chose to leave Armenia under the rule of the father and entrusted the son with the insignificant rule over Sophene and Gordiene. Disappointed, Tigranes the Younger allegedly refused an invitation to a banquet by Pompey, prompting the general to depose him shortly thereafter and present him as a captive in his triumph in Rome. The exact circumstances of the episode remain unclear, but an experienced politician like Pompey is unlikely to have acted solely out of wounded pride. Perhaps he saw in the constellation of the old Tigranes II in Armenia and his rebellious son, allied with the Parthians, in neighboring Sophene, too great a risk of further unrest, which threatened to undermine his efforts to stabilize the East.

While Kovacs' attribution of the coins to Tigranes the Younger is convincing, his datings raise questions. He attributes the present emission to Tigranokerta or Artagigarta and dates it to the year 66/5 BC, i.e., to the time of the short-lived rule of Tigranes the Younger over Sophene. Such dating would indeed explain the extreme rarity of the tetradrachms and drachms - the former were struck from a single obverse and four reverse dies, the latter from a single pair of dies - but the author overlooks the close connection to a series of tetradrachms of Tigranes II (Kovacs 76.1-3, see also lot 127 above). Not only are they signed with the same name ΔHMO[...], but the portraits are also so similar that they likely belong to the same emission (cf. especially Kovacs pl. 7, 76.2). The bronzes of the younger Tigranes from Damascus from the year 70/69 BC also bear the name of the same official, who thus must have held some sort of powerful position throughout the empire, perhaps as a chancellor or financial minister.

Thus, not only is the late dating of the silver coins of Tigranes the Younger obsolete, but it also raises the question of whether the clear stylistic break within the tetradrachms of Tigranes II summarized by Kovacs into one group actually all come from one mint, or whether two different workshops were active here - one might think, for example, of the formerly Seleukid capital Antioch on the Orontes, where Kovacs 71-75 would fit stylistically well (and where they were placed by SCADA), and an eastern mint like Tigranokerta for Kovacs 76 and 152-154. In any case, this cataloguer prefers an early dating of the extremely rare silver coins of Tigranes the Younger, namely to the years 71/0-69/8 BC. The coins thus stem from a time when the father, perhaps in emulation of Seleukid models from the 3rd century BC, appointed the son viceroy of the short-lived Armenian Empire, not expecting that he would be betray him only a few years later.

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