KINGS of PONTOS. Mithradates VI Eupator. Circa 120-63 BC. Silver Tetradrachm from the Pergamon mint. NGC AU? 5/5 – 4/5, Fine Style. Dated year 209 BE (June 89 BC). Diademed head right / BASI?EOS MITPA?ATOY EY?ATOPOS, stag (or Pegasus) grazing left; to left, star-in-crescent above monogram,to right, TS (date) above monogram; all within Dionysiac wreath of ivy and fruit.
Our friends at Numismatica Ars Classica offered an excellent perspective on the rule of Mithradates VI and we quote their October 2016 (partial) lot description here:
“Few leaders in history were as polarizing as Mithradates VI. He is admired for his intense determination and his seemingly boundless talents, and yet he is detested for his many acts of cruelty, some of which cannot be excused even if one takes into account the violent age in which he lived. There can be no question that he was a military genius. He was one of Rome’s most formidable enemies, with Cicero rating him better than the Carthaginian general Hannibal, and second only to Alexander III among the Greek kings. It took three of Rome’s best generals – Sulla, Lucullus and Pompey the Great – to defeat Mithradates convincingly enough that he resorted to suicide. Mithradates came to power by arranging the murder of his mother, who was an unwanted regent, and he is credited with murdering other close family members and executing concubines rather than allowing them fall into enemy hands. He was so bitterly opposed to the Roman presence in Asia Minor that in a single night he ordered the murder of more than 80,000 Romans and Latins in residence there. Most of these victims, no doubt, were innocent of any crime against Mithradates, and could hardly have deserved the death sentence they received.”
Mithradates’ coinage deliberately evokes the memory of Alexander the Great, depicting himself as a semi-divine conqueror in the same mold. They represent the last great example of Hellenistic portraiture, and as such are highly prized.