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Tarsos, Cilicia (Pharnabazos satrap)


[B]Tarsos, Cilicia (Pharnabazos satrap; 380 - 377 BC.) AR Stater[/B] [u]Obv[/u]: Three-quarter facing head of Herakles wearing lion's skin, head turned slighted right; KLK (Aramaic legend for "Cilicia") in lower right-hand field. [u]Rev[/u]: Head of warrior (Pharnabazos?) wearing three-part crested Athenian helmet with movable double visor, facing left. [u]Attribution[/u]: Moysey Type 1, (pl.2, #25) - obverse die; SNG Levante 75 (this coin). [u]Provenance[/u]: ex.CNG e148 (#197), 9.20.06; ex.CNG 66 (#605), 3.19.04; ex. David Herman Coll.; ex. Levante Coll. [u]Weight[/u]: 10.50 gm [u]Maximal Diameter[/u]: 20 mm [u]Axis[/u]: 12 [u]Note[/u]: Apparently, a unique coin, if not excessively rare. Only one obverse 3/4 facing Herakles die is known in this early series, while four reverse dies are mentioned by Moysey. Moysey, however, incorrectly states that there are no variants for the reverse dies, as this coin provides prima facie evidence of a significant variant and additional die from the four he lists in his ANS Museum Notes 31 article. The obverse die on this coin is a match with that of all the other known Herakles/Ares types, of which there are only 7-8 known, though the die wear and rust appears to be more significant than that of the example in the Moysey plates (i.e., pl.2, 25). This suggests that this likely unique coin may be near the end of the Herakles/Ares series and was a short-run transitional issue before the eve of the following Baaltars/Ares series. Of the Herakles/Ares series, Moysey writes, "Attributed to Pharnabazos are a few extant staters with the head of Herakles in a lion scalp on the obverse and the same helmeted warrior of Ares on the reverse...Only seven coins of this issue are known. All were struck with the same obverse die. Four reverse dies are known (all with the standard "bearded Ares or warrior"), but there are no reverse variants (proven incorrect by the existence of this coin). The two examples in the ANS and the one in London appear to be overstruck, but no traces remain of the type under the Herakles in lion scalp. The fact that Pharnabazos is not named on the coins may suggest an early date, possibly at the time of the earlierr Persian expedition against Egypt over which Pharnabazos shared command with Abrokomas and Tithraustes. There is little ancient evidence for this earlier expedition. It must antedate Isokrates' Panegyrikos (ca. 380 BC), which tells us the expedition lasted for a period of three years but accomplished very little. The martial motifs of the (Herakles/Ares) types again hint that the issue was minted for Greek mercenary pay." (ANS, Museum Notes 31, pg. 15). ------------------------------------- Pharnabazos was a member of the Persian nobility with close connections to the Persian king, and satrap of Hellespontine Phrygia, which later became the satrapy of Daskylion. When he was appointed satrap in 413/2 BC, Pharnabazos and Tissaphernes, the satrap of Lydia and Caria, were involved in negotiations between Sparta and the Persian Empire against Athens. As a result, Sparta received financial assistance from Persia. Lysander, the Spartan admiral, defeated the Athenian navy and thus forced Athens' surrender, and Persia itself would acquire control of the Greek cities in Asia. Tensions arose, however, among all the parties involved: Tissaphernes, because of his machinations against Pharnabazos, lost Lydia; Pharnabazos became rightly distrustful of Lysander and the Spartans, who saw events as an opportunity to expand their power in the Aegean; and the young Cyrus II, who had been sent to settle the difficulties that had arisen, was soon embroiled with his brother in a war over the Persian throne. GK235

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Asia Minor - Cilicia

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Cool coin, nice and rare, really good helmet/head by any standards. Satrapal history is very interesting don't you think?
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The intrigue surrounding the political and military activities of the satraps and their interaction with the Spartans often rivals that seen in the waning days of the Roman Republic.


Xenophon did us a favor with Pharnabazos by talking him up so much in his Hellenika, though I have seen the writings of some historians who think Xenophon gave Pharnabazos the sympathetic treatment in an attempt to increase the menace of Tissaphernes. In any event, Pharnabazos was the "victor of history," as it is his activities we know the most about above any other satrap.




Though it is just speculation at this point, the style and artistry of the "shaven warrior" reverse on this coin appears to be close to the single known 3/4 Herakles obverse die. This can't be said for some of the "bearded warrior/Ares" 5 reverses in this short Herakles/Ares series and certainly doesn't apply to the subsequent Baaltars/Ares series (of which, I also have an example - see Gallery). This provides an alternate hypothesis that this coin is actually very early in the series with some support by the lack of a Greek inscription for TARSUS on the reverse (as is featured on all the 4 other known die reverses).


You know me, though. I'm always a sucker for the "mystery coins," as they feed my addiction for research. :)




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BTW - does anyone know of unbearded representations of Ares in Greek or Greco-Persian art? If none exist, I can see this coin putting a chink in the assertion that the warrior reverses were meant to represent Ares and may push the argument back to the reverses being representations of Pharnabazos.
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