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Phraates IV (c. 38 - 2 B.C.)

ΦΡΑΑΤΗΣ

Phraates IV was the second heir to Orodes II, named to succeed his father in the wake of his brother Pacorus I's death. See the genealogy chart.

After murdering his father, Phraates purged his brothers and their families. Artavasdes of Media, a Parthian noble also under threat from Phraates, fled to the west, and in 36 B.C. successfully appealed to Mark Antony to back him as a rival claimant. Antony led a force of 100,000 men into Parthia, but his overconfident leadership resulted in defeat and the loss of 35,000 men.

A few years later, Phraates became embroiled in a civil war with usurper Tiridates I. Initially forced to flee Parthia, Phraates regrouped his forces and re-invaded, and eventually forced Tiridates to seek refuge among the Romans. Tiridates took with him a hostage son of Phraates who Augustus later exchanged in 20 B.C. for the Roman legionary standards captured from Crassus' legions at Carrhae in 53 B.C., Saxa in 40 B.C. and Marc Anthony in 36 B.C. Tiridates returned a few years later for another attempt, forcing Phraates to once again seek safety. But Tiridates was likely killed during the last of his several attempts to overthrow Phraates as his name disappears from the historical record after 25 B.C.

Also included in the exchange was the gift to Phraates of a slave girl named Musa, by whom he had a son, Phraataces. In time this concubine became Phraates' queen. In 10 B.C., she persuaded the king to send his own sons to Rome for their safety. Cleared of any rivals to her son, she poisoned Phraates in 2 B.C., and Phraataces succeeded his father to the throne.

While the tetradrachms below are attributed to Phraates IV, it may not be all of them. Francois de Callataÿ's important 1994 die study1 has supplanted Sellwood and Shore by proving that, of the tetradrachms attributed by Sellwood to Tiridates, only types S55.7-9 are Tiridates. The remainder (S55.1-6 and S55.10-14) are Phraates IV. This also means all coins in Shore2 attributed to Tiridates are Phraates IV. However, this arrangement does not satisfactorily explain the absence of the royal wart from the tetradrachms of Phraates IV. The prominence of the wart on the other issues of Phraates IV (S50 through S54) leads us to wonder: if the S55.1-6 and S55.10-14 issues belong to Phraates IV, where is the wart?

Click here to view the inscriptions on this king's coins.

_______________
Notes:
1. de Callataÿ, Les tétradrachmes d'OrodèsII et de Phraate IV (1994)
2. Shore. Parthian Coins and History (1993), coins 306-311.


Coins Attributed to Phraates IV

The attributions and cataloging of Parthian coins used throughout this web site follow David Sellwood's An Introduction to the Coinage of Parthia (1980, 2nd edition) for consistency. The few exceptions to this policy are explained here.

Click on coin images to enlarge:

Sellwood Type 50

PDC 544Phraates IV (c. 38 - 2 B.C.)
AR Tetradrachm
Mint/ Seleucia, August, 37 B.C.
Obv/ short-bearded bust left wearing diadem and griffin-ended torque; a wart visible on forehead; circular border of dots
Rev/ male wearing diadem seated right on throne, a bow in right hand; to his right, Tyche[?] stands left presenting wreath in right hand, and holding cornucopia in left; seven-line Greek inscription ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΝ / ΑΡΣΑΚ[ΟΥ] ΕΥΕΡΓΕ[ΤΟΥ] / ΔΙΚΑΙΟΥ / ΕΠΙΦΑΝΟΥΣ ΦΙΛΕΛΛΗΝΟΣ; below throne, Greek letters ΕΟΣ; in exergue, Greek letters ΓΟΡ[ΠΙ]; no border
Photo/ by permission from the Alexander Filer collection
- Sellwood 50.2
- Shore 268

PDC 18518Phraates IV (c. 38 - 2 B.C.)
AR Tetradrachm, 11.8g
Mint/ Seleucia, July 37 B.C.
Obv/ short-bearded bust left wearing diadem and griffin-ended torque; a wart visible on forehead; circular border of dots
Rev/ male wearing diadem seated right on throne, a bow in right hand; to his right, Tyche[?] stands left presenting wreath in right hand, and holding cornucopia in left; seven-line Greek inscription ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩ[Σ] ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΝ / ΑΡΣΑΚΟΥ ΕΥΕΡΓΕΤΟΥ / ΔΙΚΑΙΟΥ / ΕΠΙΦΑΝΟΥΣ ΦΙΛΕΛΛΗΝΟΣ; below throne, Greek letters ΕΟΣ; in exergue, Greek letters ΟΛΩ; no border
Photo/ by permission Pars Coins
- Sellwood 50.3

Click here to see an example of Sellwood type 50.9 reverse on a type 51.25 tetradrachm.


PDC 21582Phraates IV (c. 38 - 2 B.C.)
AR Drachm, 3.93g
Mint/ Rhagae, undated
Obv/ bust left with pointed beard wearing diadem and segmented torque with medallion; a wart visible on forehead; Nike behind, flying left holding wreath; circular border of dots
Rev/ beardless archer wearing bashlyk and cloak seated right on throne, holding bow in right hand; below bow, monogram Rho-Gamma; seven-line Greek inscription ; no border
Photo/ by permission Classical Numismatic Group
- Sellwood 50.15
- BMC Parthia, p.131, 255
- Triton VII (12 Jan 2004), lot 457 (this coin)
- Harlan J. Berk 20th CICF Auction (23 March 1995), lot 107 (this coin)

PDC 21583Phraates IV (c. 38 - 2 B.C.)
AR Drachm, 3.78g
Mint/ Rhagae, undated
Obv/ bust left with pointed beard wearing diadem and segmented torque with medallion; a wart visible on forehead; Nike behind, flying left holding wreath; circular border of dots
Rev/ beardless archer wearing bashlyk and cloak seated right on throne, holding bow in right hand; below bow, monogram Alpha-Tau; seven-line Greek inscription ; no border
Photo/ by permission Classical Numismatic Group
- Sellwood 50.15 variant (monogram)
- BMC Parthia, p.131, 255 variant (monogram)
- Triton VII (12 Jan 2004), lot 458 (this coin)

PDC 8845Phraates IV (c. 38 - 2 B.C.)
AE Dichalkous, 3.12g, 13mm
Mint/ Ecbatana?, undated
Obv/ bust left with pointed beard wearing diadem and segmented torque with medallion; a wart visible on forehead; Nike behind, flying left holding wreath; circular border of dots
Rev/ bust of Tyche right; behind, Greek letter Α; no inscription; no border
Photo/ by Chris Hopkins
- Sellwood 50.16
- BMC Parthia, p.131,257

Sellwood Type 51

ObversePhraates IV (c. 38 - 2 B.C.)
AR Tetradrachm, 12.58 g
Mint/ Seleucia, undated
Obv/ bare-headed bust left with pointed beard, royal wart on brow, segmented necklet, wearing diadem
Rev/ king seated right on throne, receiving a palm branch from Tyche left, holding a cornucopia; Greek inscription ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΝ / ΑΡΣΑΚΟΥ ΕΥΕΡΓΕΤΟΥ / ΔΙΚΑΙΟΥ / ΕΠΙΦΑΝΟΥΣ ΦΙΛΕΛΛΗΝΟΣ; no date under chair, exergue off flan
Photo/ by permission Henri Delger
- Sellwood 51.9 variant (crescent, but no date)

ObversePhraates IV (c. 38 - 2 B.C.)
AR Tetradrachm, 10.57 g
Mint/ Seleucia, 27/26 B.C.
Obv/ bare-headed bust left with pointed beard, royal wart on brow, segmented necklet, wearing diadem
Rev/ king seated right on throne, receiving a palm branch from Tyche holding a cornucopia; Greek inscription [ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΝ / ΑΡΣΑΚΟΥ ΕΥΕΡΓΕΤΟΥ / ΔΙΚΑΙΟΥ / ΕΠΙΦΑΝΟΥΣ ΦΙΛΕΛΛΗΝΟΣ] is partially readable due to a doublestrike; date between heads ϚΠΣ (286 S.E. = 27/26 B.C.), but month unreadable due to doublestrike on reverse
Photo/ by permission Classical Numismatic Group
- Sellwood 51.22 (? month)
- Shore 271

ObversePhraates IV (c. 38 - 2 B.C.) Mule
AR Tetradrachm
Mint/ Seleucia, December, 26 B.C.
Obv/ bare-headed bust left with pointed beard, royal wart on brow, segmented necklet, wearing diadem
Rev/ king seated right on throne, receiving a palm branch from Tyche holding a cornucopia; Greek inscription ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΝ / ΑΡΣΑΚΟΥ ΕΥΕΡΓΕΤΟΥ / ΔΙΚΑΙΟΥ / ΕΠΙΦΑΝΟΥΣ ΦΙΛΕΛΛΗΝΟΣ is partially readable due to a doublestrike; year date in exergue is ΖΠΣ (287 S.E. = 26 B.C.), but month unreadable due to doublestrike on reverse; the abbreviated month name (Audnaios) given as ΑΥΔΥ rather than ΑΥΔΝ given by Sellwood
Note/ the combined year and abbreviated month name are similar to Sellwood type 50.9, but it is believed that some examples of type 50 and type 51 are contemporaneous (e.g., 50.8 and 51.24; or, 50.7 and 51.20)
Photo/ by permission Mikkel Nørgaard Pedersen
- Sellwood 51.25 (but reverse Sellwood 50.9)

PDC 13343Phraates IV (c. 38 - 2 B.C.)
AE Dichalkous, 2.46 g, 12h
Mint/ Mithradatkart?, undated
Obv/ bare-headed bust left
Rev/ sacrificial implements?; Greek inscription? Mithradatkart monogram?
Prov/ collection Robert A. DeRose, Jr.
Photo/ by Chris Hopkins
- Sellwood 51.47

Sellwood Type 52

72 dpiPhraates IV (c. 38 - 2 B.C.)
AR Drachm (debased), 3.77 g, 20 mm
Mint/ Margiane ?, undated
Images/ [large obv & rev] [countermark detail]
Obv/ bearded bust of king left, wearing diadem knotted at nape of the neck with long flowing ribbons; border of dots; countermark behind head impressed during reign of Sapaleisis (or Sapadphises), a nomad Yüeh-chih tribal chieftain, who ruled Bactria before the rise of the Great Kushan Empire and was one of the local rulers of western Bactria who was dependent on the Parthians; countermark is profile of a man in Macedonian-type helmet facing right, neatly added to avoid marring portrait of Parthian ruler, probably indicating some degree of dependence.
Rev/ beardless archer seated right on throne, below bow monogram 50; illegible Greek inscription
Photo/ found in burial site 6 at Tillya-tepe. See Sarianidi & Koshelenko, "Coins from ... Tillya-tepe Site" (1982). Location uncertain; was Kabul Museum until Taliban revolution, reportedly found safe in Aug 2003.
- Tillya-tepe Cat. no. 6.33
- Sellwood 52 ?

ObversePhraates IV (c. 38 - 2 B.C.)
AR Drachm
Mint/ Ecbatana, undated
Additional images/ [large obv & rev]
Obv/ bare-headed bust left with pointed beard, wart on brow, segmented necklet, wearing diadem; eagle behind head
Rev/ beardless archer seated right on throne holding bow,  below bow monogram 26. Greek inscription
Photo/ by permission Smithsonian Institution, National Numismatic Collection
- Sellwood 52.10

ObversePhraates IV (c. 38 - 2 B.C.)
AR Drachm, 3.6 g, 20 mm
Mint/ Ecbatana, undated
Additional images/ [study image obv]
Obv/ bare-headed bust left with pointed beard, wart on brow, segmented necklet, wearing diadem; eagle behind head
Rev/ beardless archer seated right on throne holding bow,  below bow monogram 26. Greek inscription
Location/ V. Kucherov collection
Photo/ E. Rtveladze, The Ancient Coins of Central Asia (1987)
- Sellwood 52.10
- Rtveladze 11 (this coin)

ObversePhraates IV (c. 38 - 2 B.C.)
AR Drachm, 17x20 mm
Mint/ Ecbatana, undated
Additional images/ [large obv & rev]
Obv/ bare-headed bust left with pointed beard, wart on brow, segmented necklet, wearing diadem; eagle behind head
Rev/ beardless archer seated right on throne holding bow,  below bow monogram 26; Greek legend  ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΝ / ΑΡΣΑ[ΚΟΥ] / ΕΥΕΡΓΕΤΟΥ ΔΙΚΑΙΟΥ / [ΕΠ]ΙΦΑΝ[ΟΥΣ] [ΦΙ]ΛΕΛΛΗ[ΝΟΣ]
Note/ reverse is double-struck, confusing the legend
Photo/ by permission David Garstang
- Sellwood 52.10

PDC 4766Phraates IV (c. 38 - 2 B.C.)
AR Drachm, 3.80 g
Mint/ Rhagae, undated
Obv/ bare-headed bust left with pointed beard, wart on brow, segmented necklet, wearing diadem; eagle behind head
Rev/ beardless archer seated right on throne holding bow,  below bow monogram; Greek legend
Photo/ by permission Dr. Busso Peus Auktion 363, Lot 5157
- Sellwood 52.12
- Shore 280

PDC 4767Phraates IV (c. 38 - 2 B.C.)
AR Drachm, 3.79 g
Mint/ Court at Rhagae, undated
Obv/ bare-headed bust left with pointed beard, wart on brow, segmented necklet, wearing diadem; eagle behind head
Rev/ beardless archer seated right on throne holding bow,  below bow monogram; Greek legend
Photo/ by permission Dr. Busso Peus Auktion 363, Lot 5158
- Sellwood 52.13
- Shore 281

ObversePhraates IV (c. 38 - 2 B.C.)
AR Drachm, 3.8 g, 19 mm
Mint/ Mithradatkart, undated
Obv/ bare-headed bust left with pointed beard, wart on brow, segmented necklet, wearing diadem; eagle behind head
Rev/ beardless archer seated right on throne holding bow,  below bow monogram 28. Greek inscription
Photo/ by permission Doug Smith's Ancient Greek & Roman Coins
- Sellwood 52.14

ObversePhraates IV (c. 38 - 2 B.C.)
AR Drachm
Mint/ Laodicea, undated
Obv/ bare-headed bust left with pointed beard, wart on brow, segmented necklet, wearing diadem; eagle behind head
Rev/ beardless archer seated right on throne holding bow,  below bow monogram 41. Greek inscription
Photo/ by permission
- Sellwood 52.16

ObversePhraates IV (c. 38 - 2 B.C.)
AR Drachm, 3.93 g, 19 x 17 mm, die axis = 2h
Mint/ Rhagae, undated
Obv/ bare-headed bust left with royal wart, medium square-cut beard; wearing diadem with four ends. Eagle grasping diadem end and crowning bust with wreath, behind
Rev/ archer seated right on throne holding bow. Standard Greek legend. Monogram below bow
Photo/ by permission Thomas K. Mallon, The Coins and History of Asia
- Sellwood 52.37 variant
- Shore 287 variant

ObversePhraates IV (c. 38 - 2 B.C.)
AE Chalkous, 0.77 g, 9 mm, die axis = 12h
Mint/ unknown, undated
Obv/ bare-headed bust left with pointed beard wearing diadem
Rev/ star within crescent; legend right
Photo/ by permission Thomas K. Mallon, The Coins and History of Asia
- Sellwood 52.55
- Shore 548

Sellwood Type 53

ObversePhraates IV (c. 38 - 2 B.C.)
AR Drachm, 18 mm
Mint/ Laodicea, undated
Obv/ bare-headed bust left with royal wart, medium square-cut beard, segmented necklet, wearing diadem with four ends, star in front; eagle grasping diadem end and crowning bust with wreath behind
Rev/ archer seated right on throne holding bow, monogram 41 below bow; standard Greek legend; star behind throne
Photo/ by permission
- Sellwood 53.5

Sellwood Type 54

ObversePhraates IV (c. 38 - 2 B.C.)
AR Drachm
Mint/ Ecbatana, undated
Obv/ bare-headed bust left with royal wart, pointed beard; wearing diadem. Segmented necklet, eagle with wreath behind, star above crescent in front
Rev/ archer seated right on throne holding bow, below bow monogram 26
Prov/ from the Mendel Peterson collection
Photo/ by permission Gene Brandenburg, Old Town Coins
- Sellwood 54.7

ObversePhraates IV (c. 38 - 2 B.C.)
AR Drachm, 3.93 g, 19 x 17 mm, die axis = 2h
Mint/ Ecbatana, undated
Obv/ bare-headed bust left with royal wart, pointed beard; wearing diadem. Segmented necklet, eagle with wreath behind, star above crescent in front
Rev/ archer seated right on throne holding bow, below bow monogram 26
Photo/ by permission Kenneth W. Dorney, Classical Numismatist
- Sellwood 54.7

ObversePhraates IV (c. 38 - 2 B.C.)
AR Drachm, 3.03 g, 18 mm, die axis = 12h
Mint/ Ecbatana, undated
Obv/ bare-headed bust left with royal wart, pointed beard; wearing diadem. Segmented necklet, eagle with wreath behind, star above crescent in front
Rev/ archer seated right on throne holding bow, below bow monogram 26
Photo/ by permission Michel Prieur, CGB, Paris
- Sellwood 54.7
- Sear 7474

ObversePhraates IV (c. 38 - 2 B.C.)
AR Drachm, 3.18 g, 20.0 mm
Mint/ Ecbatana, undated
Obv/ bare-headed bust left with royal wart, pointed beard; wearing diadem. Segmented necklet, eagle with wreath behind, star above crescent in front
Rev/ archer seated right on throne holding bow, below bow monogram 26
Photo/ by permission Douglas Mudd
- Sellwood 54.7

PDC 4768Phraates IV (c. 38 - 2 B.C.)
AR Drachm, 3.95 g
Mint/ Court at Rhagae, undated
Obv/ bare-headed bust left with pointed beard, wart on brow, segmented necklet, wearing diadem; eagle behind head, star above crescent in front
Rev/ beardless archer seated right on throne holding bow;  behind throne monogram; below bow monogram; Greek legend
Photo/ by permission Dr. Busso Peus Auktion 363, Lot 5159
- Sellwood 54.10

Sellwood, Victory Drachms of Phraates IV, Type 6

No image availablePhraates IV (c. 38 - 2 B.C.)
AR Drachm
Mint/ Laodicea, undated (approx. 25 B.C.)
Obv/ bare-headed bust left with royal wart, pointed beard; wearing diadem. Segmented necklet, Nike (instead of eagle) with wreath behind, no star nor crescent in front
Rev/ archer seated right on throne holding bow, below bow monogram
- cf. Sellwood, "The 'Victory' Drachms of Phraates IV", AJN (1996), Type 6 (Plate 12, #8)

 


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