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Tiridates III (c. A.D. 224 - 228?)

ΤΙΡΙΔΑΤΗΣ

The coins of Tiridates III were attributed to Artabanus IV by Sellwood1 due to an uncertain Parthian Aramaic inscription. In an article titled "The End of the Parthian Dynasty," Sellwood corrected his earlier reading based after the appearance of a coin which confirmed the inscription.2 It is now clear that the correct reading of the reverse inscription is tr'dt or trdt (= Tiridates).

Figure 1

However, the name of Artabanus IV still appears on all of the coins of Tiridates III. An Arsacid with this name was elected king of Armenia circa A.D. 216, but we cannot be certain it is the same Tiridates who issued these coins. The Armenian king appears to have died before the final battle with the Sasanians. Sellwood concludes that, in any event, Tiridates was the last Arsacid ruler of Parthia.

In addition to the possibility that Tiridates III was the last Parthian ruler (and his mints added his name to existing dies of Artabanus' under the press of Sasanian conquest), it is also likely that the coins were an emergency issue, for the second line of Aramaic letters on reverse of Type 89.4 drachms are squeezed into a too small space just above the archer.

As for dating the reign of Tiridates III, we can tentatively assume that it is after the demise of Artabanus IV (c. A.D. 216 - 224), since Tiridates added his name to the coins of his overlord without naming himself as king. It is likely that he continued the struggle against Ardashir I for a short while before vanishing. Perhaps he was defeated and killed, or escaped to Armenia. There are a number of kings and commanders from Armenia called Tiridates after the Sasanian overthrow of the Parthians. The fact that Tiridates does not style himself king also suggests that he might not have been an Arsacid prince. Perhaps he was a high-ranking army commander serving the Arsacids, not the chosen successor of Artabanus IV.

Undoubtedly, after the defeat and death of Artabanus IV the Parthian mint personnel had to rapidly switch allegiance to a new master. An army on the retreat from Sasanian forces would have had to make do with temporary mints and local craftsmen untrained in cutting dies for minting coins. The main purpose in such a difficult period would have been to strike coins to pay the soldiers with little concern for the accuracy of portrait or details. Any coin resembling that of the dead Parthian king would have been sufficient, but it is significant that Tiridates added his name on the drachms. No tetradrachms are known for either Artabanus IV or Tiridates III, but Vologases VI (c. A.D. 208 - 228) continued issuing tetradrachms until 539 SE (A.D. 228).

See the genealogy chart.


Coins of Artabanus IV with the name Tiridates

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 89.4

PDC 10933Tiridates III (c. A.D. 224 - 228?)
AR Drachm, 3.70 g, die axis 12h
Mint/ Ecbatana, undated
Obv/ bust left with forked beard wearing diadem and tiara decorated with pellets on stalks round crest and vertically on side; ear flap and long neck flap decorated with lines of pellets; pendants shown as two lines; two-band spiral torque with no visible end; no wart; no earring; behind head, Aramaic letters (= 'r); circular border of dots
Rev/ beardless archer wearing bashlyk and cloak seated right on throne, holding bow in right hand; below bow, monogram; three-line barbarous Greek inscription (cf. L89i); above, two-line Aramaic inscription (= 'rtbnw MLK' / tr'dt); no border
Photo/ by permission Lanz Numismatik
- Sellwood 89.4
- Sellwood, "The End of the Parthian Dynasty" (1990)
- Lanz Numismatik, Auktion 102 (May 2001), lot 328
- Shore, not listed

PDC 21635Tiridates III (c. A.D. 224 - 228?)
AR Drachm, 3.60 g
Mint/ Ecbatana, undated
Obv/ bust left with forked beard wearing diadem and tiara decorated with pellets on stalks round crest and vertically on side; ear flap and long neck flap decorated with lines of pellets; pendants shown as two lines; two-band spiral torque with no visible end; no wart; no earring; behind head, Aramaic letters (= 'r); circular border of dots
Rev/ beardless archer wearing bashlyk and cloak seated right on throne, holding bow in right hand; below bow, monogram; three-line barbarous Greek inscription (cf. L89i); above, two-line Aramaic inscription (= 'rtbnw MLK' / tr'dt); no border
Photo/ by permission Classical Numismatic Group
- Sellwood 89.4
- Sellwood, "The End of the Parthian Dynasty" (1990)
- Triton VII (12 Jan 2004), lot 510 (this coin)
- Shore, not listed
 

"The End of the Parthian Dynasty" (1990), Figure 5

PDC 22874Tiridates III (c. A.D. 224 - 228?) Modern Forgery
AR Drachm, 3.66 g
Mint/ traveling mint(?), undated
Obv/ bust left with forked beard wearing diadem and tiara decorated with pellets on stalks round crest and a star surrounded with pellets on side; ear flap and long neck flap decorated with lines of pellets; pendants shown as two lines; necklet with center row of pellets; no wart; no earring; no Aramaic letters behind head; circular border of dots
Rev/ beardless archer wearing bashlyk and cloak seated right on throne, holding bow in right hand; below bow, monogram; three-line barbarous Greek inscription (L89i); above, two-line Aramaic inscription (= 'rtbnw MLK' / tr'dt); no border
Photo/ by permission Gorny & Mosch
- Sellwood 89.4 variant (tiara, inscription)
- Sellwood, "The End of the Parthian Dynasty" (1990), cf. fig. 5
- Bulletin on Counterfeits, v19/2, cf. nos. 23a-b
- Gorny & Mosch Auktion 130, lot 1506 (this coin)

The appearance of a coin of this type in 1990 (Bank Leu 50, lot 244) provided the clear reading necessary to confirm the translation of earlier inscriptions on Sellwood Type 89.4. A second example appeared at auction in 2004 (Gorny & Mosch 130, lot 1506). Unfortunately, after originally being accepted as genuine, the "no obverse legend" coin that provided the clarity to correctly read Type 89.4 inscriptions was condemned as a fantasy piece in the Bulletin on Counterfeits in late 1994, which found the engraving style unsatisfactory (among other reasons).3 If the condemned coins had been the product of traveling mints operated by makeshift personnel, it could have possibly answered the criticism of style and iconography which is inconsistent with the drachms of Artabanus IV. However, and fatally, it does not explain away other concerns raised about these coins. The authenticity of the suspect coins went to arbitration and their modern manufacture confirmed by a world class numismatic scholar appointed as expert in a report summarized in the ANA's Counterfeit Coin Bulletin, Nov 2001.

The following coins were condemned as false (Bulletin on Counterfeits vol. 19, no. 2, 1994-5, pp. 27-30):


PDC 28415Tiridates III (c. A.D. 224 - 228?) Modern Forgery
AR Drachm
Mint/ traveling mint(?), undated
Obv/ bust left with forked beard wearing diadem and tiara decorated with pellets on stalks round crest and a star surrounded with pellets on side; ear flap and long neck flap decorated with lines of pellets; pendants shown as two lines; necklet with center row of pellets; no wart; no earring; no Aramaic letters behind head; circular border of dots
Rev/ beardless archer wearing bashlyk and cloak seated right on throne, holding bow in right hand; below bow, monogram; three-line barbarous Greek inscription (L89i); above, two-line Aramaic inscription (= 'rtbnw MLK' / tr'dt); no border
Photo/ by permission International Bureau for the Suppression of Counterfeit Coins
- Sellwood 89.4 variant (tiara, inscription)
- Sellwood, "The End of the Parthian Dynasty" (1990), cf. fig. 5
- Bulletin on Counterfeits, v19/2, no. 23a (this coin)

PDC 28410Tiridates III (c. A.D. 224 - 228?) Modern Forgery
AR Drachm, 3.60g, die axis 12 o'clock
Mint/ traveling mint(?), undated
Obv/ bust left with forked beard wearing diadem and tiara decorated with pellets on stalks round crest and a star surrounded with pellets on side; ear flap and long neck flap decorated with lines of pellets; pendants shown as two lines; necklet with center row of pellets; no wart; no earring; no Aramaic letters behind head; circular border of dots
Rev/ beardless archer wearing bashlyk and cloak seated right on throne, holding bow in right hand; below bow, monogram; three-line barbarous Greek inscription (L89i); above, two-line Aramaic inscription (= 'rtbnw MLK' / tr'dt); no border
Photo/ by permission Leu Numismatik
- Sellwood 89.4 variant (tiara, inscription)
- Sellwood, "The End of the Parthian Dynasty" (1990), fig. 5 (this coin)
- Bank Leu Auktion 50, lot 244 (this coin)
- Bulletin on Counterfeits, v19/2, no. 23b (this coin)
 

_______________
Notes:
1. Sellwood, David. An Introduction to the Coinage of Parthia (Spink, 1980), type 89.4
2. --------. "The End of the Parthian Dynasty," Spink Numismatic Circular 98, 1990, p. 157
3. Walker, Alan. "Forgeries and Inventions of Parthian Coins," Bulletin on Counterfeits, vol. 19, no. 2 (1994/5), pp. 27-30
 


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