Silver drachm

Period: Parthian

Date: ca. 124–87 B.C.

Geography: Iran

Culture: Parthian

Medium: Silver

Dimensions: 0.1 in. (0.25 cm)

Classification: Metalwork-Coins-Inscribed

Credit Line: Bequest of Joseph H. Durkee, 1898

Accession Number: 99.35.2953


Coins began to be minted for Parthian rulers after the accession of Mithridates I (ca. 171-138 B.C.). Silver was the main metal and mints were located in over twenty cities. The drachm was the primary denomination and most were minted at Ecbatana: tetradrachms were produced almost exclusively in Seleucia-Ctesiphon. Most coins feature a Parthian king’s portrait on the obverse facing left and either a seated archer or a standing figure and fire altar on the reverse, surrounded by an inscription. The obverse of this drachm features the bust of the Parthian king Mithridates II (ca. 124-88 B.C.) crowned with the diadem typical of Hellenistic rulers. His beard is long and his short hair curls at the ends. On the reverse, an archer seated on a high-backed throne holds a bow, and is framed by the legend "Arsaces, great king, god manifest" (Arsaces, basileus megalos, Epiphanes). "Arsaces" became the title of Parthian kings in homage to the dynasty’s founder Arsaces I (238-211 B.C.) and the seated archer may represent him; in modern literature both "Parthian" and "Arsacid" are used to describe the empire and its rulers. Mithridates II’s reign was a significant period with respect to numismatics since the empire’s territorial expansion and wealth required sufficient circulation. Of all the numismatic series issued by Mithridates II, this coin type is significant for the introduction of the epithet "Epiphanes," the square shape of the legend, and the throne instead of the Seleucid-inspired omphalos, which became standard features of later Parthian coinage.