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Parthian Mints


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It has been assumed since Gardner that the Greek letters and the monograms, usually below the archer's bow on the reverse of Parthian coins, represent mints. Gardner was able to identify a few mints but Sellwood [1980, 13] has attempted to correlate the Greek characters in the monograms with mint city names. Koch [1990] and Rtveladze (1995) have questioned the location of the Traxiane mint; Kochhas  revised the meaning of the Abarshahr monogram but, with those exceptions, this list follows Sellwood (1980). Also see the map of Parthian mints for a graphic perspective, and the list of Parthian cities that were not mints.

Abarshahr Epardus Saramana
Apamea Hecatompylos Seleucia
Areia Kangavar Susa
Artemita Laodicea Syrinx
Charax (Charax Spasini) Margiane Tambrax
Ctesiphon Nineveh Traveling Court Mint
Ecbatana Nisa - Mithradatkart Traxiane
Edessa Rhagae


Abarshahr

Modern Nishapur. ABLŠTR in Parthian. Sellwood [1980, 13] believed the letter Μ in the monogram made it stand for Mithradatkart, but Koch later convincingly argued the monogram to be Abarshahr, a different mint.  Koch reports the earliest coin from Abarshahr, with the letters ΑΠΑ, is one of Phraates II (see Mitchiner ACW, p. 110, 499 for an example). [Koch 1990, 32-34]


Apamea

City of Mesene occupied by Trajan during his 115/116 campaign (Arrian, Parthica, frs. 67-68). It is located where the Tigris divides, the left being the true Tigris and the right branch the Selas river.


Areia

Modern Herat in Afghanistan. It was on the early Silk route that led from Areia (Herat) to Rhagae to Ecbatana.


Artemita

Descriptive text goes here. Each mint's city name is an anchor for hyperlinks from the maps and other pages.


Charax (Charax Spasini)

Probably south of modern Basra, it was a major commercial site in the Parthian and later periods. It's best-known son was the geographer Isidore of Charax whose Parthian Stations lists the various locations along the major route running from Syria, across northern Mesopotamia, northern Iran and into Central Asia. Isidore was active during the reign of the Roman emperor Augustus. The most accessible printed edition of Parthian Stations is that edited by Wilfred Schoff & reprinted in 1976 (Ares Press), and a web version of the original 1914 London edition is available. Unfortunately there is no mention of Charax Spasini in that work as the town was located on a different trade route. Isidore also wrote a larger study Around the Parthian Empire which has been lost. A Charax Sidae in Syria and another Charax in north central Iran are mentioned in Parthian Stations. (Trudy Kawami)

According to Michael Grant's A Guide to the Ancient World (p.163), Charax is located on an artificial elevation between the Tigris and the Choaspes at the point where they meet, near the Persian Gulf. Pliny the Elder describes the foundation of the city by Alexander the Great. This Alexandria is uncertain, but a colony was formed there by Antiochus Epiphanes under the name Antiochia. The colony was destroyed by flooding. It was restored by Hyspaosines who was the son of a local Arab ruler named Sagdodonacus after whom it took the name Spasinou. Debevoise (38) says "Shortly after 129 B.C. the ancient city of Alexandria-Antioch near the head of the Persian Gulf was refounded as Charax Spasinou by the Arab Hyspaosines, son of Sagdodonacus. Under Hyspaosines, the surrounding country was rapidly conquered and thus was founded the kingdom of Characene." (Debevoise, fn 42, refers the reader to PW, arts. "Mesene" and "Alexandreia," No. 13.

Giuseppe Del Monte has pointed out in his reconstruction (Testi dalla Babilonia Ellenistica, Vol. I), that near this Antiocheia was fought one of the decisive battles between Demetrius I and Alexander Balas, traditionally placed near Antiocheia on the Orontes after a cursory reading of I Macc X 1-2, 48-50, and Jos. Ant. Jud. XIII, 2, 35-37, 58-61. Josephus [Antiquities, 20:34ff], mentions the city of Charax-Spasini.


Ctesiphon

City built by the Parthians immediately opposite Seleucia on the Tigris, possibly for billeting troops. It was captured by Trajan in A.D. 115/116, but only after Pacorus had escaped. The daughter of Osroes and the golden throne were captured.


Ecbatana

Modern Hamadan, Iran. Alternate spelling: Agbatana. Under the Parthians, it was the satrapal seat of the province of Media and on the early Silk route that led from Areia (Herat) to Rhagae to Ecbatana where the city controls the major east-west route through the central Zagros, the so-called High Road. From Ecbatana, the goods passed into Syria via the Fertile Crescent or across the desert via Dura-Europas or Palmyra, or a more southerly route through Mesopotamia to Seleucia or Ctesiphon. A Parthian period Greek inscription on the statue of Herakles at Bisotun dated 149/48 B.C. refers to a Cleomenes as satrap of the "upper provinces" (Media); it would appear that Media and Ecbatana did not fall to the Parthian king Mithradates I until ca. 147. The attempt by Antiochus VII in 130 B.C. to restore Seleucid power in Persia probably stopped short of Ecbatana, as did the invasion by Tigranes II of Armenia in the later years of Mithradates II (Frye, 1984, pp. 212, 215). The Parthians continued to use Ecbatana as a royal summer residence (Strabo, 11.13.1, 16.1.16; Curtius Rufus, 5.8.1; Tacitus, Annales 15.31) and as a royal mint. Parthian buildings in the city included the citadel on the Mosalla. ["Ecbatana," Encyclopaedia Iranica] The attribution to the mint at Ecbatana of issues of Mithradates I, with the title 'great King,' are possibly due to his conquest of this mint city ca. 147 B.C.


Edessa

Now Urfa in southeastern Turkey, former capital of ancient Osrhoene. It is situated on a limestone ridge, an extension of the ancient Mount Masius in the Taurus mountains of southern Anatolia, where the east-west highway from Zeugma (in the vicinity of modern Birecik) on the Euphrates to the Tigris met the north-south route from Samosata to the Euphrates via Carrhae. Edessa was held successively by the Seleucids, Parthians, and Romans and was a mint under Antiochus IV which suggests a degree of autonomy and importance in the Seleucid period. Coins of Vologases IV (see example) were minted there also. When Seleucid power declined in the late 2nd century B.C., Edessa became the capital of a small kingdom, ruled by the so-called "Abgar dynasty," generally allied with the Parthians, and under strong Parthian cultural influence. Pliny the Elder (5.85) called the inhabitants of Osroene "Arabes," and the ruler was also known as "phylarch" or "toparch" of the Saracens (Festus, 14). It was upon entering Edessa in 114 A.D. that the Roman emperor Trajan received the title Arabicus. From that time onward Edessa came increasingly within the Roman sphere. ["Edessa," Encyclopaedia Iranica] (see Encyclopaedia Iranica article)


Epardus

Descriptive text goes here. Each mint's city name is an anchor for hyperlinks from the maps and other pages.


Hecatompylos

Modern Shahr-e Qumis near Damghan, Iran. One of the Parthian royal capitals. For a bibliography, see L. Vanden Berghe, Bibliographie analytique de l'archéologie de l'Iran ancien.


Kangavar

In Media. The temple of Anahita is the significant Parthian survival here. The articles of Kambaksh-Fard are found in Louis vanden Berghe, Bibliographie analytique de l'archéologie de l'Iran ancien .


Laodicea

Descriptive text goes here. Each mint's city name is an anchor for hyperlinks from the maps and other pages.


Margiane

Modern Merv in Turkmenistan. Over one-quarter of the Parthian copper coins in the hoard described by Koch are from this mint. [Koch, 4] For excellent information on Margiana mint, see the article by Nikitin, "Early Parthian Coins of Margiana," 1998. The ruins of ancient Margiane are 17 miles/27 kilometers away from the modern city of Mary. The International Merv Project Turkmenistan, an Anglo-Turkmen Archaeological Collaboration, is under the direction of Dr. Georgina Herrmann (IoA, UCL) and Dr. K. Kurbansakhatove (Ashgabat).

The earliest known Parthian drachm with a Margiana mintmark - MAP - was from Phraates II


Nineveh

The occupation of Nineveh during the Parthian period is described by archaeologist Murray Eiland in a special Nineveh section of this web site.


Nisa - Mithradatkart

Near modern Askabad in Turkmenistan. Excavated by the Southern-Turkmen Combined Archaeological Expedition from 1948 to 1961, uncovering many Parthian ostraca as well as material remains. The first Italian mission (University of Turin) in Nisa was in 1990 and the most recent in 2009. See the Nisa Expeditions page for more on the excavations.


Rhagae

Also Rayy. At or near the present day Tehran, Iran. The renaming of Europa-Rhagai to Arsakia may have occurred under Phraates I. (See M.L. Chaumont, "Etudes d'histoire Parthe II," Syria 50 (1973), p.204.) Debevoise tells us it was renamed much earlier, but did not long retain the new name. It was on the early Silk route that led from Areia (Herat) to Rhagae to Ecbatana.


Saramana

Descriptive text goes here. Each mint's city name is an anchor for hyperlinks from the maps and other pages.


Seleucia on the Tigris

On the Tigris river in modern Iraq. Royal city of the Seleucid dynasty, taken by the Parthians and used for commerce and minting. On the early southern Silk Route, goods from Ecbatana passed into Syria via the route through Mesopotamia to Seleucia or Ctesiphon. The founding of Vologasia, the increasing importance of the Parthian city Ctesiphon immediately across the river and the destruction wrought by successive Roman invasions hastened the decline of the old royal city of Seleucia in the second century A.D. Seleucia was evidently among those cities that retained some form of Hellenistic city-state status under Parthian control. [Debevoise (1938), p. xli]


Susa

Proof for Parthian control of Susa appear for the first time in a double-dated inscription from the early part of 130 B.C., the conquest probably having been made by Mithradates I. (Debevoise, p. 30) Coins from Susa indicate that in the year 130-129 B.C. the city reverted from Parthian to Seleucid rule. (G. Le Rider, Suse sous le Seleucides, 377-378). After the death of Antiochus VII, Susa reverted to Parthian rule. Susa was evidently among those cities that retained some form of Hellenistic city-state status under Parthian control. [Debevoise (1938), p. xli]


Syrinx

In the ancient district of Hyrcania. Parthian held Syrinx was taken from Arsaces II by Antiochus in 209 B.C.


Tambrax

In the ancient district of Hyrcania. Probably the modern town of Sari, Iran. Tambrax was an unwalled city taken by Antiochus III in 209 B.C. from the Parthians under Arsaces II. About 171 B.C., Mithradates I may have invaded here, taking advantage of Bactrian weakness in the east. (Debevoise, 19)


Traveling Court Mint

(ΚΑΤΑ) ΣΤΡΑΤΕΙΑ or ΚΑΤΑCΤΡΑΤΕΙΑ, literally, "on campaign". (Olson, p. 30) For an example, see Unknown King (II).


Traxiane

Modern Damghan. City in the Parthian district of Traxiana, later known as Khorasan. It has been occupied since prehistoric times and was the original capital of the ancient province of Qumis.1 Koch maintains that the site of Traxiane has not yet been convincingly located and Sellwood's suggestion2 that it is identified with Mashad, which is very close to Abarshahr (Nishapur), is inconveniently close for two mints. Damghan, some 375 miles to the southwest of Mashad, seems a more likely place for a mint. Rtveladze3 suggests that Traxiane could be identified with the Amu Darya valley (between Termez and Charsanga).

________________________
Notes:
1. Koch (1990), p. 4, fn
2. Sellwood (1980), p. 13
3. Rtveladze "Parthia and Bactria," in In the Land of the Gryphons (1995), p. 187


This page last updated 17 Apr 2008

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