Tetradrachm of Mithradates VI Eupator (Mithradates the Great 120-63 BC), Kingdom of Pontus, struck in September of 73 BC
The coin shows the wonderully detailed head of Mithradates VI facing right, wearing a diadem. The reverse has the inscription BAΣIΛEΩΣ / MIΘPAΔATOY / EYΠATOPOΣ , a stag grazing to the left, a star in crescent above a monogram on left, the date ΔKΣ (year 224) on right, IB in exergue, all within a Dionysiac wreath of ivy and fruit.
The Kingdom of Pontus or Pontic Empire was a state of Greek and Persian origin. It was founded by Mithradates I in 281 BC and lasted until its conquest by the Roman Republic in 63 BC. The kingdom grew to its largest extent under Mithradates VI Eupator (Mithradates the Great). Mithradates VI was the last of the Hellenistic kings to fend off the Romans. He conquered Colchis, Cappadocia, Bithynia, the Greek colonies of the Tauric Chersonesos and for a brief time the Roman province of Asia. After a long struggle with Rome in the Mithridatic Wars, Pontus was defeated. Part of Pontus was incorporated into the Roman Republic as the province Bithynia et Pontus and the eastern half survived as a client kingdom.
Mithradates VI is remembered as one of the Roman Republic’s most formidable and successful enemies, who engaged three of the prominent generals from the late Roman Republic in the Mithridatic Wars: Lucius Cornelius Sulla, Lucullus and Pompey. He was also the greatest ruler of the Kingdom of Pontus, a prince of Persian and Greek ancestry. He claimed descent from Cyrus the Great, from the family of Darius the Great. On the Greek side he was descended from Antigonus I Monophthalmus and Seleucus I Nicator, who were generals of Alexander the Great. After Alexander’s death, they became kings of parts of Alexander’s divided empire.
Mithradates VI issued this coin during his temporarily successful military campaign to free Greece from Roman rule. Like others before him, Mithradates purposely adopted the tousled hair and fierce gaze of the young Macedonian king Alexander the Great (example). However, at the time this coin was struck, Mithradates VI was 50 years old, demonstrating that well over two centuries after Alexander’s death, his portrait was still the archetypal image for kings.