(46) Pontos, Mithradates III - AR tetradrachm, c. 200 B.C., 16.55 g. (inv. 93.011).
Obverse: Draped and diademed bust of Mithradates III r.
Reverse: Zeus seated l., with eagle in r. and scepter in l.; star and crescent in 1. field; monograms in r. field and beneath seat; BASILEVS MIYRADATOU: of King Mithradates.
Provenance: Harlan Berk, 1989.
Bibliography: O. Mørkholm, Early Hellenistic Coinage from the Accession of Alexander to the Peace of Apamea (336-188 B.C.) (Cambridge 1991) 131.

The kingdom of Pontos on the Black Sea probably issued its first coins, gold staters of the type issued by Alexander, under Mithradates II, who was in power from c. 255 to 220 B.C. His successor, Mithradates III (c. 220-185 B.C.), introduced the first distinctive Pontic coins, tetradrachms with his portrait on the obverse. The portrait is one of the most striking in all of Hellenistic coinage. Although it must have been made by a Greek die-cutter, there is not a trace of the typical Hellenization that characterizes the coin portraits of most Hellenistic rulers. The presumably realistic head, with its receding hairline, deeply furrowed brow, drooping moustache, and close-cropped beard, is that of a barbarian proud of his non-Greek blood. Most of the inhabitants of Pontos were of Iranian descent, and although Mithradates himself married a Seleukid, the country for the most part remained stubbornly resistant to outside influence.

In sharp contrast, the reverse depicts a seated Zeus clearly inspired by the reverses of Alexander's tetradrachms (see no. 41), although even here Mithradates has added something of his own, the star and crescent in the left field that will mark Pontic gold and silver coinage to the end.


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