Mithradates VI was the legendary king of Pontus, a region in what is now northeastern Turkey. In about 121 B.C., at the age of eleven, he succeeded his father, Mithradates V, and began his career of conquest by seizing Colchis and the Crimea from the Scythians. His attempts to cement his control in Paphlagonia and Cappadocia were thwarted by Rome, and a plot to depose Nicomedes III of Bithynia was unsuccessful. Raids on Pontic territory in 88 B.C. by Nicomedes, instigated by Rome, led to the First Mithradatic War. Mithradates occupied the Roman Province of Asia and most of the Greek cities in Asia Minor, but during 86 and 85 he was defeated in Asia and Greece by the Roman generals Gaius Flavius Fimbria and Lucius Cornelius Sulla. The Second Mithradatic War began with a Roman invasion of Pontus in 83 that was repelled the next year. The Roman design to annex Bithynia provoked the Third Mithradatic War. Mithradates occupied Bithynia, but in 73 B.C. his army was isolated and destroyed by the Roman commander Lucius Licinius Lucullus. In 66, Pompey the Great succeeded to the Roman command and defeated Mithradates, who had regained much of his territory. Mithradates then devised a plan for the invasion of Italy from the north, but his troops deserted to his son, Pharnaces and Mithradates soon committed suicide.
How many hands have touched a coin in your pocket or purse? What eras and lands have the coin traversed on its journey into our possession? As we reach into our pockets to pull out some change, we rarely hesitate to think of who might have touched the coin before us, or where the coin will venture to after it leaves our hands. More than money, coins are a symbol of the state that struck them, of a specific time and location, whether contemporary currencies or artifacts of a long forgotten empire. This stunning hand-struck coin reveals an expertise of craftsmanship and intricate sculptural detail that is often lacking in contemporary machine-made currencies. Like many leaders, Mithradates adopted the imagery of Alexander the Great in order to bolster his legitimacy as a ruler and to appeal to the Greek citizenry residing in Asia Minor. This magnificent coin is more than a memorial to a leader; it is an artifact of a kingdom passed from the hands of civilization to civilization, from generation to generation. - (C.2264)