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    "I Came, I Saw, I Conquered"

    BOSPORAN AND PONTIC KINGDOMS. Pharnaces II (63-47 BC). AV stater (21mm, 8.19 gm, 12h).  Panticapaeum, dated Pontic Year 245 (53/2 BC). Diademed bust of Pharnaces right, with luxuriant hair / BAΣIΛEΩΣ BAΣIΛE-ΩN above, MEΓAΛOY ΦAPNAKOY below, Apollo enthroned left, holding laurel branch over tripod, left elbow resting on lyre at his side; date EMΣ to right. K.V. Golenko and J.P. Karyszkowski, 'The Gold Coinage of King Pharnaces of the Bosporus,' in Numismatic Chronicle 1972, p. 35, 4 (same dies). Very rare! Slight reverse die wear, otherwise Choice Extremely Fine.

    The son of the Pontic king Mithridates VI the Great, longtime archenemy of Rome, Pharnaces II forced his father to commit suicide in 64 BC to placate the Roman general Pompey. In return, Pompey granted Pharnaces the title King of the Bosporus and left him alone while Rome annexed most of the middle east and Asia Minor. For a decade, Pharnaces kept his considerable ambitions in check, but upon the death of the Armenian king Tigranes II the Great in 55/4 BC, he assumed Tigranes' title Great King of Kings, claiming leadership of all Eastern monarchs. He struck a limited number gold staters bearing the title, of which this example is one of perhaps 50 surviving specimens. When civil war broke out between Caesar and Pompey in 49 BC, Pharnaces sensed an opportunity to recoup the vast empire lost by his father and marched against the Roman provinces and client kingdoms of Asia Minor. He defeated a provincial Roman army led by Julius Caesar's legate, Gn. Domitius Calvinus, in 48 BC. But the Roman civil war ended abruptly the same year, and after dallying with Cleopatra in Egypt for several months, Caesar marched north into Asia Minor to restore the situation and avenge Calvinus. The climactic battle took place at Zela in mid 47 BC. While Pharnaces' army fought bravely, it was no match for Caesar's hardened legions. Describing the quick, sharp battle, Caesar sent a famous three-word dispatch to the Roman Senate: "Veni, vidi, vici" ("I came, I saw, I conquered."). Pharnaces survived the battle and fled back to Sinope in Pontus, where he surrendered after a short siege. Caesar imposed a heavy indemnity and released Pharnaces, but upon his return to the Bosporus he found his throne usurped by Assander, his chief minister. He raised an army and tried to retrieve his kingdom, but died in battle. The Bosporus remained a semi-independent client state of Rome for the next four centuries. 




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    August, 2014
    8th Friday
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