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    Remarkable Agathocles Pedigree Tetradrachm

    GRECO-BACTRIAN KINGDOM. Agathocles (ca. 185-170 BC). AR tetradrachm (35mm, 16.24 gm, 12h).  "Pedigree issue" commemorating Diodotus I (portrait) and Antiochus II(?) (name and titles). ANTIOXOY NIKATOPOΣ, diademed head of Diodotos I right / BAΣIΛEΥONTOΣ AΓAΘOKΛEOYΣ ΔIKAIOY, Zeus striding left, seen from behind, extending left arm covered by aegis, brandishing thunderbolt in right hand; to left, wreath above eagle standing left; monogram in inner right field. Bopearachchi Série 13B. SNG ANS 258. A stunning piece, struck on an immense flan, with a portrait in sculptural high relief. Reverse die a little worn, otherwise Choice Extremely Fine.

    The Greco-Bactrian ruler Agathocles, like many kings of this vast "empire of mystery," is a shadowy figure for whose reign no historical account has survived, apart from his surprisingly extensive coinage. Numismatic evidence indicates his reign followed upon that of Demetrius I, who extended Greek rule deep into northern India, and likely overlapped and coincided with the reigns of Euthydemus I (son of Demetrius?), Pantaleon, Antimachus I, and Eucratides I "the Great," who seems to have conquered his realm about 171-170 BC. Agathocles struck a remarkable "pedigree" coinage naming as his antecedents Alexander III "the Great," Antiochus "Nicator" (Antiochus II?), Diodotus I and II, Euthydemus I, and Demetrius I. Only the last two of these rulers had any blood relation to each other; in fact, they were in some cases deadly enemies. In honoring them on his coinage, Agathocles seems to be claiming legitimacy based on the authority inherent in their names and titles, rather than any personal blood relationship. In particular, this extremely rare tetradrachm type has proven doubly puzzling to numismatists in that it seems to name the diademed head on the obverse as "Antiochus Nicator" (Antiochus the Conqueror). No known Bactrian king was named Antiochus and no Seleucid king named Antiochus is known to have adopted the epithet Nicator. Moreover, the portrait seems to resemble Diodotus I, the founder of the Greco-Bactrian kingdom, who broke away from Seleucid rule during the reign of Antiochus II Theos (261-246 BC). Bactrian independence was gradual, however, and for a time Diodotus issued coins with his own portrait coupled with the name of Antiochus II. It would seem that, with this tetradrachm type, Agathocles is copying the "transitional" coinage of Diodotus I struck about 60 years before; "Nicator" might be a title by which either Antiochus II or Diodotus I was known exclusively in Bactria. A new theory out forth by historian Jens Jakobsson in Numismatic Chronicle (2010) posits that "Antiochus Nicator" was an entirely different ruler of Bactria, perhaps a son of Diodotus I, who ruled concurrently with his father and brother Diodotus II. 


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    Auction Dates
    August, 2014
    8th Friday
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