Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Mithradates of Bosporus

I normally inhabit the forum website (link right) but I didn't know quite where I would post this coin on their site as it doesn't fit my current gallery arrangement, nor does it go comfortably into one of the message boards.

It is a bronze coin, a 12 nummia piece, of Mithradates from the Bosporus who ruled for four years from 41-45 AD.

The reverse type shows a lion skin draped over a club in some allusion to Hercules having slain the Nemean lion. To the right is a trident and the left a bow case. Mithradates was the son of Aspurgus and Dynamis and after the death of Caius (Caligula) he was recognised by the Romans as King of Bosporus, c.41 AD. Four years later he was deposed by his half bother, Kotys (45-c.63 AD), after being accused of plotting to overthrow Claudius.
Claudius had withdrawn the Roman garrison under Aulus Didius Gallus from the Bosporan Kingdom and a few Roman cohorts were left with the Roman Knight Gaius Julius Aquila in the Bosporan.

Mithridates despised the situation. He mistrusted Kotys and attempted to regain his throne. Mithridates was able to entice the leaders of the local tribes and deserters into his allies. He was able to seize control of the local tribes and collect an army to declare was on Kotys and Aquila. When Kotys and Aquila heard news of this war, they feared that the invasion was imminent. However, both men knew they had the support of Claudius. Mithridates with his army, engaged in war with Kotys’ army and Aquila’s battalions, in a three-day war, which Kotys and Aquila won unscathed and triumphant at the Don River (this river is now situated in modern Russia).

Mithridates knew that resistance was hopeless and considered an appeal to Claudius. Mithridates turned to a local tribesman called Eunones, to help him. Eunones, sent envoys to Rome to Claudius with a letter from Mithridates.

In Mithridates’ letter to the Emperor, Mithridates greeted and addressed him with great honor and respect from one ruler to another ruler. Mithridates asked Claudius for a pardon and to be spared from a triumphal procession or capital punishment. Claudius wasn’t sure how to punish and deal with Mithridates. Mithridates was captured and brought to Rome as a prisoner. He was displayed as a public figure beside the platform in the Roman Forum along with his guards and his expression remained undoubted.

Claudius was impressed with Mithridates’ mercy from his letter and allowed Mithridates to live. He was spared from any capital punishment and was exiled. Mithridates lived as a destitute exiled monarch until his death. He never married nor had children.

Above is a coin, another 12 nummia piece, of Kotys featuring the Roman emperor Claudius on the obverse and on the reverse a portrait of Agrippina Junior.

Agrippina Junior married Claudius in 49 AD and she also happened to be his neice. Twenty-six years younger than Claudius she had been previously married to Cn Domitius Ahenobarbus and bore him a son, the future emperor Nero. Claudius is believed to have been poisoned by Agrippina in 54 AD in order to make way for her son who, in turn, had her murdered in 59 AD.