Sunday, January 03, 2016

An imitation of Perseus/Pegasos?

Mithridates the Great issued thick bronze coins depicting Perseus wearing a Phrygian cap with griffin head decoration, and Pegasos on the reverse.


Classical Numismatic Group

Recently bronze coins of Mithridates have been appearing on the market in large quantities. Among them I spotted two coins with odd style. I believe they are imitations.

On the aegis/Nike example, the head of Medusa has a mane rather than the usual human hair. The visible part of the ΑΜΙ-ΣΟΥ inscription has the M and I connected. The same seller had other odd-style aegis/Nike bronzes for sale.

The Perseus/Pegasos bronze above seems to have an odd style as well. Perseus has a pointed noise. The griffin on the hat seems to be just a few lines. The inscription seems blundered.

Unfortunately, the coin has been triple-struck and is also quite worn. So it is hard to be sure what was really on the die and what is just damage caused by the strike.

To me the portrait looks really odd. Perseus lacks the serious expression seen on Mithridates coinage. I suspect this to be a Skythian imitation of the Perseus/Pegasos coinage of Amisos rather than an official issue.

The head of Perseus, on the official issues, is considered by scholars such as Barclay Head as depicting not merely Perseus but “Mithradates VI as Perseus”. If so, and if I am not delirious when I see the coin under discussion as Skythian, then it is possible that the new coin depicts Mithridates the Great as his Skythian subjects saw him.

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