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Research Coins: Electronic Auction


Intriguing Issue

225, Lot: 344. Estimate $500.
Sold for $4600. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Trajan. AD 98-117. Æ Sestertius (32mm, 23.73 g, 6h). Rome mint. Struck AD 116-117. Laureate and draped bust right / Trajan seated left on daïs, extending hand to three eastern kings, the foremost of whom extends his hands to Trajan; two military figures, one holding baton and scepter, standing behind Trajan. RIC II 666. Good VF, smoothed and tooled. Rare.

The scene depicted on this coin has been the source of much conjecture. To better understand it we must turn to the facts of Trajan’s eastern campaign: in AD 113 the Parthian king Osroes I placed Parthamasiris on the throne of Armenia, in contravention of the long agreement that Armenia would be in the Roman sphere of influence. Trajan’s response was overwhelming; Osroes was driven from Ctesiphon, and Parthamaspates was proclaimed the new king, although a mere Roman puppet. The turmoil affected all the small buffer states along the Roman-Parthian border. Parthamasiris was removed and Armenia made a Roman protectorate. Meharaspes of Adiabene was deposed in AD 116, as was Abgar VII of Osrohene, both for wavering in their support of the Romans. Sporaces of Anthemusia had lost his throne in AD 114. Sohaemus of Sophene and Attambelos VII of Characene in the south appear to have retained their positions, although Attambelos died the same year as Trajan.

So does this scene depict three kings being “assigned” kingdoms, as has been claimed? According to the historical record none of the deposed monarchs were replaced by Trajan. Instead, all the provinces came under Roman administration. It is possible that this coin type reflects Trajan’s intention to appoint new rulers, but the continuing unrest in the east could have led to the decision to eliminate the autonomous client kingdoms.