From the history of Armenian coins. Ancient Armenian coins ‘knew no bounds’

From the history of Armenian coins. Ancient Armenian coins ‘knew no bounds’

The only samples preserved are ascribed to Tigran I (and Tigran II the Great, whose silver and copper coins are known.

In ancient times, each ruler had coins with his own image. It’s known that during the rule of Seleucid King Antiochus III the Great (223-187 BC), commander Artashes was appointed as governor of Armenia. The war with Romans, especially the Battle of Magnesia in 190 BC weakened the Seleucid Empire and Artashes, seizing the opportunity, declared himself an independent ruler and founded the Artashesian dynasty of Armenian kings (189 BC- 1 AD).

PanARMENIAN.Net - The first kings of the dynasty apparently didn’t have coins, with the only samples preserved being ascribed to Tigran I (123-96 BC) and Tigran II the Great (95-56 BC), whose silver and copper coins are known.

The silver coins were drachmas and tetradrachms (four drachmas). The copper coins were called khalks. One drachma was equal to six obols, one obol to 8 khalks, one silver drachma to 48 khalks.

The coins were minted in Artashat and Tigranakert, as well as in Syrian cities of Antioch and Damascus.

Description of coins

The obverse showed the profile of the king with Armenian tiara (crown) characteristic of the Artashesian dynasty, featuring the 8-pointed star (the Sun) and two eagles looking at each other. The reverse had some mythological pictures as well as the name and titles of the king in Greek letters.

There were two types of inscriptions - “King Tigran” and “King of Kings Tigran”. The research revealed that the coins with the first type of inscription were made in Syrian mints while those with the second type were produced in Armenia.

Starting with the rule of Tigran I, the coinage hadn’t stopped. The most interesting coins of that period are probably the silver tetradrachm of King Artavazd II (56-34 BC) with Goddess Nike depicted on it and the copper coin of Tigran IV and Queen Erato, the only one showing a queen, who, according to some data, was a co-ruler.

During the period of Artashesians, coins from the neighboring Parthia, Roman Republic and subsequently the Roman Empire, Seleucid Empire, Cappadocia, were also in use. When worn-out, the coins were re-melted for a new production, thus making it impossible to find out about the volume of circulation of Armenian coins of that time.

Part of the coins was used in neighboring territories, gaining the ‘international’ status. However, after the fall of the Artashesians, coinage stopped for a long time.

The name of the Armenian currency – Dram – originated from the Greek drachma.

The material was prepared in cooperation with Gevorg Mughalyan, the numismatist of the Central Bank of Armenia.

Viktoria Araratyan / PanARMENIAN.Net, Varo Rafayelyan / PanARMENIAN Photo
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