Persian Coins : Cilician Silver Stater Struck Under the Satrap Mazaios
Cilician Silver Stater Struck Under the Satrap Mazaios - C.2058
Origin: Minted in Tarsus
Location: United States
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Obverse: The God Baal Enthroned Facing Left Holding a Scepter, an
Ear of Grain, and a Bunch of Grapes
Reverse: A Lion Attacking a Stag
Cilicia is an ancient region of southeastern Asia Minor (modern
Turkey), along the Mediterranean north of Cyprus. It included a high
and barren plateau, Cilicia Trachia, an inhospitable region that served
as shelter for pirates, and a richly fertile plain, Cilicia Pedias, that
served as a strategic passageway throughout history. The area was
under the domination of the Assyrian Empire before it became part
of the Persian Empire. The Greeks settled on the coast early on, and
Cilicia was Hellenized to a great extent. Tarsus was the capital of
Cilicia and one of the most important cities in Asia Minor. Tarsus
continued to flourish even after the region became part of the Roman
Empire, reaching the height of its prosperity and cultural
achievements, including being the birthplace of St. Paul.
Mazaios, a Persian nobleman, had a long and distinguished career.
He was appointed satrap of Cilicia about 361 BC, and the region
known as “Across the River” (modern Syria, Lebanon, and Israel) was
later added to his domain. He fought against the Phoenicians of
Sidon who revolted with the support of Pharaoh Nektanebo II and the
Greek mercenary leader Mentor. Mazaios later served as the satrap of
Mesopotamia and married Barsine, the daughter of Darius III. Famed
historian Plutarch described him as “the greatest Persian after
Darius.” This remarkable complement indicates that Mazaios might
have simultaneously held the post of the Herzaraptis (the
commanding officer of the Spearbearer’s Regimen) while serving as
satrap. In 331 B.C., as Alexander the Great and his armies
approached the great city of Babylon, Mazaios surrendered the city to
him after gaining assurances that Babylon would not be plundered.
Alexander rewarded Mazaios for his prudent decision by retaining
him as governor, a position he held until his death in 328 BC.
How many hands have touched a coin in your pocket or purse? What
eras and lands have the coin traversed on its journey into our
possession? As we reach into our pockets to pull out some change,
we rarely hesitate to think of who might have touched the coin
before us, or where the coin will venture to after it leaves our hands.
More than money, coins are a symbol of the state that struck them,
of a specific time and location, whether contemporary currencies or
artifacts of a long forgotten empire. This stunning hand-struck coin
reveals an expertise of craftsmanship and intricate sculptural detail
that is often lacking in contemporary machine-made currencies.
This magnificent coin is memorial to an ancient governor, to the
ancient glory of Tarsus, and to the greater Persian Empire, passed
down from the hands of civilization to civilization, from generation to