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HOME : Greek Coins : Bactrian Silver Coins : Bactrian Silver "Pedigree" Tetradrachm of King Agathocles Depicting King Diodotos I
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Bactrian Silver "Pedigree" Tetradrachm of King Agathocles Depicting King Diodotos I - C.7614
Origin: Afghanistan
Circa: 185 BC to 170 BC

Collection: Greek Coins
Medium: Silver

Location: United States
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Obverse: Head of Agathokles Crowned with a Diadem

Reverse: Nude Zeus Advancing Left Holding Aegis and Thunderbolt

Following the death of Seleucid king Antiochus II in 246 B.C., rebellions erupted in far-flung territories to the east. Seleucid forces were tied up in their struggles against Ptolemaic Egypt and were thus unable to protect the borders of their kingdom from nomadic barbarian raiders. In the province of Bactria, a historical region situated in present day Afghanistan, the satrap, or governor, Diodotus I rose up against Seleucid authority and achieved independence for his kingdom. Nearby, in modern Iran, another former satrap named Andragoras also gained independence for the territory of Parthia. This independence was short lived, as soon after a tribe from the east, the Parni, under the command of Arsaces I, invaded and conquered the land and established the mighty Parthian Empire, effectively cutting off the Bactrians from direct contact with the Greek world. Although the Parthians and the Bactrians seem to have battled at times, they were allied against Seleucid campaigns launched to punish the rebel kingdoms. It is believed Diodotus died sometime during, or shortly after this campaign, leaving his son Diodotus II to inherit the throne and conclude a peace treaty with the Parthians.

Like many of the Bactrian kings, little is know about the life of Agathokles. He is believed to have risen to the throne around 185 B.C., either alongside or following another king named Pantaleon, whom may or may not have been his brother. Agathokles is known today primarily through his extensive coinage, among which is an interesting series of “pedigree” dynasty coins that link him to Alexander the Great as well as other Bactrian kings, including the founder of the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom Diodotus. Some historians have taken a critical view of these coins, suggesting that Agathokles might have been an usurper eager to establish links to legitimate rulers in order to prop up his authority. Agathokles also issued a series of bilingual coins with inscriptions either in Brahmi, Greek, or Kharoshthi and various symbols representing the Buddhist and Hindu faiths, demonstrating the extent to which early Greco- Bactrian rulers went in order to accommodate the cultures of the natives whose lands they dominated.

How many hands have touched a coin in your pocket or your 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 touched the coin before us, or where the coin will venture to after us. More than money, coins are a symbol of the state that struck them, of a specific time and place, whether contemporary currencies or artifacts of long forgotten empires. This stunning hand-struck coin reveals an expertise of craftsmanship and intricate sculptural detail that is often lacking in contemporary machine-made currencies. This coin is a memorial an ancient king and his empire passed from the hands of civilization to civilization, from generation to generation that still appears as vibrant today as the day it was struck. - (C.7614)


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