On Absent Name of Monarch on Parthian Coinage

Started by HabsburgChin, October 11, 2023, 12:51:14 PM

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Hello everyone. Recently began collecting Parthian coins. during my research, I couldn't find an answer to what, at a glance, seems like a simple question: Why are names of the Parthian monarchs not imprinted on their coins?

And how do you reckon I get my hands on David Sellwood's "An introduction to the coinage of Parthia"?

Thanks everyone and have a great day.


I have to admit I'm not sure, though I believe it may be related to the respect shown to Arsaces, the founder of the dynasty. It looks as if every ruler put Arscaces name on his coins and just distinguished himself from the founder by adding his titles, Epiphanesd, Euergetes etc. in various combinations.

I would have thought the book would be available in second hand book websites (Bookfinder, Anybook etc.) but I was very surprised that I couldn't find a single copy of the 2nd edition (1980), only a few copies of the first edition (1971) at enormous prices :o

A have a copy of the second edition myself, so if you want details of a particular coin I can look it up for you, but there is much information at https://parthia.com/parthia_coins.htm and the BM now has its collection of Parthian coins online, eg. https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/search?keyword=parthian&keyword=coins



Alan, thank you so much for your answer. You're absolutely on the nose there. That's exactly what I've been able to identify on the coin, i.e. the lack of monarch nomenclature.

When it comes to the availability of books I'm thinking more of buying both Sellwood and Shore's books on Parthian coinage, but all down the line when I'm more comfortable with paying $200+ for a mere 300 pages (that is considering I don't give up my search in vintage book shops).

Also a question: What is the major difference between the 1971 and 1980 editions?

Thanks again Alan,



I have never used the 1971 edition, but in his introduction to the 1980 edition Sellwood indicates that the differences are mainly in some changes to the attribution of coins to different rulers and the rearrangement of several types, but the basic structure of the book remains much the same.

There is a concordance between the two editions available at https://www.parthia.com/parthia_corr.htm



Quote from: HabsburgChin on October 11, 2023, 12:51:14 PMAnd how do you reckon I get my hands on David Sellwood's "An introduction to the coinage of Parthia"?

Keep your eyes open. They show up in online auctions several times per year.

Chris Hopkins or one of the other members at the Parthia-L discussion group (https://groups.io/g/Parthia-L) usually posts a link when one of the books appears at auction. So, if interested, you could join that group.

Among my ex-Sellwood Collection coins is a plate coin from his second edition: https://www.forumancientcoins.com/gallery/displayimage.php?pid=167828


The Sellwood posted by Wayne has now sold. Was only listed for a day. They tend to go fast when they appear on the market, especially when fairly priced like this copy was.


It is not simple to decide in our days which attribution for Parthian coins one should follow.
There is the old authority Sellwood. But now there is also Sunrise.

Sunrise may sound a bit cheap, but it stands for the Iranian Dr.G.R.Farhad Assar, who, based on the newest translations of parchments and rock sculpture texts, has made corrections on Sellwood.

The priceless link, given here by Manzikert:  https://www.parthia.com/parthia_corr.htm
gives the attributions of both authorities, listed up next to eachother.

I have to admit that for some pieces in my collection, I follow Sellwood and for others Sunrise.
It depends mainly on the advice of my seller. He has made a little vademecum in which he explains his choice for each type of coin and he is strong in convincing.

Underneath a couple of examples:
Sellwood 29.2 Mithradates II or Sunrise 305 Gotarzes I ?
Sellwood 78.4 Vologases III  or Sunrise 439.E Pacorus I ?


Our knwledge of most Parthian kings is very uncertain.
Let us take Gotarzes I for example and see what Wikipedia has to tell about him:

Wikipedia in Dutch: "Gotarzes was a cousin of mithridates II . . ."
Wikipedia English : "Gotarzes was the son and successor of Mithridates II . . ."
Wikipedia German says what he did but not who he was.
Wikipedia French: Gotarzes was the grandson of Phriapetius and took the throne after Mihridates II at the cost of Orodes I, son of Mithridates II.
Wikipedia Russian: Gotarzes was the grandson of Phriapetius . . .
Wikipedia . . .

As grandson of Phriapetius, Gotarzes could be a cousin of Mithridates II, who was himself a grandson of Phriapetius. But as such he could never be Mithridates' son . . .

. . . at least if we know precisely who Mithridates II was  ::).