Coin of Arsaces I, ca. 240 BC

arsacid original - 240 bce.jpg


The Arsacid type was minted after the coronation of Arsaces I in Asaak (in NE Iran). These coins were made in an attempt to legitimize the fledgling Arsacid kingdom, which was surrounded on all sides by potent enemies.

Ruling in the shadow of the Seleucids, Arsaces I adopted their general aesthetic style on the reverse, depicting an archer figure -- perhaps himself -- seated, bow in hand, dressed as an Iranian tribesman from the Central Asian Steppe. In Greek, Arsaces I wrote his name, alongside a title: autocrat. This title was typically given to upstart kings who established their reign through military conquest. Adopting this epithet cemented his position as a rebel against Seleucid authority. The obverse offers a closer look at Arsaces I himself, who apparently wore the traditional "Scythian cap" -- a piece of horseriding gear long documented in Persian art -- and a Seleucid-style diadem as a crown.