MAIASK. 2017. No. 9

M. M. Choref (Nizhnevartovsk, Russia).

Countermarks on Bosporus coins of Polemon I as a source of historical information

DOI: 10.24411/2219-8857-2017-00020

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Pages: 441-467

The article is devoted to the study of Bosporus bronze coins with the monogram  on the reverse. The objects of the study were both initially imprinted images and over-markings on the obverse. The appearance on them of the busts and symbols of Gorgon, Isis, Zeus Amon, and Serapis is not accidental. After all, before the end of the release of bronze with the monogram  they were not respected at the state level in the Bosporus state. This fact can be explained by the desire of their issuer, apparently Polemon I, not only to legitimize, but also to sanctify his power. To this end, he planted in it the cults of unknown gods in the region, whom he considered his patrons. The result was an outrage of the majority of the local residents. Increasing of the social tension in the Bosporus state led to decreasing of the zone of influence of its sovereign. As a result, Polemon I began to feel a shortage of funds, reflected not only in the chronic damage to the bronze coin, but also in its counter-marking. On the coins, images of the gods revered in the Bosporus state were placed. However, this did not reconcile Polemon I with his Northern Black Sea subjects.

The Romans remained the only support of his regime. For this reason, by the end of the reign of Polemon I, on his bronze, there appeared countermarks glorifying G. Julius Caesar and Augustus. However, the authorities of the Empire understood that the obvious antagonism between Polemon I and his unwilling subjects could lead not only to the collapse of the regime of this sovereign and to a systemic crisis in the Black Sea region but also to the emergence of an anti-Roman center of influence in the region. Moreover, the inhabitants of the Bosporus sought only to restore the situation that had developed under Asander. They also wanted to honor the gods of their fathers. Therefore, the Romans not only distanced themselves from Polemon I, but also found it possible soon after his death to find a common language with the Mithridatides. Thus, the failures of this sovereign pushed the parties to work out a compromise that extended the existence of the Bosporan kingdom for another five centuries.


Key words: Bosporus, history, numismatics, Polemon I, religion, economy, countermarks.


Received November 09, 2017
Accepted for publication December 02, 2017


About the author:

Choref Mikhail Mikhailovich (Nizhnevartovsk, Russia). Candidate of Historical Sciences, Senior Research scientist at the Regional Historical Research Laboratory, Nizhnevartovsk State University.