Augustus, 27 BC-AD 14. Denarius (Silver, 19 mm, 3.37 g, 2 h), Pergamum, circa 19-18 BC. Bare head of Augustus to right. Rev. CAESAR - DIV F / ARMEN - CAPT[A] / IMP - VIII Armenian standing facing, wearing bashlyk and long garnments, holding spear in his right hand and bow set on ground in his left. BMC 678 and pl. 16, 19 = RIC 519 corr. (reverse legend) and pl. 9 (same dies). Cohen 59. Very rare and among the finest of very few known examples. A beautifully toned coin and of the greatest historical importance. Minor area of weakness on the obverse, otherwise, about extremely fine.
From an important collection of Armenian coins, ex Numismatica Ars Classica 86, 8 October 2015, 67 and from the R. Prideaux Collection of coins of Augustus, Triton XI, 8 January 2008, 719.
The history of this coin is the history of two Roman emperors, two Armenian kings and a Parthian royal couple, for in 20 BC, Augustus' stepson and future heir Tiberius led a military campaign to Armenia to replace the Armenian king Artaxias II with his brother Tigranes III. The swift Roman reaction to an Armenian embassy expressing their discontent with Artaxias II impressed the Parthian king Phraates IV (38-2 BC) so much that he accepted the Roman supremacy over the long contested Kingdom of Armenia. The king also returned the legionary eagles captured from Crassus in the battle of Carrhae in 51 BC, in exchange for the return of one of his sons who had been held hostage in Rome. It was one of the major diplomatic victories of Augustus, who celebrated the success with a broad propagandistic campaign, which included this very rare coin emission depicting Armenia not as an ally, but as a captured and subjugated kingdom. Aside from concluding peace between the two superpowers of their time, the diplomatic embassies between Augustus and Phraates had a certainly unexpected consequence: in his son's entourage, there was a beautiful slave girl named Musa, whom Phraates would eventually marry and accept as his queen. To his fatal misfortune, Musa turned out to be a highly talented but ruthless power seeker, and in 2 BC, she poisoned her husband and replaced him with their mutual son Phraatakes, whom she married as his mother-wife.