SYRIA, Seleukis and Pieria. Antiochia. M. Licinius Crassus, proconsul, 54/3 BC. Tetradrachm (Silver, 29 mm, 15.53 g, 1 h), Antiochia on the Orontes. In the name and types of the Seleukid king Philip I Philadelphos (95/4-76/5 BC). Diademed head of Philip I to right. Rev. [B]AΣIΛEΩΣ / ΦIΛIΠΠΟΥ - EΠIΦΑΝΟΥΣ / ΦIΛAΔEΛΦΟΥ Zeus seated left, holding Nike in his right hand and long scepter in his left; in inner left field, monogram of KPA; below throne, monogram; in exergue, AN on thunderbolt; all within wreath. McAlee 2 var. (KA or KAΓ). Prieur 2 var. (KAΓ in exergue). RPC I 4125 var. (KAΓ in exergue). SC 2489.2 var. (KAΓ in exergue). Apparently unpublished with AN in exergue. A most attractive example of this historically important issue, lightly toned and with a particularly sharp and clear monogram of Crassus on the reverse. Some doubling on the reverse, otherwise, about extremely fine.
From the collection of Regierungsrat Dr. iur. Hans Krähenbühl, privately acquired from Bank Leu on 7 November 1974 (with a photocopy of the original invoice enclosed).
P. Licinius Crassus first gained a reputation for excessive greed during Sulla's proscriptions and eventually became the richest man Rome had seen thus far. He had, however, much higher aspirations other than enriching himself, forming the First Triumvirate with Pompey and Caesar in 60 BC. Devoid of any military skill, it seems Crassus was in effect financing the informal alliance of the three politicians, whereas Pompey, and later Caesar as well, brought to the table the support of their thousands of veterans. Perhaps jealous of the military successes of his allies, and most certainly worried about losing influence, Crassus had himself assigned the province of Syria for five years in 55 BC.
The purpose of this arrangement was to provide Crassus with an opportunity to wage a war of his own and in doing so win a personal power base, much like Caesar was doing in Gaul at the time. Having arrived in Syria, the proconsul quickly lived up to his reputation by plundering the temples of Heliopolis and Jerusalem while preparing for war with Parthia. In addition, he followed the precedent set by Aulus Gabinius in striking coins in the name of the Seleukid king Philip I Philadelphos, signing them with his personal monogram on the reverse. In 53, Crassus headed east with a large invasion force of some 40,000 Roman troops. However, it quickly became apparent that the overconfident general was neither a Caesar nor a Pompey, and the impressive army was almost completely annihilated by the Parthians in the disastrous Battle of Carrhae. Crassus himself was killed, and his head reportedly presented to the Parthian king Orodes II, a humiliation of Roman pride that would set off centuries of war between the two superpowers.