SELEUKID KINGS OF SYRIA. Tryphon, circa 142-138 BC. Tetradrachm (Silver, 31 mm, 16.23 g, 1 h), Antiochia on the Orontes. Diademed head of Tryphon to right. Rev. BAΣIΛEΩΣ / TPYΦΩNOΣ - AYTOKPATOPOΣ Spiked Macedonian (or Cretan?) helmet with cheek guard to left, adorned with wild goat's horn above visor; in inner left field, Π; all within oak wreath. Roma 14 (2017), 318 (same obverse die). SC -, cf. 2031 (unlisted with Π, but cf. SC 2033i for Π on a drachm). Of the highest rarity, apparently the second known example of this variety. A beautiful coin with a magnificent portrait. The reverse struck slightly off center, otherwise, nearly extremely fine.
From a German collection, formed in the 1960s.
Tryphon was a former strategos of Demetrios I and Alexander I Balas who appointed the two-year-old Antiochos VI to king in 144 BC and acted as his tutor and protector. It was during this guardianship that the Jews, under the lead of Simon Thassi, successfully seceded from the Seleukid state after Tryphon captured and killed Simon's brother Jonathan Apphus in 143 BC. Tryphon, on the other hand, assumed the kingship for himself when Antiochos VI died in 142/1 BC, but he was defeated and killed by Antiochos VII in 138 BC. The helmet on the reverse first appears in 143/2 on a drachm of Antiochos IV marked 'TPY' between the spike and horn on the reverse, and it becomes the main coin type under Tryphon's own kingship. It is usually described as a Macedonian helmet, but it has been suggested by K. Ehling that it might in fact be a Cretan helmet and refer to Cretan mercenaries, of whom we know a large number arrived in Syria with Demetrios II in 147. If this is true, the iconography indicates that Tryphon relied predominantly on the Cretan body of troops within the Seleukid army. Perhaps the foreign mercenaries were more willing to support the usurpation of a general than the regular Seleukid soldiers, who were usually drawn from Macedonian military colonies in Syria and hence more allegiant to the legitimate Seleukid dynasty?