Historical, political and trading relations maintained by Georgia with eastern and western countries, as well as the main trade route passing through her territory and connecting the aforesaid lands, favoured penetration into Georgia of the various foreign coinage. The coins were put into circulation or, in case of emergency, hoarded.
Among the foreign coins found within the Georgian territory of a particular interest are the Parthian or Arsacid coins. It was our aim to study them and to trace, as far as possible, the routes of their introduction into and spread over the Georgian territory.
Unfortunately, the origins of the Parthian kingdom itself and of the Parthian numismatics are far from being sufficiently elucidated. The Arsacid coins were struck in silver and copper. Gold pieces were issued solely in commemoration of the most important events.
All the coins preserved in the collections of the State Museum and in the other museums of Georgia have been examined, including those of uncertain provenance. Basing on numismatic evidence at our disposal, we have attempted, to give a more or less complete idea of the area of distribution of Arsacid coins within the territory of Georgia.
Frequent finds of the Parthian coins in Georgia made it possible to extend the limits of the known area of their distribution. Most of the find- spots are located in Eastern Georgia - in Iberia, and the smaller part thereof - in Western Georgia - in Colchis; however, it must be borne in mind that certain regions of the eastern Colchis constituted, at the times under consideration, parts of Iberia and represented her eastern periphery.
The large majority of the Parthian coins in Iberia came to light in Mtskheta and its environments in the course of archaeological investigations carried on during many successive years,
It is indisputable that the numismatic material accumulated during excavations is of great importance: coins help to date the inventory and the burials (occasionally, the excavated objects are of aid in dating the hitherto unknown anonymous coins), and often assist in solving one or another problem.
The abundance of foreign coinage in Mtskheta, established beyond doubt on the base of archaeological data, is a direct and reliable evidence of the extensive trading relations Georgia maintained with the foreign countries. A, M. Apakid- ze notes also that among the coins principal and prominent are the Roman aurei and denarii and the Parthian drachms (those of Gotarzes and of Orodes I). Single coins of the other Parthian kings have also been revealed in Mtskheta.
In the third century B. C. begins the dissolution of the powerful Seleucid empire. Many provinces seceded from it and founded states of hel- lenistic type. About the middle of the century the Parthians rebelled against the Greco-Macedonian state under the leadership of a member of a native noble clan who, in 247, proclaimed himself king under the name of Arsaces and founded the royal dynasty of the Arsacids.
The kingdom of Parthians was under the strong influence of the hellenistic culture and ideology. The kings of Parthia considered themselves "hellenophils" - friends of the Greeks and the coins issued by them bore this title among the other similar titles.
Towards the end of second century B. C. Parthia became a great power in the western Asia and the state, which initially occupied a region southwest of the Caspian Sea, expanded under the rule of the Arsacids, bearing now the title of king of kings, into a great empire stretching from the Euphrates to the Indus.
To extend farther her dominion Parthia stro ve to subjugate the peoples of the Caucasus.
Rome, emerging at the same period on the world arena, advanced from the south-west toward the same lands.
The struggle for the supremacy between Rome and the powerful Parthia - her chief economic and political rival in west Asia - developed mainly in Armenia and, partly, in Georgia. Armenia became the scene of the hostilities, while Iberia as Rome's ally, came out as an auxiliary force. Rome endeavoured to exploit Iberia to attain her own political ends. As a result of Rome's policy, the Iberian king Pharsman I invaded Armenia and enthroned there his brother Mithridates.
Among the basic economic and political reasons of the strife between Rome and Parthia foremost to be mentioned is the control over the "sik route", which traversed Iran and connected Rome with the eastern lands (China, India and the Central Asia). The most valuable goods were transported by this route and the route-holders derived great economic benefits therefrom. Parthia acted as an intermediary between the eastern and western countries and "the monopoly of the silk trade was in the hands of the Kingdom of Parthia" the itinerary of the "silk route" being kept a strict secret.
Within the Georgian territory the route led in the main along the Kura valley, although it must be noted that Parthian coins have been also found in the villages Gremi (Qvareli district), Shroma (Gurjaani district) and Oaraghaji (Sighnaghi district).
Rome and Parthia were equally interested in Transcaucasia and endeavoured to turn to their own account every change in the political situation. Iberia was involved in the sphere of the interests of the two contending states and the latter sought to establish dominion over her.
The first passage of arms between the Roman empire and Parthia took place in 65 B. C. This was the beginning of the protracted warfare between these two states. "The apogee of the successes of the Parthian arms was reached in the middle of the first century B. C., under Orodes I (57-38/37)".
Iberia, on her side, sought to get free of both the invaders taking arms at the opportune moments to drive out the enemies.
The active participation of Iberia in the world trading and economic relations during the first century A. D. was favoured by her proximity to the trade routes. The attempts to intervene in the internal affairs of Armenia made by Iberia in the first and second centuries were largely incited by the desire of the Iberian kings to gain control over an important trade route of the Near East, which traversed Armenia near the town Artaxata. One of the branches of this route reached Mtskheta and most probably continued farther northward. It may be assumed that the Parthian coins found in Nichbisi, Tskhinvali and its environments, Maghraneti (Tianeti district) and Trani came by this route.
Judging by the location of the find-spots, the introduction and spread of the Parthian coins took the direction up the Kura valley, along the banks of which the following towns and settlements were situated: Tbilisi, Avtchala, Mtskheta, Samtavro, fortress Armazi, Armaziskhevi, Kaspi, Uplistsikhe, Kavtiskhevi, Gori, Urbnisi, Zghu- deri and oth.; farther, beyond the Surami pass, up the valleys of Qvirila and Rioni, via Bori, Kldeeti, Kutaisi, Vani and oth.
Among the Parthian drachms, discovered up to the present within the territory of Georgia, only those issued by the following twelve kings of the Arsacid dynasty are represented:
Mithridates I (171-138) 1 drachm
Mithridates II (123-88) 4 drachms
Artabanus II (88-77) 7 drachms
Sinatruces (77-70) 6 drachms
Phraates III (70-57) 7 drachms
Mithridates III (57-54) 4 drachms
Orodes I (57-37) 76 drachms
Phraates IV (37-2) 10 drachms
Artabanus III (10-40) 1 drachm
Gotarzes (40/41-51) 150 drachms and 1 copper coin
Volagases I (51-77) 5 drachms
Mithridates IV (130-147) 2 drachms
Chronologically they fall into the following centuries:
2 nd century B. C. - 5 coins
Ist century B. C. - 110 coins
Ist century A. D. - 157 coins
2 nd century A. D. - 2 coins
According to the data available, in all 55 find-spots have been registered: 46 of them in Eastern Georgia (burials - 86, during earth-works - 41, hoards - 2), and 9 find-spots in Western Georgia (burials 8, during earth-works - 3, I hoard) Judging by numismatic material, the connections between Georgia and Parthia have not been continuous and of long duration. From Mithrida tes I (171-138) to Phraates IV (37-2) the Parthian coins appear in an unbroken succession; then the appearance of these drachms ceases for a period to be renewed with those issued by Artabanus III (10-40), Gotarzes (40-51) and Volagases I (51-77); later, after the lapse of 70 years, Arsacid drachms make their reappearance with those of Mithridates IV (130-147). No finds of the coins of the other Parthian kings within the territory of Georgia are known.
Numismatic material is indicative of lively trading interrelations during the times of Orodes I and Gotarzes. Contemporaneous introduction and diffusion in Georgia of the Parthian and Roman currency is the result of both the struggle between these two states and their trading relation with Georgia. It is also significant that finds of the Roman (Augustian) denarii and of the Parthian (Gotharzian) drachms in close association are quite frequent within the territory of Georgia, Contemporaneous circulation of these coins corroborates the assumption that invasion of the Georgian, and in particular Iberian territory by Parthia and Rome was simultaneous. In opposition to
D. G. Kapanadze's opinion, we do not find any evidence of a rivalry between the currencies of Gotharzesand Augustus. Synchronous circulation does not necessarily imply competition, there being no signs that either currency was supplanted by the other; on the contrary, they circulate simultaneously. This is also borne out by the results of archaeological excavations.
In A. M. Apakidze's opinion, the coins are mainly accessories of burials of the wealthy "with a few exceptions it is true of the aurei". He remarks also that this inference does not apply to the Roman denarii or Parthian drachms seeing that the latter occur as well in the humbler burials.
For the study of Georgia's relations with the states under consideration of immense importance are the Greek and Aramean inscriptions discovered in Mtskheta, owing to which "we have now a clearer view of the role played by the capital of Kartli in the outer world".
Regarding the Parthian copper coins E. A. Pakhomov writes: "No small copper coins of the Arsacid time struck either in the name of the Arsacids themselves or in that of the minor tributary states are encountered here". The same opinion is expressed by K. V. Golenko; "Parthian copper is absent from Transcaucasia". There is one instance of a copper coin find in Gori to testify against the assertion of these authors. Indeed, though not abundant, copper corns are known and represented in the collections of coins of obscure provenance preserved at the State Museum of Georgia. We believe the coins to have come from the local finds, because, as is known, copper coins do not wander far from the find-spot.
E. A. Pakhomov's conclusion about the absence of Parthian coins from Transcaucasia is refuted farther by their discovery in Armenia.
It must be added here, that although no finds of the Parthian tetradrachms have been registered in Georgia, four Parthian tetradrachms exist actually among the coins of uncertain provenance preserved at the State Museum of Georgia.
Thus, there seems to be no real foundation for the assertion that these coins have never been in circulation in Georgia. It is more probable that large-scale archaeological exporations will yield material corroborating the assumption that all the kinds of the Parthian coins have circulated within the territory of Georgia, in accordance with the prevailing historical circumstances.
Although finds of the Subarsacid coins have not been recorded in Georgia, the coins in the collections of the State Museum of Georgia will serve as objects of a separate study: meanwhile we are offering their photograph.
Unceasing wars and internal dissensions put the Arsacids in a very strenous position and led to decay and dissolution of the Parthian kingdom.
In the twenties of the third century, more precisely, in the year 224 the kingdom of Arsacids was definitely supplanted by the more powerful and better organized Sassanid state.
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