Thrilled to pick up a very rare coin that went under the radar with a relatively new auction firm
Marcus Antoninus Polemon II, High Priest (AD 17 - 36)
AE 23mm, 10.42g (As?)
Dated RY 11, 28AD
Obv: ΜΑΡΚ ΑΝΤΩΝΙΟΥ ΠΟΛΕΜΩΝΟΣ ΑΡΧΙΕΡΕΩΣ, Bare head right
Rev: ΔΥΝΑΣΤΟΥ ΟΛΒΕΩΝ ΤΗΣ ΙΕΡΑΣ ΚΕΝΝΑΤ ΚΑΙ ΛΑΛΑΣΣΕΩΝ, Winged thunderbolt, date IA (11)
Born in 12 BC, Marcus Antonius Polemon was in many ways the pinnacle of the gradual Roman assimilation of the existing Greek power bases of Asia Minor who had allied with Rome rather than war with her. The son of Polemon I, king of Cilicia, Pontus, Colchis, and the Bosporus, Polemon II was on both sides the result of marriage alliances between powerful Roman aristocrats and Greek Hellenistic kings. Through his mother, queen Pythodoris, Polemon II was the great-grandson of Mark Antony by his daughter Antonia Prima with his second wife Antonia Hybrida.
When Polemon I died in 8 BC, Pythodoris remarried to Archelaeus, the last king of Cappadocia. Polemon was raised in his stepfather's court until Archelaeus died of advanced age, illness, or suicide (he was pending a treason trial by Tiberius) in 17. Polemon returned to Pontus with his mother, where she ruled as queen from 17 until her own death in 38. It was during this time that this coin was minted.
Polemon II inherited
the Pontic throne from his mother in 38, and ruled as king over more than two decades of peace and prosperity. He unsurprisingly found favor with the new emperor Caligula, who was Polemon's second cousin. About the year 50, Polemon II married the Judaean princess Julia Berenice, daughter of Agrippa I and future paramour of Titus. Polemon converted to Judaism, but the marriage was doomed as his wife abandoned him to return to her brother's household. Some early Christian sources claim that at this time Polemon II converted to Christianity briefly before reverting back to paganism - Polemon's sister Tryphaena is also believed to have converted and may be the woman of the same name in Romans 16:12.
Shortly after his failed marriage to Berenice, Polemon remarried into the Edessan royal house to a woman named Julia Mamaea, who may or may not have been an ancestor of the Severan dynasty empresses 150 years later. Mamaea bore Polemon two sons, Polemon Eupator and Rhoemetalces Philocaesar. The fate of these two sons is uncertain.
In 62 emperor Nero pressured Polemon, now aged in his seventies, to abdicate the Pontic throne so that his kingdom could be absorbed into the Empire as a new province. Polemon was allowed sovereignty over Cilicia until his death in 74 of natural causes, aged about 86.
To recap, Marcus Antonius Polemon II was:
- The last direct descendant of Mark Antony to bear his namesake
- Second cousin to three Roman Emperors; Caligula, Claudius, and Nero
- Briefly a member of the Herodian dynasty of Judaea
- Potentially an ancestor of the Severan dynasty via Julia Domna and Julia Maesa.
- One of the last Roman client kings of the once-powerful Greek kingdoms of Asia Minor
- Potentially one of the earliest Christian kings, albeit briefly
In addition to this series of coins, Polemon II is perhaps better known for his extensive series of silver drachms featuring Claudius, Britannacus, Agrippina II, and Nero.