Drachm of Aristarchus the Colchian with the portray of Gnaeus Pompejus
Type: Drachm of Aristarchus the Colchian with the portray of Gnaeus Pompejus

Description, picture:
Silver. The weights range from 3,2 to 3,7 gr.

Obverse:  Head of beardless man, diademed and crowned with the rays, right (Helios with Gnaeus Pompejus’ features).  

Reverse: Tyche seated on a throne, wearing a tall crown, right. Vessel in her left hand, right hand resting on a rudder. Greek inscription on both sides of depiction and below: ΑΡΙΣΤΑΡΧΟΥ  ΤΟΥ ΕΠΙ ΚΟΛΧΙΔΟΣ/BΙ (“of Aristarchus, the viceroy of Colchis or of Colchian ruler, or of Aristarchus, who is ruling over Colchis”) and the date – 12, which corresponds to the 12th year of his rule, i.e. 52-51 B.C.


Scholarly commentary:
    Wars between Rome and Pontus lasted several decades in the 1st c. B.C. and finally resulted in defeat of Mithridates VI (120-63 B.C.), the king of Pontus. Gnaeus Pompejus, victorious commander of Rome, first invaded Armenia and defeated Tigranes II  (95-55 B.C.), an ally of Pontus,  and later, in 65 B.C. he approached Iberia. Artokes, the king of Kartli, despite steady resistance, was forced to obey to the Roman hegemony. From Iberia the Romans marched to Colchis, where in 63 B.C. Gnaeus Pompejus appointed Aristarchus as ephemeral ruler.
    Six silver coins issued in his name are preserved. One of them is found in Sokhumi.  
    According to the investigations of English and Russian scientists – J. Jenkins and K. Golenko, Helios, god of the Sun is depicted on coin’s reverse with Gnaeus Pompejus’ features. Indeed, according to Pliny, the first king of Colchis was a son of the Sun, and Aristarchus himself received the power from Pompejus. Thus, in this case local tradition and political conjuncture were mixed. This opinion is very convincing.
    J. Jenkins studied well-preserved sample of the coin and he was able to interpret the effigy on the reverse using this specimen, where he could clearly see the rudder, a necessary attribute of goddess Tyche – goddess of fortune, fate and happiness.
   Drachm of Aristarchus the Colchian contributes much as historical source. Indeed, some of the Roman authors refer to Aristarchus as a king, while in coin inscription, which has greater juridical sense, he is mentioned as a ruler/viceroy. Thus, the legend of the coin gives us information about the political conjuncture of the whole country. It is clear that Colchis is not kingdom, and formally it is very much depended on Rome.

Mint: Unknown.
Nominal: Drachm.
Date: 52-51 B.C.
Collection: Berlin Museum – 1 sample; Ashmolean Museum, Oxford – 1 sample; British Museum – 1 sample; Cabinet des Médailles, Paris –1 sample; Hermitage, Saint-Petersburg – 2 samples.
G. Dundua. Money in Georgia (Georg. and Engl. parallel texts). Tb. 2003 (2nd edition) (T. Dundua, N. Javakhishvili and A. Eristavi as co-authors); Georgian Numismatics. I. Tb. 2006 (T. Dundua as co-author) (in Georg.).

D. Kapanadze. Georgian Numismatics. Tb. 1969 (in Georg.).

К. В. Голенко. Аристарх Колхидский и его монеты (к истории Колхиды I в. до н. э.). Вестник Древней Истории (ВДИ). N4. 1974.

T. Dundua. Georgia within the European Integration. Graeco-Roman World, Byzantine Commonwealth, Orthodox Alliance and the Georgians. Tb. 2013.

G. K. Jenkins. Recent Acquisitions of Greek Coins by the British Museum. Numismatic Chronicle (N.C.). London. Vol. 19 (1959).

Imported coins found in Georgia:

The 3rd-1st cc. B.C. foreign coins from West Georgia

    There are two regions in money circulation of Colchis in the 3rd-1st cc. B.C.: the coastal region and the hinterland. In the first case, as an example, coins from Dioscurias and the neighbouring territories are taken, whereas in the second one, mainly, coins from Vani.

Dioscurias and the neighbouring territories:

1.    During archaeological excavations in Eshera, the 3rd c. B.C. Sinopean hemidrachms were found: a) Obv. Head of Nymph Sinope; Rev. Eagle – 1 sample (identical coins were found in Pichvnari (3 samples), and Dapnari (1 sample)); b) Obv. Head of Nymph Sinope; Rev. Prow.
2.    In 1939 late 3rd c.-early 2nd c. B.C. Amisus’ siglos was found on the territory of the Sokhumi fortress.
3.    On the same territory was found one Roman republican denarius struck in 171-151 B.C.
4.    On the same territory was found one silver piece of Panticapaeum dated by the first half of the 2nd c. B.C. (Obv. Satyr; Rev. Cornucopia placed between two caps of the Dioscuri).
5.    In 1949 in Sokhumi, nearby the seaboard, the so-called “new style” Athenian tetradrachm (its emission began in Athens at the end of the 3rd c. B.C. (Obv. Athena’s head in helmet to the right, which is the copy of the work of the 5th c. B.C. Greek sculptor Phidias; Rev. Owl sitting on an amphora, date and name of the city, magistrates etc.)) was found dated by 130-129 B.C.
6.    Roman republican denarius struck in 99-94 B.C. in the name of Marcus Sergius Silus was found in Sokhumi.
7.    In 1942 tetrachalkon of Panticapaeum struck in 100-75 B.C. was found by chance on the territory of the Sokhumi fortress (Obv. Apollo; Rev. Scepter on a tripod).
8.    During archaeological excavations in Eshera, tetrachalkon and dichalkon of the times of Mithridates VI Eupator (dated by 111-105 B.C. or 105-90 B.C.) were discovered. One of them is struck in Amisus (Ares – Sword).
9.    Another 7 copper coins (dated by 105-90 B.C. (Gorgon-Nike)) of the Pontic cities are found on the same territory. Although the coins are badly preserved, one of them is definitely struck in Amisus, and another, probably, in Amastris.
10.    In 1886 in Sokhumi during archaeological excavations copper coin struck in Amisus in 105-90 B.C. was found.
11.    Tetrachalkon was  found in Eshera in 1971 dated by the reign of Mithridates VI Eupator and struck in the city of Pharnacia (Tyche – Zeus).
12.    In 1972 in Eshera dichalkon was found of the same date struck in Neocaesarea (Obv. Dionysus’ head; Rev. Thyrsos).
13.    Tetrachalkon struck in Amisus in 80-70 B.C. was found in Eshera (Zeus – Eagle).
14.    In 1936 in the outskirts of Sokhumi, Mithridates VI Eupator’s two tetradrachms were found dated by 74 B.C.
15.    In the seaboard of Sokhumi Roman republican denarius was found dated by 87 B.C.
16.    On the territory of the Sokhumi fortress Roman republican denarius was found dated by 83 B.C.
17.    In Eshera Roman republican denarius was found struck in Sicily and dated by 49 B.C.
18.    In the outskirts of Sokhumi Roman republican denarius was found struck in 48 B.C.


1.    Three copper coins of the 2nd-1st cc. B.C. (?)
2.    The so-called “new style” Athenian coins: a) drachm struck in 146/5 B.C.; b) tetradrachm dated by 125/4 B.C.
3.    Small-size silver coin, struck in Rhodes in 166-88 B.C. with the depiction of Helios and a rose. This is the only case of finding a Rhodean coin in Georgia.
4.    Drachms of the Cappadocian kings: a) Ariarathes VI (130-116 B.C.) – 1 sample; b) Ariarathes VII (116-101 B.C.) – 1 sample; c) Ariarathes IX (101-87 B.C.) – 2 samples; d) Ariobarzanes I (96-63 B.C.) – 3 samples.
5.    Roman republican denarii – 2 samples (one struck either in 119-110 B.C. or in 90-80 B.C., the other – 64 B.C.); quinarius (half denarius) – 1 sample, dated by 102 B.C.
6.    Copper coins of the Pontic cities struck in Mithridates VI Eupator’s reign:
a)    Dated by 111-105 B.C. Type: Ares – Sword; 1 sample;
b)    111-105 B.C. or 105-90 B.C. – 14 samples, type – identical. Amisus’ mint – 5 samples, undecipherable – 9 samples;
c)    105-90 B.C. – 1 sample. Type: Athena – Perseus, Amisus’ mint;
d)    105-90 B.C. Type: Gorgon – Nike, Amisus – 7 samples, Amastris – 3 samples, unidentified mint – 14 samples. Altogether 24 samples;
e)    90-80 B.C. – 1 sample. Type: Dionysus – cista (sacrificial chest); Amisus;
f)    80-70 B.C. – 5 samples. Type: Zeus – Eagle, Amisus – 2 samples, unidentified mint – 3 samples;
g)    Badly preserved copper coins, but, undoubtedly struck in the Pontic cities during the reign of Mithridates VI – 9 samples.
    Thus, there are 55 samples, out of which: 47 samples – tetrachalkon; 6 samples – dichalkon; 1 – obol (nominal of copper coins).
7.    Mithridates VI Eupator’s tetradrachm dated by 74-3 B.C. Obv. Mithridates Eupator’s head with hair loose to the right (his face resembling Alexander the Great’s); Rev. Grazing deer to the left. Above the deer the emblem of the Mithridatid dynasty – crescent and a star. Inscription –BΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΜΙΘΡΑΔΑΤΟΥ ΕΥΠΑΤΟΡΟΣ – “of king Mithridates Eupator”, date and monogrammes.
8.    Another tetradrachm of Mithridates VI Eupator was found during Vani archaeological excavations. The only difference is the depiction of the winged Pegasus on the reverse.
9.    Parthian drachms: Sinatruces (77-70 B.C.) – 1 sample; Orodes II (57-38/7 B.C.) – 1 sample.
10.    Cistophorus (large-size silver coin. It owes its name to a figure on its reverse: cista) struck in Pergamon in 50-49 B.C.

Other parts of the hinterland:

11.    In 1914 in Zugdidi District, tetradrachm of the Armenian king Tigranes II (95-55 B.C.) was found by chance.
12.    In the vicinity of Chiatura a tetradrachm (struck in Antioch in 83-69 B.C.) of  Tigranes II was found.
13.    In 1930 in the Ghumuri village of the Gali District three silver coins were found by chance. According to A. Zograff, one of them, denarius of Titus Carizius, was struck in 45 B.C.
14.    In 1897 in the Sazodelavo village, Senaki District, the 1st c. B.C. hoard of 23 Roman denarii was found by chance.