Parthian coin project

(Sylloge Nummorum Parthicorum - SNP)

Project leaders

Project researchers

Department of Coins and Medals 

Alexandra Magub, CDA student

SOAS/British Museum

Supported by

  • The British Museum
  • The British Institute of Persian Studies

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Parthian coins are the most extensive and informative primary source of a dynasty that was in power for over 400 years in the Ancient Near East.

In the second century BC this Iranian empire stretched from the River Euphrates in modern Iraq to Bactria in modern Afghanistan. After the collapse of the Seleucid dynasty in the Ancient Near East, Parthia became Rome’s main rival until the appearance at the beginning of the third century AD of the Sasanians who replaced the Parthians.

Despite its importance, this resource has been largely ignored by scholars working on Parthian culture. The Parthian coin project will be a major source of information not only about Parthian coins, but also about the history, art history and culture of the Parthian Empire.

This project will bring together all the Parthian coins in the collections of the participating institutions and it is planned to produce nine volumes in total, to form the Sylloge Nummorum Parthicorum (SNP). The British Museum team will be responsible for volumes II and IV.

Volume II will deal with coinage of Mithradates II (about 123 – 88 BC) and Volume IV will publish the coins of Mithradates III, Orodes III and Pacorus I (about 57-38 BC). The other seven volumes have been allocated among the other participating institutions, which are the Austrian Academy of Sciences; Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna together with the Institut für Numismatik und Geldgeschichte, Vienna University; The National Museum of Iran, Tehran. Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris; Staatliche Museen zu Berlin; American Numismatic Society, and supporting this project are the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the British Institute of Persian Studies.

As a further outcome of the project the British Museum’s extensive collection of Parthian coins is available through the Collection online with detailed descriptions and images.

Silver coin of Phraates IV

Silver coin of Phraates IV,
Minted in Parthia