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Near East

Published onSep 09, 2020
Near East

The Near East

Greece, Rome, and Egypt were not the only civilizations to inhabit the ancient world. In fact, they all interacted, and at times were challenged by, other civilizations in the near east and beyond. Many of the ancient coins in the permanent collection were from some of these “Near East” civilizations. One such civilization was the Seleucid Empire. On exhibition is a coin with a portrait of one of this Empire's rulers who interacted with the early Roman Empire. In 250 BCE, the Seleucid Empire covered much of modern day Syria, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Greece, Italy, Turkey, and northern Egypt, but for the bulk of its existence it covered only modern day Iraq, Iran, and Pakistan. It was under King Antiochus I Soter that the Hellenistic Empire was consolidated. Antiochus was the son of Seleucus the founder of the Kingdom. After saving some Northern Greek city states from attack by the Gauls, Antiochus gained himself the nickname Soter which means “savior”.

The Parthian Empire is another example of these ancient civilizations. Parthia could be found just north of the Seleucids and at some points was part of the Seleucid Empire, however eventually overtook the Seleucids to rule the area. In the permanent collection there are 3 coins which depict rulers from this Empire. Under Arabanus the II, Parthia had control over all of the Iranian Plateau and the Tigris-Euphrates Valley. There was trouble at the end of his reign, however his son, Mithradates II (the great) also known as Antiochus II, regained control and dominated most of northern Mesopotamia and Iran for the remainder of his reign. After the death of Mithridates II, Parthia seemed to be in constant conflict with other major civilizations of the time including Rome during the 1st century BCE. The son of Mithradates II, Antiochus IV, attempted to be in good standing with Rome after their wars ended. He was ultimately unsuccessful as the kingdom was riddled with conflict. The Parthian Empire came to an end in the 3rd century CE after the Roman Emperors Trajan and Septimius Severus invaded Parthian territory along with other foreign adversaries.

Much of the glass in this section of the exhibition is from Syro-Palestine and features shapes similar to those created in Rome. Syro-Palestine was a well-known trader in the ancient world and at one point had control of Egypt (during the 13th Dynasty or 1783–1640 BCE). These cultures, while often overlooked in history books, were also very successful. You can see some of their currency in the coin section of the exhibition.

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