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Musa : From Concubine to Queen

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Musa : From Concubine to Black Widow Queen

Here's a fascinating coin I saw in a recent Heritage auction:




PARTHIAN KINGDOM. Phraataces and Musa (2 BC-AD 4). AR drachm (20mm, 3.85 gm, 12h).  Ecbatana mint. Draped and diademed bust of Phraataces left, wearing spiral torques; Nikes to either side bearing wreaths / ΘΕΑΣ ΟΥΡΑΝΙΑΣ ΜΟΥΣΗΣ ΒΑΣΙΛΙΣΣΗΣ, draped and crowned portrait bust of Queen Musa left, monogram below chin. Sellwood 57.13. Rare. Toned. Extremely Fine.

Musa was a beautiful slave girl presented by Caesar Augustus to King Phraates IV in exchange for the Parthians returning the Roman standards lost at Carrhae. She quickly became Phraates' favorite wife and, after bearing a son to him, she arranged for his murder and the succession of their son, Phraataces. Following Magian custom, she married her own son and ruled for several years as the power behind the throne. But having a female ruler, and a foreigner at that, proved unacceptable to the Parthian aristocracy and in AD 4 Musa and her son were overthrown and replaced by Orodes III. 



On the reverse of the coin is Musa, the concubine given to King Phraates IV by Augustus as part of the peace treaty with the Parthians. Terms of the peace included the return of the Roman legionary standards lost to the Parthians by Crassus at Carrhae (in 53 BCE) and by Marc Antony's General Saxa (in 40 BCE).

The concubine Musa was soon elevated to Phraates' queen. By 2 BCE she poisoned her husband the king and elevated their son Phraataces to succeed his father.


Musa possibly married her son (according to Josephus), but she would have most probably exerted great influence over the Parthian court. The coin suggests that they she co-ruled with her son. In AD 4, however, Musa and her son were deposed and she fled to Syria.

guy also known as gaius

Edited by guy

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