Featured A Jewish King of Persia (who was raised by Arabs)

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Parthicus, Dec 12, 2020.

  1. Parthicus

    Parthicus Well-Known Member

    I admit this coin is not very pretty, but it is scarce and of historical interest:
    Varahran V AE.jpg
    Sasanian Persia. AE Unit (2.44 g, 18 mm). Vahram V (420-438 AD). Obverse: King's bust right, name in Pahlavi script before. Reverse: Zoroastrian fire-altar and two attendants. This coin: Pars Coins Auction 10 (November 16, 2020), lot 145.

    Vahram (also spelled Vahrahan or Bahram) V was born around 400 AD to the Sasanian king Yazdegard I (399-420) and his wife Shushandukht, the daughter of the Jewish exilarch (leader of the Jewish community in Mesopotamia). As his mother was Jewish, Vahram would therefore be considered Jewish under Jewish tradition, even though there is no evidence that he ever practiced the Jewish religion. Young Vahram was sent off to be raised at the court of the Lakhmids, an Arab dynasty that ruled part of southern Iraq and northern Arabia. In 420 AD, a conspiracy of nobles and Zoroastrian priests murdered Yazdegard and placed one of his sons on the throne as Shahpur IV, but they soon after murdered him and replaced him with Khusro (who was so short-lived he doesn't even get a number). Vahram rushed back to the Sasanian capital of Ctesiphon to claim the throne for himself. A folk tale claims that he had the royal crown placed between two lions, and challenged Khusro that whoever could retrieve it by killing the lions should be king. Khusro proved a coward and refused, while Vahram successfully passed the challenge and was accepted as king. While this almost certainly never happened, it is certain that Vahram was able to claim the throne fairly quickly, with support from the priests.

    The first major incident of his rule was a brief war with the Byzantines. At the urging of the Zoroastrian priests, he began persecuting Christians in his realm, many of whom fled to Byzantine territory and attracted the sympathy of Theodosius II. In 421, the Byzantines and Sasanians fought in Armenia and Mesopotamia, to a relative standstill. A peace treaty the next year reset relations between the two empires, with no territory exchanged, and with both sides guaranteeing religious freedom in their realms. He then fought a more significant war with the Kidarite Huns, who had been ravaging the eastern part of Sasanian territory. This war proved far more decisive, with Vahram ultimately killing the Kidarite king and forcing out the Kidarites. He also ended the practice of giving Armenia a semi-independent king, incorporating it as a frontier province of the empire under a margrave. His policies of cancelling many taxes and public debts made him popular with the people. He encouraged musicians, and loved hunting; his nickname of "Vahram Gor" (Vahram the Onager, or wild ass) reflects his favorite prey. Vahram died in 438 AD, in unclear circumstances; different sources claim he died peacefully in bed, or fell into a cave, or a swamp, or drowned. Vahram has had considerable popularity in Persian culture, and is the subject of several major poems.

    Although this is not a high-grade coin, the main designs are clear enough, and as it is scarce (like all Sasanian bronze) and from an interesting king, I decided to buy it. Coincidentally, @medoraman posted a drachm of Vahram V about a week ago (https://www.cointalk.com/threads/intriguing-sasanian.370956/#post-5175902 ), which prompted me to get around to posting this coin. Please post your coins of Vahram V, or other Sasanians, or whatever else is related.
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  3. Quant.Geek

    Quant.Geek Well-Known Member

    Thanks for another interesting post, @Parthicus. I find that the copper coins are more difficult to get in good condition as opposed to the abundant silver drachm. Here are two coins that I picked up during the recent Pars Coins auctions:

    Sasanian Kings: Varahran V (420-438) AR Drachm (Sunrise 922; SNS type Ia/2; Göbl type I/2)
    Obv: Bust right, wearing mural crown with korymbos set on crescent
    Rev: Fire altar with head of Bahram right on shaft; flanked by two attendants
    Dim: 29 mm; 4.20 g

    Sasanian Kings: Varahran V (420-438) Æ Unit (Gyselen 158-var; SNS-86)

    Obv: Vahram’s bust right, diadem and crescent to right
    Rev: Fire altar with bust right in flames & two attendants
    Dim: 15 mm; 1.88 g
  4. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Fascinating story. Thank you. Just out of curiosity, is the Eastern Roman Empire usually referred to as "Byzantine" as early as the 420s? (Leaving aside the question raised here at times of whether it's proper to call them the Byzantines in any period.) I thought that it isn't generally called that until at least after the fall of the Western Empire.
    +VGO.DVCKS, BenSi and Quant.Geek like this.
  5. Quant.Geek

    Quant.Geek Well-Known Member

    Byzantine comes from the old Greek name for the city prior to Constantine changing it to Constantinople. They were referred as Romania or Romanion (aka Romans in Greek). As far as I know, Byzantine Empire was a historical moniker used well after the fall of the empire...
    +VGO.DVCKS and BenSi like this.
  6. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Yes, I understand. I guess I wasn't clear. My question is whether people calling it the Byzantine Empire now call it by that name when they're discussing the Eastern Roman Empire before 476 AD.
    +VGO.DVCKS likes this.
  7. Quant.Geek

    Quant.Geek Well-Known Member

    I seen it used both ways, but I reserve Byzantine to Anastasius I and after, and Eastern Roman Empire for Leo and prior...
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  8. Parthicus

    Parthicus Well-Known Member

    Yes, my use of "Byzantine" for pre-476 AD Eastern Roman Empire is my own personal idiosyncrasy. Sorry if that wasn't clear.
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  9. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

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  10. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    resurrecting this thread and sharing this coin which is from one of the small Kidarite kingdoms that survived in northwest India, Jammu and Kashmir, with thanks for the post:
    Post-Kidarite Vinayaditya 681-696.jpg India, Post-Kushan (Jammu and Kashmir), Kidarite Successors, Vinayaditya, 5th to 6th century AD, Stater (Electrum, 20-22mm, 7.48g)
    Obv: Abstract Kushan-style king standing to left
    Rev: Abstract Ardoksho seated facing, DITYA (in Brahmi) to left, ŠRIVINAYA (in Brahmi) down right
  11. medoraman

    medoraman Supporter! Supporter

    Wow, wonder how I missed this thread. Very interesting. I never knew Vahran V was technically Jewish. I did know he reclaimed his father and grandfather's throne with an Arab army at his back, so it makes sense he was in Arabia at the time.

    The one other very interesting aspect of Vahran V is he is one of the most famous Sasanian rulers in Muslim history. He is known as the famous Bahramgur, of many different fables.

    I just got the coin I posted a few months ago. Much larger than most other contemporary drachms, ang very interesting. I also got the group lot of many of his from a CNG auction, (half Vahran V and half his father). The Vahran V are simply fantastic, as close to FDC as you achieve in these middle dates. However, only one was similar to the coin I posted, with a figure in the middle of the fire alter.
    Sulla80 and +VGO.DVCKS like this.
  12. Double Eagle

    Double Eagle New Member

    I loved reading this write up thank you @Parthicus!
  13. +VGO.DVCKS

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    Resurrecting this thread for the drachm of Varahran /Bahram that I wound up with. ...Thanks both to @Parthicus's terrific writeup, and coaching from the numismatist (The Celator etc.), Alan DeShazo. ...Now I'm wanting one of his dad.
    ...I like how the reigns are distinguished in part by the style of the crown. It's as if these folks, bouncing off of the stylization in portraiture that was rampant in late Roman, effectively gave up on realistic depictions, and hit on this feature as an alternative. The innovation is pretty impressive on its own merits.
    Last edited: May 25, 2021
  14. +VGO.DVCKS

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    Just landed this, of Vaharan /Bahram's dad, Yazdegard I. For whom, please see @Parthicus' (outstanding) OP! ...I need to thank the numismatist Alan DeShazo, for alerting me to both of these.
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