A Sasanian-imitative drachm

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Parthicus, Sep 4, 2021.

  1. Parthicus

    Parthicus Well-Known Member

    Here's another coin I won this year:
    Huns Kobadian.jpg
    Hephthalites in Northern Tokharistan, Kobadian. AR/billon drachm (30 mm, 2.78 g). Anonymous, c. 650-720 AD. Obverse: Bust right derived from Sasanian coin of Peroz, tamghas to left and right, Bactrian legend at bottom, at 10:00 countermark G-73 (human head left). Reverse: Derived from standard Sasanian reverse of fire-altar with two attendants; at 7:00 countermark Kob3 (camel). Gobl 289, cf. Zeno 46036. This coin: Stephen Album Internet-only Auction 9 (aka Auction 509), lot 22 (April 12, 2021), ex Jim Farr collection.

    There is very little historical information associated with this coin that I could find. Kobadian (also spelled Kobadien in some sources) was an ancient Bactrian city, no longer in existence, probably located at the site of modern Kalai-Mir in the Tadzhik SSR (modern Tajikistan), according to the Great Soviet Encyclopedia of 1979. And... that's the entire entry in the Encyclopedia. (There is also a modern town called Kobadian, in Mali, West Africa, but it seems to be just a coincidental name.) There is a fairly recent (2011) publication on these coins, but it is written in Russian, which unfortunately I don't read. The Hephthalites (aka White Huns) ruled an area in Central Asia from the 5th to 8th centuries AD, but relatively little is known of their culture and history; the Wikipedia article ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hephthalites ) seems to me to be a good summary of what we do understand. Most Hephthalite coins bear designs derived from Sasanian precursors, and this fits very well into that pattern. The use of tamghas (clan/tribe identity symbols used by many ancient and medieval Central Asian groups), Bactrian script, and countermarks are also typical for Hephthalite coins. Even without detailed history behind it, I still like this coin for its interesting design and for the few bits of cultural and historical background that we do know. Please post whatever coins you have that are related.
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  3. Spaniard

    Spaniard Well-Known Member

    Very nice looking coin @Parthicus.....Lovely c/m on the obverse, really clear!...
    Great pick up of an interesting type....
    Here's a Peroz..
    Curtisimo, TuckHard, Finn235 and 3 others like this.
  4. Ed Snible

    Ed Snible Well-Known Member

    Here is another "Kobadien":


    I have put Kobadien in quotes, because Stefan Heidemann told me he suspects these are not from Kobadien, but from further south.

    If it is from Kobadien, this is a place with many different spellings. Google Maps has an entry for the "Qabodiyan bazaar":

    It is unclear to me if the entries labeled "Qabodiyan" are the ancient places or Soviet-era buildings and districts.

    Google Maps combines old maps, satellite images, and user input. It can be quite good. It has an artificial intelligence drawing squares on maps where the satellite sees buildings.

    The WikiVoyage entry for the province of Khatlon in Tajikistan has a clickable link for the location of the Oxus treasure, supposedly found near ancient Kobodien. The page says the treasure was found at "Takhti Sangin", and if you enter that name into Google maps you'll see nothing ... until you switch from the map view to the satellite view. On the satellite view you see ancient ruins! The satellite view also shows roads unknown to Google.

    You need two more spellings. Кабодиён (Russian) and Қубодиён (Tajik). You might find more stuff that way.
  5. dltsrq

    dltsrq Grumpy Old Man

    After the defeat of the Hephthalites by a Sasanian-Turkic coalition in the mid-6th century, the former Hephthalite empire was divided between the two. Some Hephthalite principalities such as Kobadian continued as quasi-independent vassals of the Turks. Other areas were subjected to direct rule. I suspect the attribution to Kobadian is based largely on find spots and may or may not be accurate. As Steve Album once reminded me, "We're not plugging Lincoln pennies into a folder". There is still much to be learned.
    Valentinian and Parthicus like this.
  6. gsimonel

    gsimonel Well-Known Member

    I have a couple of Sasanian imitations that I received unattributed in a bulk lot. I researched these online when I first received then and found several examples identified as either Hephthalite or Nezak Hun (or both). Later, @Ed Snible told me that recent scholarship has identified these as belonging to the Western Turks. I guess that would date these to between 603-658 A.D., but I'm not really sure. I don't know when the countermarks were added, but they were clearly added later.

    The reverse countermark is often interpreted to stand for "Phromo Kesaro," but even this has been called into question.

    On this coin you can see where the obverse countermark has cracked the flat at around 1:00 on the reverse. This is what convinces me that the countermarks are not part of the original design. Someone accepted these for trade after the issuing authority was no longer in power. Perhaps they were added after the Western Turkic Khaganate was conquered by China during the Tang dynasty?
    The thick plottens.
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2021
  7. Finn235

    Finn235 Well-Known Member

    Nice examples!

    A few years ago I branched out into Hunnic imitations of Sassanian coins, as a sort of preface to my Gadhaiya collection.

    I picked up four of these "Tokharistan" types because the faults made them too cheap to pass up (we're talking like $5-10 here!)
    Tokharistan peroz copy 1.jpg Tokharistan peroz copy 2.jpg Tokharistan peroz copy 3.jpg Tokharistan peroz copy 4.jpg

    I also picked up a small set of the predecessor to this series; Peroz-imitations without the countermarks typically found on these

    Fine style, no tamghas in die - these are easy to distinguish because of the pellets added outside the obverse border, and the mint was replaced by Bactrian, I believe ALCHOON
    Hephthalite Peroz drachm early.jpg

    Crude style, but still no Tamghas
    Hephthalite peroz drachm late.jpg

    These were very cheap - first has Alchon tamgha engraved at about 7:00, and a Bactrian or soghdian countermark Hephthalite peroz drachm legend cm.jpg

    Second has another tamgha at about 3:00 Hephthalite peroz drachm tamgha.jpg
  8. Valentinian

    Valentinian Supporter! Supporter

    Here is an imitation from Tokharistan of a Sasanian design:


    30-28 mm. 4.02 grams.
    Vondrovec type 265. Coinage of the Iranian Huns and their Successors from Baktria to Gandhara (4th-6th C. CE). 2014.
  9. Finn235

    Finn235 Well-Known Member

    Nice one - I always loved those bull-head crowns but that's one of the few types I never did manage to own. One could make a very large, very interesting collection just of the various Sassanian-inspired coinages.

    A generic Shapur II imitation (sadly I had to let this one go to get some scratch for another that I needed)

    Kidarites, Kidara, loosely based on Bahram V?
    Kidarite Kidara AR drachm.jpg

    Alchons, Mihirakula, I think also loosely based on the same
    Alchon BI drachm Mihirakula.jpg

    Nezaks, Napki Malka type (I believe a synthesis of Peroz-type headgear with a Bahram V-type reverse)

    A post-conquest type of the Nezaks now as Turk feudatories, replacing the attendants with tamghas
    Nezak turks 1.jpg

    Turkic imitation of Khusro I, replacing the mint marks with a swastika
    Turco-Hepthalite Khusro I imitation swastika.jpg

    Also Khusro I type, but the "Phoro" type

    Vajara Vakudeva, loosely based on Ardashir III
    Vakhu deva drachm.jpg
  10. Ed Snible

    Ed Snible Well-Known Member

    The reason I call these "Western Turk" is because of Dietrich Schnaedelbach's short article "A group of countermarked imitative drahms of Hormizd IV" in Journal of the Oriental Numismatic Society vol. 169 (Autumn 2001). Luckily many of the Society Journals are online including this one:

    Schnaedelbach thinks the coins were minted after 590 AD and the countermarks applied 680-700 AD.
    Parthicus likes this.
  11. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    I have zero Sasanian drachms, but I love seeing the degradation of especially the reverse fire attendants.

    In the beginning, the attendants were rather true-to-life.
    Over the years, they began to be so abstracted that it would be almost impossible to tell what they were supposed to be.

    I always wondered why this is. I have two hypotheses.

    1. The representation of the reverse was a game of telephone. An unskilled engraver attempted to emulate an official template. This was pretty poor, and the next (equally poor) engraver attempted to emulate the poor representation. Rinse and repeat and the game of telephone degenerates to the point where the last guy has no idea what's going on and does his best.
    This is like if I, Hotwheelsearl, attempted to engrave a modern Washington Crossing the Delaware quarter. I cannot draw or do any sort of art at ALL. If I tried to emulate that design, I would butcher it dramatically.

    2. The celator intentionally imputed a sense of his own, local, impressionist/abstract style.
    This is like if Van Gogh did his typical abstract style for the Starry Night, and then subsequent mediocre artists tried to emulate that unique style, ending in some absolute garbage that has almost no relation to the original model:
    Gadhaiya Paisa (2020_11_18 03_38_31 UTC).JPG
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