Featured A silver coin of the Coppersmith dynasty

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Parthicus, Jul 9, 2020.

  1. Parthicus

    Parthicus Well-Known Member

    Since I posted a photo of this coin yesterday, I guess it's time for me to do a proper write-up:
    Saffarids. Shiraz mint. AR dirham (3.25 g, 28 mm). Tahir ibn Muhammad (288-296 AH/901-908 AD), dated 289 AH (902 AD). Album 1402, Wilkes 1444. This coin: Stephen Album Auction 37, lot 2393 (June 2020).

    The Saffarid dynasty was founded in 861 AD by Ya'qub ibn al-Layth as-Saffar (saffar means "coppersmith" in Persian) who originally practiced the trade for which he is named, before turning to warlordism in Sistan province of eastern Persia. He soon expanded out from his capital at Zaranj city to control most of what is now Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, plus some territory in Central Asia. His brother Amr ibn al-Layth succeeded him in 879. In 900, Amr ibn al-Layth was captured in battle by his enemies the Samanids to the north. Although Amr officially remained Emir of the Saffarids until the next year, the Saffarid army proclaimed its allegiance to Amr's grandson Tahir ibn Muhammad, who made his younger brother a junior co-ruler. A Turkish slave-soldier, Sebuk-eri, exercised considerable power behind the scenes, and soon gained control of Fars and Kirman provinces in southern Persia. By 905, he had stopped forwarding the taxes from his provinces to Tahir. Tahir did briefly lead an army against Sebuk-eri, but soon gave up and returned to his capital, leading a life of pleasure and dissipation. In 908, a nephew of Amr, al-Layth ibn Ali, took control at Zaranj, forcing Tahir and his brother to flee. They at first planned to seek shelter in Fars with Sebuk-eri (why they thought they could trust this rebellious official is not clear to me), but instead lead their remaining loyal troops against him. Tahir and his brother lost, and were captured by Sebuk-eri, who sent them along to the Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad. Although Tahir and his brother were reportedly treated well, they were never released and died in captivity. The Saffarid dynasty began declining at this time, losing territory until only a remnant was left in Sistan.

    (Map showing the extent of Saffarid territory in 900 AD, at the start of Tahir ibn Muhammad's reign. Reposted from Wikipedia.)

    While the Saffarids were not a very long-lived dynasty, they are considered an important part of the Persian Renaissance, which saw the emergence of independent Persian Islamic dynasties and a revival of Persian culture, especially in literature. While the design of this coin is hardly ground-breaking, it does have an attractive layout of the legend, and clearly some care was taken in the engraving. The mint of Shiraz, the famous city in Fars province, is a scarcer mint for this reign. Please post your Saffarid coins, or whatever else you feel is related.
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  3. Orielensis

    Orielensis Well-Known Member

    An interesting coin and a very informative write-up! Thanks.

    My only two related coins are from the Nasrid dynasty, a short-lived and less powerful branch of the Saffarids (though there might be debate about the exact relation) that took over in Sistan between the collapse of Ghaznavid rule and the Mongol invasion. By this time, their coins were mostly copper:

    Orient, MA – Nasriden:Saffariden von Sistan, Taj al-Din Harb, 1167-1215, Jital, Tye 123.png
    Nasrid Dynasty of Sistan (also known as the Saffarids of Sistan or Maliks of Nimruz), under Taj al-Din Harb, citing caliph al-Nasir, AE/BI jital, 1167–1215 AD, Sistan mint. Obv: "harb" in circle; partially struck legend in margin. Rev: "[unclear word]/ la illah illa / muhammad rasul / al-nasir ud-din / muhammad." 14.5 mm, 2.96g. Ref: Tye 123, Album 1427.1.

    Orient, MA – Nasriden:Saffariden von Sistan, Taj al-Din Harb, 1167-1215, Jital, Tye 125 Kopie.png
    Nasrid Dynasty of Sistan (Khwarezmian vassals, also known as the Saffarids of Sistan or Maliks of Nimruz), under Taj al-Din Harb, AE/BI jital, 1167–1215 AD, Sistan mint. Obv: legend in diamond. Rev: legend in four lines. (Citing the Khwarezmian Shah Muhammad II and Caliph al-Nasir.) 17mm, 2.40g. Ref: Tye 125, A1427.2. Ex Allen G. Berman.
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2020
  4. Pellinore

    Pellinore Supporter! Supporter

    Thanks for your write-up of an interesting dynasty. Naturally, kings often descended from coppersmiths. I recently bought a coin from the Ziyarids, and their foremost emir was called Wushmagir. Turned out that strange name just means "Quail Catcher".

    Here's my only Saffarid, a small gold coin.

    6091 Saffarid fract dinar.jpg

    AV 1/3 dinar Saffarids 981-991, Khalef ibn Ahmad, emir of Sistan 963-1002 AD, issued in his third reign in 981-1000. Caliph At-Taï (974-991). Name of Khalef on both sides. 14 mm, 1.4 gr. Album 1420.1.
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