Featured Ardashir I: Dawn of the Sasanians

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Parthicus, Oct 23, 2017.

  1. Parthicus

    Parthicus Well-Known Member

    I recently won this coin at a CNG auction:
    Ardashir I obol new.jpg
    Sasanian Kingdom. AR obol (14.5mm, 0.70g). Ardashir I (c.224-240 AD). Obverse: King's bust right in Sasanian-style crown, legend in Pahlavi script around "Mazdisn bagi Artashatr malkan malka Airan minuchetri meni" ("the Mazda-worshipper, the divine Ardashir, King of Kings of Iran, descended from the gods"). Reverse: Zoroastrian fire-altar, legend around "Nura zi Artashatr" ("Fire of Ardashir"). CNG Auction 407, lot 247 (2017).

    Ardashir I was the founder of the Sasanian or Neo-Persian dynasty. He was (depending on the source) either the son or the grandson of a Persian nobleman named Sasan, for whom the dynasty would eventually be named. At the time, Persis was merely one of the parts of the Parthian kingdom, where a local ruler was allowed some autonomy as long as he remained loyal to the central Parthian government and continued to pay taxes and levy troops. Ardashir apparently overthrew the Parthian-supported local ruler and reigned in Persis for a period as Ardashir V. After a few years, however, he began taking over neighboring territory and directly challenging Parthian authority. The Parthian kingdom at this time was weakened by repeated wars with Rome and split between two brothers, Artabanus IV (or V) in the East and Vologases VI in the West. Ardashir was able to defeat the remaining Parthians and in either 224, 226, or 227 AD had himself crowned as Ardashir I. Ardashir was a vigorous and effective ruler, and much like Augustus in Rome he set a solid foundation for the next few centuries of imperial rule. He forced increased centralization of government, promoted the Zoroastrian religion as the official state faith, and fought to enlarge the empire's borders. He also established the distinctive designs and fabric of Sasanian coins, introducing the broad, thin silver coins that would remain standard throughout the dynasty. He died in about 240 AD, passing on the crown to his son Shapur I.

    Ardashir's coinage shows three distinct styles. The earliest, probably struck while he was still Ardashir V the Parthian vassal, show facing portraits, as on this bronze from my collection:
    Ardashir V.jpg
    His earliest coins as Ardashir I show the king in a Parthian-style tiara:
    Ardashir I obol.jpg
    The final stage shows the king in a Sasanian-style crown, as in the top coin. Also, although Ardashir introduced the Zoroastrian fire-altar reverse that would remain standard for the Sasanians, he did not show any attendants at the fire-altar; that would not happen until his son Shapur I.

    The OP coin cost me $90 at a recent CNG e-auction, which is a low price for this scarce coin. Please post your Sasanians, or anything else relevant.
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  3. Ed Snible

    Ed Snible Well-Known Member

    The inscriptions on Sasanian obols have always amazed me. Do you have any idea how they created them? I have none!

    I have a nothing so early nor so small, but I do have a Sasanian coin.

    Hormizd II. A.D. 303-309. AR drachm, 27.4 mm, 3.59g.
    Obv: Pahlavi legend mzdy<s>n bgy hwrmzdy MRKAn MRKA 'yr<'>n MNW ctry MN yzd'n ("The Mazda-worshipping Lord Hormizd, King of Kings of the Iranians, whose lineage is of the gods."); Crowned bust right
    Rev: Pahlavi legend NWRA (ZY) hwrmzdy ("Fire of Hormizd"); Fire altar with attendants and ribbon; in flames, bareheaded bust left.
    Göbl 85.
    Ex Agora Auctions, Auction 46, December 2015, lot 44
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  4. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    I'll add a billon tetradrachm (12.3g) oa0450bb1918.jpg
    and silver drachm (4.3g).
    I do not understand the use of the denomination names for these since the silver content of the two coins is probably rather similar. I assume this is like the Parthian series where the Western mint coins were made for use by foreigners but the metal quality here seems extreme. Can you recommend a book on these that is not just a catalog? The recent 2 volume Curtis, Askari et al. was a real disappointment. Gobl was cheaper, so better.
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  5. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander Blame my mother. Supporter

    Here's my drachm - the reverse appears to have been struck with a rusty die. Would like to get some earlier ones too... I love all 3 OP coins!

    Screen Shot 2017-10-23 at 10.29.46 PM.png
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  6. Agricantus

    Agricantus Allium aflatunense

    According to Tabari (& Theodor Nöldeke), the story goes that Ardashir stomped on Ardavan’s (Artabanos’) head. What Ardashir did to his brothers is well known. Not a very classy guy. But a string ruler who minted a lot of very interesting coin types.

    Here’s my only win from a printed auction, photo courtesy of cngcoins.com Struck on a broad flan, one of my favorite coins. No smile on that face, I love how the celator rendered the look in his eye.
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  7. AnYangMan

    AnYangMan Well-Known Member

    Nice one, congrats on being featured!
  8. Justinokay

    Justinokay Member

    Here's my Sassanian coins.

    Sasanian Kings. Ardashir I (224-240 AD).
    AR Drachm, 27mm, 4.2g, 5h, Mint C ('Ctesiphon').
    Obv.: 'The Mazda-worshiper, the divine Ardashir, the king of kings of Iran who is descended from the gods' in Pahlavi; Diademed and draped bust right, hair gathered within spherical ornament on head.
    Rev.: 'The fire of Ardashir' in Pahlavi; fire altar without attendants.
    Reference: Alram 673. Göbl III/2.

    SASANIAN KINGS. Hormizd II. AD. 302-309.
    AR Drachm, 25mm, 4.2g, 3h.
    Obv.: Bust right, wearing eagle crown with korymbos.
    Rev.: Fire altar with ribbon and bust left in flames; flanked by two attendants, the left wearing winged crown, the other wearing mural crown, both with korymbos; two pellets to left of flames.
    Reference: SNS type Ia/3b; Göbl type I/1a; Sunrise 822

    SASANIAN KINGS. Husrav (Khosrau) I. AD 531-579.
    AR Drachm, 30mm, 3.9g, 3h; GW mint. Dated RY 27 (AD 558).
    Obv.: Bust right, wearing crown with frontal crescent, ribbons and crescents on shoulders; monogram behind head, stars flanking crown; singe border, crescents in margins.
    Rev.: Fire altar with ribbons and attendants; star and crescent flanking flames.
    From the Arnoldoe Collection

    Attached Files:

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  9. Mike Margolis

    Mike Margolis Well-Known Member

    This is all I have Sassanian sassamianSeal.jpg Scan_20171024 (3).png from many years ago ordered this seal.
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  10. 7Calbrey

    7Calbrey Well-Known Member

    I've got 3. The first one represents Khusro II, but I don't know whom the 2 others represent ?? Sas O                Khusro II.JPG Sassan R.JPG PerBsas O.JPG PerBsass R.JPG PerSm O.JPG PerSml R.JPG
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  11. Pellinore

    Pellinore Supporter! Supporter

    Both of the others are also Khusro II. The book of Yngve Karlsson on Sasanian silver would help you find out their mints and exact dates.
  12. Pellinore

    Pellinore Supporter! Supporter

    Here's Ardashir I. The coin to the left is o.k. with its 4.11 gr., the one in the middle is too light (3.27 gr.), but it looks allright, too. The right one is a forgery.

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  13. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander Blame my mother. Supporter

    Those look to be all Khusro IIs.

    (Oops, didn't see Pellinore had already replied.)
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  14. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander Blame my mother. Supporter

    And its weight is...?
  15. Pellinore

    Pellinore Supporter! Supporter

    6.38 gr. It's a thick coin of greyish metal, sort of alpacca (nickel silver) looking.
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  16. Pellinore

    Pellinore Supporter! Supporter

    And this is Ardashir, too: a billon tetradrachm and a bronze coin. Weighing 13.34 gr and 3.24 gr.

    Ardashir BI and AE co.jpg
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  17. Parthicus

    Parthicus Well-Known Member

    Wow, this is my first contribution to be a Featured Article! Thanks for the honor.

    @Ed Snible : I agree, the workmanship on such small coins is remarkable. I've heard the theory that the principle of magnifying lenses was somewhat understood in the Hellenistic and Roman worlds (though there's not definitive textual or archaeological evidence), so it's possible that Sasanian celators could also have used lenses. But that's just speculation on my part, I don't really know.

    @dougsmit : A good general book about Sasanian coins that isn't just a catalog of a particular collection? The closest that I know of is Gobl's book, which you've already read. I supplement this with the pages on how to read Sasanian mint marks and years at Forum, which I'm sure you are also familiar with. I've recently read a good general history by Touraj Daryaee, "Sasanian Persia: The Rise and Fall of an Empire", which includes some general discussion of the economy. If you find anything else, let me know.
  18. Alegandron

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

    Very nice coins and write-up @Parthicus !!! I enjoy the light you shed on this history... fun for me.

    Congrats to you as this is a Featured Thread!

    I regret to have only 2 Sasanians:

    Sassanian Shapur I 240-272 CE AE Tetradrachm 10.78g 27mm Ctesiphon mint phase 1a mural crown korymbos - fire altar type 2 SNS IIa1-1a

    Persia Sassanian Ardashir III 628-629 CE AR Drachm 36mm 3.85g Zoroastrian Fire Alter Gobl II-1 yr 2 Delta RARE
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2017
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  19. chrsmat71

    chrsmat71 I LIKE TURTLES! Supporter

    The post so nice, I read it twice! A well deserved "feature" for you @Pathicus !
  20. Pellinore

    Pellinore Supporter! Supporter

    There is the recent book by Yngve Karlsson, Sasanian Silver Coins. Mixtum Publishing, Sweden, 2015. ISBN 978-91-982341-0-7. It has a historical overview and very helpful tools for identification, interpreting and understanding. Much more accessible than the Göbl book (which is pretty old, by the way: about 1969). But it's only about the silver, not about the gold or the (very interesting) AE coinage.
    The tetradrachm of Ardashir I, issued in 224-230, is considered 'to meet the competition from the Syrian tetradrachm made by the Emperor Elagabalus'.
    The book by Karlsson is an excellent guide for collecting these coins. Göbl is best for puzzling out tiny varieties.
  21. 7Calbrey

    7Calbrey Well-Known Member

    I think this Parthian silver Tet of Orodes II would also be relevant.

    Orodes II Nike Parth.jpg Orod 47 BC    Selwood 48.3.jpg
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