Intriguing Sasanian

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by medoraman, Dec 2, 2020.

  1. medoraman

    medoraman Supporter! Supporter

    I just won this one today. I also wanted a Kidarite in insane condition but lost it, (sorry if I cost someone here some money). I also really wanted this coin. It was advertised as "rare for mint name being written", but that is not why I was interested.

    SASANIAN KINGS. Vahrām (Bahram) V. AD 420-438. AR Drachm (31mm, 3.75 g, 2h). ML (Merv) mint. Bust right, wearing mural crown with korymbos set on crescent / Fire altar withribbons; head of Bahram right on shaft; flanked by two attendants. SNS type Ib2/1. Toned, slightly crystallized surfaces, edge chipped. VF. Rare with mint signature.

    Its a coin of Vahran V, the famous Bahram Gor, He is famous in Persian and Arabic lore. It does list he had wars with the Kidarites in the eastern portion of his empire.

    This is where this coin comes in. Its listed as a Sasanian issue, but LOOK at that reverse. For those who know Sasanian coins, the reverse show their holy fire alter and (usually) 2 attendants to the flame. This die instead converts a fire alter into a man standing, the flames becoming his hair and arms and a torso. This would be the equivalent of someone taking a Byzantine coin and converting the cross on the reverse into a Gumby character. I looked it up in SNS and I guess I never paid attention his reverse came like this on some of his coins. I wonder why/how they justified this?
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  3. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Basileus Megalos

  4. Parthicus

    Parthicus Well-Known Member

    Very interesting! I was not familiar with this variety, so no idea why it was done. There are some Sasanian issues with the head of Ahura-Mazda appearing in the flames of the fire-altar, as on this obol of Shahpur II (309-379):
    Shahpur II obol.jpg
    The Arab-Bukharan coins often turn the fire-altar into a face, and the overall effect looks like your coin:
    Bukhara al-Mahdi.jpg

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    Wow, @medoraman, I'm going to have to send a link for your post to a numismatist in my correspondence, who's done a lot with Sasanians. Thank you, this is a total departure.
    ...To wallow in the obvious (never stopped me before), only most emphatically as early as this, it can't represent any kind of reaction to eventual Islamic proscriptions against figural representation. ...Which, if the Arab-Byzantine series is any indication, never mnd the various Turkish issues in Asia Minor a half-millennium later, was selectively observed, at best.
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2020
    Pellinore likes this.

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    Thanks, @Parthicus, for advancing the historico-numismatic context to this extent. I'm still learning people's 'names,' but you were at the top of the list for who might help with this.
    Pellinore likes this.
  7. Mat

    Mat Ancient Coincoholic

    Never seen that reverse type before, great addition, Chris.
    +VGO.DVCKS likes this.
  8. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    What I don't know about Sasanian would fill a large shelf full of weighty books but anyone who looks ate these must be aware that there have been a lot of Bahram V and Yasdgard I drachms on the market in the last year. Since I had neither I picked up one of each in a Pars sale earlier this year. I was not aware that a Bahram V was noteworthy as "rare for mint name being written" but I decided to bid on this one since I thought I could see ART at the right. Corrections appreciated.

    My only coin with the head in flames is Shapur II and too early to pertain here.

    As if my opinion meant anything, I would question if the OP coin is of the expected style for Merv. My only coin from that mint (assuming that I knew anything - which I emphasize I do not) is a Khusro II with ML - year 35 mint mark and which is too late to mean anything here. What bothers me is the OP coin being rather more crude style than I would expect from Merv if my coin is of any indication. Looking again at my Shapur II and the OP coin, I fail to be convinced of the change to 'arms and torso'. Is the OP coin official or did it copy a Merv?
    That sent me to grifterrec (link above - my go-to for Sasanian) where I found quite a few Vahran V Merv coins with and without the head on altar including:
    Varhran V (420 - 438 AD)
    AR Drachm
    Mint: MLW
    Regnal year: none
    30 x 31 mm.
    3.69 gm.
    Gobl I/2; SNS Ib1/2
    Diameter of obverse dotted border=25 mm.; diameter of reverse border=28 mm.
    Die position=3h
    Note: Courtesy Robert W. Schaaf collection

    Now I am less inclined to see the coin as from the same mint that produced the grifterrec coins (which admittedly vary all over the place in style). I consider the OP coin quite interesting and suspect that I would be more into Sasanian now were there shows where I could grab leftovers from the auctions oversubscribed with lesser grade but higher interest coins of this period. Perhaps I will when people spending their money on coin auctions go back to travel and other non coin activities. I hope, by then, to have learned more about these coins. Your help would be appreciated.
    Johndakerftw and Parthicus like this.
  9. medoraman

    medoraman Supporter! Supporter

    I am embarrassed to say, but my original post I was going to postulate this is a Kidarite piece. However, then I saw this as a reverse type in SNS and thought I was simply wrong. It still screams Kidarite to me, from archaic style to full on man instead of alter, but SNS lists it as a Bahram V standard reverse type, and I assume they know more than I. There are Kidarite coins copying Bahram V, and those look better to me than this "official" piece. Merv would make sense too, being in the area of the Sasanian-Kidarite fighting at the time.

    Ah, what do I know. Still, very unique looking. Btw, I took the "rarity" to mean the Merv mint name on the coin. I too have other Bahram V coins with mint names, but not Merv.
    +VGO.DVCKS likes this.
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