Long Overdue add - Gupta AR Drachm of Chandragupta II, History's Most Dangerous Drag Queen

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Finn235, Oct 21, 2021.

  1. Finn235

    Finn235 Well-Known Member

    This is a very long overdue purchase for me - considering the breadth of my Indian collection, lacking arguably the most important ruler of the great Gupta Empire was almost criminal!

    It took me about 4 years to finally hunt down a good Chandragupta II drachm with a clear enough name at a palatable price - but thankfully one of my regular sellers just dumped a small hoard onto eBay, most misattributed as his son, Kumaragupta.

    Chandragupta II AR Drachm.jpg

    India, Gupta Empire
    Chandragupta II Vikramaditya (r. ca. 375 - 415)
    AR Drachm
    Obv: Bust of king right in Kshatrap style, degraded Greek legend around
    Rev: Stylized Garuda (mythical man-bird) standing on platform, sun above left. Brahmi legend around (PaRaMa BhaGaVaTa MaHa)RaJaDhiRaJa Sri ChaNdraGuPta (ViKraMaDiTya)

    My crude transcription of the legend visible
    20211021_115856.jpg

    Chandragupta II was the 5th or 6th Gupta king and widely regarded as one of the greatest kings in Indian history, although the details of his reign are fragmentary and heavily diluted in hyperbole and legend. Under his rule, more of India was united under one king than it had been since the time of Ashoka the Great, almost 700 years earlier
    IndiaGuptaEmpire.jpg

    The story of his succession is partially preserved in a fragmented play called Devichandraguptam, written after the fall of the Gupta Empire. It is generally accepted that it is at best only loosely based on fact, but is such a fun story that would fit right in with modern Bollywood.

    Chandragupta was said to have been the younger son of the great emperor Samudragupta, who was succeeded by the older Ramagupta, a weak and cowardly king. Ramagupta has been defeated in a military campaign against the Saka king (probably Rudrasimha III) who demands that Ramagupta hand over his wife Dhruvadevi as tribute. Ramagupta deliberates for a while, and then agrees. Chandragupta attempts to talk him out of it, and then decides to take matters into his own hands. He disguises himself in the queen's clothing, and his guard as ladies-in-waiting, and is taken to the enemy camp to be presented to the Saka king. Taking the enemy by surprise, they slay the Saka king and his entire court. Chandragupta later deposes Ramagupta and takes Dhruvadevi as his wife.

    Exactly how much of that story is true probably can never be known, but it is accepted that Chandragupta II did indeed dethrone the last Western Kshatrap Rudrasimha III in about 395, and probably continued the tradition of minting Indo-Greek standard drachms at their mint, replacing the three-arched hill with the Garuda - prior to this, the Kshatrapas had been the only entity within India to strike silver coins of any type or significant number since the earliest days of the Kushans.

    Chandragupta is also credited with military conquests in both present-day Afghanistan and Bengal, and is known to have welcomed the famed Chinese Buddhist monk Fa-Hsien who traveled to the homeland of his religion searching for religious texts which he translated to Chinese and brought home with him. The famous Iron Pillar of Delhi (famous for its near complete resistance to corrosion) may have been ordered by Chandragupta and was dedicated to him soon after his death.

    Curiously, despite his military and political prowess, coins of Chandragupta II are all quite scarce, mostly known from his plentiful gold staters. His silver drachms are relatively rare, and totally eclipsed by the immense number issued by his son Kumaragupta.

    As always, post those coins and comments!
     
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  3. JayAg47

    JayAg47 Well-Known Member

    Got this in a lot from Vcoins, 415-455 AD, Gupta Empire, Kumaragupta I.
    5th.png
     
  4. THCoins

    THCoins Well-Known Member

    Nice new aquisition. He could challenge Nerva with that nose !
    I think you are right about a hoard being dispersed. I was offered a group of ten recently and saw many more surface at fairly low prices.

    Great that you are taking the effort to transcribe the legends ! Your transcription of the "Ndra" character is a bit short still. You have now written it as "Nra". Going down from the loop of "Na" the line should go obliquely to the left and then horizontally to the right to introduce the "D" between the "N" and the "Ra". This is usually somewhat clearer on the legends on the staters. Here "ChaNdra" is below the arm of the archer. This is not qualitatively the best specimen, but you will get the point i think.

    ChandraGuptaArcherRw2.jpg
     
  5. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    After reading this post, I am more confused than before when it comes to the Guptas. Most of these coins that I have seen are on small flans so any hope for someone at my level of reading them is lost. The ID's listed below came with the coins. All are later. Correct? IDK.
    Kumaragupta I, 414-455 AD garuda
    oo4580bb2530.jpg

    Kumaragupta but obviously different???
    oo4581bb2751.jpg

    Skandagupta 455-467 AD bull
    oo4590fd3373.jpg
     
  6. furryfrog02

    furryfrog02 Well-Known Member

    I admittedly know very little about Indian coinage but I really like these coins. I've tried finding a decent example with the portrait clearly showing the little bowler hat (?) along with the reverse with a decent Garuda.

    Thanks for sharing your coins and the write up. When looking at the coins, how do you know where to start with the name? Is there a common starting point? I'd love to look around and be able to figure out who is on the coin.
     
    john-charles likes this.
  7. THCoins

    THCoins Well-Known Member

    It is all not that complicated. But it does take some time and effort.
    Usually names start after the honorific title "Sri", "Lord", which is easy to distinguish. Sometimes this is preceded by standard invocations like "Rajadhiraja", "king of kings". If you are unlucky that the name is off flan you may be helped by the rulers epithet, so one has to memorize a few. "Mahendraditya" is the epithet of Kumara Gupta, so it can be attributed reliably even without the name.

    BrahmiGuptaS.jpg
     
  8. Finn235

    Finn235 Well-Known Member

    Thanks all, and thanks for the clarification, @THCoins!

    @Doug, a good rule of thumb with these is "when in doubt, it's Kumaragupta". Seriously if you were to take a random sample of 1,000 Garuda-type Gupta drachms, probably at least 900 of those would be Kumaragupta. I have a small assortment in various styles. On almost all specimens I've seen, Sri Kumaragupta starts at about 10:00 on the reverse

    Finest style
    Gupta1.jpg
    Gupta2.jpg
    Gupta3.jpg
    Kumaragupta drachm.jpg

    Medium style
    Gupta BI drachm.jpg

    Crude style
    Kumaragupta AR drachm crude style.jpg

    These pop up from time to time - my understanding is that these are probably some sort of imitative, possibly made decades or even centuries after his death - Extremely tight, dumpy flan, crude style, and no visible silver
    Imitative Kumaragupta AE drachm.jpg
     
  9. kirispupis

    kirispupis Supporter! Supporter

    That's a beautiful drachma!

    Here's a karshapana from Chandragupta Maurya. OK, it's not possible to attribute punch marked coins to any specific emperor, and even the approximate dates from Gupta + Hardaker are disputed, but I'm sticking to this attribution.

    Chandragupta.jpg
    Obverse Five official punches.
    Reverse Traces of unofficial banker's marks
    Date c. 4th-3rd century BCE
    Weight 3.15 gm.
    Dimensions 16 x 14 mm.
    Reference GH 479
    Comments
    According to Gupta and Hardaker, the Series Va coins are the initial issues of the growing Maurya empire. They date these coins to c. 320-270 BCE, the time of Chandragupta Maurya and Bindusara.
    Ex CoinIndia
     
    Orielensis, Spaniard, Finn235 and 4 others like this.
  10. john-charles

    john-charles Member

    All of you; thanks for the lessons.
     
    THCoins likes this.
  11. Neal

    Neal Well-Known Member

    Skandragupta (obverse).JPG Skandragupta (reverse).JPG Kumaragupta (obv).JPG Kumaragupta (rev).JPG I am fascinated by all this, but I am totally ignorant. Several years ago I bought two coins on ebay sold as Gupta dynasty, the first one as "Skandragupta" and the second as "Kumatragupta." Are these id's anywhere close to correct?
     
  12. Orielensis

    Orielensis Supporter! Supporter

    That's what I thought about my example, which I bought as Kumaragupta. When I first showed it her on CT a while ago, @THCoins pointed out to me that it is in fact Skandagupta. In my eyes, that's a poitive surprise:
    Orient, Antike – Gupta Empire, Kumaragupta I, Drachme, Garuda.png
    Gupta Empire, Skandagupta I, AR drachm, c. 455–480 AD, "Western type." Obv: Head of king r.; blundered legend. Rev: "Paramabhāgavata Rajadhiraja Sri Skandagupta Mahendraditya"; Garuda standing facing. 14.3mm, 1.70g. Ref: Mitchiner 4867.
     
  13. THCoins

    THCoins Well-Known Member

    The attribution of Neal's coins is correct. The fire altar-type is always Skandagupta.
    The last one shown by Orielensis is indeed Skandagupta, but because of this the epithet is "Kramaditya", not "Mahendraditya".
     
  14. Orielensis

    Orielensis Supporter! Supporter

    Thanks – I'll have to change that in my description!
     
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