Featured My first Kushan Kingdom - Vima Kadphises Didrachm (and a Book Recommendation)

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Marsyas Mike, Oct 3, 2019.

  1. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    I always enjoy the "why we collect what we collect" posts on CT, for they help clarify my rather incoherent thoughts on the subject.

    And so here's how I got my very first Kushan coin, which I bought on eBay from a seller describing it as "BYSTANTINE (sic) JUSTIN 1 - ANCIENT COPPER" I knew it wasn't Byzantine, but I was not really sure what it was, so I just watched it for months (it was a "buy it now"). Finally, after a little digging, I figured out the Kushan Kingdom part and pulled the trigger. I had no idea what size it was beyond the seller's "thicker than a nickel", and when it arrived I was slightly disappointed - I figured it was a tetradrachm, since they are the most common AE denomination. But this one is a di-drachm, which appears to be scarcer.

    After my size-disappointment, I found myself being impressed as heck with it - lovely workmanship, very "eastern" with the caftan and trousers, humped bull, etc. Nice greenish-black patina too. And so I found myself in a new collecting area, pretty much by accident.

    Sorry to blather on so. Anyway, here's the coin:

    Kushan - Didrachm bull Sep 2019z (0).jpg

    Kushan Kingdom Æ Didrachm
    Vima Kadphises
    (c. 100-128 A.D.)

    King standing sacrificing at fire altar, club, tamgha & axehead-shafted trident in fields, Greek legend around / Siva standing w. trident & deerskin, bull Nandi right behind, Kharoshti legend.
    Göbl 763; MAC 3048-49.
    (8.66 grams / 20 mm)

    Attribution Notes:

    Full legends: BACIΛEYC BACIΛEWN CWTHP MEΓAC OOHMO KAΔΦICHC/ maharajasa rajadirajasa sarvaloga isvarasa mahisvarasa Vima Kathphishasa tratara

    Coins India (coinindia.com): "...the rare di-drachm or half unit. These are hard to find."

    The book I want to recommend is The Silk Road by Luce Boulnois (trans. Dennis Chamberlain). It was published in the USA in 1966, so it is an oldie, but as far as giving a clear, interesting overview of the Silk Road, I found it to be superb. Coins are mentioned, although not in a detailed way, but, in relation to the coin above, there's bits like this (c. 100 A.D.):

    "The (Kushan) king probably suggested that the Kushans and Rome should engage in direct trade. Roman and Kushan coins mark out for us the routes over which such exchanges must have taken place..." p. 70

    Book - Silk Road (1).JPG

    Kushan, silk road stuff - or how you blundered into a new collecting area. Please share!
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  3. Mat

    Mat Ancient Coincoholic

    A nice coin. I only have this common Kushan.

    Kushans, Vima Taktu ("Soter Megas”) (80 - 100 A.D.)
    Æ Tetradrachm
    O: No legend. Diademed, radiate bust right, holding scepter; behind, tamgha; 12 rays above head.
    R: BACIΛEV BACIΛEVWNCWTHP MEΓAC ("King of Kings, the Great Savior"). Horseman right, holding whip; before, tamgha.
    MACW 2935 ("Taxila series").
  4. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    The more I see of these Kushans, the more I am impressed. Now I want one of those - I like that radiate thing going on around his head. I'm also thinking about changing my name to Soter Megas - sound like a Marvel Universe bad guy.
  5. Ancient Aussie

    Ancient Aussie Supporter! Supporter

    Great coin Marsyas Mike, if ever I buy an ancient India coin this will be the type. I love the style.
    Marsyas Mike likes this.
  6. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish) Supporter

    Nice addition Mike! Here is my Kushan example... the ever humble “Great Savior.”

    The Great Savior Needs No Name… He Still Has One Though
    Kushan Empire
    Vima Takto, AD 78-110
    AE Unit, Unkown mint, struck ca. AD 78-110
    Dia.: 21.2 mm
    Wt.: 8.2 g
    Obv.: Bust right, 12 rays above, holding object. 3 pronged tamga in left field
    Rev.: Horseman right, holding whip. 3 pronged tamga in right field

    Ex Severus Alexander Collection

    Here is a coin that got me interested in Sasanian coins.

    Khusro II: My First Tentative Step into a new Collecting Area
    Sasanian Empire
    Khusro II (AD 590 – 628)
    AR Drachm, BBA mint (court mint), Regnal year 30, struck ca. AD 619 / 620
    Obv.: Pahlavi script at left and right. Khusro bust facing, head right, wearing winged crown with star and crescent, inside double dotted border, crescent and stars at 3, 6 and 9 o’clock.
    Rev.: Date (left) and mint mark (right). Fire altar with two attendents, inside triple dotted border, crescent and stars at 3, 6 and 9 o’clock.
    Ref.: Göbl SN type II
    Ex Sallent Collection, Ex JAZ Numismatics, Ex Aegean Numismatics
  7. Alegandron

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

    Well done @Marsyas Mike ! Cool Silk Road coin.

    I captured this in one of @John Anthony 's weekly auctions:

    INDIA, Kushan Empire. Vima Takto (Soter Megas).
    Æ Tetradrachm - [EDIT] nope, it is probly a DIDRACHM, 21mm, 8.5g, 12h; c. AD 80-100.
    Obv.: Radiate and diademed bust right, holding scepter; tamgha behind.
    Rev.: BACIΛЄV BACIΛЄVΩN CΩTHP MЄΓAC; Vima Takto on horseback right, holding axe; tamgha to lower right.
    Reference: Senior B17.1vT

    The Kushan empire was founded in Bactria by the Yuezhi, a group of Chinese nomadic pastoralists, after their displacement by the Xiongnu in the 2nd century BC.

    During the 1st century BCE, one of the five major Yuezhi tribes in Bactria, the Kushanas (Chinese: 貴霜; pinyin: Guishuang), began to subsume the other tribes and neighbouring peoples. The subsequent Kushan Empire, at its peak in the 3rd century CE, stretched from Turfan in the Tarim Basin, in the north to Pataliputra on the Gangetic plain of India in the south. The Kushanas played an important role in the development of trade on the Silk Road and the introduction of Buddhism to China. -wiki
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2019
  8. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Trajan Decius

    I don't have one of these yet but I will keep my eyes open. There seems to be a lot of interesting stuff from Afghanistan/Bactria, the Indo-Greeks, and India itself. Quite historical, too - I might add.
    Sardar and Marsyas Mike like this.
  9. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    Those are some great write-ups, Curtisimo! Lots of information and impressive illustrations.
    Curtisimo likes this.
  10. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish) Supporter

    Thank you my friend. I always enjoy your posts as well.
  11. Parthicus

    Parthicus Well-Known Member

    Excellent OP coin @Marsyas Mike ! That obverse is rather nice for these, with almost full readable legends and the king's image well-preserved, and as you note the didrachm denomination is quite scarce (I've picked up a few tetradrachms and drachms over the years but no didrachms). Here's a drachm of the great Kanishka, featuring the goddess Nanaia on reverse:
    Kanishka Nanaia.jpg
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  12. Finn235

    Finn235 Well-Known Member

    That's a superb Kushan bronze! Congrats!

    I've dabbled in Kushan a bit, it is quite diverse and fascinating, especially if you let yourself branch out to the imitative issues that were still being struck 1000 years later! I only have about a third of mine imaged, but they are some of the better ones

    Pre-confederation Yuezhi "Heraios" AR obol
    (Heraios may have been Kujula Kadphises' father, or perhaps an early name of Kujula himself)
    Kushan heraios obol.jpg

    Kujula Kadphises, imitating Indo Greek king Hermaios
    And imitating Augustus or Tiberius

    Soter megas AE Tetradrachm

    Vima Kadphises AE tetradrachm feeling, ah... a little exhibitionistic?

    Kanishka AE tetradrachm, Athsho reverse
    Kushan Kanishka tetradrachm Athsho.jpg

    Imitative "Kota Kula" type
    Kotah Kula AE.jpg

    Late Kidarites pale AV stater, Durla Deva
    Kidarite dinar vinayaditya.jpg
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  13. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    That is an impressive collection, Finn 235. I had no idea how many "imitatives" there were - but then I know virtually nothing about Kushan coinage. Still learning, as they say...

    As for that remarkable "exhibitionistic" example of Vima K you shared, I found an online article on his copper coins that is quite informative (by Gul Rahim Khan and M. Nasim Khan). I haven't read the whole thing, but in it the reverse (not the obverse!) is described thusly:

    "The reverse of copper coins of Vima Kadphises bears a single design i.e.
    Śiva (or Oesho) standing with his mount, bull. The figure of Śiva is shown standing frontally and bull standing behind the deity is facing to right. The deity holds a trident in his raised right hand and animal’s pelt or drapery in the left leaning against bull’s hump. Śiva wears beaded string over his left shoulder and transparent mantle where erect phallus is visible and the folds of mantle are clearly seen over his lower body particularly the legs. Moreover, the figure bears three-pronged flames at top of the head and sometimes he is shown with prominent breasts..."


    My example seems to lack some of these reverse details, and Siva K on the obverse has kept his caftan & trousers buttoned - so I didn't have to blur anything out in order to keep this post family-friendly!
  14. Finn235

    Finn235 Well-Known Member

    To be honest, I don't think I've ever seen a Kushan bronze in high enough grade to make out those details on Siva - these seem to average about VG, and coins above VF are vanishingly rare. Kushans seemed to have hoarded the gold, and spent the bronze like it was going out of style!

    Not only are Kushan coins varied enough to collect extensively in their own right, but they inspired a whole lot more imitative coins than my two that I have imaged there. It's a winding and confusing back alley of numismatics but certainly worth dabbling in, since it's mostly inexpensive to get into.

    Like the Heraios obol above, there are a few other issues, including tetradrachms and imitations of Indo-Greek coins.

    Main Kushan
    Most rulers from Kujula through Vasudeva II are plentiful and cheap, but the Kushans spent their last ~100 years as a tributary state ruled by ephemeral puppet kings who mostly issued gold coins.

    Kushan Feudatories
    - Kshatrapas - Minted beautiful small drachms of the Indo Greek model - they probably supplied the bulk of the empire's silver
    Western satraps rudrasena iii.jpg
    - Yaudheyas - Minted beautiful bronze tetradrachms loosely modeled after Kushan coins featuring Kartikkeya, the God of War, and his consort
    - Nagas - Minted itty bitty ~9mm bronze coins usually featuring a Zebu

    In about 230-360 the Sassanians invaded the Kushan empire, and although their coinage is more Sassanian, they did copy over many Kushan motifs, especially in gold.

    The Kidarites displaced the Kushano-Sassanians and were the overlords of both the last Sassanian and Kushan kings. They mostly imitated late Kushan dinars, which split into separate evolutionary paths - the highly debased staters like the one I posted with increasingly schematized motifs, and also the Toramana-type bronze staters.

    Post-Kushan imitatives
    - Kota Kula (Maybe huns?)
    - "Jouan Jouan" (Maybe Turks?)
    - "Puri" - Made distinctive "gingerbread man" coins
    - Gupta coins were originally heavily based on Kushan designs

    Kashmir Staters
    About 200 years after the death of Toramana II, the Hindu kings of Kashmir apparently decided to pick up the long-defunct Toramana prototype and adopt it, minting coins from the 9th until the early 13th century. @Spaniard is the resident expert on these coins!

    Apologies for the lack of pictures - again, I have a 2" binder smack full of Indian coins, but lazy me has only imaged about a couple dozen of them...
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  15. Muhammad Niazi

    Muhammad Niazi Well-Known Member

    lovely coins!
    Kushan coins were one of my first ancient coins, and being in pakistan where theya re found, they are relatively common and cheap to buy.

    Here are some of mine.

    Screenshot_20191005-010416.png Screenshot_20191005-010419.png Screenshot_20191005-010422.png Screenshot_20191005-010426.png

    And here are the elephant bois,
    Screenshot_20191005-010512.png Screenshot_20191005-010515.png

    and the horse riders. The one on the top left is of great condition. One of the best kushans I have.
    Screenshot_20191005-010519.png Screenshot_20191005-010521.png
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  16. SeptimusT

    SeptimusT Well-Known Member

    I have a handful of Kushans, but none really worth posting other than this one, which is by far my favorite. Even though it is worn and has a thick patina that obscures some details, the patina is at the same time attractive, and it has a nice, heavy feel in hand. The deity on the reverse is also pretty interesting...

    Huvishka, King of the Kushans, circa AD 155 – 189
    : King reclining on couch; Bactrian inscription þAONANOþ ... OOηþKI KOþANO (King of Kings, Huvishka Kushan)
    Reverse: Solar god Mithra, nimbate and looking left, extending right hand and holding sword hilt with left; tamga to left, MIIPO
  17. Theodosius

    Theodosius Unrepentant Fine Style Freak! Supporter

    I love the mysterious feel of these coins. I have acquired a few lately I still need to photograph. I also find the silk road to be an interesting part of history. You had to be super tough to traverse a lot of it. From deserts to frozen heights.

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  18. Paul M.

    Paul M. Well-Known Member

    Yeah, definitely not Byzantine. :p Glad it was authentic, and slightly rarer than you expected, to boot!
    Marsyas Mike likes this.
  19. Alegandron

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

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  20. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    Good question, but heck if I know. I am just starting out on these. The article I noted above (by Gul Rahim Khan and M. Nasim Khan) discusses the denominations and weights for Vima Kadphises - the OP fits the di-drachm standard:

    "The copper coins of this ruler are usually known in three denominations such as tetra-drachm (c. 17 gm), di-drachm (8.5 gm) and drachm (4.2 gm) units of Attic standard. This kind of weight analysis representing copper coins of Vima Kadphises and other Kushan rulers was elaborately discussed by MacDowall (1960). The heavy unit coins (tetradrachm) of this ruler are more common than the lower denominations of copper."


    Perhaps this was a new standard? Bumped up from the earlier weights of Soter Megas? Perhaps something was going on like Roman Egyptian tetradrachms, where the weights and finesse fluctuated? I just don't know. But again, good question.
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  21. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish) Supporter

    I don’t pretend to be an expert on the issue but if I understand correctly the latest research I have read indicates that the Soter Megas Coins (such as @Alegandron ’s example) were at the beginning of a newly introduced reform that was based roughly on an attic standard. However, because the new coins were replacing the older Indian debased standard where the Indian unit was debased to about ~2 g the new ~8.5 g didrachms also traded as roughly equivalent to tetradrachms in those territories.

    Therefore Brian’s coin is a didrachm that sometimes traded as a tetradrachm. I don’t think there is universal agreement on this though so I chose to call my example a “unit” in true sidestep form ;)

    Here is the relevant excerpt from one of the leading researchers in this field: Joe Cribb. The full situation is listed as [2] in my above linked write up.

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