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Nevertheless, because throughout most of Persian history coins were made of metals that were also traded as commodities subject to market forces, a monopoly of minting did not guarantee control either of the circulation or of the value of the coins, both of which fluctuated in relation to coins of other states and to the market value of the component metals (see Hennequin, 1972; idem, 1977). In the Arsacid period satraps and cities were again allowed to strike coins (Sellwood, = 1 obol), were issued (Sellwood, 1980, pp. They weighed 4.10 g or more, conforming to the standard of 4.12 g for the Attic drachma, but, owing to the thinness of the metal, were of much larger diameter (Göbl, 1971, p. The Sasanians discontinued the types of the Hellenized Arsacids and included Zoroastrian symbols and various effigies on their coins (Alram, p. On the obverse there is always a bust of the crowned and bearded king in profile facing right, combined in rare instances with images that have been interpreted as the queen, the royal heir, or both; these additional small figures on coins of Bahrām II have recently been interpreted as divinities, however (Choksy). Identifiable mint names first appeared on coins struck by Bahrām II (Gyselen, 1983, p.Furthermore, before modern times the Persian economy consisted of a conglomeration of regional economies, each with a mint and a currency system geared to local commerce, rather than an integrated national economy. E.) an early form of the Parthian script was introduced for names and titles, at first only in abbreviated form (Ghirshman, p. As each Sasanian ruler had one or more distinctive crowns (Lukonin, p. On the reverse one of three variant types of the Zoroastrian fire altar with flames is depicted: plain, flanked by two attendants, or flanked by two attendants and with a bust in the flames. 236; idem, 1984), but they apparently became obligatory only under Bahrām IV (388-99).The effects of this evolution were felt in Persia, where several experimental types with images appeared at different mints; ʿAbd-al-Malek’s governor in Iraq, Ḥajjāj, was the first to have his name inscribed on the coins in Arabic instead of Persian.In the year 79/698 reformed Islamic dirhams with inscriptions and no images replaced the Sasanian types at nearly all mints (Walker, 1956).Verses 102:1-3 were rarely used on coins after the ʿAbbasid revolution in 132/750, but the other inscriptions remained standard on nearly all Islamic coins until the Mongol conquest in the 13th century (see below), as did the general format: several horizontal lines framed by circular inscriptions.
In order to maintain the standard of its coins and a degree of equilibrium between supply and demand for money, each state attempts to exercise a monopoly over minting. These coins also became debased, and by the time of the Sasanian conquest in 224 C. they contained hardly 1 g of metal (Sellwood, 1980, pp. Ardašīr I (224-40) continued to mint the debased Arsacid tetradrachm of billon, an alloy of copper with a small amount of silver, as well as introducing fractional silver coins, specifically the half-drachma and the was minted until the end of the reign of Kavād I (488-96, 498-531), becoming gradually debased to less than 0.3 g and circulating mainly as token currency (Göbl, 1971, p. A major innovation in coin technology occurred in the early Sasanian period: The first thin-flan coins, cut from rolled sheet metal, were issued.Coinage in ancient Persia thus weighed about a pound. by another series, which is beyond doubt Persian royal coinage, known to the Greeks as “Daric staters” (gold) and “Daric sigloi” (silver), both with the characteristic image of the archer on the obverse. 92), but production of the silver coins seems to have ceased in the early 4th century. The siglos weighed 11.2 g, and the silver content was more than 90 percent. The darics in particular served as the gold standard throughout the western part of the Persian empire and Asia Minor (Olmstead, p. 83), but another mint for gold was established some time in the 5th century, probably in Babylonia, and there may have been several mints for gold in the 4th century (Carradice, p. It has been suggested that a large proportion of Achaemenid currency was struck exclusively to pay for the military establishment, gold for the army, silver for the navy. E.) the Greek legends become so conventional as to be unintelligible (Sellwood, 1980, p. 331-32), and even at major mints coins were not necessarily struck every year (Göbl, 1971, p. Šāpūr II (307-79) transported minting equipment on his eastern campaigns; the court mint (heterogram BBA = “court”) is also thought to have remained ambulatory for some time (Göbl, 1971, p. Sasanian coins are often countermarked, probably by later Sogdian and Muslim rulers, certifying that they remained valid currency in regions under those rulers’ control (Göbl, 1971, p.In western Asia the earliest coinage is believed to have been issued at Sardis in Lydia in the 6th century B. E.; the first examples were of electrum, a naturally occurring alloy of gold and silver. The purpose was apparently to provide a uniform standard of value throughout the empire and also, according to Herodotus (4.166), to demonstrate Darius’ own power, “to leave a memorial of himself, such as no king had ever left before . The Babylonian weight standard, which was already in use on the Persian plateau, was adopted in general outline (Mitchiner, 1973, p. confirms that merchants paid “according to the stone (weight) of the king”: 1 (Olmstead, p. Twenty sigloi were equivalent to 1 daric; the ratio of value between silver and gold was thus theoretically 13.3:1. This curious division may have reflected the fact that silver was the common currency in the Mediterranean, whereas the army operated mainly in western Asia, where gold was preferred (Burns, p. The Achaemenid royal coinage was neither the unique nor the universal medium of exchange in the empire, however. 56; idem, (see coptic manichean texts) there is an extended metaphor in which the minting process is compared to the minting of the Word. 334), in keeping with the rulers’ policy of centralized control, which resulted in a quite uniform coinage. From the Islamic conquest to the Mongol invasions As the Arabs of the Ḥejāz had used the s of the Sasanian emperors, the only silver coinage in the world at that time, it was natural for them to leave many of the Sasanian mints in operation, striking coins like those of the emperors in every detail except for the addition of brief Arabic inscriptions like in Arabic.In mercantile centers they were used as money, each issue with its own value, but often they were treated simply as another species of bullion and are found in hoards mixed with silver ingots of different forms. All were, however, based on the Persian reformed weight standard, which had also been adopted in the kingdoms of Choresmia, Bactria, and Sogdiana (Mitchiner, 1973, p. In contrast, on the Persian-Afghan plateau trade seems to have been conducted largely by means of bullion transactions, with the silver ingot as the weight standard and the gold shekel as the unit of account (Mitchiner, 1975, I, pp. Despite the wide acceptance of Achaemenid trade coins, the development of monetized relations was severely hampered by limits on the available supply of specie (Dandamayev and Lukonin, pp. There were no important gold or silver mines in Persia, and even copper usually had to be imported. After his conquest of the Achaemenids Alexander established the Attic weight standard throughout his own empire, which also included Choresmia, Bactria, and Sogdia (Mitchiner, 1973, p. His standard coinage consisted of the gold stater, weighing 8.6 g, and the silver tetradrachm (four drachmas) with the head of Hercules draped in a lion skin on the obverse and a seated Zeus on the reverse, weighing 16.8 g. With the accession of Seleucus I Nicator (312-280 B. E.), however, the satraps in his territory, which included Babylonia and the former eastern provinces, lost the right to mint coins. The market ratio between silver and copper was similar (Göbl, 1971, p. The main Arsacid mints were at Ecbatana and Seleucia on the Tigris, though others functioned sporadically. Between 42/662 and 52/672 the names of the Sasanian emperors were replaced by names of local, provincial, or regional governors or occasionally the caliph himself, always written in Pahlavi script.Although little is known about the organization and staffing of mints in the Achaemenid period, it seems clear that the emperors reserved to themselves the right to coin gold in their empire and that satraps and tributary rulers were allowed to coin silver in their own names for local circulation (Dandamayev and Lukonin, pp. Furthermore, the practice of hoarding in the treasury drained gold and silver from the market and increased demand. The Achaemenid daric and siglos and Athenian “owl” coins also continued to circulate freely, as did satrapal issues. In 305 he began to issue a fairly uniform coinage, with a diademed head of the bearded Zeus on the obverse and a quadriga of elephants on the reverse, which circulated throughout his territory (Mitchiner, 1975, I, pp. A few small, independent rulers in northeastern Persia, Fārs, and Susa also continued to mint their own coins (Hill, pp. The legends on the coins were usually in Greek, and for a considerable time the Arsacids continued the Seleucid dating system (Sellwood, 1980, pp. Mint names are not included on the coins, though many carry monograms and counterstamps, which may have been related to internal mint administration or specific officials. In this period the coinage of Persia seems to have been largely left to local authorities; irregular issues with false dates and mint names abound, and the work of identification and sequencing is still in progress. About twenty mints have been identified securely, nearly all having operated previously under the Sasanians but also including Baṣra and Kūfa (under the pre-Islamic name Āqūlāʾ), the new administrative capitals of the Islamic east.