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Sandan: Is He a Turki Shahi, Military Commander, or a God?

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Virgil H:
In my quest to find particular coins from medieval Afghanistan, I have come across an interesting coin usually called Western Turks, Sandan. Usually it is listed as an unknown mint in Bactria. I have also seen Sandan as directly related to Kabul and/or Zabul. My searches for history are ongoing, but confusing. The only thing outside of coin listings that I can find is a mention of a Turk Shahi king named Sandan otherwise unknown. I do not find a Sandan listed as a Turki king/shahi for any period covered by Zaid in his book on Sakra votive coins of Gandhara. And Gandhara was within the area of Kabul and other areas of present day Afghanistan during that time period (after 688 AD).

So, I am confused and wonder if a scholar here can help. The coin in question is Vondrovec Type 244. I do not have that book.

For my purposes, all that is needed are the legends, which are as follows:

Obverse: Brahmi legend: sri candana vakhudevah (“His Perfection Candana, Lord of the Oxus”)
Bactrian (outside) legend: “His Perfection, the Lord, the Chiliarch Sandano, His Perfection, the Lord”
Reverse Bactrian legend: “His Perfection, the Lord, his Majesty, the Bactrian Kagan, his Perfection, the Lord”
Pahlavi: “increase”…”from Glory..”

Yet this is always called a Sandan coin. I suppose this may not refer to a king, but is some old convention someone used from the legend. But, if this were a king's coin, wouldn't it be Candana, Lord of the Oxus? Then I discovered that Candana has a huge number of definitions all related to eastern religions, including Gods. Based on my knowledge of what a Chiliarch is, it would appear Sandano (presumably Sandan) is a commander of 1,000 troops. Complicating things is that Kagan appears to refer to a central authority, such as a king/shahi.

So, maybe Candana is a recognition of the divine and Sandano is the shahi who commands the army and is the Kagan. Maybe all three legends are about the same person or at least two of them. One thing for me is that the Turks Shahis were a branch of the Western Turks and, while there entire geographical range is more or less within my interest area, I would prefer coins that are as close to Kabul/Kapisa/Zabul as possible. From what I can tell, this coin type fits that desire. The Western Turk coins are also rare and this one seems to be the most common.

Finally, and I think I am off base here, but the reverse of these and the Nezak Shahi coins, as well as many others in the east, have fire altars. The God Sandan of Hellenic fame was a lion god that used a fire altar. This was a major god in Cilicia (I have one with the altar from Tarsos). I was wondering if this Sandan has any relation to the Turks Shahi Sandan. Probably a big stretch, but the religions the Greek and Roman worlds moved east until at least some point during the later Roman Empire. Plus the Parthian, Sassasiniain, Indian, Chinese, and Persian influences. I thought I would throw the idea out there.

Hope I made sense,


Jan P:
A couple of pictures added to your text would make it easier digestible, Virgil.
To my humble opinion, in general, there are to many texts on the forum of as well questions as solutions, without picture.
A picture makes the message accessible to every reader, where a naked text will only address the concerned.
I plead for a more instructive forum by the use of pictures more often.
(Sorry, that I write the above on this occasion in your topic, Virgil  ;)).

Virgil H:
Hi Jan,
I agree photos are good. On this inquiry, I didn't think a photo was needed, but I will attach one in case it helps. The thing that confuses me a little is that nothing seems to be known about this particular Shahi, Sandan. Which led me to think maybe it was something else.


Jan P:
Hey Virgil,
What a wonderful piece ! The first impression it made on me was: "Nezak Huns".
But with its different scripts it is quite something special. I see this for the first time.
I am glad you added this picture and ... yes, it brings this topic very much to life !
I think most of us say: "Hey, what is this  :o !".

Virgil H:
Yes, the Turki Shahis replaced the Nezaks and used many elements of Nezak coins.



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