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Sasanian Empire
Khusro II -- Year 2 -- Bishapur

Obv: Pahlavi script legend: to the l. on two lines reading down leftward and outward is GDH/pzwt (xwarrah abzūd) and to the r. on one line reading down is hwslwd (Husraw) = Khusro has increased the royal glory; frontal bust facing r. of bearded Khusro II with a hair globe drawn to the back of the neck, crown with three merlons and attached to the top of the crown cap are wings (group of pellets within the base) with an attached crescent and star, double pearl diadem with three ribbons behind, earring made up of three dots, neckline edged with a row of pearls, both shoulders decorated with a crescent and star, double row of pearls from shoulders to breast, two dots on the breast, star in upper l. field, star and crescent in upper r. field, two dotted rims with a star on a crescent at 3h, 6h, and 9h.
Rev: Pahlavi script legend: to the l. reading down is year tlyn of Khusro IIs reign and to the r. reading down is the mint mark BYSh = year 2 of Khusro IIs reign, Bishapur; fire altar with a base consisting of two slabs and a shaft with two ribbons pointing upwards to the r. and l. of the shaft with four altar slabs on top and flames consisting of four tiers rendered as four then three then two then one upward stroke, star to the l. and crescent to the r. of the top two tiers, to the l. and r. of the altar are two frontal facing attendants each holding a sword pointing downwards with the r. hand over the l. hand and wearing a rounded cap, three dotted rims with a star on a crescent at 3h, 6h, 9h, and 12h.
Denomination: silver drachm; Mint: Bishapur; Date: year 2, 591 - 592 AD; Weight: 4.12g; Diameter: 29mm; Die axis: 90; References, for example: Gbl II/2; SNS Iran 580 and 581 (same mint and regnal year).

Regnal year 2 saw major changes to the coinage of Khusro II. First, the defeat of Wahrām Chōbēn (Wahrām VI) brought to an end the interruption of Khusro IIs xwarrah and so wings representing Vərəθraγna/Verethragna (Avestan), Wahrām (Middle Persian), Bahrām (Persian), i.e. the god or personification of victory, were added to Khusro IIs crown. Second, for the first time in Sasanian coinage the ideogram GDH (xwarrah) is added to the legend (obverse). Third, on the reverse six pointed stars are added to the crescent moons outside of the three dotted rims at 3h, 6h, 9h, and 12h. Six pointed stars can be considered representations of the sun (see Gariboldi 2010 pp. 36ff and the sources referenced in footnote 71, p. 37).

See Daryaee (1997) for an interesting study of the religious and political iconography on the coinage of Khusro II*. He argues that Khusro II implemented iconographic changes in regnal year 2 (591 - 592 AD) as a direct result of suppressing the rebellion (with the assistance of the Byzantine Emperor Maurice) of the brilliant general Wahrām Chōbēn (Wahrām VI) in 591 AD. Further iconographic changes were carried out in regnal year 11 (600 - 601 AD) in response to the final defeat in 600 AD of the 10 year rule/rebellion of Wistahm**, his uncle (as the brother-in-law of his father Ohrmazd IV) and former staunch supporter.

*The study cannot be intended to be complete. For example, there is no discussion of the legend pd that appeared, beginning in the 12th regnal year but not present for all subsequent years or at all mints, in the second quadrant outside of the rims on the obverse. Gariboldi 2010 (p.64) translates the legend as good, excellent, wonderful while Gbl 1983 (p. 331) translates it as praise.

**There is some debate about when Wistahm was finally eliminated. Daryaee, following Paruck 1924, relies on (purported?) numismatic evidence that the last coin minted in his name was for year 10. Therefore Daryaee states that 600 AD was the year of elimination (Daryaee 1997, p. 53 n. 38. Also see Daryaee 2009, p. 33 n. 166 for a slightly more tepid assertion). Frye 1984 implies a 10 year rule for Wistahm, stating that it was not until 601 that the rule of Chosroes [Khusro] was restored over all of the empire (p. 336). Gbl SN, however, states that 10 years of reign are said to be represented, although personally he had only seen coins of years 2 through 7 (p. 53). Thus Wistahms years in SNs Table XI are listed as 591/2 - 597? Malek 1993 also lists Wistahms years as 591/2 - 97 (p. 237).

Provenance: Ex Stephen Album Rare Coins Auction 36, January 25, 2020

Photo Credit: Stephen Album Rare Coins


Daryaee, Touraj. The Use of Religio-Political Propaganda on Coins of Xusrō II. The Journal of the American Numismatics (1989-), vol. 9 (1997): 41-53.
Daryaee, Touraj. Sasanian Persia: The Rise And Fall Of An Empire. London: I. B. Tauris, 2009.
Frye, Richard. The History of Ancient Iran. Munich: C.H. Becksche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1984.
Gariboldi, Andrea. Sasanian Coinage and History: The Civic Numismatic Collection of Milan. Costa Mesa: Mazda Publishers, 2010.
Gbl, Robert. Sasanian Numismatics. Braunschweig: Klinkhardt and Biermann, 1971.
Gbl 1983: Yarshater, Ehsan, ed. The Cambridge History of Iran, vol. 3 (1), The Seleucid, Parthian and Sasanian Periods. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983: 322 - 336.
Malek, Hodge. A Survey of Research on Sasanian Numismatics. The Numismatic Chronicle (1966-), vol. 153 (1993): 227 - 269.
Paruck, F.D.J. Sasanian Coins. Bombay: 1924.
SNS Iran: Akbarzadeh, Daryoosh and Nikolaus Schindel. Sylloge Nummorum Sasanidarum Iran A Late Sasanian Hoard from Orumiyeh. Wien: sterreichischen Akademie Der Wissenschaften, 2017.

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Date added:
Mar 03, 2020
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Jay GT4  [Mar 03, 2020 at 02:02 AM]
Very nice
Steve P  [Mar 16, 2020 at 06:38 PM]
Sweet addition, Tracy (congrats!)
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