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DoUHaveTheFever? @sidin
, 14 tweets, 5 min read Read on Twitter
Good morning my friends. Let me start the day by sharing a small story from my academic work in medieval numismatics. For your enjoyment. Kindly peruse this coin. (Those in the know kindly do not spoil for others. Non-expert-so-far disclaimers apply.) 1/n
At first glance this is a Persian coin. A ‘Sassanian’ Persian coin to be more precise. There are numerous signature features. On the obverse (the front) you can see the king with his bearded face and winged headgear, ornaments around the neck. All standard Sassanian features.
On the reverse is the fire altar, of Zoroastrian fame. The Sassanians, on the eve of Islamic conquest, were Zoroastrians of course. Note attendants on either side of the altar holding swords or staffs of some kind. Again pretty standard for this kind of coin. So far so good. 3/n
The king depicted on that coin is Khusrau II. Who ruled Sassanian Persia from 590 to 628 CE. K-2 was the last great Sassanian King. A man of romance, music but also ambition. He came close to toppling Byzantium, only for his siege of Constantinople in 626 to fail. 4/n
By the way, for many decades it was believed that K-2 was depicted in Cave 1 at the Ajanta Cave complex. As part of the famous Persian Embassy to king Pulakesin II painting. This has now been discredited. 5/n
Still it created some pretty good artist's imagination type paintings. Including this one. Persians are guys in the Queens Park Rangers uniform. 6/n
Back to Persia.The tide turned, the Byzantines came marauding back, and K-2 was ultimately overthrown and assassinated by his own son, Kavadh II. Five years after Khusrau’s death the Sassanians, now a complete mess, had the Arab armies to deal with. 7/n
By 660 Persia has fallen. The problem with expanding so quickly is… umm how do you govern and run an economy that is not only expanding rapidly but previously belonged to TWO different monetary systems - Byz (Gold) and Sass (Silver)? The Arabs adapt. 8/n
So that original Khusrau II coin I started with? Issued around 663-4 CE. Wait what nonsense is this? Isn’t K-2 dead by then? Yes. Hasn’t Persia fallen to Islam? Yes. But fire temple? Emperor? Iconography? 9/n
Continuity chaps. The Arabs learning as they are going, they know that money without trust is nothing. So what did they do? They rocked the money boat as gently as they could. They kept issuing familiar coins in familiar materials. 10/n
But there is a give away in that coin. (There are quite a few. But let us look at the most obvious.) Look at the 4 o’clock on the obverse. What does that read? Yup. Bismillah. In the name of allah. So old coin. Old king. Old fire temple. But new boss. Mind it. 11/n
Eventually of course comprehensive reforms came along and properly Arab coins circulated throughout the Islamic world. Thus coins are super fascinating. Especially coins like this that mark transitions and tensions. Citations to follow. 12/n
For a breezy PDF introduction to early Islamic coinage:… For more on the Persian Embassy painting:… For cool Indian coin stuff:… 13/n
For bonus points why not take all this stuff and go and read it all over some Parsi Bhonu at... Sassanian in Mumbai.… Have a nice day. Till next time. 14/n
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