Silver Drachm coin of King Ardashir of the ancient Iranian Sasanian empire..

Sasanian coins are an important source of the history, religion, and economics of this dynasty.

By: - Created: April 9, 2020

The Parthian Empire (247 BC – 224 AD) was overthrown by Ardashir I, after which the Sasanian empire was founded in 224 AD. This empire lasted for over four centuries.

The Parthian Empire was founded by defeating the Seleucid Dynasty, which in turn was preceded by the Achaemenid Empire, defeated by King Alexander.

At its height the Sasanid Empire extended across large regions of the Middle East, Central Asia, North Africa, and the Caucasus.

Sasanid Empire at its height. (Source: Wikipedia)

Sasanian coins are an important source of the history, religion, and economics of this dynasty.

Most of the Sasanian coins were handstruck, and had very thin flans. The obverse bore a portrait of the King, and reverse a depiction of the Zoroastrian fire altar.

Zarathustra, or Zarthosht, began the religion of Zoroastrianism, of which the fire altar is an important symbol. Zoroastrianism became the state religion.

Until the 5th century, the coin dies were mostly produced locally in the local mint, but from the middle 5th century onwards, they were centrally manufactured.

The main denomination of the Sasanians was the silver Drachm, and some fractional coins which were the hemidrachm, tetradrachm, and the obol. Gold coins were produced in limited quantities.

Eventually, the Sasanian empire could not withstand the spread of Islam, and fell to the Caliph Umar in a succession of battles in the middle 7th century, around 651 AD.

The art, music, and architecture of the Sasanid empire was transferred to the Islamic culture later.

After the Arab conquest of Iran, the Umayyad Caliphate copied Sasanian coinage but added some Arabic legends to the coins. These were the Arab-Sasanian coins.

Incidentally, when the Umayyad Caliphate conquered Persia, many Zoroastrians fled, migrating into India, and got refuge in the Western state of Gujarat, India. They are now termed as Parsis in India.

The Sasanian coin depicted above is of Sasanian King Ardashir III, 628-630 AD. Silver Drachm (33 mm, 3.49 g, 3 h), from the ART mint (Ardaxšīr-xvarrah). The coin depicts the draped bust of Ardashir III, wearing an elaborate crown with korymbos set on crescent; single border, star-in-crescents in margin. On the reverse, a fire altar with ribbons, flanked by two attendants; star-in-crescents in margin.

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