Coin of Shapur I

Coin of Shapur I

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Emperor Valerian—The Stepping Stool Of Persia

Throughout the long history of the Roman Empire, it seems as if enough blood was spilt to replace the earth’s oceans. Assassinations, massacres, persecutions, executions, gladiatorial games and wars fill almost every century of the Roman Empire’s lengthy existence. Even with the over-abundance of morbid and macabre killings, the execution of Emperor Valerian (r. 253-260) was so shocking that it remains vividly unique, even when compared to other bloody events that are abundant in Roman history.

When he came to power, Emperor Valerian was no stranger to government and administration. He had already been a senator and a governor, and had refused to take the powerful position of censor. He was also no amateur to imperial politics or war. He helped Emperor Gordian I gain favor with the Senate, and Valerian was also a trusted aid to the emperors, Decius and Gallus. When a rebellion broke out against Emperor Gallus in 253, Valerian gathered his troops to reinforce the emperor, but he was too late—Gallus was assassinated. When news of the emperor’s death spread throughout the empire, the legions that were marching to aid Gallus proclaimed Valerian as the new emperor. Compared to other imperial successions, Valerian’s transition to power was unnaturally smooth. The Senate accepted him, and Aemilianus, the rebel who had been warring with the late Emperor Gallus, was assassinated by soldiers defecting to Valerian’s side.

The empire Valerian found himself leading was more vulnerable than it had been for a long time. Germanic warriors were pushing down toward Italy and the Goths were threatening imperial regions near Byzantium and Greece. Worst of all for the Roman Empire, Persia was on a dramatic rise to power under the rule of King Shapur I of the Sasanian Dynasty.

King Shapur had already proven to be a more than formidable foe to earlier emperors. He killed one Roman emperor, Emperor Gordian I, in the 244 CE Battle of Misiche and invaded deep into Roman lands. He maneuvered his way toward the Dead Sea, occupying Armenia, and his Persian forces also pressed their way toward the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, capturing the city of Antioch in 252 CE.

To allow himself to focus on King Shapur I and the threats to the east, Emperor Valerian appointed his son, Gallienus, as co-emperor in charge of the Western Empire. As Valerian began to mobilize his legions to advance against the Persians, he strangely decided to enact persecutions against Christians. His motivation for these persecution remains largely unknown—for Valerian was not particularly hateful toward Christianity—but some theorize that the motive of the persecutions was to seize the wealth of the Christians to fund the state during its troubling times, or to simply distract the Roman population from its many threats by creating a scapegoat. Valerian may have also wanted to curry favor with the traditional gods of Rome by persecuting Christianity. The lack of precise motive aside, Emperor Valerian began disrupting Christian gatherings around 257, and by 258 CE, major Christian figures were being executed. Bishop (or Pope) Sixtus II of Rome and Bishop Cyprian of Carthage were among the most notable of those executed in Valerian’s persecutions.

Valerian’s campaign against King Shapur I began with great success. Roman forces regained Antioch from Persian occupation in 257 CE, and Valerian was able to restore much of provincial Syria to Roman control. Just as Valerian was making the situation in the east manageable, disaster struck in 258—the Goths drastically increased their harassment of the Roman-held regions of Greece, Thrace and Byzantium. The threat caused by the Goths was dangerous enough to cause Emperor Valerian to withdraw from his war with King Shapur of Persia and relocate back toward Anatolia, to the city of Edessa, to be in a position to better combat both of the hostile groups. Unfortunately for Valerian, Edessa also was riddled with plague, which spread into the camped Roman forces.

When King Shapur I pursued Emperor Valerian to the city of Edessa, the Persians found the Roman army weakened and in disarray because of the disease. In the resulting Battle of Edessa (259 or 260 CE), King Shapur I won an overwhelming victory over the Roman legions. Roman sources from that time period rarely discussed the Battle of Edessa (likely because of the embarrassment it caused), but we do know that the battle was disastrous for Rome. The Persians captured huge numbers of Roman soldiers, and these prisoners of war would later be used as laborers for King Shapur’s ambitious building projects. Among the captured was none other than Emperor Valerian—but he would not be a common laborer. King Shapur had different plans for the fallen emperor.

King Shapur I kept Emperor Valerian close. While the other captured Romans were forced to build structures and monuments for Shapur, Valerian, himself, was put to a different use. Emperor Valerian had the unfortunate fate of actually being a tool for King Shapur I—more specifically a stepping stool. When the Persian King decided to take his horse for a ride, he would send for Emperor Valerian, who would be forced onto to his hands and knees, allowing Shapur to mount his horse, using Valerian’s back as a platform. Understandably, Valerian tired of being stepped on by others, so the powerless emperor offered to pay a ransom to secure his own release. That question of ransom would prove to be a fatal mistake for Valerian.

The degree of horror involved in Valerian’s execution depends on the source, but all agree that Emperor Valerian never left Persian territory alive. The least gruesome, and least popular, account is that Valerian was exiled to an undisclosed Persian city for the rest of his days. Exile was the most Valerian could hope for, but unfortunately, the next accounts are exponentially more brutal.

The most commonly used source for the other, more gruesome, accounts of Valerian’s execution is Lactantius (c. 250-325), who was a Christian writer who certainly enjoyed recording the death of a persecutor of Christianity. One of the ways the ill-fated emperor was reportedly executed involved Valerian being forcibly made to ingest molten gold. Perhaps, he was fed the melted gold coins that were offered as a ransom payment. Another rumored method of execution is that Shapur I had Valerian flayed alive and skinned. Then the Persian King ordered for the emperor’s hide to be preserved, stuffed and put on display as a trophy. Maybe the truth (if Lactantius’ account has any credibility) is a mixture of both executions—perhaps, King Shapur I preferred his trophies gilded. Despite not knowing exactly how Emperor Valerian died in 260 CE, the emperor did not survive being captured by the Sasanian King Shapur I. Valerian’s son, Gallienus (r. 253-268) managed to hold on to power in Rome for nearly another decade after his father’s death, but he, too, died a violent death at the hands of an assassin.


Seven rock reliefs from the time of &Scaronāpur I are preserved, all situated in Fārs: Naq&scaron-e Rajab I and III, Naq&scaron-e Rostam VI, Bi&scaronāpur I to III and Dārābgerd. Apart from the two reliefs at Naq&scaron-e Rajab, they are either focused on, or at least include, references to military victories over the Roman Empire.

There are four rock reliefs in the small rock enclosure of Naq&scaron-e Rajab, just south of Eṣṭaḵr: an investiture scene of Arda&scaronīr I (relief III), a bust with inscription of the high priest Kartir (relief II) and two reliefs of &Scaronāpur I. Naq&scaron-e Rajab I depicts &Scaronāpur on horseback, identified by a trilingual inscription, followed by a group of nine people (PLATE I Schmidt, pp. 126, pl. 100-101). Naq&scaron-e Rajab IV is an investiture scene with the king on horseback reaching for the beribboned ring held by Ohrmazd (Overlaet, 2013). The king&rsquos head and crown are damaged beyond recognition. Herrmann convincingly identified this as an early &Scaronāpur I relief based on stylistic arguments and tool working (Herrmann, pp. 75-76).

&Scaronāpur I had a second and very similar investiture relief sculpted at Bi&scaronāpur (relief I). Like the prototype of this scene (investiture of Arda&scaronir I at Naq&scaron-e Rostam) the horses are now standing on top of defeated enemies. In-between, a kneeling Roman emperor is shown pleading for mercy. The upper part of the relief is completely destroyed, and it is on the presence of this Roman that the relief is generally ascribed to &Scaronāpur I (Herrmann, Mackenzie, and Howell, 1983). The victory over Roman enemies is the principal subject of the four remaining reliefs. They represent &Scaronāpur I with three Roman emperors. The identity of these has been a matter of dispute among scholars (see Herrmann and Curtis Meyer, pp. 240-47, 300-301 Overlaet, pp. 461-63).

&Scaronāpur himself refers to three Roman emperors in his Res Gestae (&ScaronKZ): Gordian III, Philip the Arab, and Valerian. Gordian III is not mentioned by name it is only stated that he was defeated and died. He was probably killed by his own army after their retreat to Zaitha in northern Mesopotamia in 244 (Potter, pp. 234-36). His successor Philip the Arab is mentioned by name he had to plea for peace and pay 500,000 dinars. Valerian was captured near Edessa in 260 CE, according to &Scaronāpur &ldquowith his own hands,&rdquo and later died in Persian captivity.

B. C. McDermot was the first to notice that &Scaronāpur&rsquos &ScaronKZ fits perfectly with the image on the Naq&scaron-e Rostam VI relief (PLATE II Herrmann, Mackenzie, and Howell, 1989). The two emperors who are named are shown in the way they are described: Philip the Arab is kneeling, asking for peace, and Valerian is physically taken prisoner by &Scaronāpur. Consequently, the relief must be made after 260 CE. Since the same emperors were expected to figure on the Bi&scaronāpur reliefs, this would date Bi&scaronāpur I after 244 and Bi&scaronāpur II and III after 260.

However, these explanations failed to explain the remainder of the imagery of the Bi&scaronāpur II and III reliefs. Bi&scaronāpur III shows on the left the advancing Sasanian cavalry while on the right, there are five registers with people carrying vessels, textiles and arms, holding rings and military standards, bringing chained lions, a horse and wagon, etc. (Figure 1 Herrmann and Howell). Bi&scaronāpur II follows the same concept (Herrmann, Mackenzie, and Howell, 1983). The central scene is almost identical (Figure 2) but there are only two registers on each side. The analysis of the items that are shown on Bi&scaronapur III has recently led to the identification of the historic event (and the emperor) represented at Bi&scaronāpur II, III, and Dārābgerd (Overlaet).

The Bi&scaronāpur III scene illustrates the surrender to &Scaronāpur of the city of Emesa (Homs in Syria) by the usurper-emperor Uranius Antoninus (d. 254 CE). Emesa was the centre of the sun-cult of Elagabal and housed one of the most famous baetyls of antiquity. This black stone had briefly been at Rome during the reign of Elagabalus (218-222 CE). This Emesene high-priest, who became Roman emperor at the age of 14, took the stone with him to Rome, built two temples for it, and proclaimed it the principal deity of the Empire (Cumont, pp. 2219-22 Turcan Gradel, pp. 351-52). After his assassination, Alexander Severus sent the stone back to Emesa and rededicated the Elagaballium temple in Rome to Jupiter. The Roman historian Herodian informs us about the &ldquoSyrian&rdquo cult practices in Rome, including the offerings, rituals, clothing and transport of the stone between his temples on a chariot (Herodian, V.6.1-7). The stone, either in a temple perched by an eagle or on its chariot, figures on coins of Caracalla and Elagabalus (Baldus, pl. X-XII Overlaet, pl. 26-27). After this Roman intermission, the cult continued to thrive in Emesa and during the political turmoil of the mid-third century the city&rsquos last priest-king Uranius Antoninus claimed the imperial purple, possibly to lead the resistance against the Sasanian advance into Syria. The precise circumstances remain a matter of dispute, however. Nevertheless, it is clear that &Scaronāpur&rsquos army marched on Emesa but did not go further into Syria (Kettenhofen, pp. 70-73 Dodgeon and Lieu, p. 54). The 6th century Monophysite Byzantine chronicler John Malalas informs us that &Scaronapur received the priest-king Sampsigeramos (the usurper emperor Uranius Antoninus see Baldus, pp. 246-50) as an ambassador of his city. During this reception, one of the Emesenes would have killed &Scaronāpur, causing the retreat of the Persians (Malalas, XIII.295-97 tr. Jeffreys, Jeffreys, and Scott, pp. 162-63). Although the story is obviously inaccurate, the fact that a priest-king stopped the advance of the Sasanian army is supported by a reference in the Oracula Sybillina (Oracula Sibyllina, XIII.147&ndash54 Baldus, pp. 240-43, 252-55 Dodgeon and Lieu, pp. 54-55) and by Greek graffiti in Qal&lsquoat el-Haways (Baldus, pp. 250-51 Dodgeon and Lieu, pp. 56, 365 note 33). Uranius Antoninus minted coins at Emesa with the image of the stone until the end of 253/beginning of 254 CE and then disappeared from the historic records.

The iconography of the Bi&scaronāpur III relief suggests that the meeting with &Scaronāpur did take place and that Uranius Antoninus pleaded for mercy, surrendered, and handed over the black stone. The surrender of the Roman emperor and its city/empire probably happened around November 253 CE (Baldus, pp. 126-27, 266-68). &Scaronāpur may have been satisfied with Emesa as a client state and may have preferred to redraw before winter rather than to consolidate his grip on Syria. With the arrival of the Roman emperor Valerian, however, this gain may have become meaningless, which would explain why &Scaronāpur did not mention Emesa in his Res Gestae. This identification makes it unlikely that the relief was sculpted later than 254 CE.

The central scene of Bi&scaronāpur III shows three in every aspect identical Roman emperors: (1) descended from his horse and kneeling in supplication (2) standing next to &Scaronāpur&rsquos horse and holding on to his cloak (3) outstretched under &Scaronāpur&rsquos horse. It suggests that &Scaronāpur accepted the plea and kept Uranius Antoninus in place as a vassal king. The trampled figure may have symbolized the victory over the Roman Empire as a whole or could eventually also indicate the killing of Uranius. This repetition of different stages of the event is repeated in the right part of the relief. The lower part shows the arrival of the delegation the upper part the taking away of presents/booty. On the 2nd lower register, the stone of Emesa is taken from its wagon and lifted in the air. The chariot is followed by two men who carry large sacs on their back, probably textiles used for the stone. On the 4th register, the stone is carried off by two men, suspended with straps from a pole. Only one man with a sac follows the stone but a large textile, held by six men, is shown in the central register. Other objects in the delegation, such as military standards, large basins and vessels can all be linked to religious practices, temples or rituals.

The central scene of the Bi&scaronāpur II relief is identical to that of Bi&scaronāpur III, as is the general lay-out of the relief: on the left two rows of advancing Persian cavalry and on the right two registers with delegates bringing objects. Although the Emesa stone itself is not depicted among them, the relief must represent the same event in view of the identical central scene. Details of the clothing of the delegates had already suggested that they were of Syrian origin (von Gall, pp. 53-54).

The last relief with Roman emperors is found at Dārābgerd (PLATE III Trümpelmann). The king wears a simple skull-cap with a large corymbos (see CROWN ii.), a headdress characteristic for Arda&scaronir I and worn by &Scaronapur I only during the co-reign with his father on the relief at Salmās. Because the style and execution are strongly related to the reliefs of Arda&scaronir I, Herrmann ascribed it to this king. Nevertheless, most scholars attributed it to &Scaronāpur because of the presence of the Roman emperors. Trümpelmann reconciled the early stylistic date with the later date implied by the emperors. He argued that the right part of the relief and the lying Roman cut in the background behind the horse&rsquos legs were later additions. He could thus date the original relief to the beginning of &Scaronāpur&rsquos reign and dated the last adaptation after 260 CE. The presence of three emperors, of an usher with crossed arms and a short stick to introduce the delegation, and of two donkeys pulling a wagon, however, all relate the scene to Bi&scaronāpur III. It allows us to date the complete extension of the relief to 254 CE, immediately after the Emesa event.

H. R. Baldus, Uranius Antoninus: Münzprägung und Geschichte, Bonn, 1971.

Fr. Cumont, &ldquoElagabalus,&rdquo in G. Wissowa et al., eds., Paulys Real-Encyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft V (Demogenes &ndash Ephoroi), Stuttgart, 1905, pp. 2219-22.

M. H. Dodgeon and S. N. C. Lieu, The Roman Eastern Frontier and the Persian Wars (AD 226-363): A Documentary History, London and New York, 1991.

I. Gradel, Emperor Worship and Roman Religion, Oxford, 2004.

G. Herrmann, &ldquoThe Darabgird Relief: Ardashir or Shahpur?,&rdquo Iran: Journal of the British Institute of Persian Studies 7, 1969, pp. 63-88.

G. Herrmann and V. Curtis, &ldquoSasanian Rock Reliefs&rdquo, Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2002, available at

G. Herrmann and R. Howell, The Sasanian Rock Reliefs at Bishapur, Part 1: Bishapur III, Triumph Attributed to Shapur I, Iranische Denkmäler Lieferung 9 enthaltend Reihe 2, Iranische Felsreliefs E, Berlin, 1980.

G. Herrmann, D. N. Mackenzie, and R. Howell, The Sasanian Rock Reliefs at Bishapur, Part 3: Bishapur I, The Investiture/Triumph of Shapur I?, Bishapur II, Triumph of Shapur I Sarab-i Bahram, Bahram II Enthroned, Rock Relief at Tang-i Qandil, Iranische Denkmäler Lieferung 11, enthaltend Reihe 2, Iranische Felsreliefs G, Berlin, 1983.

G. Herrmann, D. N. Mackenzie, and R. Howell, The Sasanian Rock Reliefs at Naqsh-i Rustam: Naqsh-i Rustam 6, The Triumph of Shapur I, Iranische Denkmaler Lieferung 13, enthaltend Reihe 2, Iranische Felsreliefs I, Berlin, 1989.

E. Jeffreys, M. Jeffreys, and R. Scott, The Chronicle of John Malalas: A Translation, Byzantina Australiensia 4, Melbourne, 1986.

E. Kettenhofen, Die römisch-persischen Kriege des 3. Jahrhunderts n. Chr. Nach der Inschrift Sahpuhrs I. an der Ka&lsquobe-ye Zartost (SKZ), Beihefte zum TAVO, Reihe B (Geisteswissenschaften) Nr. 55, Wiesbaden, 1982.

B. C. McDermot, &ldquoRoman Emperors in the Sassanian Reliefs&rdquo, Journal of Roman Studies 44, 1954, pp. 76-80.

M. Meyer, &ldquoDie Felsbilder Shapurs I,&rdquoJahrbuch des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts 105, 1990, pp. 237-302.

B. Overlaet, &ldquoA Roman Emperor at Bishapur and Darabgird: Uranius Antoninus and the Black Stone of Emesa&rdquo, Iranica Antiqua 44, 2009, pp. 461-530.

Idem, &ldquoAnd Man Created God? Kings, Priests and Gods on Sasanian Investiture Reliefs,&rdquo Iranica Antiqua 48, 2013, pp. 313-54.

D. S. Potter, The Roman Empire at Bay (AD 180-395), London and New York, 2004.

E. Schmidt, Persepolis III: The Royal Tombs and Other Monuments, The University of Chicago Oriental Institute Publications LXVIII, Chicago, 1970.

L. Trümpelmann, Das Sasanidische Felsrelief von Dārāb, Iranische Denkmäler Lieferung 6, enthaltend Reihe 2, Iranische Felsreliefs B, Berlin, 1975.

R. Turcan, Héliogabale et le sacre du soleil, Paris, 1985.

Princeton University acquires Schaaf Collection of Sasanian coins

Images courtesy of the Princeton University Numismatic Collection, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Firestone Library.

Images courtesy of the Princeton University Numismatic Collection, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Firestone Library.

Images courtesy of the Princeton University Numismatic Collection, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Firestone Library.

The Princeton University Numismatic Collection has announced the acquisition of one of the most comprehensive collection of Sasanian coins in private hands, that of Robert W. Schaaf, a New Jersey resident employed in the electronics field.

For four centuries, the Sasanian Empire was the eastern neighbor of the Roman Empire and for most of the period its adversary.

For the most part, Sasanian history is known indirectly through Roman accounts and much later Persian sources the material culture of the Sasanians, mainly within the modern borders of Iran and Iraq, is very difficult to study.

The coinage of the Sasanian Empire, however, preserves a unique documentation of the rulers and minting cities over the centuries, and has the potential of revealing places and periods of relatively high and low monetary activity, which can be interpreted in terms of military and economic phenomena.

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In the words of John Haldon, Princeton’s Shelby Cullom Davis Professor of European History, and Director of the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies, “The Sasanian period of Iranian history is one in which Princeton already commands respect in terms of faculty and research interests, and the acquisition of the Schaaf collection will undoubtedly make a significant contribution both by attracting international scholars and researchers as well as through being a major stimulus to inter-disciplinary and inter-departmental cooperation on campus.”

The Schaaf Collection has been purchased for the Princeton University Numismatic Collection with generous support from a gift to the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies, and from the Friends of Princeton University Library.

Alan Stahl, Princeton’s Curator of Numismatics, notes that the 723 gold, silver, and copper coins of the Schaaf Collection were assembled during the course of decades of specialized collecting to include representation of rare mints and short-lived rulers.

He remarked, “The new acquisition provides a strong complement to our existing holdings of Roman, Byzantine and Early Islamic coinage to illustrate the transformation of the monetary system of Late Antiquity into that of the Middle Ages, the focus of an extensive research program at Princeton.” He added, “The publication in 2014 of a complete catalog of the Schaaf Collection by the Austrian Academy of Sciences, written by the leading scholar on the series Nikolaus Schindel, will greatly facilitate the integration of the new coins with the existing Princeton collection of almost 300 coins of the dynasty and the description and illustration of the entire Sasanian collection on our online database.”

The Princeton University Numismatic Collection is part of the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Firestone Library.

Those parts of the collection already in the database can be accessed from the Library website. Objects in the collection may be viewed by appointment with the curator. Contact Stahl via email.

Coin of Shapur I - History

By: Professor Shapur Shahbazi et al

a warrior, visionary and righteous emperor (r. 239-70 CE)

Shapur, name born by three Sasanian King of kings and a number of notables of the Sasanian and later periods. It is derived from Old Iranian xšayathiya.puthra 'son of king', and originally must have been a title, which came to be used, at least from the last decades of the 2nd century C.E., as a personal name, although its appearance in Parthian king-lists of Arabic-Persian histories (e.g. Biruni, Chronology, pp. 117-19) is anachronistic. The attested forms include Parth. šhypwhr, Sasanian šhpwr-y, Manichean Pahlavi š'bwhr, Book Pahlavi šhpwhl, Arm. šapowh, Syriac šbwhr, Sogdian š'p(')wr, Bactrian aßor(o) and aßoro, Gk Sapur, Sabour and Sapuris, Lat. Sapores and Sapor, Ar. Sâbur and Šâbur, NPers. Šâpur, Šâhpur, Šahfur, etc. (see Nöldeke, Kârnâmak, pp. 60-61 Justi, Namenbuch, p. 284 Fluss, col. 2326 Sundermann, 1981, p. 171 Back, pp. 260-61 Garsoïan, pp. 406-407 Gignoux, 19 86, pp. 161-2 Huyse II, pp. 5-6).

1. Shapur's co-rulership and accession.

Shapur the Great was the son of Ardašir I (q.v) and "Lady Myrôd" (ŠKZ, Gk. l. 49) of Arsacid descent. He participated in his father's campaign against the Arsacids (Tabari I, p. 819, confirmed by the victory relief of Ardašir I at Firuzâbâd, see EIr II, pp. 377-9). Ardašir "judged him the gentlest, wisest, bravest and ablest of all his children" (Mas'udi, Moruj II, p. 159), and nominated him as his successor in an assembly of the magnates (Skjaervø, 1983, 3/1, pp. 58-60). He appears in Ardašir's investiture reliefs at Naqš-e Rajab (q.v) and Firuzâbâd as the heir apparent (Hinz, 1969, pp 56ff and passim), and our data indicate that he later shared rulership with his father (Ghirshman, 1975 Calmeyer, pp. 46-7, 63-7). Bal'ami (ed. Bahâr, p. 884) states that "Ardašir placed with his own hand his own crown upon Shapur's head", and Mas'udi (Moruj II, p. 160) confirmings this, adds that Ardašir then retired to serve God and lived for a year or longer. The testimony of the Cologne Mani Codex (q.v) that in Mani's twenty-fourth year, i.e. in (24+ 216=) 240, Ardašir "subjugated the city of Hatra and King Shapur, his son, placed on his head the great (royal) diadem" (Henrichs–Koenen 1975, pp. 18, 21), also indicates a period of synarchy. In late 242, the Emperor Gordianus III sent a letter from Antioch in Syria to the senate claiming that he had removed the threat "of Persian kings" (reges persarum) from the city (SHA: Gordiani Tres 27. 5), which means that in 242 Persia had two kings. Indeed, Ardašir's lates coins continues his usual reverse type of an elaborate fire altar and the legend: NWR['] [Z]Y ['r]t[x]štr "Fire of Ardaxštar" but it portrays him facing a youthful prince - symbolically representing Shapur and a new legend: mzdysn bgy shpwhry MLK' ' yr'n MNW štry MN yzd'n "Divine Shapur King of Iran whose seed is from gods" (Lukonin, 1969, pp. 55, 164, 166, Pl. II no 283 Ghirshman 1975, p. 258 Mossig-Walburg, 1980, pp. 117, 119-20 idem, 1990, pp. 112-13). Shapur's own coins show him wearing his famous mural crown and a fire altar flanked by two attendants. Clearly, Ardašir issued that series when he appointed Shapur co-regent. A rock-relief at Salmâs in Azerbaijan (Hinz, 1965 1969, pp. 135-39) depicting two horsemen both wearing Ardašir's lower-type crown, must also date from the period of synarchy. Another, at Dârâbgerd (Hinz, 1969, pp. 145-152 see also EIr., VII, p. 7), represents a victory of Shapur I over the Romans but the king wears Ardasir's crown, thereby symbolizing the shared victory of the father and the son (Ghirshman, 1971, pp. 94-103 Shahbazi, 1972).

The date of Shapur's coronation has been much debated. The testimony of his courtier Âbnun (see below) that the Romans marched against Persia "in the 3rd year of Shapur, king of kings," proves that Shapur's accession was in 240, as Henning (1957, pp. 117-8 [= 1977, II, pp. 516-7]) calculated from the evidence of Bišâpur's inscription that separates Ardašir' royal fire from that of his son by 16 years. He further correctly interpreted (ibid., pp. 118-9 [= 1977, II, pp. 717-8]) the Manichean report (in Ebn Nadim, Fehrest, p. 328) that the day of Shapur's coronation "was Sunday, the first of Nisan, when the sun was in Aries" with reference to Sunday 12 April, 240. A magnificently executed rock-relief at Naqš-e Rajab symbolically commemorates Shpur's investiture: Ohrmazd, on horseback, offers the diademed ring of royalty to Shapur, who is likewise mounted, but his figure is mutilated by subsequent vandalism.

Eastern writers have vague ideas of Shapur the Great' wars with Rome, making a single campaign out of them with the capture of Valerian as its conclusion (Nöldeke, Geschicter der Perser, p. 31 n. 3). The ŠKZ inscription and rock-reliefs agree with Roman souces (collected and discussed by Fluss, Ensslin, Maricq and Honigmann, Mazzarino,Winter, Kettenhofen, Dodgeon and Lieu) that there were three campaigns. The first (242-4) came upon Hatra's capture. The Roman account (given in the official biography of Gordian [Gordiani Tres 23.4 26.3 to 24.3] and supplemented by brief references in later Roman historians), is briefly as follows. In 242, Gordian set out against the Persians with "a huge army and great quantity of gold", and wintered in Antioch. There he fought and won repeated battles, and drove out Shapur from the Antioch, Carrhae and Nisibis, routed him at Resaina (modern Ra's al-'Ain, near Nisibis) and forced him to restore all occupied cities unharmed to their citizens. "We have penetrated as far as Nisibis, and shall even get to Ctesiphon," he wrote to the senate. But that was not to be. Philip the Arab, prefect of the guard, hatched plots, convinced the soldiers to proclaim him joint emperor, and undermining the authority of Gordian, hastily retreated towards the Roman frontier. During the retreat Gordian perished, most said murdered by Philip's agents, but Eusebius of Caesarea heard that "Gordianus was killed in Parthia" and Zosimus (who followes the official account) that Gordianus was killed deep in enemy's land, and a garbled version in Zonaras (12.17) veils a report that "the young emperor" was overthrown from his horse in a battle, broke his thigh and died of his wound. All say that Philip then swore friendship or made "a most shameful treaty" with Shapur and ended the war. He even ceded Armenia and Mesopotamia but later broke the treaty and seized them.

Since 1940, it has been possible to contrast this version with the Persian view, given by Shapur himself in the KZ trilingual inscription (Back, pp. 290-94 Huyse, 1999, I, pp. 26-8). "Just as we were established on the throne, the emperor Gordianus gathered in all of the Roman Empire an army of Goths and Gemans and marched on Asurestan (Assyria), against Êrânšahr and against us. On the edges of Assyria, at Misikòê [on the Euphrates as it flows close to the Tigris], there was a great frontal battle. And Gordianus Caesar perished, and we destroyed the Roman army. And the Romans proclaimed Philip emperor. And Philip Caesar came to us for terms, and paid us 500,000 denars as ransom for his life and becme tributary to us". A courtier of Shapur called Âbnun set up a fire as an oblation when "it was heard that the Romans had come and Shapur the King of kings had smitten them and had worsted them [so that they fell into our captivity] (Tavoosi and Frye, pp. 25-38 Gignoux, 1991, pp. 9-17 Livshits and Nikitin, pp. 41-44 MacKenzie, 1993, pp. 105-109 Skjaervø, 1992, pp. 153-60 Sundermann, 1993).

Scholarly analyses have shown that Shapur's account while defective is superior to the Roman version, which fails to explain why the Romans having routed Shapur near Nisibis and marched to the gates of Ctesiphon would want to buy a "most shameful peace"? As Kettenhöfen puts it (pp. 35-6): "It is understandable that Roman national pride transferred the responsibility of the defeat, in which Gordian III became the first Roman emperor to lose his life on enemy battlefield, to Philip. On the other hand, the feeling of the Sasanian triumph was immortalized in several rock-reliefs of Shapur I, and the victory at Misikòê was mentioned by a boastful Shapur as the single military event whithin this first campaign".

Having removed the Roman threat and enriched his treasury by exacting heavy ransom, Shapur brought the Roman protectorate of western Armenia under Persian control (ibid., pp. 87-97, 100-107, 114-23). He also commemorated his victory on several rock reliefs in Fârs (see below), the most relevent of which is at Dârâbgerd which shows the youthful emperor Gordian prostrate under the horse of Shapur who wears Ardašir's crown and receives another Roman (Philip) with benediction. Curiously, Philip also celebrated and called himself victor over the Persians (Persicus/Parthicus Maximus, see Winter, pp. 107-10) once he was in a safe distance from them.

While Western sources on Shapur's second campaign (252-6) are meager, contradictory and hostile, his is full and fairly coherent (Maricq, 1958 Back, pp. 294-306 Huyse, 1999, I, pp. 28-33). "The Caesar lied and did harm to Armenia," he begins, with reference to Roman interference in Armenia and possibly refusal of "tribute" payment. Shapur invaded Mesopotamia in about 250 but a serious trouble in a district of Khorasan "necessitated his presence there". He marched thither and settled its affair (Tabari I, p. 826 with Markwart, Capitals, p. 52). Then he resumed the invasion of Roman territories. "And we annihilated a Roman force of 60,000 at Barbalissus [modern Qal'at al-Bâlis, on the left bank of the Euphrates in Syria] and we burned and ravaged the province of Syria and all its dependencies and in that one campaign we conquered from the Roman empire the following forts and cities [some thirty-six of them are named]".

The available data indicate that there were several campaigns conducted in the course of the years 253-6, with Antioch, the prestigious and rich capital of the Roman East, as the ultimate goal (Kettenhöfer 1982, pp. 50-78, 83-89, summarizing the researches of Sprengling, Henning, Ensslin, Maricq, Honigmann, Rostortzeff, Baldus). During the first phase of the war, Shapur must have retaken Armenia and appointed his son Hormozd Ardašir as the "Great King of Armenians," a prestigious title created evidently to placate the proud Armenians. Georgia submitted or was taken and made into a specially honored province placed under a very high-ranking Sasanian official, the bidaxš (EIr IV, pp. 242-44). The Sasanian borders on the north were thus secured, allowing direct guarding of the Caucasian passes (see DARBAND). After defeating the main Roman army at Barbalissos, Shapur divided his forces, leading one army himself he penetrated deep into Syria all the way to the coast and plundered what he found, while Hormazd-Ardašir took the other and invaded Lesser Armenia and Cappadocia. The burning and looting show that Shapur had no intention of keeping the conquered lands, but he did deport a large number of the populations and settled them in his own cities (see below).

Repeated skirmishes led to a new large-scale war in 260. "And in the third campaign, we set upon Carrhae and Edessa, and as we were besieging Carrhae and Edessa, Valerian Caesar came against us, and with him was a force [later specified as totaling 70,000] from the province (hštr) of the Goths and Germans [most Roman provinces are named]. And on the far side [= west] of Carrhae and Edessa a great battle took place for us with Valerianus Caesar. And we with our own hands took Valerian Caesar prisoner and the rest who were the commanders of this army, the Praetorian Prefect, and the senators, and the officers all of these we took prisoners and we led them away into Persis (Pârs). And we burned with fire, and we ravaged, and we took captive and we conquered the province of Syria, and the province of Cilicia, and the province of Cappadocia. And in that campaign we conquered from the Roman Empire [thirty-six cities are named with their dependent districts]. And we led the men from the Roman Empire, namely, from the Anêrân [un-Iranian lands], away with the booty and we settled them in our own Iranian empire-- in Persis, Parthia and in Khuzistan and in Asôristân [=Babylonia], and in the other provinces, province by province, whenever we, or our father, or our forefathers or our ancestors had royal estates" (Maricq, 1965, pp. 52-6 Back, pp. 306-29: Huys I, pp. 33-43 detaild commentary in Kettenhofen, 1982, pp. 97-126).

As the British military officer and historian Sir Percy Sykes has remarked (I, p. 401): "Few if any events in history have produced a greater morale effect than the capture of a Roman Emperor by the monarch of a young dynasty. The impression of the time must have been overwhelming, and the news must have resounded like a thunderclap throughout Europe and Asia". Understandably, western historians (both ancient and modern, see e.g. Frye 1983, p. 297) have attributed "the greatest humiliation of the Romans" (Nöldeke, p.32 n.4) to the spread of disease and treachery of allies, and claimed that "the aged emperor" was tricked by Shapur during armistice negotiation and was not taken in the thick of the battle.

When the Persian army spread itself too widely over the Roman East and lost its cohesion, Shapur evacuated the devastated areas and set out for home, laden with booty and a large number of deportees. He marched through eastern Cilicia and northern Mesopotamia arriving at his capital Ctesiphon, pobably in late 260. Part of his baggage train was lost during a raid by Palmyrene Arabs under their sheikh Odenathus. This "minor incident of uncertain date" (Sprengling, pp. 108-109), has been turned by Roman historians and their modern successors (Felix, pp. 809 with literature) into repeated routings of Shapur by an ally of Rome who "if not restoring Rome's honor did profoundly damage and disgrace" the Persian king (Nöldeke, p. 32 n. 4). But, as Henning (1939, p. 843 [= 1977, p. 621]) has explained: "The transport through the desert of a very great number of prisoners besides the Persian army was a difficult enterprise the fact that Shapur succeeded in this (as proven by the presence of the provincials in Susiana) shows sufficiently how much the usual accounts of the exploits of Odenathus against the Persians on their desert march are exaggerated".

Shapur commemorated his victories in his KZ inscriptions and in several rock-reliefs (MacDermot, 1959, pp. 76-80 Hinz, 1969 Girshman, 1971 Herrmann, 1980, 1983, Herrmann-MacKenzie-Howell, 1989 see also SASANIAN ROCK-RELIEFS). That at Dârâbgerd was mentioned before. A very badly damaged scene at Bišâpur (I) shows the investiture and triumph of Shapur combined: the king on horseback receives the diadem of sovereignty from Ohrmazd while under his horse lies Gordianus and kneeling before him is Philip. Nearby a great rock-relief (Bišâpur II) represents in the center Shapur on horseback, Gordianus prostrate, and Valerian standing at the side of the king who holds him by wrist. Another carved at Naqš-e Rostam lacks Gordianus but shows Philip (kneeling) and Valerian (standing), and the largest (Bišâpur III) depicts Shapur and the three Roman emperors in the center, four rows of mounted Iranian dignitaries behind the king, and in front of him four rows of tribute-bearers on foot or with chariots. Finally, a sardonyx cameo of Roman-Persian workmanship pictures Shapur and Valerian on horseback in hand-to-hand fighting (Ghirshman, 1962, p. 152, fig. 195). All representations of the captive Ceasar show him unfettered and in regalia, disproving the rumors (survey in Felix, pp. 66-73) that he was mistreated.

3. Account of the rest of Shapur the Great' reign

Shapur's triumph increased the prestige of the Sasanian empire, confirming her position as the rival of the Roman state, and one of "the two guardians of order and progress in the world" (Petrus Patricius in Müller, Fragmenta IV, p. 188 no. 13). His campaigns deprived the enemy from resources while restoring and substantially enriching his own treasury, and the Roman deportees, mainly artisans and skilled workers, helped to revitalize Persia's urban centers, industries and agriculture (Pigulevskaya, pp. 127-31 see also EIr IV, pp. 287-88). The incorporation of so many non-Iranians into Shapur's empire necessitated the coining of a new royal title: "King of Kings of Êrân ['Iranians'] and Anêrân ['un-Iranians']", which appeared regularly in his inscriptions and became the customary title of later Sasanian sovereigns. Many of the deportees were Christians, and no longer persecuted, they prospered and multiplied in Khuzistan, Persis and eastern Iran, built churches and monasteries and even set up bishoprics (Chronicle of Se'ert II, p. 221). Greek and Syriac came into wider use (Brock, ch. IV, pp. 91-5), and various books on sciences (particularly astronomical works, including Ptolemy's) were translated into Pahlavi (Taqizadeh, 1939, p. 133, citing Ebn Nowbakòt apud Ebn Nadim, pp. 238-9 Henning, 1942, p. 245 (= 1977, I, p. 111 Pingree, EIr II, p. 859). Also, an unprecedented period of "town building" (i. e., fortifying an existing one or renovating and enlarging it and then re-naming it) followed (Pigulevskaya, pp. 127-31). Thus, Misikòê was re-named Pêrôz-Š@âhpûhr and served as the main military magazine (anbâr, hence its other name Anbâr) on the western front (Maricq, 1958, pp.352-56 Honingmann-Maricq, pp. 112-30). Apar-šahr was re-founded as Nêv-Šâhpûhr>Nišâpur ('Excellent (is) Shapur': Markwart, Capitals, p. 52 Hamza, p. 48.) and part of Susa was re-named Hormazd-Ardašir (Le Strange, Lands, p. 219). Šâd-Šâhpûhr "Happiness of Shapur" was the official name given to Rimâ (Marquart, Ê, p. 41), a district in Kaškar. Gondêšâpur (q.v) was "founded" on the site of an old town called Bêth Lapâtá, some 10 km south of the city of Dezful, to house the deported Antiocheans. The city of Bišâpur (q.v.) seems to have been the king's foundation and he built many monuments there, and carved rock-reliefs in a nearby gorge, the Tang-e Ùowgân. In a cave above the gorge his colossal statue, originally over twenty feet high (Moqaddasi, pp. 444-45 Ghirshman, 1971, I, pp. 179-85 Pls. XXVIII-XXXII Rice), still exists.

Shapur tells us that he had other achievements "which we have not inscribed here, besides all this" (Back, pp. 327-29 Huyse I, p. 44). Even at old age he remained fully active, as his feat of archery witnessed by kings, princes, magnates and nobles and recorded in a bilingual inscription at Hâjiâbâd (q.v) shows (Najmâ[email protected] MacKenzie, 1978, pp. 499-501 Back, p. 546 n. 245).

In all of his documents Shahpur the Great referes to himself as Mzdysn ('Mazda-worshipping'). His KZ inscription covers his religious foundations and wars in equal length. He felt he had a mission in history: "For the reason, therefore, that the gods have so made us their instrument (dstkrt), and that by the help of the gods we have sought out for ourselves, and hold, all these nations (š) for that reason we have also founded, province by province, many Varahrân fires, and we have dealt piously with many Magi (môwmard), and we have made great worship of the gods" (Huyse I, p. 45). Shapur founded pad nâm âdur ('named fires') for himself and his immediate family, and established "endowments" for them (Back, pp. 330-67 Huyse I, pp. 45-52). Shapur ends his inscription by re-emphasizing that "we are zealous of the service and worship of the gods, and are the instruments of the gods", and that "with the assistance of the gods" he had achieved all his works (Back, pp. 368-70 Huyse I, pp. 63-4).

The Magus Kerdêr tells us that Shapur showed favor towards Zoroastrians and allowed their priests to accompany his army on his Roman campaigns. But his devotion did not induce him to elevate Zoroastrianism as the only religion of the empire, and there is no evidence that an organized state church existed during his time. According to the Dênkard (ed. Madan, pp. 412-13, ed. and tr., Shaki, 1981, pp. 116, 119): Shapur "collected the non-religious writings on medicine, astronomy, movement, time, space, substance, accident, becoming, decay, transformation, logic and other crafts and skills which were dispersed throughout India, Roman and other lands, and collated them with the Avesta, and commanded that a copy be made of all those (writings) which were flawless and be deposited in the Royal Treasury. And he put forward for deliberation the annexation of all those pure (teachings) to the Mazdaean religion". The surviving Zoroastrian books contain elements of Hellenistic and Indian scientific thoughts (see EIr II, pp. 859, 861), proving that Shapur's effort in making the Avesta an "authorized" encyclopedia of his time was fairly successful. On the other hand, his religious tolerance benefited all his subjects: Christians (see above), Jews (Neusner II, pp. 44 ff., 48ff.), and Manicheans. But though Mani tried hard and even wrote a book in the name of Shapur (see ŠÂHBURAGÂN), he failed to convert him. The two were ideaologically irreconcilable. Besides, Shapur held that he himself was the instrument of God and would not have tolerated a rival for that position.

Shapur died of illness in the city of Bišâpur (Polotsky, p. 42) probably in May 270, in his thirty- first year of reign (Henning, 1957, p. 116 [= 1977 II, p. 515] on the figures given for his regnal years see Taqizadeh, 1943-46, pp. 281-7) and was succeeded by his heir to the throne, Hormazd-Ardašir. He was survived by two other sons: Bahrâm Gêlâšâh and Narse, king of "India", Sakastân and Turân all the way to the Sea of Oman both were destined to ascend the throne. Another son, Shapur Mišânšâh, died before his father but left six sons and one daughter who held exalted positions.

5. In national tradition

Tabari (I, p. 836) remarked: "the Persians had well-tried Shapur already before his accession and while his father still lived on account of his intelligence, understanding and learning as well as his outstanding boldness, oratory, logic, affection for the subject people and kindheartedness." Then when he came to the throne, Tabari continues, he showed such generosity towards the nobility and commoners and took such care in running the state benevolently but efficiently that "he became renowned everywhere and gained superiority over all kings". T¨a'âlebi (Ghorar, p. 487) echoes a similar report and adds: "Shapur even surpassed Ardašir in generosity and oratory."

With that fame, and with a legacy so richly documented by easily accessible inscriptions and rock-reliefs, it is most surprising that the national history knows so little about Shapur and introduces him as the subject of several tales (best recounted in the Kârnâmak and the Šintended to legitimize Sasanian claim to royalty by linking Ardašir, his son and grandson to the Parthian families of Ardavân and Mehrân (symbolized as Mehrak). One concerns his birth. When Ardašir slaughtered the family of the Arsacid king Ardavân, a daughter escaped in disguise, was taken by the victor as a concubine. She became with child and disclosed her lineage, whereupon the king ordered an old advisor to put her to death. Since Ardašir was childless, the old man disobeyed the order and when a son was born to the girl, he called him Š 'son of the king' and raised him in secret. Years later, when Ardašir grew old and regretted leaving this world childless, the old man revealed the truth. Elated, Ardašir had the lad placed in a crowd of boys of the same age and similar physic and dress, and ordered them to play polo in front of the palace. Ardašir recognized Shapur at the first glance, and the lad proved his worth when he alone dared to enter the royal portico and approach the king fearlessly to retrieve a ball, which had gone astray. The meeting ended joyfully, and Shapur was proclaimed heir to the throne.

A similar story is told about Shapur's wife and son. Ardašir faced grave danger in fighting rebels, the most tenacious of whom was the Persian magnate Mehrak. Finally, an Indian sage informed him that his kingdom would see peace only when two families, those of Ardašir and Mehrak, rule it. Ardašir so feared the House of Mehrak that he ordered its annihilation, only a single daughter of extraordinary beauty and physical strength escaped and lived in obscurity among the shepherds. Shapur met her on a hunting excursion and married her. Their son Hormozd was raised secretly until Ardašir recognized him by chance. In this way the two houses were united and, as had been prophesized, Hormozd brought peace and unity to Êrânšahr.

Apart from such legends, the national tradition also knows of a testament that Shapur supposedly left to his son Hormozd (Tabari, I, p. 831 Mas'udi, Moruj II, pp. 165-66 partially quoted by Ta'âlebi, Ghorar, pp. 495-98 and 'Âmeri, pp. 286, 296-303, 314-18, 331, 421, 427, 429-33, 435-6, 444). It concerned regulations intended to strengthen the imperial policy, and may have been a later composition mirroring Sasanian political ideology in general.


Mushegh was a son of the Armenian sparapet (generalissimo) Vasak I Mamikonian. Ώ] They were from the Mamikonian family, which controlled the northwestern Tayk province, near the Iberian border. ΐ] The office of sparapet was hereditary in the Mamikonean family, Α] and the most important one after that of the king. Β] Vasak was the leader of the pro-Roman party in Armenia which supported king Arshak II ( r .𧉞–368 ). However, with the death of Roman emperor Julian at the Battle of Samarra in 363, Roman forces withdrew from Armenia, thus exposing it to the Iranian Sasanian Empire. This eventually forced Arshak II, including many Armenian nobles, such as Vasak, to leave for the Iranian court to pledge their allegiance to the Sasanian King of Kings ( shahanshah ) Shapur II ( r .𧈵–379 ). However, Arshak II's refusal to accept Shapur II's demands resulted in his imprisonment in the Castle of Oblivion, while Vasak was tortured to death. Ώ] Γ] With the elimination of Arshak II (who soon committed suicide), Shapur II sent his forces into Armenia. Γ] Δ]

2. Sasanian coins

9 It was my aim to study Sasanian coins and trace, as far as possible, the routes of their spread over the territory of Georgia, to know how, when and why they could be exported out of the Empire and what was their use and life on the territory of Georgia. Of all the remains of the Sasanian pe-riod only coins contribute to a continuous chronological unbroken sequence throughout the whole period of the dynasty. Our knowledge of Sasanian coin findings is mainly based on archaeological evidences and hoards found in different spots of Georgia. They can be divided into some categories – single finds, accidental finds, hoards and samples that have been found archaeologically. All Sasanian hoards found on the territory of Georgia consist of drachms that were the main unit of money circulation in Sasanian Iran. Drachm was an international currency, face value of goods, the means of wealth saving.

10 Frequent finds of Sasanian coins in East Georgia made it possible to extend limits of the known area of their distribution. Most of find spots are located in Iberia/Kartli kingdom. The large majority of coins came to light in Mtskheta – the capital of Iberia and its environments in the course of archaeological works carried on during 55 years. The finds help to understand when Sasanian coins have been imported to Kartli, when they were put into circulation, how they were used in West and East Georgia on those days, as there were two independent kingdoms on the territory of modern Georgia. Sasanian coin findings of recent years have helped us in many ways to get clearer idea of chronology. Thanks to the numismatic findings, we are able to reconstruct the history and extent of the influence of Sasanian kingdom on Georgia. All recent finds are good examples of Sasanian silver coins of the 5th-beginning of the 7th century.

11 Judging from the local finds it was in the 3rd century A. D. that Sasanian coins made their first appearance on the territory of Georgia. They were found together with Roman and Parthian coins. The rich burials of Iberian kings at Mtskheta contained Sasanian coins. The earliest was struck in the name of Ardashir i . The coin was found in 1980 in a stone grave N° 25 together with rich woman’s burial objects dated from the late antique period. The coin is the only recorder specimen of Ardashir i ’s coin discovered on the territory of Georgia and the first and the only golden coin of this shah. This type of the coin ( iii /2) was minted at the end of his reign (233-240) being in circulation until his death.

12 Archaeological findings testify that Sasanian coins of the 3rd century are rare. They are represented only by isolated samples and were found in rather few quantities. Those were drachms of Shapur i (4), Varahran i (2), Varahran ii (4), Narseh (1 golden coin and 3 drachms), the golden coin of Shapur ii found in a rich woman’s burial in Akhalgori. Penetration of coinage of the first Sasanian kings to the territory of Iberia did not change the structure of commodity money circulation of the country. Local market of the country was served mainly by Roman and Parthian coins that were means of payment in the 3rd century Iberia.

13 First Sasanian coins might have been received as diplomatic gifts to Iberian nobles. It might be that the first Sasanian kings bestowed not only silver plates but gold and silver coins upon the rulers of Iberia.

14 If in the 3rd-4th cc. Sasanian coins arrived into Iberia by incidental, later, after the lapse of 150 years, from the 5th century onward a great number of isolated and scattered finds and hoards have been circulated and found in an unbroken succession. Sasanian silver drachms of high silver quality filled the monetary market of Georgia. Sasanian drachms flowed into Kartli being predominant in the monetary market of that time.

15 Without chronological gap Sasanian coinage is represented from the reign of Peroz (459-484) the fact is confirmed by many coin hoards. The hoards are mainly composed of coins of Sasanian rulers known elsewhere: Peroz (459-484), Valash (484–488), Kavad (488-531), Husro i (531-579), Hormizd iv (579-590), Husro ii (590-628). Most of them were composed during the Byzantine-Iranian wars and have to be linked with the invasion of the Sasanian armies in East Georgia. All principal varieties of drachms of Sasanian kings are present in these hoards. The composition of some of them belongs to different chronological periods throwing considerable light on the history of East Georgia. 30 hoards of Sasanian coins have been recorded as found in Georgia as well as about 40 other finds of Sasanian coins which may have been hoards.

16 The coin hoards break up into 2 groups: hoards that are composed of drachms and mixed hoards composed of Byzantine and Umayyad dirhams. The Byzantine coins also participated in money circulation of East Georgia, but they were not so popular as Sasanian drachms in the monetary circulation of the 5th-7th centuries Kartli. Occurrence and findings of Byzantine and Sasanian Hoards on the territory of Kartli is the reflection of the fight of two powerful empires for hegemony in Transcaucasia.

17 Mixed hoards can be chronologically divided into early containing Byzantine coins (Tbilisi, Marganeti and Tsitelitskaro hoards) and late hoards where Cuphic dirhams of Moslem rulers are found with a few number of Sasanian coins (Mtisdziri, Leliani, Kavshiri, Apeni, Pshaveli hoards). Most hoards belong to the shahan shahs of the 6th-beginning of the 7th century they are closely similar in general style and of fine constitution. Coins are struck in silver and are in good state of preservation with well-read Pahlavi legends. Drachms that circulated on the territory of Kartli were in fabric, weight, execution and legends the same compared to the most known coins of Sasanian kings.

18 All Sasanian rulers are known to have struck coins, the principal denomination being the silver drachm. Gold, obols and bronze issues are found only on some specimens and they were less in circulation. The earliest Sasanian coin found in Georgia dates back to Ardashir i , the latest refers to Yazdgard iii (628-630). The earliest dated coin in the hoards is the drachm of Peroz, marked with the 6th year of his reign and minted at Abarshahr (N° 659).

19 Frequent finds of Sasanian coins made it possible to extend the limits of the known area of their distribution. All find spots are located in or near trade centres of Iberia/Kartli. The ways of distribution of Sasanian coins in Georgia can be observed as follows: east and central parts of Kartli along the rivers Aragvi, Iori, Alazani and the Mtkvari valley.

20 Topography of Sasanian coin finds is of interest. Majority of coins came to light in Mtskheta and its neighbourhood (in the course of archaeological works carried out during many successive years). Repeated and abundant findings of Sasanian coins in Lagodekhi, Tianeti, Akhmeta, Tsitelitskaro, Kvareli and Urbnisi regions testify the importance of these geographical spots being trading centres of that time.

21 Though Sasanian drachms were obviously intended to pass as the same denomination, some series in hoards suffer a slight but nevertheless reduction in its weight standard. The weights of the specimens show a focus around 4.05 grams. Coins of Hormizd iv have the high weight standard compared to those of Husro i ’s and Husro ii ’s some issues in the same hoards. It can be explained by that the coins of the former were in circulation for a lesser period of time and suffered a lesser degree of wear.

22 The characteristic feature of every standard Sasanian coin issue is the readable legend. Several handwritings of different scribes are seen on the coins of Hormizd iv , Husro i and Huso ii . Some Sasanian drachms of the 6th-beginning of the 7th century have distinct types, legends, certain stylistic features and provenances justifying their assignation to local Caucasian mints with the weights-reduced version of the weight standard. Those coins are less in size bearing crude, stylized portraits of the kings, sometimes legends consisting only of several letters or they are illegible. There was a supposition among scientists about a possibility of existence of mints in Transcaucasia.

23 Striking of drachms of local mints, if such took place, was a subject to a high degree of central control. Drachms might have been struck locally at mints, but it is not clear whether the dies were also cut locally or instead were cut centrally or regionally and sent to the local mints for use in striking.

24 The majority of Sasanian coin findings in Georgia come from the hoard discovered in 1977 in Tsitelitskaro. The hoard is dispersed, but fortunately 1395 drachms and 10 Byzantine hexagrams have been collected. The hoard has the following sequence of kings: Husro i , Hormizd iv , Varahran vi , Husro ii , Heraclius with Heraclius Constantine (615-630) and Heraclius with Heraclius Constantine and Heraclonas (632-41). The hoard follows the typical pattern of late Sasanian hoards being largely composed of issues of Hormizd iv . Though represented in the hoard Sasanian kings have left extensive coinage (except the usurper Varahran vi (590-591), the only coins of his so far recorded as found in Georgia were in this hoard), the majority of coins (839) belong to Hormizd iv , who ruled only for 12 years. All his coins were struck according to one iconographical type but minted in different mint towns of the Sasanian Empire.

25 Number of issued drachms in Sasanian period directly depended on extent of controlled territories and on duration of king’s rule. Though in all big museum collections coins of Husro ii are predominant, it is evident from the Tsitelitskaro hoard that Hormizd iv minted coins in great numbers and frequency. The earliest coin of the hoard dates back to the reign of Husro i . It is a drachm of regnal year 21 (A. D. 552). The latest (youngest) coins being Byzantine hexagrams issued by Heraclius and his sons. Thus, the maximum date range of the hoard covers 89 years.

26 The hoard gives 23 mint towns. Coins of Varahran vi bear 4 different mint places (Meshan, Lower Veh-Kavad, Hamadan and Rayy) indicating to activity of coin issue of this king during his one year reign. The hoard can be considered unique according to its quantity and quality as well. Very few hoards with a significant proportion of drachms of the 6th-beginning of the 7th century have been recorded. None with such a large number of Sasanian drachms has been published so far as can be ascertained.

Gadhaiya Paisa Rajputana and Gujarat Region

Stylized Head of King Right.
The name of Gadhaiya (Gadhiya) paisa is attributed to the coins of indo-sassanian dynasties and their successors.
The value was equivalent to 1 drachm. Made in Chaulukyas territory from 543 to 753 AD these coins were still produced in the same territory under others dynastys like Gujrat, Malwa, Kandesh, Bahmanis, Salankis, Paramara and Yadavas.


Stylized Fire Altar and Moon(?)


Crude copy of Sassanian Coinage, Also Known as "Gadhiya Paisa". It is believed that the level of abstractism and crudeness is higher in later coins of this type. Also the % of silver content is seen to have been reduced.

Refer to Plat XXV (11-16) in "Catalogue of the Coins in the Indian Museum, Calcutta - Vol. I(c) - Persian Medieval, South Indian and Miscellaneous coins" - by Vincent A Smith (1906)

The Sassanids, shortly after victory over the Parthians, extended their dominion into Bactria during the reign of Ardashir I around 230 CE, then further to the eastern parts of their empire in western Pakistan during the reign of his son Shapur I (240–270). Thus the Kushans lost their western territory (including Bactria and Gandhara) to the rule of Sassanid nobles named Kushanshahs or "Kings of the Kushans". Kartir, a high-priest that served as advisor to at least three of the early kings, instigated the persecution of non-Zoroastrians, that is, Christians, Buddhists, Jews, Hindus and – in particular – the Manichaeans, who were primarily in and from the eastern territories. The persecution ceased during the reign of Narseh (r. 293–302). Around 325, Shapur II was directly in charge of the southern part of the territory, while in the north the Kushanshahs maintained their rule until the rise of the Kidarites. The decline of the Kushans and their defeat by the Sassanids led to the rise of an indigenous Indian dynasty, the Guptas, in the 4th century. In 410, the Hephthalites or Indo-Hephthalites conquered Bactria and Gandhara, thus temporarily replacing the Indo-Sassanids.

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MA-Shops: The Gallic Empire

For some years, there was an empire inside the Roman-Empire. It had his own a Praetorian Guard, two yearly elected consuls and possibly its own senate.

This empire is known as the Gallic-Empire or in Latin as Imperium Galliarum. The Empire came to life when the Roman Empire was very weak. Some years before 260 (the year the Gallic Empire was founded by Postumus), the Roman Empire had a hard time on his borders. Valerian (since 253 was his son Gallienus also Caesar and colleague of his farther) was defeated in the Battle of Edessa by the Sassanids in the beginning of the year 260.

After this battle he arranged a meeting with Shapur I (also known as Shapur the Great, he was the second shahanshah1 of the Sasanian Empire) to talk about peace. Unfortunately, for Valerian, Shapur seized him and held him prisoner for the rest of his life. This combined with troubles at other borders and the economic problems in the empire made it possible for Postumus to establish the Gallic empire.

Antoninian – POSTUMUS

6,150.00 US$

Obv. IMP C POSTVMVS P F AVG. Draped armor bust
Rev. VICTORI–A POSTVMI AVG. Roma on throne

Sestertius Trier Postumus

2,700.00 US$

Weight: 12.34 g – Diameter: 30.10 mm
Catalog: RIC:144var, AD 260-269,

Laureate, draped & cuirassed bust left, raising right hand,Galley right with four rowers, steersman,This Sestertius with portrait left is extremely rare. Furthermore, the exergue on reverse is with SC instead of AVG. Probably unpublished and unique,IMP C POSTVMVS P F AVG,LAETITIA SC

Who was Postumus?

However, who was this man, Postumus, who established an empire at his own? At this time, he was governor in Germania inferior and Germania Superior. We know next to nothing about his early life or where he was born. What we know for sure is that he had defeated the Franks in 260 and was popular in the Batavian region. He must have been a very powerful man.

Gallienus had his son, Saloninus with the prefect Silvanus, stationed in Cologne (Keulen). Probably to keep an eye on the ambitious Postumus. In 260 when Gallienus could not control the Gallic region due problems in the east, Postumus must have seen his chance to gain his power. He sieged the city Cologne and murdered Saloninus and the prefect Silvanus.

You must imagine that Gallienus could not do anything he was at the other side of the empire he did not had the men nor the resources to attack Postumus. It was so frustrating for him that he once wrote to Postumus the question if he wanted to fight with him in a one to one battle. Postumus was not interested in fighting he just wanted to consolidate his empire. His empire included Britannia, Gaul, Germania and for a time Hispania.

Antoninian 268 AD Laelianus

2,050.00 US$

Weight: 3.38 g – Diameter: 19.77 mm

Antoninianus 268 AD. Postumus

1,650.00 US$

Weight: 3.09 g
Catalog: RIC 324 Elmer 592.
Colonia Agrippinensis.
Obv: IMP C POSTUMUS P F AUG, radiate, draped, cuirassed bust of Postumus to the right.
Rev: REST ORBIS Postumus standing to the right, spear in left hand.

Two coin classifications

The coins of Postumus are in my opinion one of the most beautiful coins the romans ever created. Real artists must have been worked in the mints of the Gallic empire. Famous are the coins from Postumus with Hercules or three-quarters facing busts on some coins of Postumus. There were also many contemporary copies in circulation during the reign of Postumus.

It is possible to classify these copies into two groups. First, the coins, denarii and aurei, that intended to deceive people. They were not made from silver or gold but from another, cheaper, metal. Second, the coins made from base metals. They were not made to deceive, there was no gain for the counterfeiters in this. These coins were made by small unofficial mints on local basis. The reason for this is that the official mints could not meet the demand of small denominations.2

In a later blog, I will go discuss further the iconography of the Hercules coins of Postumus.

Postumus – AE Sestertius

1,175.00 US$

Weight 22.1g. – Diameter ca.31mm
IMP C POSTVMVS P F AVG, radiate, draped and cuirassed bust right
SALVS AVG, Salus seated left on an ornate chair, holding patera towards a serpent rising from an altar to left.

2  Bland, R.(2012-02-10). From Gordian III to the Gallic Empire (AD 238–274). In The Oxford Handbook of Greek and Roman Coinage

Resources for this course

This podcast gives you a brief introduction to the course from your tutor, Dr. Steve Kershaw.

This link takes you to a coin of Decius in the British Museum. You will find other useful links and information about him on the BM's website.

This link takes you to images and information about the triumph relief of Shapur I (241-272) at Naqsh-i-Rustam.

THis link gives you images an information about Shapur I's relief at Bishapur.

This link gives you images and information about Shapur's relief at Bishapur.

This link gives you images, information and further links about Postumus, founder of the 'Gallic Empire'

This link give images, information and other links relevant to Claudius II Gothicus.

This link gives you images, information and further links from the Portable Antiquities Scheme website.

This link gives you images, information and further links relevant to the Emperor Tacitus (275-6 CE)

THis link gives you information, images and firther links relevant to the Emperor Florianus.

This link takes you to a coin of Probus in the British Museum. You will find other useful links and information about him on the BM's website.

This link gives information, images and further links relevany to the Emperor Carus.

This link takes you to a site with images and information about the coinage of the Tetrarchy.

This link takes you to a site dedicated to the Notitia Dignitatum

This link give you information about coins of Carausius

This link takes you to information about the medallions of the usurper Carausius.

A map showing the Roman Empire after Diocletian's reforms.

This link takes you to a selection of articles on the Notitia Dignitatum by Dr. Ingo Maier.

These over-life-size statues of Constantine are currently displayed in the Capitoline Museum, Rome.

These images give views and details of the Arch of Constantine at Rome.

This link shows you how the various sculptural elements are distributed on the Arch of Constantine in Rome

Watch the video: Sonali Bhoir, Shiva Mhatre 2019 Song. Thane Zilyat Naav Gajtay Bhatsai. New Marathi Song 2019 (August 2022).