An Emerging Story
Updated: Jul 4
I have been accumulating some interesting, and good looking coins from Asia, roughly areas today that are Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The map (Wikipedia CCSA-3.0) shows the maximum extent of the Greco-Bactrian kingdom circa 180 BCE. Like pieces of a puzzle they are starting to come together to tell a story. It is a story of change in rulers, conflict and blending of cultures that is still taking shape, fragmented and incomplete. Here's what I have so far: Hermaios was the last Indo-Greek ruler of the Gandhara.
Bactria, Indo-Greek Kingdom, Hermaios, circa 105-90 BCE, Æ Tetradrachm (23mm, 9g, 12h), postumous issue, struck circa 90-50 BC
Obv: Diademed and draped bust right
Rev: Zeus seated slightly left, extending arm and holding scepter; monograms flanking
Hermaios' coinage was imitated by the conquering Greater Yuezhi, a nomadic pastoralist society known for their horses. They came from western China and conquered Bactria ~140-125 BC. The Yuezhi transitioned from nomadic to sedentary, agricultural society as they expanded control, integrated diverse cultures and populations of the region and became the Kushan empire in the 1st century CE.
Greco-Bactrian Kingdom, Hermaios Soter, circa 105-90 BCE, AR tetradrachm, Posthumous Indo-Skythian imitation, uncertain mint in Gandhara, struck circa 55-45 BC
Obv: Hermaios Soter diademed and draped bust right
Rev: Zeus enthroned slightly left, holding scepter and raising hand in benediction; monogram to left, Kharoshthi letter to right
Ref: Bopearachchi 14F
India, Kushan Empire, Kanishka I, circa CE 127-151, Æ Drachm (16mm, 3.8g, 12h), Kashmir mint
Obv: Kanishka standing left, holding goad and standard, sacrificing over altar; sam in Kharosthi to right
Rev: Mao standing left, lunar horns at shoulders, extending hand in benediction and holding hilt of sword; tamgha to left
Obv: MK 802; ANS Kushan 642-5; Donum Burns 195-8; Zeno –
Note: "lunar horns" appear to be a way of describing the"horns" of a crescent moon for lunar god Mao, an important Zoroastrian lunar deity found on the coins of the Kushan Empire in martial dress. Mao is linked with the female goddess in Greek mythology: Selene, the lunar sister of Helios.
MK == Göbl, Robert. Münzprägung des Kusanreiches. Österreichischen Akademie Der Wissenschaften. (Wien, 1984).
ANS Kushan == Jongeward, D. & J. Cribb. Kushan, Kushano-Sasanian, and Kidarite Coins: A Catalogue of Coins from the American Numismatic Society. (New York, 2015).
In 233 CE, Ardashir I Kushanshah, was appointed by Sasasnian King of the same name, Ardashir I, as a Sasanian ruler and perhaps family member to replace Kushan rule, eventually covering the Turkharistan, Kabulistan and Gandhara regions. (The purple region in the map below).
Here is a coin of Ardashir I Kushanshah:
Kushano-Sasanians, Ardaxšīr (Ardashir I–II), circa CE 233-246, Æ (19mm, 3.59 g, 1h), Merv mint
Obv: Crowned bust right
Rev: Anahit seated facing under domed canopy, holding wreath and scepter
Ref: Carter –; Cribb 16; MK 1028; Donum Burns 831-46
Note: Anahit or Anahita is a Zoroastrian goddess of water and fertility
Here's an unusual Kushano-Sasanian AE from Hormizd I Kushanshah
Kushano-Sasanians, Hormizd I, circa 275-300 CE, AE Unit (Bronze, 15x17mm, 3.46g)
Obv: bust of Hormizd I to right, wearing crown
Rev: Fire altar
Around 360–370 CE, a Kidarite kingdom replaced the Kushano-Sasanian kingdom. The Kidarites, were the first wave of people from Central Asia to enter Indian Subcontinent via the via the Khyber Pass, a mountain pass near the modern border of Pakistan and Afghanistan. In 390-410 CE they expanded to include the remnants of the Kushan Empire.
Sasanian King Vahram (420-438 CE), aka Vahrahan or Bahram, was born around 400 CE to the Sasanian King Yazdegard I (399-420 CE) and his wife Shushandukht. His mother was the daughter of Jewish Mesopotamian exilarch, a leader in the Jewish community.
Yaudheya was an ancient militant confederation they emerged in the 5th century BCE, governed independently for a while, were incorporated into the Maurya Empire, regained autonomy, they were then conquered by the Western Kshatraps, briefly won autonomy again and joined the Kushan Empire.
Yaudheyas, Anonymous,circa 3rd-4th Century AD. Æ 25mm (11.38 gm)
Obv: Karttikeya standing facing, holding spear and resting hand on hip; peacock standing left in right field
Rev: Female (Karttikeya's consort Devasena?) standing left, wearing earrings, necklace, and bracelets, extending hand and resting other hand on hip; vase of flowers in left field; inverted Nandipada symbol in right field
Ref: Mitchiner 4711
Sasanian King, Vahram I, fought a significant and decisive war with the Kidarite Huns in the eastern part of Sasanian territory. Vahram ultimately killing the Kidarite king and forced out the Kidarites.
Peroz I was the Sasanian King 459 to 484 CE, son of Yazdegerd II, and grandson of Vahram V.
Sasanian, Peroz I, ca. CE 457-484, AR drachm
Obv: Pahlavi legend, bust of Peroz I facing, head right, wearing crown with two wings, frontal crescent, and korymbos set on crescent, ribbon over each shoulder
Rev: Pahlavi legend, fire altar with ribbons, flanked by two attendants; star and crescent flanking flames
Size: 4.11g, 27.3mm
The Alchon Empire was the third of four Hun states established in Central and South Asia. The Alchon Huns, an nomadic people in the 4th an-6th centuries CE, came after the Kidarites and were displaced by the Hephthalites in Bactria and the Nezak Huns in the Hindu Kush. Sassanian King, Peroz I, was defeated by the Hepthalites in 474 CE. The Helpthalites were initially his allies, as Peroz replaced his brother as king of the Sassanian Empire, however they fought three wars in two of which Peroz was captured and ransomed. The Hepthalites received tributes from the Sanssanian empire until the rise of Kushro I, son of Kavadh I and grandson of Peroz I.
Sasanian Kings, Kavadh I (second reign, CE 499-531) AR Drachm, ML (Merv) mint, RY 34 = CE 522/3
Obv: Draped bust of Kavadh I to right, wearing mural crown with frontal crescent and korymbos set on crescent
Rev: Fire altar with ribbons flanked by two attendants; star and pellet flanking flames
Hunnic Tribes, Alchon Huns, Narana-Narenda, Late 4th-early 5th century CE, Æ Drachm
Obv: Crowned bust right [holding palm and fruits?]
Rev: Incuse of obverse
Ref: M. 1444, Göbl, Hunnen Em. 150
This coin which is from one of the small Kidarite kingdoms that survived in northwest India, Jammu and Kashmir.
India, Post-Kushan (Jammu and Kashmir), Kidarite Successors, Vinayaditya, 5th to 6th century CE, Stater (Electrum, 20-22mm, 7.48g)
Obv: Abstract Kushan-style king standing to left
Rev: Abstract Ardoksho seated facing, DITYA (in Brahmi) to left, ŠRIVINAYA (in Brahmi) down right
Note: Ardoksho is the Khushan goddess of fertility that is analogous to the Persian Anahita
That's where the notes end for now, more research needed....
The Dieties on Kushano-Sasanian Coins, Fabrizio Sinisi, 2015
Cribb, J. (2010). The Kidarites, the numismatic evidence. Coins, Art and Chronology II, Edited by M. Alram Et Al.
Donum Burns, die Kušānmünzen in Münzkabinett Bern und die Chronologie, Wien, 1993
Tarn (1951) Greeks in Bactria and India
Cribb, Joe (1981), 'Gandharan Hoards of Kushano-Sasanian and Late Kushan Coppers' in Coin Hoards VI, Royal Numismatic Society, London, pp. 93-108, figs. 8-11.