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Praying figure on Arab-Sasanian coin


Parthicus
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Arab-Sasanians. AE pashiz (2.66 g, 21 mm). No date (c. late 600s- early 700s CE). Obverse: Cartoonish crowned bust derived from Sasanian prototypes, Pahlavi legend before bust LWBAK (current), uncertain legend behind. Reverse: Standing figure wearing flat headdress, hands extended out in prayer posture, uncertain legends to either side. Gyselen 88. This coin: Pars Coins Auction 31 (October 31, 2022), lot 354.

As I've discussed before, as the early Islamic Caliphate expanded out of its Arabian homeland, it initially copied the coin designs of its recently conquered enemies. In former Sasanian territory, this mainly consisted of silver drachms, which continued to bear Sasanian designs with just the addition of Arabic legends. Bronze coinage in the ex-Sasanian territory was more varied, however, with numerous varieties of both obverse and reverse designs. On this coin, the obverse design is derived from standard Sasanian portraiture, though with a simplified execution. The reverse type, however, is novel for Sasanian coins, and shows a figure standing upright and holding their hands out in a gesture of prayer. Unfortunately, the legends aren't very readable. The clearest part is before the bust and seems to read "current', which is found on some other coins and presumably is meant to validate the coin for circulation. This seems to be a rare type- only one example is listed by Gyselen in her 2000 catalogue. This is not a very pretty specimen, but the reverse type is interesting, and I kind of like the artistic style of the obverse, it reminds me a bit of Celtic coin art. Please post whatever related coins you have.

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Fascinating, @Parthicus.  Even with my passing acquaintance with ignorance of the series, it's cool to compare the Arab-Sasanian and Arab-Byzantine issues, for their closely complementary levels of imitation.  Is the prayer posture typical of Muslim gestural liturgy?  It's very reminiscent of the orans.

Here's my one and only hemidrachm (or reduced drachm?) of Taberistan, Umar ibn A'la, year 125 AH.  I think it's cool for combining Kufic and Pahlavi legends --even though I can't read them!  As far as the condition and strike, it was a combinatation of coaching and beginner's luck --please don't throw anything too ripe!

Listing Image

Edited by JeandAcre
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Interesting coin @Parthicus I don't have any Arad-Sasanian AEs but I do have some relevant coins - this Arab Byzantine AE and an early Khushro type drachm.

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Islamic, Umayyad Caliphate, Arab-Byzantine. Dimashq. Damascus (Syria). temp. Mu'awiya I ibn Abi Sufyan AH 41-60. Æ Fals (18.5mm, 3.85 g, 7h)

Obv: Standing imperial figure, holding long cross and globus cruciger, to left, bird standing right on T, ΔAMACKOC to right

Rev: Large M, monogram above, star (or crescent) below, ja’iz left, darb right, dimashq in exergue in Arabic

1092088285_MuawiyahIUmayyadCaliphate.jpg.e22cb131e4fb9955ecde597a40a2724d.jpg

Islamic, Umayyad Caliphate, time of Mu'awiya I ibn Abi Sufyan, AH 41-60 / AD 661-680, AR Drachm, Khusro type, BYŠ (Bishapur) mint, dated AH 48 (AD 668/9).

Obv: Crowned Sasanian-style bust right; rabbi and bismillah in Arabic in outer margin

Rev: Fire altar with ribbons and attendants; star and crescent flanking flames; date to left; mint to right

Ref: SICA I 122-7; Walker, Arab-Sasanian 25; Album 5

Note: This type is now identified as an issue of Ziyad b. Abi Sufyan as governor of al-Basra, before he was granted the governorship of al-Kufa as well. (Album 5) administrator of the Umayyad caliphate, governor of Basra in 665–670, first governor of Iraq and virtual viceroy of the eastern Caliphate between 670 and his death.

 

Edited by Sulla80
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@Sulla80, I have to wonder if the later phases of stylization of the Sasanian reverse, as in your Arab-Sasanian example, just might have had a peripheral influence on the reverse of @Parthicus' example. 

This was a period in which, all the way to sceattas, a primary influence on coin designs was ...eachother.  It's easy to speculate that, especially in the relative absence of literacy, whether of Anglo-Saxons and Frisians in Latin, or the nuances of late Roman culture generally, or of the early Caliphate, at least relative to the Roumaions, the numismatic prototypes could have been interpreted in funly creative ways.  Perhaps, to a degree, the same could have held with how the earliest Muslims read Sasanian coins. 

Edited by JeandAcre
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Very cool, @Parthicus!!  I haven't seen this prayer type before, only the al-Hajjaj version, of which I have an example (al-Hajjaj b. Yusuf, 694-713):

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I like the exaggerated hands. It's a bit ironic that at about the same time, al-Hajjaj was the guy who made the script-only dirhams happen.

@JeandAcre, I have another pashiz that copies both Byzantine and Sasanian designs:

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From the same time period or perhaps a little earlier. The obverse is based on the folles of Heraclius plus Heraclius Constantine, while the mythical beast on the reverse is called the Gopatshah, sort of the bull version of a centaur.

Edited by Severus Alexander
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16 hours ago, JeandAcre said:

@Sulla80, I have to wonder if the later phases of stylization of the Sasanian reverse, as in your Arab-Sasanian example, just might have had a peripheral influence on the reverse of @Parthicus' example. 

This was a period in which, all the way to sceattas, a primary influence on coin designs was ...eachother.  It's easy to speculate that, especially in the relative absence of literacy, whether of Anglo-Saxons and Frisians in Latin, or the nuances of late Roman culture generally, or of the early Caliphate, at least relative to the Roumaions, the numismatic prototypes could have been interpreted in funnily creative ways.  Perhaps, to a degree, the same could have held with how the earliest Muslims read Sasanian coins. 

While I can't make the argument, I do see the visual similarity that you describe: "guy on front", and on the back the figure in praying posture, does look a bit like my fire alter:

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when I first saw this coin - I was convinced that it was a Roman republican "bust of Saturn" or contemporary imitation from Spain:

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It is in reality a Pisidian Zeus...https://www.sullacoins.com/post/mark-antony-pisidia

Edited by Sulla80
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