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A rare late Sasanian drachm of Khusro III


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Sasanian Kingdom. Treasury mint. Khusro III (c.631-2 CE), Year 2. AR drachm (3.47 g, 29 mm). Obverse: Beardless bust of king left, wearing same crown as Khusro II, behind head AFZUT (may [his glory] increase), name in Pahlavi script before. Reverse: Fire-altar with two attendants, star and crescent, to right mintmark WYHC (Treasury mint), to left Year 2. Gobl 232. This coin: Stephen Album Auction 46 (May 18-21, 2023), lot 1657.

In 628, a conspiracy of nobles removed Khusro II from the Sasanian throne, put him through a show trial, and executed him. This would set off a highly unsettled period in Sasanian history that would end in the empire being conquered by the nascent Islamic caliphate. The oldest son of Khusro II took the throne as Kavad II, and promptly executed all his surviving brothers and brothers-in-law to remove potential rivals. Kavad made peace with the Byzantines, but soon died, apparently of natural causes, and was succeeded by his young son Ardashir III (628-630). Ardashir was essentially a puppet of two powerful officials, until one of them, a general, Shahrbaraz, took the throne for himself. There followed a particularly confused period, where there were often several simultaneous contenders for the throne, each controlling only a portion of the country. Khusro III (c.631-2) was a son of either Kavad II or of Khusro II (who survived by being outside the Sasanian domains when Kavad killed his siblings). After asserting his own claim to the throne, he was able to rule the Khorasan region in northeastern Iran for a few months before being killed. His coins (silver drachms, no gold or bronze known) feature a beardless bust (unusual for Sasanian coins) and are all dated Year 2. (Sasanian regnal year dating bases Year 1 on whether the coronation is before of after the Nowruz holiday; rulers crowned after Nowruz would start out in Year 2, so several of the later rulers have coins dated Year 2 despite ruling for only a few months.) There is some confusion in the literature between Khusro III and Khusro V, who also issued coins dated Year 2; but it seems that coins of Khusro V show a bearded portrait, while Khusro III is clean-shaven. (My years of collecting Parthian coins have made me expect such confusion and difference of opinion among experts.) This is a fairly rare coin, and I was happy to acquire it. Please post whatever related coins you have.

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