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A scarce Sasanian mint: Amul in Tabaristan


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Sasanian Kingdom. Amul mint. AR drachm. Khusro I (531-579). Regnal Year 20. Obverse: Bust of king right, name before. Reverse: Zoroastrian fire-altar with two attendants, mintmark AM to right, date 20 to left. This coin: Pars Coins Auction 28, lot 133 (2022).

(historical section contains re-used text)
Khusro's father, king Kavadh I (488-531 AD), had favored a radical Zoroastrian sect called the Mazdakites. The Mazdakites preached a doctrine with some resemblance to socialism, including sharing the resources of the aristocracy with the lower classes. (Kavadh may have supported the Mazdakites as a way to break the power of the nobility, leaving the central monarchy in control.) The Mazdakites also practiced wife-swapping, though some killjoy historians claim this aspect was over-emphasized by their enemies. Upon Kavadh's death, he named his younger son Khusro as successor. The Mazdakites supported the oldest son, Kawus; but Khusro soon defeated his sibling, executed the leader of the Mazdakites and many of his followers, and was successful in reestablishing Zoroastrian orthodoxy. Politically, Khusro continued to fight the powers of the aristocracy and minor nobles, removing the exemption from taxation that many of the wealthy families had enjoyed and installing government employees as tax collectors, instead of leaving local tax collection to the corrupt nobles. He also encouraged small landowners, and was strict in punishing any corruption by government officials. He fought a number of wars against the Byzantines, and also campaigned against the Hephthalites in Central Asia and established a military presence in Yemen. Overall, he is considered one of the greatest kings of the Sasanian dynasty, and is still revered in Iran as Anushiruwan (Immortal Soul); his Wikipedia article even shows a statue of "Anushiruwan the Just" in Tehran's main courthouse:

I already had several coins of Khusro I, what appealed to me about this one is the uncommon mintmark of AM. This mintmark has been established to indicate the city of Amul (also spelled Amol), which was the capital of Tabaristan (on the southern shore of the Caspian Sea) in Sasanian and early Islamic times, and is today a city of 300,000 people in Mazandaran Province, Iran. Tabaristan, of course, is famous among numismatists for the series of Sassanian-style hemidrachms issued for decades after the Sasanian kingdom had collapsed, both under independent rulers and under governors from the Abbasid Caliphate. Less is known about the region during Sasanian times, but it appears to have been prosperous, and Amul a center of scholarship. The AM mintmark is rather scarce: an analysis of published hoards and collections by H. M. Malek (citation below) found that less than 1% of Sasanian drachms with legible mintmarks are from the AM mint. I was happy to add this one to my collection, at the relatively low bid of $44. Please post your coins from Amul, or of Khusro I, or whatever else is related.

For more on Sasanian coins from Amul, please see the article that inspired me to buy this coin:
Hodge Mehdi Malek, "Sasanian Coins from Amul, Tabaristan". In Mostafa Faghfoury (editor), Ancient Iranian Numismatics: In Memory of David Sellwood. University of California, Irvine, 2020. ISBN: 978-1-949743-16-6.

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Brilliant explication and --happy to take your word for it-- a remarkable example, @Parthicus.

My very first Sasanian, back to the only coin shop there was, across the bridge from my home town, was of Khusro I.  It had to be a much commoner mint, but I grew up thinking he had to be the commonest reign.  I've since, gradually learned better!  Even from available secondary sources, his centrality to the history of the empire is beyond serious dispute.


Edited by JeandAcre
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