Art & Architecture
An Analysis of Base Metal and AE Fractions in the Context of
Sasanian Economy in the Fifth and Sixth Centuries AD
Part I: Varhran V to Khusru I
The study of the base metal coinage of the Sasanian Empire remains one of the most problematic, yet fascinating chapters, in the numismatic history of late Antiquity and the Early Medieval world. Although scant, various references and examples give us a clear picture of precious metal coinage from this era. For example, monumental works of Tabari, Dinvari, Baladhuri, and Qumi, even in their limited way, have provided us with clues about the debased silver drachms of the late Sasanian and early Post-Sasanian (Islamic) periods. However, we have very scattered and almost in many instances no information that describes the shaping of the domestic economy of Sasanian Iran, which we know remained highly influential in the formation of the rise or fall of AE (alloy) and base metal coinage.
This study, presented in two parts, follows the advent, development, and disappearance of base metal coinage, beginning in the middle years of the Empire. Our research begins with Varhran V, from whose reign we have ample evidence of an economic crisis and, subsequently, a serious inflationary increase in the price of goods as well as labor. Part I outlines the story until the reign of Khusru I, and Part II continues until the early years of the Arab invasion of Iran. The discussions of the various periods from the time of Varhran V focus on the underlying monetary, economic, and esoteric background surrounding the development of the debased metal and alloy coinage. To validate the discussions, hundreds of images and illustrations are provided. It is only fair to state that until now many of these images have been all but unavailable, that is, quite scarce or never published before.
In order to reconstruct and verify the use of AE or base metal coinage of this era, numerous historical records and facts have been referenced. Moreover, in view of the scarcity of coinage information, the subject is explored in conjunction with economic, political, and social facts of the time. Even though not purely numismatic, such details must be kept in the foreground to minimize speculation and derive credible conclusions.
Like in other types of archaeological research, researchers must ultimately depend on their minds to link a multitude of facts, assumptions, and speculations. Hence, only through the highest faculties of thinking can truth, or at least the footprints leading to it, be discovered and appreciated.
2004: xii+ 185pp., illustrations, bibl., index.
ISBN 1-56859-117-9 (soft cover): $45.00
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