Sassanian Coinage

    The Sassanid Persian Empire, also called the Second Persian Empire, the Sassanian Dynasty or Eranshahr (the Iranian Empire), was the last pre-Islamic empire in the Middle East. Lasting from AD 224 to 651, it was founded upon the defeat of the Parthians, and was itself defeated by the first Islamic empire. Its official religion was Zoroastrianism. The Sassanid Empire and the Roman Empire, caught between mutual respect and fear, were almost constantly at war for four hundred years.

    Sassanid kings were called Shahanshah (King of Kings). They ran a centralized government and an extensive army. They had an enormous trade network which over time dominated the region from east to west. Mints were generally controlled centrally by the state. They produced three main types of coinage: gold (uncommon), bronze/copper/lead, and silver (most common). The basic denomination was the drachm, usually silver. One hallmark of Sassanian coinage is its thinner flan, as opposed to the thick flans of the Greco-Roman world; thinner coinage subsequently became the common type. The obverse of a Sassanian coin usually shows the emperor in profile in great detail. The Sassanid king was the guardian of the sacred fire; thus fire imagery commonly appears on the coins’ reverse. The inscriptions on coinage are usually in Pahlavi, a Middle Iranian language written in an Aramaic script.

    Sassanian coinage has been found from Sweden to China, and it even continued to circulate after the Empire’s fall.

    Shapur I