Numismatics Oriental Coins
gold silver money greek inscriptions coinage struck persian indian empire
NUMISMATICS ORIENTAL COINS - may be best classed as ancient Persian, Arab, modern Persian and Afghan, Indian, and Chinese, and other issues of the far East. The first place is held by the money of the old Persian empire, the Parthians, and the Sasanians. The conquests of the Arabs introduce a new currency, carried on by the Moslem inheritors of their empire. The modern Persian and Afghan money, though of Arab origin, is distinguished by the use of the Persian language with Arabic. The Indian currencies, though Greek, Sanskrit, Arab, and Persian in their inscriptions, must be grouped together on account of their mutual dependence. They rise with the Bactrian kings, whose Greek types are gradually debased by the Indo-Scythians and Guptas ; these are followed by a group of currencies with Sanskrit legends ; next follow the money of Arab conquerors and the great series of the Pathans of Delhi and subsidiary dynasties, with Arabic inscriptions ; the main series is continued in the currency of the Moguls, who largely use Persian, and the last series is closed by local currencies mainly with Sanskrit or Arabic legends. The Chinese coinages form the source and centre of the group of the far East, which, however, includes certain exceptional issues. The order throughout is historical, each empire or kingdom being followed by the smaller states into which it broke up, and then by the larger ones which were formed by the union of these fragments.
The Persian coinage was originated by Darius I. (Hystaspis) about the time that he organized the empire in satrapies (516 B.c.). The regular taxation thus introduced made a uniform coinage necessary. Avoiding the complex gold system of Crcesus, which was intended to accommodate the Greek cities in commercial relation with Lydia, Darius chose two weights, the gold stater of Crcesus of 126 grains and the silver drachm of 84. He raised the weight of both, the gold to about 130 grains and the silver to 86. Thus one gold piece was equal to twenty silver. The gold coin was called the dark, the silver the siglus. The metal was very pure, especially that of the dark. Thus not only were the Lydian gold and silver coins of inferior weight thrown out of circulation, but the Persian gold, from its purity, became dominant, and was the chief gold currency of the ancient world so long as the empire lasted. The issuing of gold was a royal prerogative. Silver money was coined not only by the king but in the provinces by satraps, who used local types, and by tributary states. The following classes must be distinguished : (1) regal, (2) provincial with regal types, (3) satrapal, (4) of tributary states. The art of Persian coins varies according to the locality, from the beautiful work of the west coast of Asia Minor to the more formal style of Cilicia and the thoroughly hieratic stiffness of Phoenicia and Persia.
The regal coinage is of darics and double darics in gold and of sigh in silver. The obverse type is the king as an archer, the reverse an irregular oblong incase. The darics show differences of style, and must extend through the whole period of the empire. The sigh no doubt run parallel with them. Both these denominations are nninscribed. The double darics are of late style, and nearly all bear either Greek letters or monograms or symbols, sometimes both. They are undoubtedly of the last age of the empire or subsequent to its fall.
The provincial coins with regal types appear to be mostly Phoenician ; the most important classes have been already noticed. But they also occur beyond this territory, as at hallos in Cilicia, where the Persian regal archer is combined with the reverse of Heracles strangling the Nemean lion, with the inscription MAA.
The satrapal coinage is very important and interesting. It belongs mainly to Cilicia. The most remarkable series is that with a bearded head wearing a tiara, with various reverses, certainly struck at Colophon, Cyzicus, and Lampsacus, and in one instance bearing the name of the satrap Pharnabazus, but usually the word " king " in Greek. The coin of Colophon shows a splendid portrait, one of the finest instances of Ionian work. It has been held to represent Artaxerxes II. (Mnemon), but has been lately assigned to Pharnabazus on the ground that the head-dress is not the proper regal kidaris. This is an objection, yet it seems inconceivable that the king of Persia would have countenanced the issue of the portrait of a satrap at a time when no Greek dynast dared to place his head on his own coinage. Of other satrapal issues those of Datames, of Tiribazus, and Cilician issues, struck at Tarsus, are specially noteworthy. Their inscriptions are Aramaic.
The coinages of the tributary states have been in part noticed in their geographical order ; it is difficult to separate them from the provincial issues with regal types.
The conquest of Alexander did not wholly destroy the independ• P ence of Persia. Within less than a century the warlike Parthians, tI once subjects of Persia, revolted (249-8 B. c.) against the Seleucids and formed a kingdom which speedily became an empire, ultimately the one successful rival of Rome. Their money is Greek in standard and inscriptions, as well as in the origin of types. The coins are silver, following the Attic weight, the chief piece being the drachm, though the tetradrachm is not infrequent ; there are also bronze coins, but none in gold are known. The drachm has the bead of the king on the obverse, diademed or with a regal head-dress, and on the reverse the founder Arsaces seated, holding a strung bow. the later tetradraehms varying this uniformity. Every kind is styled Arsaces, to which many of the later sovereigns add their proper names. The inscriptions are usually long, reaching a climax in such as BAEIAME BAIIAESIN APEAKOY MErAAOY AIKAIOY EIIPPANOYE OEOY EYIIATOPOE 4'4AEAAHNOE of the 11th Arsacid, Mithradates III., where we see the double influence of Persian and Seleucid styles and the desire to conciliate the Greek cities. Very noticeable are the coins which bear the portraits of Phraataces (14th king) and his mother, the Italian slave Musa, with the title queen (DEAF OYPANIAE MOYEHE BAEIAIEEHE).
The Persian line of the Sasanians arose about 220 A.D., and ti wrested the empire from the Parthians in 226-7, under the leadership of Ardashir or Artaxerxes. This dynasty issued a national and thus Oriental coinage in gold and silver. The denominations follow the Roman system, and there are but two coins, equivalent to the aurcus or solidus and the denarius. The obverse has the king's bust, usually wearing a very large and elaborate head-dress, varied with each sovereign, and on the reverse the sacred fire-altar, ordinarily flanked by the king and a priest. The attachment which Ardashir, the founder, bore to Zoroastrianism established this national reverse type, which endured through the four hundred years of the sovereignty of his line. The inscriptions are Pahlavi. The Arab coinage forms the most important Oriental group. It has a duration of twelve centuries and a half, and at its widest a geographical extension was coined from Morocco to the borders of China. When the Arabs made their great conquests money became a necessity. They first adopted in the East imitations of the current Persian silver pieces of the last Sasanians, but in Syria and Palestine of the Byzantine copper, in Africa of the gold of the same currency. Of these early coins the Sasanian imitations are very curious with Pahlavi inscriptions and shorter ones in Arabic (Cufic). The regular coinage with purely Moslem inscriptions begins with the issue of a silver coin at Basrah, in 40 A.n., by the caliph 'Ali ; after subsequent efforts thus to replace the Sasanian currency, the orthodox mintage was finally established, in 76 A. H., by 'AM al-Melik. The names of the denominations and the weight of that of gold are plainly indicative of Byzantine influence. There were three coins. The dinar of gold took its name from the aureus or denarius aureus, of which the solidus must have been held to be the representative, for the weight of the Arab coin, 66 grains and a fraction, is clearly derived from the Byzantine gold piece. The dirhem of silver is in name a revival of the Greek drachm ; it weighs at most 45 grains and a fraction. The copper piece is the fels, taking its name from the follis of the Greek empire. Commercially the gold easily exchanged, and the silver soon passed as the double of the Carlovingian denier. For long these were the only coins issued, except, and this but rarely, half and quarter dinars. There are properly no types. There was indeed an attempt in the early'Byzantino-Arab money to represent the caliph, and in the course of ages we shall observe some deviations from the general practice of Islam, particularly in the coinage of the atabegs and in Mohammedan coinages not of the Arab group, the modern Persian and that of the 3loguls of Delhi. The inscriptions are uniformly religious, save in some Tatar coinages and that of the Turks. In general the coins are for the first five centuries of their issue remarkably uniform in fabric and general appearance. They are always flat and generally thin. The whole of both sides of the coins is occupied by inscriptions in the formal Cufic character, usually arranged horizontally in the area and iu a single or double band around. Towards the fall of the caliphate a new type of coin begins, mainly differing in the greater size of the pieces. There are new multiples of the dindr and ultimately of the dirhem, and the silver pieces frequently have their inscriptions within and around a square, a form also used for gold. The Cufic character becomes highly ornamental, and speedily gives way to the flexuous naskhi of modern writing. The inscriptions are religious, with the addition of the year by the era of the Flight, the month sometimes being added, and the mint occurs uniformly on silver and copper, but does not appear on the gold until after the fall of the Omayyad dynasty. Subsequently the official name of the caliph occurs. The religious part of the inscriptions is various, the most usual formula being the profession of the Moslem faith : "There is no deity but God ; Mohammed is the apostle of God," to which the Shi'ites or followers of 'Ali iu Persia and Africa add "'Ali is the friend of God." The Moorish coins give long formulae and religious citations and ejaculations, and they, like the money of the Pathans of Delhi of the Indian class, have occasionally admonitions urging or suggesting the purer use of wealth. As Arab and other dynasties arose from the dismemberment of the caliphate, the names of kings occur, but for centuries they continued to respect the authority of their religious chief by coining in his name, even in the case of the shadowy 'Abbasids of Egypt, adding their own names even when at war with the caliph, as though they were mere provincial governors. After the fall of the caliphate some new denominations came in, chiefly of heavier weight than the dirhem and dinar, but the influence of the commercial states of Italy made the later Egyptian Mamelukes, the Turks, and the later Moors adopt the gold sequin. In more modern times the dollar found its way into the Moslem coinage of the states bordering on the Mediterranean. It can be readily seen that Arab coins have no art in the same sense as those of the Greeks. The beautiful inscriptions and the arabesque devices of the pieces of the close of the Middle Ages have, however, a distinct artistic merit.
The Omayyad coins owe their only historical value to the evidence which the silver affords of the extent of the empire at different times. The first separation of that empire dates from the overthrow of this dynasty by the 'Abbasids, speedily followed by the formation of the rival Omayyad caliphate of the West with its capital at Cordova. The 'Abbasid money has the same interest as that which it succeeded, but its information is fuller. Towards the fall of the line it becomes very handsome in the great coins, which are multiples of the dinar. The Spanish Omayyads struck silver almost exclusively. Their rise was followed by that of various lesser lines - the Edrisids (At) and Aghlabids (Nehiefly) in western Africa, the Beni Ulan (N), and, after a short interval, the Ikhshidids (N), both of Turkish origin, in Egypt. Meanwhile a new caliphate arose in western Africa which subdued Egypt, the Fatima° of the line of 'Ali, and for a while the allegiance of the Moslems was divided between three rival lines, the Omayyads of Spain, the Fatimites of Africa, and the 'Abbasids of Baghdad. The Fatimites introduced a new type of dinar, with the inscriptions in concentric circles, and struck little but gold. In the interim the Persians, who had long exercised a growing influence at the court of Baghdad, revived their power in a succession of dynasties which acknowledged the supremacy of the caliphate of Baghdad, but were virtually independent. These were the Tahirids, Saffarids, Samanids, Ziyarids, and Buweyhids, who mostly struck silver, but the last gold also. As the Persians had supplanted the Arabs, so they were in turn forced to give place to the Turks. The Ghaznawids formed a powerful kingdom iu Afghanistan (IT, Al), and the Seljnks established an empire (N), which divided into several kingdoms, occupying the best part of the East. Of these dynasties the Seljiihs of Ram or Asia Minor first strike a modern type of Arab coinage (At). The Seljuk dominions separated into many small states, the central ruled by atabegs or generals, and the similar Turkoman Urtukees. The atabeg money and that of the Turks of the house of Urtuk are mainly large copper pieces bearing on one side a figure borrowed from Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and other sources. They form a most remarkable innovation. In the same age the great but short-lived empire of Kharezm arose in the far East. The first caliphate to disappear was that of Spain, which broke up. into small dynasties, some claiming the prerogative of the caliphates. They chiefly struck base silver (billon) coins. The Christian kings gradually overthrew most of these lines. In the meantime various Berber families had gained power in western Africa and the Murabit6 (Almoravids) and Muwahhids (Almohadis) crossed the straits and restored the Moslem power in Spain. They struck gold money of fine work, and that of the later Muwahhids is remarkable for its size and thinness. At the fall of the Muwahhids the only powerful kingdom remaining was the Arab house of Granada, which, supported by the Berbers of Africa, lingered on until the days of Ferdinand and Isabella. The Fatimite dynasty was supplanted by the Kurdish line of the Eiribis, the family of Saladin, who ruled Egypt, Syria, and Mesopotamia, with a number of vassal states, some governed by princes of their own family, sonic by the older lines of the atabeg class which they allowed to survive. In Egypt the Eiytibi coinage is of gold, elsewhere of silver and copper. The caliphate of Baghdad, which latterly was almost limited to that town, though its abundant heavy gold coinage at this very time indicates great wealth, was overthrown by the new power of the Mongols (1263 A.D.), who established a group of empires and kingdoms, comprising the whole Eastern world eastward of the Euphrates and thence extending northward and reaching into Europe. The most important of these states for their money are that of the Mongols of Persia, founded by Hulagu, the conqueror of Baghdad, and ° that of the khans of the Golden Horde. Both struck silver, but there is also gold coinage of the Mongols of Persia, who more frequently use the Mongol character for their names and titles than is done under the kindred line. The power of the Mongols was held in check by the Mameluke kings of Egypt, slave-princes, who struck money in the three metals. The Mongol power waned, but was revived by Timm', who during his rule (1397) recovered all that had been lost. He and his successors struck silver, copper, and brass money. The Turks, whose power had been gradually growing, after a desperate struggle with Timur, gradually absorbed the whole Mohammedan world west of the Tigris, except only Morocco, where they had but a momentary dominion. Their money, of gold, silver, base metal, and bronze, is devoid of historical interest. In Tunis and Morocco a group of Berber lines long maintained. themselves, but at length only one survived, that of the sherifs of Morocco, claiming Arab descent, now ruling as the sole independent Moslem dynasty of northern Africa. Its recent coinage is singularly barbarous. It may be remarked that Tunis and Egypt have long coined Turkish money in their own mints, the more western state latterly adding the name of its hereditary prince to that of the sultan.
The coins of the shahs of Persia have their origin with 'smell (1502). They are struck in the three metals, and are remarkable for the elegance of their inscriptions, sometimes in flowing Arabic, sometimes in the still more flexuous native character. The inscriptions are at first Arabic ; after a time the religious formula' are in this language and the royal legend in Persian, usually as a poetical distich. The Persian series is also remarkable for the autonomous issues of its cities in copper, the obverse bearing some type, usually an animal. The coins of the Afghans form a class resembling in inscriptions those of the Persians, and equally using Persian distichs. They commence with Ahmad Shah Durani.
The Indian series begins with the money of the Greek kings of western India, commonly known as Bactrian, - a misnomer, only the earlier sovereigns having ruled Baetria. Between Alexander's money and the Grnco-Indian series there is a curious class, the very rare gold and silver of Andragoras, dynast of Parthia, and the silver of an Indian prince, Sophytes. The Grano-Indian weight is at first Attic ; coins are struck of gold, silver, bronze, and rarely nickel. The gold stater is limited to the earlier kings ; the silver tetradraehm is struck at first with divisions ; the Persie didrachm and drachm ultimately supersede it ; the bronze is either round or of the square form peculiar to India. The typos are Greek and very various. The inscriptions are at first Greek, but at an early time a native Indian inscription appears as a concession ; it occupies the reverse of bronze, and in time of silver money, and gives a translation of the Greek inscription. The character used is of two Indian alphabets, the common one being styled Bactrian Pali. Diodotus, the first Greo-Indian king, revolted against the Syrian ruler about 250 B.C. ; his money is Greek in its art. Under Euthydemus I., the next king, begins that peculiar style which gives these coins their special interest. It is realistic and vigorous, in portraiture reminding us of the best Italian medals. This is in part due to the leading away of the artists from Greek models to portray another race, for the heads are unmistakably Indian ; but it is also significant of an innate strength not to be traced in the portraits of the Ptolemies and the Seleueids. Here we plainly see the first impulse of Greece in the formation of Indian art, after it had been influenced by working in a new atmosphere. The portrait of Demetrius in an elephant's skin is very remarkable, and should be compared with the wholly ideal treatment of that of Alexander on the coins of Alexander IV. struck in Egypt. After One reign later the order of kings becomes obscure, but the style gives the relative ages of groups, which must be the money of contemporary lines. Agathoeles is noticeable for having struck commemorative coins of Alexander the Great, Diodotus, and Euthydemus I. Another characteristic portrait is that of Antimachus in the petasus or Greek bat. Eucratides struck the only Greek gold medal known to us, the great piece weighing twenty staters, now in the French cabinet. The later Greek money is of less interest ; it ends with Hermieus, perhaps about 50 B. C. Then follows a group of dynasts with barbarous names, who adhere more or less closely to Greek originals. A Parthian class breaks in in consequence of the conquests of Mithradates I. The Indo-Scythian class, which is of ranch interest, is fixed approximately to periods by finds in which aurei occur ranging from the earlier Roman emperors to the Antonines. This coinage is of gold and bronze, silver being almost unknown. The weights are Roman. The types are usually the figure or the bust of the king, and on the reverse a divinity. The inscriptions arc first Greek and the ordinary Indian of the GrrecoIndian coins, then, strangely, Greek only, barbarous enough. Cadplfises strikes the double aureus and the aureus. Under Canerees and his successors we notice aurei with an uncommon variety of divinities of Indian, Persian, Greek, and Roman mythology, as well as Buddha. The Gupta series is contemporary with the Indo-Scythian. It was struck in Kanauj, in the centre of northern India. It is a remarkable gold coinage, good and debased, as well as bronze. The mythological types are Indian alone, interesting and in good native style, which now first appears on coins in a pure form. The inscriptions are in Sanskrit letters. There is a series of silver coins struck in Cacch (Cutch) by the Sah kings of Saurastran ; they are derived from the later money of the Grmco -Indian class. The types are royal portraits and Buddhist emblems, &c,, of no great interest.
Quite as early as the invasion of Alexander, if not earlier, is a most curious class of square silver and bronze coins, punch-marked with a variety of devices, which circulated in northern India, and probably originated the square bronze coinage of the Grano-Indian kings.
The Arabs in the first days of conquest had subdued Sind, and founded an independent state on the banks of the Indus ; but it is hard to subdue India from this direction, and the strangers decayed and disappeared. The Pathan kings Caine of the Ghuri stock which rose on the ruins of the empire of Ghazneh. Mohan4iad ibn Sam made Delhi his capital, and here he and his successors, Pathans or slave-kings, ruled in great splendour, latterly rivalled by a line of Pathans of Bengal. Of the Pathans of Delhi we have an abundant coinage, the principal pieces being the gold mohur of about 168 grains, and the silver rupee of about the same weight, besides many pieces of bronze, and at one period of base metal. The coins are large and thick, with the profession of Islam or the style of the caliph on one side, on the other the name and titles of the reigning king. Mohammad ibn Taghlak struck coins with a great variety of inscriptions, some in the name of the shadowy 'Abbasid caliphs of Egypt, whose successors were for a time similarly honoured by later sovereigns. Towards the close of the rule of the Pathans several dynasties arose in central and southern India and struck similar money, the kings of Guzerat, of Malwa, and of the Deccan. The Pathan lines closed with Sher Shah, an Afghan, the last ruler of Bengal. Bihar, the Turki, of the family of Timm', seeking a kingdom, adventured on the conquest of Hindustan ; and after long wars with Sher Shah, carried on by Babar's son Humaynn, the famous Shah Akbar, grandson of the invader, was at length peaceably settled on the throne of Delhi, and he and his successors, the so-called Moguls of Delhi, practically subdued the whole of India. They retained the existing standard, but used the Arabic and Persian languages like the shahs of Persia. Akbar (1556) issued a splendid coinage in gold and silver, far more elegant than that of the Pathans, but the money of his son, Jahangir, is still more remarkable. He issued the famous zodiacal mohurs and rupees, as well as those astonishing Bacchanalian mohurs on which he is represented holding the wine-cup. Scarcely less strange is the money of the beautiful queen MrJahan. Under Shah Jahom there is a visible falling away in the merit of the coins, and an ordinary modern style is reached in the reign of Aurungzeb. To the close of the rule of Shah 'Alain, the last Mogul who actually reigned, gold and silver money is abundant. Latterly, native states coin with Arabic and also with Sanskrit inscriptions. The most important are the kings of Dude, the nizams of the Deccan, and the kings of Mysore, besides the maharajas of Indore and the kings of Nepal. The coinage of Tipu Sultan (Tippu Sahib) is extremely curious from his innovations in the calendar. Besides these there are a multitude of small states. Most of the Indian princes acknowledged the emperor of Delhi, but some struck independently. At last the English coinage of India has swept away nearly all these moneys, though some native states still issue their own, while those under English protection occasionally acknowledge on their coins the supremacy of the queen as empress.
It is not yet possible to give a full summary of the strange coinages of China and the farther East, the published researches having been generally uncritical and unsupported by the examination of native literary sources. Thus only some general facts may be safely stated.
The money of China, more certainly than the square punch-marked coinage of India, may claim an origin independent of the Lydian and Greek issues. The oldest specimens may be assigned to the 6th century before our era, a time at which the existing coins of other nations could scarcely have been known in the far East ; nor is there any connexion in form, type, or metal with the other currencies. Like nearly all subsequent Chinese money, the earliest is of bronze and cast. The shapes of the coins are most eccentric, representing knives, and, in De la Couperie's opinion, mining-tools. To these succeed the well-known round pieces with a square hole in the centre for the purpose of stringing them together, the coins to which the name " cash " is applied by Europeans. The value of these coins depended on the weight, which is inscribed upon them. We must, however, bear in mind that we have frequently to deal with a merely conventional weight and value due to financial schemes. Thus the inscription always records official value, but not always true weight or true value. There is no type whatever, but always an inscription on one or both sides. The occurrence of an occasional symbol cannot be held to be a deviation from this rule. The main inscription is usually placed opposite the four sides of the central square on the obverse. As a rule this inscription at its fullestgives the emperor's official name during life, and the value