On display

Room 68: Money 

Object details

Diameter: 2.9 cm
Weight: 16.37 grammes
Museum number: 1915,0108.10

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Purchased from Lt A R Prideaux

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Silver coin of Vadfradad I

Persis, 4th century BC

The local kings of Persis ruled over the area of ancient Persepolis near modern Shiraz in southwestern Iran after the conquest of the ancient Persian empire by Alexander III of Macedon.

After his death, the former Achaemenid Persian Empire was inherited by Seleucus I (312-281 BC), one of his Macedonian generals. For a brief period the local kings of Persis (modern Pars/Fars) were able to issue coins under their Seleucid overlords.

Vadfradad I (in Greek “Autophradates”) was a local king of Persis around 280 BC who struck silver tetradrachms. On his coins, he has the ancient Iranian title frataraka / governor of the gods. Vadfradad is shown wearing a soft hat with neckguard and earflaps. A diadem or headband, a symbol of kingship, is tied around his hat. His mouth and chin are covered, perhaps indicating that these local rulers were Zoroastrians and guardians of the sacred fire at a nearby sanctuary.

Zoroastrianism is an ancient Iranian religion, which regards Ahura Mazda, the Wise Lord, as the Creator of All. Vadfradad I also appears as a worshipper on the back of the coin, where he holds a bow and stands in front of a sanctuary. A winged figure, a symbol of the God-given glory of the king, hovers above the building. A royal standard appears on the right.

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G.F. Hill, Catalogue of the Greek Coins of Arabia, Mesopotamia and Persia in the British Museum, London, 1922, pp.clx-clxxxii, 195-244, pls. xxviii – xxxvii.

J. Wiesehöfer, ‘Fars under Seleucid and Parthian rule’, in V.S. Curtis and S. Stewart (eds), The Age of the Parthians, The Idea of Iran 2, London, pp. 37-49.

V.S. Curtis, ‘The Frataraka coins of Persis: bridging the gap between Achaemenid and Sasanian Persia’, in J. Curtis and St.J. Simpson (eds), The World of Achaemenid Persia, London, 2010, pp. 379-394.

M.R. Shayegan, Arsacids and Sasanians, Cambridge, 2011, pp. 168-178