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Iran before Islam: The Sasanians
The founder of the dynasty
The front of this gold coin shows Ardashir I, the first Sasanian ruler. He is depicted with long hair and a tall, bejewelled crown. An inscription in Middle Persian gives his personal name and describes him as a worshipper of Ahura Mazda, the Zoroastrian Wise Lord, and as king of kings of Iran.
Ardashir and his family started out as local rulers in Parsa (Fars) in southern Iran. In 224 at a battle in western Iran he killed his Parthian overlord Ardavan (Artabanus) IV and became the new king. Ardashir kept Ctesiphon (in modern Iraq) as the capital of his empire. Ardashir built many new cities, canals and bridges and he is commemorated in many rock carvings.
The back of Ardashir's coin depicts a Zoroastrian fire altar and a royal throne. This combination symbolizes the unity of religion and state. The throne has lion's paw legs, which were copied from ancient Persian reliefs of the fifth century BC at Persepolis.