Arab-Sassanian Coin Of Yazīd Ibn Al-Muhallab - II, 82 AH / 701 CE

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First Composed: 31st August 2007

Last Modified: 27th April 2015

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Arab-Sassanian coin issued by Yazīd ibn Muhallab in 82 AH.


82 AH / 701 CE. The date is based on the fact that Yazīd succeeded his father al-Muhallab in 82 AH as governor of the province of Khurasan.


Obverse field: Typical Arab-Sassanian bust, but with a new type of head-dress with a top like weather-vane. On the right hand side of the bust is Arabic letters in Kufic script, downwards, in two lines, Yazīd bin al-Muhallab. Obverse margin: bism Allāh / al-ʿAẓīm ("In the name of God, the Mighty").

Reverse field: In place of the usual Sassanian fire-altar and two attendents, a standing figure, facing, in armour, wearing helmet with "weather-vane" like that on the obverse side and holding in his left hand a spear, while grasping with his right hand a sword in its scabbard. The name of mint is Khurasan written in Middle Persian. Reverse margin: Contains both Hephthalite (Greek) and kufic scripts. The kufic script says duriba jizya bi-al-Jūzjān ("struck for tribute in al-Juzjan").


This remarkable trilingual coin is the first known specimen of Yazīd's coinage, as well as being issued in the year before Yazīd was deposed by the caliph on the advice of Yazīd's brother-in-law Hajjāj ibn Yūsuf. The mention of al-Juzjan, a western district of the Balkh quarter of the province of Khurasan, is the earliest record of the place on coins.

This Arab-Saasanan drachm is exceptional in many respects. The most obvious is the remarkable depiction of the armed warrior on the reverse. On virtually all Arab-Sassanian drachms the imagery is simply copied from Sasanian prototypes without conscious modification. Even on the present coin, where the bust on the obverse has been modified to the extent of adding a distinctive helmet, the features of the portrait have been left unaltered and are recognizably those of Khusraw II. But the standing warrior on the reverse is an entirely different matter, giving us as it does an accurate and naturalistic impression of the weapons and equipment of a Muslim commander of the 1st century hijra. It seems more likely that the figure is in fact the caliph himself, even though he is not labelled as on the celebrated "standing caliph" drachms struck at Damascus in 75 AH.

It seems plausible to suggest that these coins were struck by the victorious Muslims to circulate locally. This would explain why the legends are given not only in Arabic and Pahlawi but also in the hephthalite script, with the threatening warrior on the reverse placed there as an explicit warning and reminder to the defeated Hephthalites. With this in mind, if we then interpret the word jizya in its more usual sense of a poll-tax levied on non-Muslim subjects, such as the Hephthalites, we can envisage the Muslims requiring payment of this tax in a type of coin which was acceptable to them. With its traditional Arab-Sassanian Pahlawi mint and date, and other legends in both Arabic and Hephthalite, the present coin would fit that purpose admirably, while also being a highly symbolic token of Muslim military superiority.


Not known.

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[1] J. Walker, "Some New Arab-Sassanian Coins", The Numismatic Chronicle And Journal Of The Royal Numismatic Society, 1952, Volume XII, Sixth Series, pp. 108-110 and Plate IX. Also see "Important Coins Of The Islamic World", Morton & Eden Ltd. (In Association With Sotheby's), 2015, Catalogue No. 73 (23rd April 2015), Lot 13.

[2] S. Nebehay, "Frühislamische Bildermünzen", Numismatische Zeitschrift, 2005, Volume 113/114, p. 268 and p. 270.

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