Author Topic: Arab-Sasanian: Abassid govenors of Tabaristan, Omar Ibn Al' Ala 771AD  (Read 3956 times)

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Offline THCoins

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With Quant.Geek showing some nice Arab-Sasanian drachms I thought i'd show another in return.

After the collaps of the Sasanian empire the last ruler Yazdgard III fled to Tabaristan. This is a region in the north of current Iran, bordering the Caspian sea. This region continued to have an autonomous status for several decades. This until the Muslim invaders took over power and installed Abassid govenors to rule the area.
The new rulers continued issuing coinage in the traditional Sassanian style.

The coin shown is a hemi-drachm under authority of Omar (or Umar) Ibn Al' Ala who ruled from 771-780AD. AR 25 mm, 1.91 gr.
The obverse shows the ruler facing right with his name in text.
The reverse shows the well known fire-altar design with two attendants.
Next to the right attendant is "TPWERSTAN" in Pahlavi, this is the Persian name for the region.
Next to the Left attendant is the date. This is expressed in the "Post-Yazdgard Era".
« Last Edit: November 21, 2015, 12:34:43 PM by THCoins »

Offline Quant.Geek

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Interesting that the portrait is a bit more refined in these coins compared to the Sasanian ones. 
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Offline mitresh

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The portrayal of the eye is HUGE compared to other facial features, any specific reason why?
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Offline Md. Shariful Islam

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Really nice coin.

Offline THCoins

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The later Arab-Sasanian coins are indeed of a somewhat different character thatn the earlier Sasanid empire coins. No idea why the eye is so big. However, over the decades you can see a gradual transition from naturalistic portraits to more stylized "cartoonlike" line portraits. This finaly culminates in abstract types where the face has been replaced altogether by a diamond shape. (Still looking for a nice specimen of this type, so i can't show it here)
In the "Hunnic" types there is less of an evolution in the design, but the portraits seem mostly to become less refined over time.

Offline Manzikert

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The replacement of the face by the lozenge was in fact a personal peculiarity of the governor Suleiman (784-788 AD, my example dated 137 PYE/788 below).

Suleiman's sub-governors and successors Jarir, Ma'add, Hani, Mukatil and Abdallah (790-792, my example dated 140 PYE/791 AD below) reverted to the standard stylised portrait. The anonymous 'afzut' issues continued in parallel with named issues using the stylised portrait as well until the end of the coinage c.795.

The large staring eye and the rather large nose is characteristic of all of the governors' issues.

Alan

Offline mitresh

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Alan, thanks. I found the 'diamond' style face on your first coin very unusual as I never saw a coin like this before.
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Offline THCoins

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Alan, thanks for your additions and showing the Suleiman type i refered to !
What i meant to say was that the lonzenge head type was the top in abstraction. You are right that they were not the endpoint of the series and indeed also an outlier in the series. However, when you say that after Suleiman there is a reversion to the old stylized portraits i have a bit different opinion. I think many of the later types are much more "mask-like" than the already stylized Omar ibn Al' Ala portrait.

Offline THCoins

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Re: Arab-Sasanian: Abassid govenors of Tabaristan, Omar Ibn Al' Ala 771AD
« Reply #8 on: November 21, 2015, 12:29:45 PM »
Already some time ago i showed an AR Hemidrachm of Umar ibn Al' Ala in the openingpost of this thread. Recently i encountered another Tabaristan governor hemidrachm which i show below. Although clearly different, this is an issue of the same ruler.
The differences nicely illustrate the Arabinisation of the region under Abassid rule. Before the Abassids, the Ispahbads ruled this territory. The language and script on their coins is Persian Pahlavi. The Abassid governors at first continued the design and script of the Ispahbad coinage. This changed during the rule of Umar when Pahlavi was largely discarded in favor of Arab. On the coins of later governors the name or the authority is always in Arab.
The openingpost coin showed the name Umar in Arab in front of the face of the ruler.
The coin shown below is the more scarce version where the same name is written in Pahlavi.
Though Arab finally largely succeeded Pahlavi, it is not simply so that the Pahlavi versions of the Umar Hemidrachms are earlier than the Arab ones. Over several years they were likely produced concurrently. There even is a third, really scarce version, where the name is present both in Pahlavi and Arab.
AR 24.5 mm, 1.99 grams.

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Arab-Sasanian: Abassid govenors of Tabaristan, Omar Ibn Al' Ala 771AD
« Reply #9 on: November 21, 2015, 06:27:11 PM »
Not sure why the eye is so large in the case of this series, but I met the same phenomenon in the coins of Chach. There, it was explained as an attempt the distinguish between Asians and Caucasians, with the latter getting unnaturally big eyes and noses. Note that even today, popular ways to indicate "caucasians" in Chinese are "roundeyes" and "bignoses" - not flattering descriptions in Chinese eyes.

As Islamisation got off the ground in Central Asia, local leaders sought alliances with China as a counterweight to the Islamic invaders. China was long on words, short on action. In what is now Uzbekistan, local leaders even issued coins that are clearly inspired by Chinese cash coins. It would be natural if the period would have worked in favour of Asian-looking clans, while others would have clung to their Turkic culture and heritage. This tension may possibly explain why leaders were out to show explicitly whether they were Asian or (in this case) Caucasian.

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Peter
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Offline THCoins

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Re: Arab-Sasanian: Abassid govenors of Tabaristan, Omar Ibn Al' Ala 771AD
« Reply #10 on: November 22, 2015, 10:46:36 AM »
Peter, i think you are right. Coins were and are used for propaganda purposes, including the iconography of the rulers.
On the opposite, it is interesting to see when dynasties fall apart this is also reflected on the coins.

Offline alsadeekalsadouk

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Re: Arab-Sasanian: Abassid govenors of Tabaristan, Omar Ibn Al' Ala 771AD
« Reply #11 on: December 07, 2015, 08:37:08 PM »
nice coin . thanks poster
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Offline THCoins

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Re: Arab-Sasanian: Abassid govenors of Tabaristan, Omar Ibn Al' Ala 771AD
« Reply #12 on: December 08, 2015, 07:46:16 AM »
Thanks for your comment and appreciation Alsadeekalsadouk, and welcome to World of Coins !
And please don't be shy if you yourself have some photo's of interesting coins you would like to share here !

Anthony

Offline Manzikert

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Re: Arab-Sasanian: Abassid govenors of Tabaristan, Omar Ibn Al' Ala 771AD
« Reply #13 on: July 09, 2019, 12:57:27 AM »
I recently acquired another interesting issue of Umar bin al'Ala.

Tabaristan, Umar bin al'Ala, 125 PYE/ 777 AD, 1.89 gm 24 mm
Obv. Sasanian style bust, name in Pahlevi before, name in Arabic in 2nd and 3rd quarters
Rev. Fire altar and attendants, year 125 at left, Tabaristan at right, four fleurs in quarters
Both sides have an extra outer ring.

This type was issued for one year only.

Alan

Offline THCoins

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Re: Arab-Sasanian: Abassid govenors of Tabaristan, Omar Ibn Al' Ala 771AD
« Reply #14 on: July 09, 2019, 09:11:01 AM »
Great acquisition Alan, thanks for adding to this thread ! Nicely complements the series with the other two from the trio.
I had been looking for this scarcer type for some time, but my focus shifted a bit in the meanwhile. Your specimen tempts me again to at least keep my eyes open for one !

Anthony