Dirham of Sasanian Type, Silver

Dirham of Sasanian Type

Made in Damascus
Diam: 1 1/4 in. (3.1 cm); wt: 3.2 g
Credit Line:
The American Numismatic Society, New York (1971.316.35)
Not on view
The Byzantine Empire issued the gold solidus, or nomisma, used primarily for large transactions such as tax payments, and several denominations of copper coins, the money of daily business transactions. Mints in Antioch and Alexandria supplied the majority of the coinage circulated in the southern provinces. The newly established Arab government inherited an efficient monetary system and made few changes during its first decades. The caliph ‘Abd al-Malik (r. 685–705) introduced several issues of distinctively Islamic coinage.
The caliph ‘Abd al-Malik (r. 685–705) instituted significant change in coinage. His early issues struck in gold, silver, and copper replaced the image of the emperor with that of the caliph, removed the Christian cross, and used religious inscriptions, such as the shahada, the profession of faith.
The Byzantine Empire did not issue silver coins. This example, modeled on the Sasanian drachma of Khusrau II, retains the sovereign’s portrait and the Zoroastrian fire altar and adds the shahada in Arabic on the obverse. Unlike ‘Abd al-Malik’s gold and copper coins, this coin bears the mint and year on the reverse.
Inscription: On obverse: Pahlavi inscriptions around portrait: Khusrau, may his glory increase; in Arabic, in margin: In the name of God. There is no God but God Alone; Muhammad is the prophet of God; on reverse, in Arabic, left and right: [year] seventy-four; Dimashq [Damascus]
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition (7th–9th Century)," March 12, 2012–July 8, 2012.