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Persian Gold Daric

Persian Gold Daric


Featured Object: Persian Daric

This Persian daric originates from the ancient Persian Achaemenid Empire (550&ndash330 BCE), which stretched from its Persian homeland in modern-day Iran eastward to India and westward across the Middle East and northeastern Africa. Darius the Great, the third ruler of the Persian Empire, famous for his attempted conquest of Greece and subsequent defeat at the Battle of Marathon outside of Athens in 490, was the first to mint the daric at the end of the 6th century. The ancient Greeks thought that the name "daric" was derived from Darius's name, though many modern scholars believe its name comes from the root of the Old Persian word for gold (dari-). Regardless, the daric quickly became known throughout the ancient world for the remarkable purity of its gold. Together with the silver siglos, or shekel, this coin formed the monetary standard for the Persian Empire, though unlike the siglos, which was used on a more local basis, the daric is known to have circulated far and wide in the ancient Mediterranean world.

On the daric&rsquos obverse (front side) is the image of the Persian king, known to the Greeks as the Great King, dressed in a long tunic. He kneels, holding a drawn bow in his left hand and long spear in his right. Because of this image on the coin, the Greeks gave the coin the nickname "the archer." The reverse (back side) shows a distorted, oblong, irregular incuse (impression). The coin&rsquos iconography emphasizes the importance of the king as a warrior and leader for the Persians. Thus, apart from the monetary value of the daric, one of its functions was to assert the Great King&rsquos authority and power, both among the satraps, or ruling Persian nobles, and non-Persian peoples, such as the Greeks.

The daric&rsquos origins can be traced to the Persian conquest of the kingdom of Lydia in Asia Minor by Cyrus the Great in around 550. Lydia had been the first ancient state to introduce the practice of minting coinage. Soon, under Darius, the Persians themselves began this practice, and Darius established the leading mint in Asia Minor at the previous Lydian capital, Sardis. During the next two centuries, the gold daric and the silver siglos set the standards for coinage in terms of weight and value. After the conquest of the Persian Empire by Alexander the Great in 330, production of the daric quickly declined. Alexander and his immediate successors had many of the existing darics melted down and recast as coins bearing their image, resulting in the relative rarity of the coin today. The daric thus rose and fell with the Achaemenid Empire itself


Persian Empire Daric Gold coin

The coin minted by the Persian Empire was named the daric. It was made of gold and had a weight of around 8,4 gr.

It was first introduced by Darius I (522-486BC) at the end of the 6th century BC. It was not a new coin for the ancient perisan coins, because it was inspired by the Lydian system, the oldest in the world.

Ancient arab Coins

Arab Gold Coins

The ancients, like Herodotus, thought that the coin was named after Darius. Only in modern times, the scholars proved that the name was actually inspired from the form *dari that means golden in Old Persian. The Greeks named this coin dareiko sometimes adding stateros that was a weight of around 8 grams and also a nickname for the gold coin unit. Sometimes the name is accompanied by the form chrousio that in Greek meant gold.

The daric and the silver coin, the siglos (mentioned in the Bible) were the coins that circulated throughout the empire and beyond.

The Daric was the basis of the system and had a weight of around 8,3-8,5 gr. The siglos was only around 5,5 gr and by calculating the exchange rate, the gold:silver ratio was around 1:13,3 at the time.

Because it was made of gold and the Greek cities didn’t mint any gold, it circulated all over the ancient world, as international currency. The Greeks used the gold daric alongside the electrum coinage, a gold-silver alloy, minted by cities from Asia Minor. For example, a gold daric had the value of one electrum stater minted by Cyzicus, a stater made from 55% gold and 45% silver and with a weight of around 16 gr.

Moreover, it seems that the mints of these coins were from Asia Minor, a place with a large number of important Greek cities under the Persian domination.

The daric coin showed on one side the image of an archer, kneeling usually to the right. This archer was identified with the King itself. The image was so popular and well known that when Alexander conquered the Persian Empire, around 150 years after the death of Darius the Great, he minded some coins, double darics, with similar images as the original ones.

The typology of this coin was established by E. S. G. Robinson:

  • “Type I Torso of bearded archer with the crenellated crown (kídaris) and sleeved chiton, facing right, a bow in the left hand and two arrows in the right.
  • Type II Kneeling archer dressed as on Type I, facing right, with drawn bow and a quiver on his back.
  • Type III The archer as on Type I but running with bent knees, moving to the right, with a bow in his left hand, a lance in his right, and a quiver on his back.
  • Type IV The archer as on Type III, in same position moving to the right, with a bow in his left hand, a dagger in his right, and a quiver on his back. “

We still do not know the exact chronology of these coins. Robinson gave a relative chronology but was unable to give an absolute chronology. Modern researchers supposed that the types I-III are minted by Darius himself and type IV by his sons, from 480 to 450 BC, maybe during the reign of Xerxes.

The type II, III and IV are attested on daric and also silver siglos and sometimes on gold subunits. The type I, the oldest, it is attested only in silver siglos.

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Persian Empire Daric Gold coin

The coin minted by the Persian Empire was named the daric. It was made of gold and had a weight of around 8,4 gr.

It was first introduced by Darius I (522-486BC) at the end of the 6th century BC. It was not a new coin for the ancient perisan coins, because it was inspired by the Lydian system, the oldest in the world.

Ancient arab Coins

Arab Gold Coins

The ancients, like Herodotus, thought that the coin was named after Darius. Only in modern times, the scholars proved that the name was actually inspired from the form *dari that means golden in Old Persian. The Greeks named this coin dareiko sometimes adding stateros that was a weight of around 8 grams and also a nickname for the gold coin unit. Sometimes the name is accompanied by the form chrousio that in Greek meant gold.

The daric and the silver coin, the siglos (mentioned in the Bible) were the coins that circulated throughout the empire and beyond.

The Daric was the basis of the system and had a weight of around 8,3-8,5 gr. The siglos was only around 5,5 gr and by calculating the exchange rate, the gold:silver ratio was around 1:13,3 at the time.

Because it was made of gold and the Greek cities didn’t mint any gold, it circulated all over the ancient world, as international currency. The Greeks used the gold daric alongside the electrum coinage, a gold-silver alloy, minted by cities from Asia Minor. For example, a gold daric had the value of one electrum stater minted by Cyzicus, a stater made from 55% gold and 45% silver and with a weight of around 16 gr.

Moreover, it seems that the mints of these coins were from Asia Minor, a place with a large number of important Greek cities under the Persian domination.

The daric coin showed on one side the image of an archer, kneeling usually to the right. This archer was identified with the King itself. The image was so popular and well known that when Alexander conquered the Persian Empire, around 150 years after the death of Darius the Great, he minded some coins, double darics, with similar images as the original ones.

The typology of this coin was established by E. S. G. Robinson:

  • “Type I Torso of bearded archer with the crenellated crown (kídaris) and sleeved chiton, facing right, a bow in the left hand and two arrows in the right.
  • Type II Kneeling archer dressed as on Type I, facing right, with drawn bow and a quiver on his back.
  • Type III The archer as on Type I but running with bent knees, moving to the right, with a bow in his left hand, a lance in his right, and a quiver on his back.
  • Type IV The archer as on Type III, in same position moving to the right, with a bow in his left hand, a dagger in his right, and a quiver on his back. “

We still do not know the exact chronology of these coins. Robinson gave a relative chronology but was unable to give an absolute chronology. Modern researchers supposed that the types I-III are minted by Darius himself and type IV by his sons, from 480 to 450 BC, maybe during the reign of Xerxes.

The type II, III and IV are attested on daric and also silver siglos and sometimes on gold subunits. The type I, the oldest, it is attested only in silver siglos.

The coin minted by the Persian Empire was named the daric. It was made of gold and had a weight of around 8,4 gr.

It was first introduced by Darius I (522-486BC) at the end of the 6th century BC. It was not a new coin for the ancient perisan coins, because it was inspired by the Lydian system, the oldest in the world.

Ancient arab Coins

Arab Gold Coins

The ancients, like Herodotus, thought that the coin was named after Darius. Only in modern times, the scholars proved that the name was actually inspired from the form *dari that means golden in Old Persian. The Greeks named this coin dareiko sometimes adding stateros that was a weight of around 8 grams and also a nickname for the gold coin unit. Sometimes the name is accompanied by the form chrousio that in Greek meant gold.

The daric and the silver coin, the siglos (mentioned in the Bible) were the coins that circulated throughout the empire and beyond.

The Daric was the basis of the system and had a weight of around 8,3-8,5 gr. The siglos was only around 5,5 gr and by calculating the exchange rate, the gold:silver ratio was around 1:13,3 at the time.

Because it was made of gold and the Greek cities didn’t mint any gold, it circulated all over the ancient world, as international currency. The Greeks used the gold daric alongside the electrum coinage, a gold-silver alloy, minted by cities from Asia Minor. For example, a gold daric had the value of one electrum stater minted by Cyzicus, a stater made from 55% gold and 45% silver and with a weight of around 16 gr.

Moreover, it seems that the mints of these coins were from Asia Minor, a place with a large number of important Greek cities under the Persian domination.

The daric coin showed on one side the image of an archer, kneeling usually to the right. This archer was identified with the King itself. The image was so popular and well known that when Alexander conquered the Persian Empire, around 150 years after the death of Darius the Great, he minded some coins, double darics, with similar images as the original ones.

The typology of this coin was established by E. S. G. Robinson:

  • “Type I Torso of bearded archer with the crenellated crown (kídaris) and sleeved chiton, facing right, a bow in the left hand and two arrows in the right.
  • Type II Kneeling archer dressed as on Type I, facing right, with drawn bow and a quiver on his back.
  • Type III The archer as on Type I but running with bent knees, moving to the right, with a bow in his left hand, a lance in his right, and a quiver on his back.
  • Type IV The archer as on Type III, in same position moving to the right, with a bow in his left hand, a dagger in his right, and a quiver on his back. “

We still do not know the exact chronology of these coins. Robinson gave a relative chronology but was unable to give an absolute chronology. Modern researchers supposed that the types I-III are minted by Darius himself and type IV by his sons, from 480 to 450 BC, maybe during the reign of Xerxes.

The type II, III and IV are attested on daric and also silver siglos and sometimes on gold subunits. The type I, the oldest, it is attested only in silver siglos.


Ancient Persian Coins

The coinage of the Achaemenid Empire was a continuation of the coins of Lydia.The Persians, like the Medes and Babylonians, were unfamiliar with, or felt not need of, coined money before the capture of Sardes by Cyrus and the conquest of the Lydian empire B.C. 546, when for the first time they came into direct contact with the Greeks of the coast lands of Asia Minor. How soon after these events they began to issue gold staters of the royal Persian type is a somewhat doubtful point, but the Darius Hystaspis, B.C. 521-486, coined gold money of the finest quality- we are told by Herodotus. Coins were introduced by Darius the Great and were issued from 520 BCE-450 BCE all up to the time of Alexander the Greats conquest in 330 BCE/ it goes for the Daric and Siglos. It seems that before then, a continuation of Lydian coinage under Persian rule was highly likely . Achaemenid coinage includes the official imperial issues (Darics and Sigloi), as well as coins issued by the Achaemenid governors (Satraps), such as those stationed in ancient Asia Minor.

It seems probable, therefore, that the gold Daric was first struck in the reign of Darius, and moreover at the Sardian mint, which may then have been reopened after having been closed since the fall of Croesus, for it is hardly likely that either Cyrus or Cambyses would have allowed it to continue the issue of the Croesean gold staters after the Persian conquest. That Sardes should be place of mintage chosen by Darius for his new Persian coinage is not surprising, when it is borne in mind that the processes of minting were fully understood there, and that skilled die-sinkers and moneyers would be more easily obtainable there than anywhere else in the Persian empire.
After the capture of Babylon by Alexander, the Satrap Mazaios issued the double Daric of 16.65 grams in weight whose image was based on the Daric coin and bore his name until his death in 328 BCE. 1 Daric = 25 Attic Drachmae.

In the ancient times, it was nicknamed "the archer". For instance, Agesilaus said that he had been driven out of Asia by thirty thousand archers, referring to the bribe distributed by the Persian King.


Silver siglos-4th century BC

Siglos is 5.40-5.60 grams each, but is based on the 0.5 Lydian Siglos of 10.73-10.92 grams for the full unit. Purity was at first issue 97-98% but by the middle 4th century was 94-95%. 1 Siglos = 7.5 Attic Obols

The coin is mentioned several times in the Old Testament, as the Israelites came into contact with it when their Babylonian conquerors were conquered by Persia. The first 'Book of Chronicles' describes king David as asking an assembly of people to donate for the construction of the Temple. The people gave generously "for the service of the house of God five thousand talents and ten thousand darics of gold, ten thousand talents of silver, eighteen thousand talents of bronze, and one hundred thousand talents of iron.

Regarding Persian coinage

It seems probable, therefore, that the gold Daric was first struck in the reign of Darius, and moreover at the Sardian mint, which may then have been reopened after having been closed since the fall of Croesus, for it is hardly likely that either Cyrus or Cambyses would have allowed it to continue the issue of the Croesean gold staters after the Persian conquest. That Sardes should be place of mintage chosen by Darius for his new Persian coinage is not surprising, when it is borne in mind that the processes of minting were fully understood there, and that skilled die-sinkers and moneyers would be more easily obtainable there than anywhere else in the Persian empire.
The output of the darics during the reigns of Darius and Xerxes, doubtless from other centres as well as from the old Sardian mint, must have been enormous, for we read that the Lydian, Pythius, at the time of the expedition of Xerxes, possessed as many as 3,993,000 of them, a sum which the king increased to 4,000,000.
Following the example set by Croesus, Darius employed practically pure gold for his new coinage, though with the addition of about 3 per cent. of alloy which, as experience had taught the moneyers, was necessary for slightly hardening of the metal. The weight of the Daric, 130 grs., was rather heavier than that of its predecessor the Croesean stater (126 grs.) by about 4 grs.,an excess partly, perhaps, due to the 3 per cent. of alloy added to the pure metal. It may be doubted, however, whether the intrinsic value of the Daric exceeded that of the stater of Croesus, which was of absolutely pure gold.


Gold daric coin

In 550 BC Cyrus the Great founded the Achaemenid Persian Empire by amalgamating the Iranian tribes of the Medes and the Persians. Cyrus then looked to the west. His army defeated the Lydians and their king Croesus in 547 BC and in the following year the Persian army marched into the kingdoms of Ionia, Caria and Lykia, on what is now the west coast of Turkey.

It was there that the Persians first came into contact with coinage. From here it spread over the next century throughout the Persian Empire as far as Afghanistan and Egypt. After conquering Lydia in 547 BC, the Persians adopted the Lydian tradition of minting coins. Soon the local 'lion and bull' croesid coins were replaced by a new Achaemenid coinage.

The gold daric, named after the Persian king Darius I (521-486 BC), and the silver siglos (or shekel) were the main denominations. An archer, representing the Persian king, appeared on the obverse (front) of the coin. The reverse consisted of a rectangular punch. These coins were minted in the western part of the Achaemenid Empire. Their production continued long after the death of Darius, until the conquest of Persia by Alexander the Great at the end of the fourth century BC.


Persian Gold Daric - History

Ancient Persia : Coins

Achaemenid Empire Coins An ancient Persian dynasty whose kings ruled from 559 to 330 BC, when Darius III was defeated by Alexander the Great.

Ancient Persian Coins Ancient Coins of Persia, Mesopotamia and Other West Asia Also included on this page are coins minted under Persian rule in other regions of the Persian Empire.

Coins of the Parthians Some of the most interesting ancient coins were neither 'Greek' or 'Roman'. In fact, the coin producing civilizations of the ancient world spread far across Asia including people and places rarely mentioned in beginning World History classes. One of the most well known of these were the rulers of much of what is today Iran, Iraq and surrounding regions: the Parthians.

Gold Daric Coin British Museum. Achaemenid Persian Empire, late 5th-early 4th century BC. Minted in western Asia Minor (in modern Turkey). The gold of the Persian Empire

Mithradates I Coin Parthia, Mithradates I, 171-138BC, AR Drachm (3.8g). Head left wearing bashlyk/Archer seated rt. on omphalos, Shore 13, Sell.10.1. Centered, nice portrait, slightly double struck obv., bold clear rev., light tone, a nice example of a scarcer early ruler,

Parthian Drachm Parthian Kingdom, Mithradates I: AR Drachm. Obv. -- Diad. bust l. Archer seated r. S0024: Sellwood 11.1 VF

Parthian Empire Coins In 247 BC, Arsaces, leader of a Scythian group in Central Asia called the Parni (a branch of the Dahae) is crowned king. He overthrows the Seleucid governor of Parthia in 238 BC and establishes a nation that lasts for almost 500 years. 95 - 57 BC is referred to as the Parthian 'dark age,' and civil wars make the chronology of this period a matter of conjecture. At the height of their power, the Parthians were second only to Rome and were the only civilized nation able to stand up to her. The empire began its decline in the 2nd century AD and the rebellion of Ardashir of Persis in 220 AD was its death knell. The last Parthian king, Artabanos IV, was killed in the battle of Hormuzdagan in 224 AD and Ardashir became the first Sasanian king.

Persia: AV 15 Daric Obv. -- Great king in kneeling-running stance r. Rev. -- Incuse punch Sear G4677v: Carradice IIIb group A/B (pl. xiii, 27) good VF


Persian Gold Daric - History

The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies

The Achaemenid Currency

DARIC (Gk. dareiko‚s statê´r), Achaemenid gold coin of ca. 8.4 gr, which was introduced by Darius I the Great (q.v. 522-486 B.C.E.) toward the end of the 6th century B.C.E. The daric and the similar silver coin, the siglos (Gk. síglos mediko‚s), represented the bimetallic monetary standard that the Achaemenids developed from that of the Lydians (Herodotus, 1.94). Although it was the only gold coin of its period that was struck continuously, the daric was eventually displaced from its central economic position first by the biga stater of Philip II of Macedonia (359-36 B.C.E.) and then, conclusively, by the Nike stater of Alexander II of Macedonia (336-23 B.C.E.).

The ancient Greeks believed that the term dareiko‚s was derived from the name of Darius the Great (Pollux, Onomastikon 3.87, 7.98 cf. Caccamo Caltabiano and Radici Colace), who was believed to have introduced these coins. For example, Herodotus reported that Darius had struck coins of pure gold (4.166, 7.28: chrysíou statê´rôn Dareikôn). On the other hand, modern scholars have generally supposed that the Greek term dareiko‚s can be traced back to Old Persian *dari- "golden" and that it was first associated with the name of Darius only in later folk etymology (Herzfeld, p. 146 for the contrary view, see Bivar, p. 621 DARIUS iii). During the 5th century B.C.E. the term dareiko‚s was generally and exclusively used to designate Persian coins, which were circulating so widely among the Greeks that in popular speech they were dubbed toxo‚tai "archers" after the image of the figure with a bow that appeared on them (Plutarch, Artoxerxes 20.4 idem, Agesilaus 15.6). The earliest mention of the dareiko‚s in an inscription occurs in the reckoning of accounts for the year 429/8 by the priests responsible for administering the temple treasury of Athena Parthenos and other gods at Athens (Inscriptiones Graecae I3, p. 383 ll. 17-18: dareiko‚ chrysío statêres cf. Carradice, pp. 75-76 Melville-Jones, pp. 35-36 for additional references, see Babelon, 1901, pp. 469-72). Eventually, because of the dareiko‚s' dominant position as the single regularly issued gold coin of its time, the term became a synonym among the Greeks for any gold coin, for example, the stater issued by Philip (dareikoì Philíppeioi Melville-Jones, pp. 25 ff.).

Introduction of the daric

The discovery in 1312 Š./1933 of a hoard of coins in the famous Apadâna (q.v.) deposit of Darius at Persepolis, which is unfortunately still inadequately published, has been the focus for a long-standing debate over the date when the daric was first minted (Herzfeld, pp. 413-16 Schmidt, p. 110, pl. 84 M. Thompson et al., no. 1789). Altogether eight gold Croesus staters (of the late type known as "light Croeseids") were found, together with four Greek silver staters, under stone coffers containing the foundation tablets for the building, giving rise to the opinion that at the time when the deposit was made (between 519 and 510 B.C.E.) Darius had still not issued darics and sigloi. The date of the first minting of the coins with the image of the archer, that is, of the change from the old, widely circulated Lydian type with the heads of a lion and a bull to a characteristic Achaemenid type, was thus fixed soon after 515 (Herzfeld Robinson, p. 190 Kraay, p. 32 Bivar, p. 617). In a recent but less persuasive study Michael Vickers (pp. 4 ff.) dated the first issue of the Achaemenid archer after 490. The decisive evidence for a date in the last decade of the 6th century at the latest, has, however, now been discovered by M. C. Root (pp. 8-12), who published a small clay tablet from the Persepolis fortification archive bearing a date in the twenty-second regnal year of Darius (500-499) on the reverse there is a clear impression of two toxo‚tai of type II (see below). Darius was thus in fact the first Achaemenid emperor to order the striking of the new gold coin with the image of the royal archer. It has been established with certainty, however, that these coins were not the first to be struck at the Achaemenid imperial mint: As die studies (Naster, 1965, pp. 25 ff., pl. 1), in conjunction with analysis of hoards (Noe, pp. 23ff. Robinson, pp. 187 ff. Carradice, pp. 73 ff., pls. 10-11), have shown, some of the earlier Croesus staters (kroísos statê´r) of the lion-and-bull type are to be attributed to the Achaemenid emperors, including Darius I, who took over minting of the type from the Lydian king Croesus (after 546 B.C.E.). Toward the end of the 6th century, when Darius undertook the restructuring of the Achaemenid political system, including in particular the financial and tax systems, he ordered the minting of darics and sigloi. The opinion of Laura Breglia (pp. 659 ff. cf. Price, pp. 211 ff. Vickers, pp. 4-9) that all the so-called "Croeseids" are to be attributed to the Achaemenids does not, however, seem persuasive (cf. Cahn, pp. 55-57 Root, pp. 1 ff.).

The fundamental type of the Achaemenid daric and siglos is that bearing the image of the royal archer (toxo‚tês), which remained stereotyped as the obverse, with only a few minor variations. The reverse was without images, and only an irregular oblong incuse can be recognized. It was E. S. G. Robinson who first established, on the basis of the obverse images, the four main types and the relative chronology that are still generally accepted today (cf. Kraay, pp. 32-33 Carradice, pp. 76 ff. Stronach, pp. 258 ff.).

Plat 1. a. Siglos, type I, 5.30 gr., b. Daric, type II, 8.24 gr. c. Daric, type III, 8.37 gr., d. Daric, type IV, 8.33 gr.

Type I (Plate Ia). Torso of bearded archer with the crenellated crown (kídaris) and sleeved chiton (see CLOTHING ii) facing right, a bow in the left hand and two arrows in the right. It is known so far only on sigloi.

Type II (Plate Ib). Kneeling archer dressed as on Type I, facing right, with drawn bow and a quiver on his back. It is attested on darics, sigloi, and fractional coins in silver.

Type III (Plate Ic). The archer as on Type I but in the Knielauf (running with bent knees) position, moving to the right, with a bow in his left hand, a lance in his right, and a quiver on his back. This type is further divided into several subtypes, according to stylistic features. It includes darics, sigloi, and fractional coins in gold and silver.

Type IV (Plate Id). The archer as on Type III, in Knielauf position moving to the right, with a bow in his left hand, a dagger in his right, and a quiver on his back. This type is also divided into two subtypes according to stylistic features. It includes darics, sigloi, and fractional coins in silver.

Interpretation of the image on the coin as the Achaemenid emperor has not been entirely accepted the discussion has been summarized most recently by David Stronach (pp. 266 ff. the conclusions of Harrisson, pp. 17 ff., are less persuasive). Whether the representation is that of the emperor, of a royal hero, or of a god in special avatar, the image has no convincing parallels in other branches of Achaemenid imperial art, with the exception of isolated occurences on seals, though the individual elements of the composition are firmly anchored in the ancient Persian tradition (Calmeyer, pp. 303 ff. Stronach). The image of the royal archer is, however, to be found not only on the darics and sigloi issued by the Achaemenid imperial mint but also on satrapal and dynastic coins of Asia Minor, as well as later on the Babylonian double darics issued under Alexander II of Macedonia (Göbl, pl. 95 nos. 1895, 1914, 1916-18). At the end of the 5th century, when the Persian satraps in Asia Minor began to strike their own coins, it was deemed necessary to express, through images or inscriptions, that the right of coinage was still a royal prerogative. Darius treated such an encroachment as a crime punishable by death (Herodotus, 4.166 cf. Kraay, pls. 12/206, 55/949-50 Göbl, pl. 95 nos. 1901-02, 1906). In fact, the numismatic evidence does not permit identification of the image on the darics and sigloi as anything but that of the emperor it was adopted by Darius as a dynamic expression of his royal power expressly for his coin issues. These coins were particularly aimed at the Greek west (see below), however, and the choice of image had therefore to be made with reference to its impact on the Greeks among whom the coins would circulate in addition to their mercantile value, the darics thus had a propaganda function. This type was continued more or less unchanged by Darius' successors it also served as a model for comparable coin issues by succeeding Persian dynasties, helping to underscore the dynastic principle. As Ian Carradice (pp. 80 ff.) has suggested on the basis of evidence from hoards, types I, II, and III (first version) all seem to have been struck by Darius I. In fact the minting of types I and II appears to have occurred in very close chronological proximity toward the end of the 6th century perhaps the two types represent parallel issues from two different mint cities. Carradice (pp. 84 ff.) placed the next version of type III around 480 and the introduction of type IV somewhat later, around 450 (cf. Stronach, pp. 261-62). Judging by the quantities of preserved examples of the two latter types, they accounted for the overwhelming bulk of Achaemenid mint production. The peak was clearly reached in the 5th century, though both types were probably still being minted at the beginning of the 4th century they were thus in circulation for an extremely long time. During the 4th century types III and IV were still minted, but production then declined. One obvious conclusion to be drawn from this pattern is that it was only during the 4th century that the satraps and dynasts of Asia Minor increased their own production of coins and thus partly reduced the amount of imperial currency in use in their own territories.

Minting and mint cities

The central problem of identifying different mint cities can be solved only through comprehensive new finds and detailed die studies. The major mint was certainly Sardis, the seat of the Achaemenid administration for the whole of Asia Minor it had already been the mint of the former Lydian kings and was kept in operation by the Achaemenids (Kraay, pp. 30 ff. Bivar, p. 619). As the leading administrative center, Sardis must also have been the collection point for the annual tribute payments from the provinces of Asia Minor, thus ensuring a sufficient supply of precious metals for mint production there. On the basis of evidence from hoards, as well as typological and metrological research, C. M. Kraay (p. 33) has concluded that there were also mint cities in both northwestern and southwestern Asia Minor (cf. Carradice, pp. 84-85). The fact that in the time of Alexander II of Macedonia double darics with the image of the great king were being issued in the eastern part of the empire, perhaps in Babylon (Le Rider), suggests that there may already have been a mint there under the Achaemenids. Paul Naster's exemplary die study of the Croeseids (1965, pl. 1), encompassing identical obverse dies and reverse punches on both gold and silver coins, has considerably clarified Lydian minting practice, which must also have been adopted for the later production of darics and sigloi, though few overlapping series of dies and punches have so far been discovered on Achaemenid coins. In fact, identical reverse punches appear on the overwhelming majority of coins within the different typological groups, suggesting that, as the design lacked imagery, it continued in use for a very long time (Noe Robinson, pp. 191 ff.).

Metrology and denominations

At the time of Darius' great tax reform a new weight standard for gold was introduced (Herodotus, 3.89, 3.95). In contrast to the lighter Lydian gold stater of slightly more than 8 gr (8.06-8.19 gr), the new daric weighed ca. 8.4 gr and was thus brought into relation with the old Mesopotamian shekel measure (1 mina: ca. 504 gr, 1/60 mina: 8.40 gr), which had previously been the basic weight standard for Lydian electrum issues (Nau, pp. 6 ff. cf. Karwiese, pp. 35 ff.). The weight of the silver siglos continued to be based on that of the silver Croesus stater (10.75-92 gr) and was minted as a half-siglos of ca. 5.5. gr. Various other fractions of the daric and the siglos are known, though they generally had no significance in the Achaemenid monetary system and still have not been attested for all types. The hypothesis that the weight of the Achaemenid coinage was raised in two successive stages (Robinson, pp. 189 ff. Kraay, pp. 32-33 Bivar, pp. 617-18) during Darius' reforms has not been conclusively proved and must await the test of additional material.

The Achaemenids thus at first adopted two different weight standards for gold and silver, with a fixed ratio of value between the denominations in particular, they attempted to gear the two types of coinage to the needs of the respective groups of recipients and users. Herodotus reported (3.89, 3.95) that the annual tribute payments from the individual satraps were to be made in silver according to the Babylonian weight standard and in gold according to the Euboic weight standard in fact, the weight of the daric does correspond approximately to that of the Euboic-Attic didrachm (ca. 8.5 gr). The monetary policy that led to the minting of the daric was thus clearly oriented toward the Greek west, where the coin was in direct competition with the Attic tetradrachm, which began during the 5th century to gain acceptance as an international trading currency throughout the entire eastern Mediterranean area and as far away as India.

Under Darius the ratio of value between gold and silver in the new Achaemenid imperial system was corrected from the old Lydian ratio of 1:13.3 to 1.13 (Herodotus, 3.95) and the official exchange rate between the daric and the siglos set at 1:20 (Nau, pp. 14 ff.). The exchange rate with the Attic drachm was 1:25, and the siglos was reckoned equivalent to 7.5 Attic obols (Xenophon, Anabasis 1.5.6). The daric also provided the basic standard of value for payments to the Persian army: The pay of a simple soldier, and of a mercenary, was usually calculated at one daric a month (Xenophon, Anabasis 1.3.21). From the beginning of the 4th century, however, actual payments must have been made partly in Attic coins, which were apparently preferred by Greek mercenaries the standard pay was about one Attic drachm a day (Xenophon, Hellenica 1.5.4 ff. cf. W. E. Thompson, pp. 120 ff.).


Darius the Great: Organizing the Empire

Darius I (Old Persian Dârayavauš): king of ancient Persia, whose reign lasted from 522 to 486. He seized power after killing king Gaumâta, fought a civil war (described in the Behistun inscription), and was finally able to refound the Achaemenid empire, which had been very loosely organized until then. Darius fought several foreign wars, which brought him to India and Thrace. When he died, the Persian empire had reached its largest extent. He was succeeded by his son Xerxes.

One of the first acts of Darius was to make it known to everybody that, by the grace of Ahuramazda, he had overcome all his enemies and was master of the entire world. An inscription, the relief and inscription were cut into the rock of Behistun. Unfortunately, the text had to be written in Elamite and Akkadian cuneiform, the most common scripts of the ancient Near East. This was against Darius' chauvinist feelings, and he therefore ordered the invention of a special, "Aryan alphabet" suited for the Persian language. The original design of the Behistun monument was still being executed when new victories in Scythia made it necessary to expand the text. In 519, the Behistun inscription was finished. Copies of the text were sent to all parts of the empire.

Herodotus of Halicarnassus states that immediately after his coup d'état, the new king

set up twenty provincial governorships, called satrapies. The several governors were appointed and each nation assessed for taxes for administrative purposes neighboring nations were joined in a single unit outlying peoples were considered to belong to this nation or that, according to convenience. note [Histories 3.89]

It is probably not true that the satrapies were created at once. Cyrus and Cambyses must have made some informal arrangements (e.g., the appointment of Aryandes in Egypt), although it is likely that - as Herodotus maintains - they did not impose a fixed tribute. Nor is it true that Darius imposed regular taxes on well-circumscribed provinces in one of the first regnal years. The list offered by Herodotus mentions India and Cyrene among the tributary zones, but they were not yet conquered until 515 and 513. Yet, it is certain that Darius did impose regular taxes and organized the empire in tax districts, which were also used to gather armies.

/> A Persian gold piece (daric)

As a corollary of the imposition of taxes, new coins were introduced. Until then, the Persians had used the same coins as king Croesus of Lydia after 515, when he had conquered the legendary gold-country India, Darius introduced the gold daric (dârayaka) and silver siglos as monetary standard. As a trading device, the coins were especially popular in Asia Minor. Their importance outside this area, however, seems to have been marginal.

Another innovation that dates back to the age of Darius is the construction of Royal roads. The roads themselves were centuries old and connected the main urban centers of the ancient Near East. But Darius introduced a system of caravanserais where a traveler could change horses and find a place to sleep. More important, those traveling on behalf of the Persian government, like the inspectors known as the king's eyes, received passports that entitled them to food rations all along the road. From the Persepolis fortification tablets, we learn that Darius' uncle Pharnaces was in charge of the department that gave out these passports.

This tells a lot about the professionalization of the Persian government: for the first time, there was a bureaucracy. Ironically, the officials did not write in Persian, but in Elamite and (later) Aramaic.

The seal of king Darius the Great

Another aspect of the professionalization of government was the reform of the calendar. Babylonian astronomers (the Chaldaeans) had invented a better system for the intercalation of months. Darius introduced it everywhere in the entire empire. Our first evidence for this calendar dates to 503 BCE, but an earlier introduction cannot be excluded. This Babylonian calendar is still used by the Jews.

Several courtiers are known by name. Pharnaces, the minister of economy, has already veen mentioned. Another one was Gobryas, who served as lance carrier, arštibara, but also commanded an army against the rebel king Atamaita of Elam. A third courtier to be mentioned is Aspathines. Herodotus erroneously mentions him as the seventh conspirator, but he was in fact the king's vaçabara. Although we do not know what a vaçabara had to do (cup-bearer? quiver-bearer?) we know for certain that this was a very important function. After the king, the crown prince and the arštibara, Aspathines was the most important man in Persia.

Setutra Darius: his royal name in Egypt

Related to the building of the roads was the construction of large granaries for the army. From now on, the Persian armies could be extremely large and would always have a numerical superiority. As a consequence, warfare in the Persian world was to be a struggle for the possession of the granaries. Two centuries later, when the Macedonian king Alexander the Great invaded Asia, his army often followed the royal roads, which his opponent Darius III Codomannus tried to prevent.

Trade benefited from the building of roads and, to a lesser extent, the introduction of coinage. The Building inscription from Darius' palace at Susa mentions how people from all quarters of the world worked together, how timber was imported from the valley of the Indus and the mountains of the Lebanon, and how precious stones were imported from Central Asia. Sea routes were explored as well. The Greek sailor Scylax of Caryanda wrote a treatise on the Indian Ocean.

/> Statue of Darius, once erected in Egypt, but later brought to Susa.

In September 518, Darius visited Egypt for the second time. He found the country in deep mourning. An inscription from Memphis, now in the Louvre, tells that "on the fourth day of the first month of the harvest season of his majesty's fourth regnal year", or 31 August, the Apis bull had died. During this visit, Darius buried this manifestation of the Memphite creation god Ptah, and ordered the search for a new Apis, which was found on 9 November.

During his stay in Egypt, Darius gave precious gifts to the temple of Neith of Sais and the sanctuary of Osiris at Busiris. At Hibis in the Kharga oasis, in the western desert, the great king dedicated a temple to Amun, although it is likely that the Egyptian king Psammetichus II (595-589) had already started its construction. Here, a cartouche was found with Darius' Egyptian titulary as pharaoh: Son of Re, Lord of Appearances, the Great, Darius, given life. (It may refer to Darius II Nothus.)

Darius' attitude towards Apis and Ptah, Neith, Osiris and Amun is typical for his religious policy (and for the influence of an excellent adviser, probably the satrap of Egypt, Aryandes). The Persepolis fortification tablets mention sacrifices to several deities - not only to the Persian ones, but also to Babylonian and Elamite gods. As king of kings, Darius was the ruler of a multicultural empire, and he was willing to accept the gods of other ethnic groups.

An interesting case is the cult for the Greek god Apollo, who received special honors from the Persian authorities. Being a god of wisdom, he was regarded as the alter ego of the Persian "wise lord" Ahuramazda, and received great sacrifices. For example, when Datis and Artaphernes were crossing the Aegean Sea and visited the island Delos in the summer of 490, Apollo was honored with no less than 9,000 kg of incense. On the other hand, Persian garrisons were settled on several places outside Persia, and the settlers took their cults with them. Fire altars have been discovered on several places in Anatolia. All in all, Persian religious policy aimed, intentionally or not, at cross-fertilization.

Another relevant example of Darius' religious policy is Jerusalem. Cyrus had promised the Jews that they could rebuild the temple of their God, but there had been opposition from the Samarians, who received support from the satrap of Syria, the Babylonian Tattenai. (An intersting appointment.) The prophet Haggai, however, demanded that the Jews, nineteen years after coming home, would actually start the construction of the temple. The inhabitants of Jerusalem sent a messenger to Susa to ask Darius what to do: build a temple as Cyrus had permitted, or not build a temple, as Tattenai requested? Darius ordered a search in the archives and allowed the construction of the sanctuary. On 1 April 515, the temple of Jerusalem was inaugurated. Probably, Darius had recognized in the God of the Jews his own supreme god Ahuramazda.


NGC Ancients: Coinage of the Persian (Achaemenid) Empire

Though sometimes overshadowed by powerful Greek city-states and the Roman Empire of antiquity, the Achaemenid Persians founded one of the most powerful empires in the history of Western civilization. Early historical details are murky, but it would appear that the foundation of this important ancient empire was under way by about 650 BC. The first Persian king to be mentioned in contemporary historical sources is Cyrus I “The Great” (c.559/8-530 BC), who unified territories stretching from Central Asia to Phoenicia and Lydia.

In 547 BC, Cyrus conquered the Lydian Kingdom, then under the rule of King Croesus (c.561-547/6 BC). Croesus is a noteworthy figure in ancient numismatics, as he is believed to have pioneered the idea of a bi-metallic coinage system that contained both gold and silver coins of high purity. These coins featured on the obverse the confronted foreparts of a lion and a bull, and a simple incuse punch on the reverse. This example of a gold stater, thought to have been issued c.550 BC at the Sardes mint, is in exceptionally fine condition and is struck to the “heavy” weight standard of c.10.5 grams.

Initially, it seems Cyrus continued to issue these gold and silver coins of Croesus’ type after bringing Lydia under the Persian banner. This coin is an excellent example of a silver siglos that most likely was issued after the defeat of Croesus – it is thought to have been struck c.545-520 BC.

The next important Persian king, Darius I (c.522/1-486 BC), spent much of his career expanding upon the conquests of Cyrus. He was able to add lands ranging from Greece to Pakistan, and even invaded North Africa. From a numismatic standpoint, this king is important as the first Persian ruler to issue a uniquely Persian coinage. Breaking with the precedent of re-issuing the Lydian types of Croesus, Darius introduced a coinage with new designs in about 520 BC.

These silver coins (basic unit, siglos), were struck on small, thick planchets and feature a bearded archer (thought to represent the king or a hero) on the obverse, and an incuse punch on the reverse. This piece is an example of the earliest style of this series (c.520-510/05 BC) – the rigid archer is depicted from the waist up, with a bow and some arrows in hand.

The style of Persian sigloi, and their gold counterparts (basic unit, daric, which shared the designs of the silver pieces) underwent another evolution around 510-505 BC. Now, the hero-king is depicted as a full figure in a kneeling-running posture, with a quiver on his back, about to release an arrow. This gold daric, minted c.505-480 BC, illustrates the change in style.

Yet another stylistic change occurred c.490-480 BC, probably under Xerxes (486-465 BC), the son and successor of Darius. Though the obverse figure still occupies almost the same position as before, it now appears even more as if he might be in motion while still kneeling. Additionally, instead of drawing his bowstring, the figure merely holds the bow and with his right hand holds a spear.

Xerxes’ design for darics and sigloi would prove to be the longest-running of the Persian series. For about 150 years, the only significant change was to replace the king’s spear with a dagger, which happened on some of the issues starting in about 450 BC. The quality of die execution would decline over the ensuing decades. This siglos, struck c.455-420 BC and showing the figure with a dagger and bow, illustrates a stylistic degradation of the die work.

Interestingly, a stylistic recovery of Persian coinage took place c.375 BC. This daric, struck around that time, illustrates great improvement in the depiction of the hero-king.

This basic design would outlast the Persian Empire itself, which was conquered by Alexander III “The Great” during a five year period ending in 329 BC. The Greeks who oversaw the territories of the once-mighty Persian Empire elected to continue the coinage types of the Persians until c.300 BC. This daric was struck by an unknown satrap (regional ruler) of Alexander III, c.328-311 BC.

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Watch the video: Daric! (December 2021).