13 Elements of “Globalization” in Ancient Iranian Numismatics
13.1 The Exchange of Numismatic Patterns between East and West
In a recent contribution Joe Cribb has shown the importance of Greek culture as a source of coinage tradition in Central Asia
The soldiers who followed Alexander carried with them many Greek coins (Rtveladze 2007, 195–198), and the subsequent foundation of Greek colonies
The debated problem of the ontological status of the Hellenistic rulers, whether they were considered or considered themselves divine beings, at first arose with Alexander, and later it also deeply influenced the Iranian conception of kingship. Alexander, to tell the truth, was well conscious of his human nature and, according to Plutarch
The habit to assume some divine characteristics was maintained by Alexander’s followers. Ptolemy I, for instance, as Alexander’s successor in Egypt, wears the goatskin mantle of Zeus, and his coins in name of Alexander show the bold Macedonian ruler with an elephant scalp, adorned with the horn
Actually, the exchange of communications between East and West was not restricted to royal ideology and iconography
Thus, we may say that the importance of Alexander’s legacy is great also in the field of Iranian coinage. In relation to the monetary system of Central Asia
The analysis of the coins, as it has been underlined by Le Rider (2003), reveals that Alexander actually never imposed his coin types, which were created in the West, on the Barbarians
In this prudent monetary policy it is recognizable the same pragmatism that suggested to Alexander to behave in Persia as “friend” of Cyrus
13.2 Two International Coinages: “Owls” and “Archers”
Before Alexander only two coinages were diffused at an “international” level: on the one hand, the Athenian coins with the typical representation of Athena’s
The Persians were the first ones to recognize the importance of the propagandistic significance of the coins, and soon introduced a monetary tradition which lasted for centuries. The idea was simple but effective: Darius I, around 510 BCE, ordered his form/image (charakter) be struck on lenticular globules of pure metal, in place of the zoomorphic figures of Cresus’ coins (560–546 BCE).9 There were no inscriptions on Achaemenid coins, but the mighty image of the Great King of the Persians circulated everywhere. The king was represented crowned, with the regal vest and carrying bow and arrows; he looked, therefore, quite menacing. The Greeks were afraid of these “archers”
It seems to me interesting to remark that the Persians learned to use coins from the Lydians, but they were soon able to invent the first imperial monetary system in history. Darius’s reform was extremely important, because it was introduced a kind of bimetallism, based on a fixed ratio of exchange between gold
Alexander, during the pillage of the treasure of Susa, found as many as 9000 gold
In this variegated framework of cultural relations, it could also happen the opposite, in fact the Persians coined Athenian types, too. Many imitations of Athenian coins circulated in Bactria
Accordingly, we may argue that there was a strict control of the Persian authorities over the empire-wide monetary policy. In Achaemenid Babylonia
The capacity to conform decisions to local situations is one of the most relevant qualities adopted by the Achaemenid policy. For instance, the above mentioned Mazakes, was even rewarded by Alexander for surrendering the province without fighting, by being appointed as the new governor of Babylon, where he continued to coin pseudo-Athenian tetradrachms under his name.19 Tissaphernes (400–395 BCE), satrap of Sardis and Karanos under Artaxerxes II
In conclusion, Athenian coin types were present from the Mediterranean
Fig. 13.1: Athenian Tetradrachm (c. 440–430 BCE)
Fig. 13.2: Gold Daric (c. 480 BCE)
Fig. 13.3: Gold Daric. Mint of Babylon (c. 331–311 BCE)
Fig. 13.4: Pseudo-Athenian Tetradrachm of Artaxerxes III (343–338 BCE).
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See (Espinosa 1990, 45–46). The Historia Augusta, for example, clearly states that Caracalla Alexandro Magno Macedoni aequandum putabat…eiusque gesta in ore semper habuit (HA Car. II 1–2).
Cf. (Bosworth 1980, 14), writes that the evidence of this policy of fusion, so far produced, is “little or nothing.” On the construction of the ethnic identity between Greeks and “Barbarians,” see (Sánchez 2009, in part. 39). For a balanced opinion on Alexander’s universalism, see (Musti 1990, 739; Lane Fox 2007; Muccioli 2012, 193–209).
Arr. Anab. III 27, 5.
See (Monte 1997, 4–8), and note 24. The curious title of “King (coming) from West,” LUGAL šá TA KUR ḫa-ni-i, on a tablet dated to 329/8 BCE, literally “the King (coming) from the land of ḫanû” to indicate the lands to the West of the Euphrates, is very rare and it was likely intended to remark the extraneousness of Alexander to the local culture. Obviously, the nobles and the priests of Babylon, attached to the privileges depending from the Temple of Marduk, bestowed the titles of the former Babylonian kings to Alexander, on condition that he did not interfere too much with the Temple’s life. See also (Monte 2001, 140–148; Muccioli 2004, 111–113).
Diod. XVII 66, 1–2.
In Plutarch the “globalization” is presented as a socio-cultural koinonia, “community” (Plut. Alex. 47, 5).