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Research Coins: Feature Auction

Sale: Triton VII, Lot: 569. Estimate $4000. 
Closing Date: Monday, 12 January 2004. 
Sold For $8500. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

SASANIAN KINGS of PERSIA. Shahpur I. 241-272 AD. AV Dinar (7.25 gm). "The Mazda worshipper, the divine Shahpur, the king of kings of Iran who is descended from the Gods" in Pahlavi, crowned and cuirassed bust right / "Fire of Shahpur" in Pahlavi, fire altar with attendants. SWW 13 and back cover (this coin); Göbl I/1; Paruck 65; Alram 687; MACW -; De Morgan pg. 665, 24. Good VF. [See color enlargement on plate 8] ($4000)

Shahpur I, like his father Ardashir I, worked aggressively to extend Sasanian power. Upon his accession, he immediately tried to draw the new Roman emperor, Gordian III, into a war. Gordian and his praetorian prefect and father-in-law, Timesitheus, began a major campaign in 242 AD, and achieved substantial success before Timesitheus died in 243 AD. Timesitheus’ co-prefect, Marcus Julius Philippus, continued the war, but after the Romans suffered a major defeat near Ctesiphon, Gordian III died and Philip was proclaimed emperor. Under the circumstances, Philip was forced to negotiate a truce in order to return to Rome for his confirmation by the Senate. The Romans agreed to pay a substantial indemnity of 500,000 aurei to Shahpur, in exchange for a quiet eastern border, for which a victory was declared.

Shahpur then moved across his empire to secure the eastern frontiers. The result of this action was direct control of long portions of the Silk Road, and the additional wealth its trade brought. Shahpur’s installation of a client Kushan king extended Sasanian control outside of the traditional Persian boundaries, for which Shahpur adopted the title “King of Kings of Iran and non-Iran.”

After securing his eastern border, Shahpur turned his attention back to the west. Subsequent raids into Roman territory reaped much plunder for the Sasanians, who went so far as to sack Antioch. The internecine struggles in Rome prevented a coherent defence, until the accession of Valerian I in 253 AD. This emperor mounted a powerful counterattack, but was eventually betrayed and captured by Shahpur. This humiliating defeat for the Romans was one of the greatest victories of the Sasanians. Content with his success, Shahpur concluded the campaign, taking Valerian with him as a captive. This “trophy” he proudly displayed at his court until the Valerian died some time later.