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At the Tabrīz and Isfahan mints well-executed silver and gold coins were struck along with the normal, less carefully minted products, with full, even pressure and reeded edges similar to those found on contemporary British Indian coins.
), standardized units of metal used as a medium of exchange, first introduced into Persia by the Achaemenid Darius I (521-486 B. E.) Coins differ from earlier media of exchange in that they are usually uniform in weight and purity of the metal and are recognized by the state as valid currency for discharge of tax and other financial obligations.
Their introduction simplified exchanges, for people who did not know how to calculate in fractions or decimals and had no knowledge of metallurgy could rely on them without having to weigh and test them in every transaction. Occasionally double dinars were also struck, as well as one-third and one-sixth dinars, the latter corresponding to the Roman tremissis of 1.5 g.
Standardization also simplified public finance, particularly the collection of taxes and tribute from widely differing regions. By the time of Pērōz (459-84), however, the Roman ).
In order to maintain the standard of its coins and a degree of equilibrium between supply and demand for money, each state attempts to exercise a monopoly over minting. These coins also became debased, and by the time of the Sasanian conquest in 224 C. they contained hardly 1 g of metal (Sellwood, 1980, pp. Ardašīr I (224-40) continued to mint the debased Arsacid tetradrachm of billon, an alloy of copper with a small amount of silver, as well as introducing fractional silver coins, specifically the half-drachma and the was minted until the end of the reign of Kavād I (488-96, 498-531), becoming gradually debased to less than 0.3 g and circulating mainly as token currency (Göbl, 1971, p. A major innovation in coin technology occurred in the early Sasanian period: The first thin-flan coins, cut from rolled sheet metal, were issued.
Nevertheless, because throughout most of Persian history coins were made of metals that were also traded as commodities subject to market forces, a monopoly of minting did not guarantee control either of the circulation or of the value of the coins, both of which fluctuated in relation to coins of other states and to the market value of the component metals (see Hennequin, 1972; idem, 1977). In the Arsacid period satraps and cities were again allowed to strike coins (Sellwood, = 1 obol), were issued (Sellwood, 1980, pp. They weighed 4.10 g or more, conforming to the standard of 4.12 g for the Attic drachma, but, owing to the thinness of the metal, were of much larger diameter (Göbl, 1971, p. The Sasanians discontinued the types of the Hellenized Arsacids and included Zoroastrian symbols and various effigies on their coins (Alram, p. On the obverse there is always a bust of the crowned and bearded king in profile facing right, combined in rare instances with images that have been interpreted as the queen, the royal heir, or both; these additional small figures on coins of Bahrām II have recently been interpreted as divinities, however (Choksy). Identifiable mint names first appeared on coins struck by Bahrām II (Gyselen, 1983, p.
Furthermore, before modern times the Persian economy consisted of a conglomeration of regional economies, each with a mint and a currency system geared to local commerce, rather than an integrated national economy. E.) an early form of the Parthian script was introduced for names and titles, at first only in abbreviated form (Ghirshman, p. As each Sasanian ruler had one or more distinctive crowns (Lukonin, p. On the reverse one of three variant types of the Zoroastrian fire altar with flames is depicted: plain, flanked by two attendants, or flanked by two attendants and with a bust in the flames. 236; idem, 1984), but they apparently became obligatory only under Bahrām IV (388-99).For this reason it is more sensible to study changes in the output (weight, fineness) of a single mint over time, rather than trying to arrive at an estimation of a nonexistent national norm. Sometimes, in fact, the standard of value used in everyday calculations was not embodied in actual coins at all. At first there seems to have been only one Achaemenid imperial mint, at Sardis (Bivar, p. 116), this element is often useful in identifying rulers depicted in other media (Göbl, pp. The ruler’s titles were inscribed in Middle Persian epigraphic script (Lukonin, p. Each type occurs with many variations in detail (Göbl, pp. About 100 Sasanian mint marks are known, though, as they are generally in abbreviated form, many have not yet been identified; some are variants or homonyms for single mints (Göbl, 1971, pp. At any one time the number of active mints must have been much lower than 100.As the output from local mints and the “exchange rates” often differed sharply from region to region, the standard monetary unit thus functioned primarily as a unit of reckoning (Ederer, p. It is important to distinguish in the historical sources between real circulating coinage and “ghost money” of this kind. He had refined gold to the last perfection of purity in order to have coins struck of it.” The minting of the gold daric continued until the conquest of the empire by Alexander in 331 and perhaps also under his authority (Carradice, p. The daric weighed 8.4 g (= 1 shekel) and was 98 percent pure gold. The darics and sigloi were trade coins, which enjoyed great prestige everywhere and were often imitated in weight, purity, and even design. 619), though many of the imperial coins bear counterstrikes, probably by local bankers (Burns, p. Many were in operation for only short periods, to serve the army, for example (Göbl, , pp.Coinage in ancient Persia thus weighed about a pound. by another series, which is beyond doubt Persian royal coinage, known to the Greeks as “Daric staters” (gold) and “Daric sigloi” (silver), both with the characteristic image of the archer on the obverse. 92), but production of the silver coins seems to have ceased in the early 4th century. The siglos weighed 11.2 g, and the silver content was more than 90 percent. The darics in particular served as the gold standard throughout the western part of the Persian empire and Asia Minor (Olmstead, p. 83), but another mint for gold was established some time in the 5th century, probably in Babylonia, and there may have been several mints for gold in the 4th century (Carradice, p. It has been suggested that a large proportion of Achaemenid currency was struck exclusively to pay for the military establishment, gold for the army, silver for the navy. E.) the Greek legends become so conventional as to be unintelligible (Sellwood, 1980, p. 331-32), and even at major mints coins were not necessarily struck every year (Göbl, 1971, p. Šāpūr II (307-79) transported minting equipment on his eastern campaigns; the court mint (heterogram BBA = “court”) is also thought to have remained ambulatory for some time (Göbl, 1971, p. Sasanian coins are often countermarked, probably by later Sogdian and Muslim rulers, certifying that they remained valid currency in regions under those rulers’ control (Göbl, 1971, p.In western Asia the earliest coinage is believed to have been issued at Sardis in Lydia in the 6th century B. E.; the first examples were of electrum, a naturally occurring alloy of gold and silver. The purpose was apparently to provide a uniform standard of value throughout the empire and also, according to Herodotus (4.166), to demonstrate Darius’ own power, “to leave a memorial of himself, such as no king had ever left before . The Babylonian weight standard, which was already in use on the Persian plateau, was adopted in general outline (Mitchiner, 1973, p. confirms that merchants paid “according to the stone (weight) of the king”: 1 (Olmstead, p. Twenty sigloi were equivalent to 1 daric; the ratio of value between silver and gold was thus theoretically 13.3:1. This curious division may have reflected the fact that silver was the common currency in the Mediterranean, whereas the army operated mainly in western Asia, where gold was preferred (Burns, p. The Achaemenid royal coinage was neither the unique nor the universal medium of exchange in the empire, however. 56; idem, (see coptic manichean texts) there is an extended metaphor in which the minting process is compared to the minting of the Word. 334), in keeping with the rulers’ policy of centralized control, which resulted in a quite uniform coinage. From the Islamic conquest to the Mongol invasions As the Arabs of the Ḥejāz had used the s of the Sasanian emperors, the only silver coinage in the world at that time, it was natural for them to leave many of the Sasanian mints in operation, striking coins like those of the emperors in every detail except for the addition of brief Arabic inscriptions like in Arabic.The first coins of pure gold and pure silver are believed to have been produced at the same mint. 8), but Darius did introduce certain reforms (Bivar, pp. For example, a papyrus document from Egypt dating from the 5th century B. The siglos was also struck in thirds, fourths, sixths, and twelfths (Hill, p. Initially, it was probably in use primarily in Lydia itself (although gold darics were found in a 6th century deposit at Persepolis). The Arsacids did not mint gold coins, except perhaps as ceremonial medallions. It is said to have involved five craftsmen: one who “poured” the coin, one who “struck” it, one who “cut” it, one who “sealed” it, and one who “cleaned” it (Hommel, pp. These successive processes are quite similar to those known to have been involved in minting coins under the Safavids (907-1145/1501-1732; see below). 400); in addition, one Sasanian seal in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, bears an image of a mint master wearing an unusual hat and holding a balance, with an anvil, a hammer, and a die at hand (Göbl, 1971 , p. As in the Achaemenid period, most of the coins minted by the Sasanians were used for the payment and provisioning of troops, as is clear from the vastly increased production during periods of war. Ḵosrow II (590-628) even boasted of the annual inventory of his treasury and the fact that the number of s had doubled more than once during his reign (Göbl, 1971, p. Between the reigns of Šāpūr II (307-79) and Bahrām V (420-38) tributary rulers were not allowed to mint coins (Burns, pp. By the time of Ḵosrow II the practice of “hubbing,” in which duplicate dies, usually cast or punched from a single master die, were sent from the court to each operating mint, had been adopted; he was reported to have had new dies made in the thirteenth and thirtieth years of his reign (Ṭabarī, I, pp. From about 29/650 to 50/670 all these issues continued to bear the name of a Sasanian emperor, usually Ḵosrow II, the last emperor to have struck coins in quantity, and abbreviated mint names in Pahlavi.