Sasanian coin project

Project team

Department of Coins and Medals 


  • Mrs Elahe Askari,
    National Museum of Iran, Tehran

Supported by

  • The Townley Group, British Museum
  • British Institute of Persian Studies

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The Sasanian dynasty came to power in AD 224, when Ardashir, a local king from Pars in southern Iran, seized the crown and became King of Kings of Iran. The Sasanians remained the most powerful empire in the ancient near east until the advent of Islam and the Arab invasion in AD 651.

Sasanian coins are an important primary source for the history, economics and religion of this dynasty. From the beginning, the image of the king with his elaborate crown appears on the front and a Zoroastrian fire altar is shown on the back. The crowns incorporate a variety of symbols, such as the star and moon crescent, which are associated with the Zoroastrian religion and idea of kingship. Inscriptions, which are in Middle Persian (Pahlavi), give the king's name, and his religious affiliation as a worshipper of Ahuramazda, the Zoroastrian Wise Lord.

From the sixth century onwards, important information on the mint and date within the king's reign appears on the back. More than 50 mint centres are known through abbreviations in Middle Persian but not all can be identified with certainty. Sasanian coins were minted in gold, silver, bronze and occasionally lead.

The Sasanian Coin Project has resulted in a two-volume published catalogue of about 4,500 Sasanian coins in the National Museum of Iran. The first volume appeared in January 2010: Sasanian Coins. A Sylloge of the Sasanian Coins in the National Museum of Iran (Muzeh Melli Iran), Tehran. Ardashir I- Hormizd IV. Each coin is illustrated and described in the catalogue.

Volume II, a sylloge of the Sasanian coins in the National Museum of Iran (Muzeh Melli Iran), Tehran Khusrau II- Yazdgard III, was published in 2012.

The British Museum collection of Sasanian coins is available through the Collection online.

Gold coin of Ardashir I (224-241 AD)

Gold coin of Ardashir I (224-241 AD)