Pakistan Coins Coins first appeared in the late Eighth Century B.C. in the Lydia district in Asia Minor. Their appearance was undoubtedly a major economic revolution. In addition,they have proved to be a valuable source of history by furnishing clues to cultural,economic, and political conditions of the time. In the case of ancient Pakistan, the importance of coins as a source of history is further underscored by the paucity of written indigenous historical literature.
Thus it is the find of coins bearing Greek legends in the markets of Rawalpindi in the last century that led to the discovery of Greeks rulers in Pakistan. Long after Alexander the Great, some 39 Greek kings and two queens ruled this land. Their history is preserved only in their coins which are occasionally discovered in the country. In fact, until the coming of the Muslims in the Eighth Century A.D., coins prove a primary source to students of history.
To areas which comprise modern Pakistan, coins were brought by Achaemenian Persians as thet extended their empire eastward up to River Indus. Struck in the reign of Darius I (521-486 B.C.), the Persian coins were in two denominations, the daric of pure gold and the sigloi or shekel of silver.
The early Persian cons carried the same picture – the likeness of King Daruis I in a kneeling position, eith a bow in his left hand and a spear in his right. The reverse side had only a rough incuse caused in the striking. The coins were otherwise uninscribed, and oval in shape, circulating throughout much of Asia until the fall of the Persian Empire.
Alexander the Great swept eastward from Greece, conquered the Persians and marched on through Afghanistan to capture in 326 B.C. the ancient city of Taxila in the Punjab. He brought his own coins, along with other artifacts of Greek culture. The Bactrian Greeks, who ruled briefly after Alecander’s invasion and again for about a century following the decline of the Muryas, laid the foundation of minted coins. From then on every dynasty that came to power in Pakistan was to mint its own coins. The money economy had come to stay.
In terms of variety, rulers of the Kushana empire were fairly prodigious mimisters of coins. On the coins issued by the dynasty’s first ruler, Kujula Kadphises (the Chinese called him Kiu Tsiu-Kio), one may find the Greek dieties Hercules and Zeus, the bull and the two humped camel, or a seated figure considered to be that of Buddha. This early coinage was derived from the last Bactrian Greek ruler Hermaeus whose name and bust appear on the observe and those of Kujula Kadphises on the reverse. Later, the name and the bust of the Kushana ruler appear on either side. In another issue, the bust of the Roman emperors, Augustus (27 B.C. to 14 A.D.) or Claudius (41-54 A.D.), appear on the obverse but with the name of the Kushana king. It would seem that in the wake of international commerce, Roman coins had trickled into Central Asia and Kujula struck some in their imitation. On the other side of the bull and two humped camels coins, Kujula is described as Maharaja (great king) and Rajadhiraja (king of kings), obviously in the Parthian tradition.
Kujula’s successor, Vima, adopted the symbol of Shiva and the bull, which appeared on his and his successors’ coins, and continued in vogue right up to the advent of the Muslim rule.
Vima’s gold coins carry a clear image of the ruler;s head wearing a helmet or a half length fugure hilding the royal scepter or seated on the throne clad in a heavy coat, or finally the standing king, in his national costume of heaby coat and trousers, offering incense on a fire altar. On the reverse are inscribed the royal titles in Kharoshthi meaning”the great king, king of kings, lord of the whole earth, the great god, the protector.”
On other coins, Vima assumes the Greek titles of vasileos baselean soter megus (king of kings, the protector, the great).
Kanishka is considered the greatest of the Kushana rulers. His coins provide evidence of his conversion to Buddhism. The conversion, however, did not make him a bigor. His coins continued to honor the Greek, Sumerian, Elamite, Mithraic, Zoroastrian and Hindu dieties that were worshipped in the various provinces of his far flung empire. His coins show the first definte figure of the Buddha with his name written in Greek. He adopted the Iranian title Shaonanshad (king of kings) in place of the Greek equivalent.
By Imran Farooqi
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