Vahram (Bahram) V, Sasanian King AD 420-438

Sunrise # 927, SNS III C-13-4 var,, Very Fine

Mint: Sind (Mehran) in the south east region of present day Pakistan.


Bahram V was son of Yazdgird I and came to the throne after his father’s death. The succession was not for Bahram given his father’s conflict with the priesthood. However, he was successful in neutralizing his opposition. His mother was a Jewish noble named Shushana. Bahram V or as he is known in literature, Bahram Gor, is one of the most famous of the Sasanian kings. He was an excellent tactician and inflicted a crushing defeat on the Hephthalites (a branch of the Huns) in the east, killing their leader and capturing enormous amounts of treasure. According to historians he bestowed some of these riches in the treasury and distributed the rest among the people. He also encountered trouble in Armenia, forcing him to take action by removing the royal dynasty and replacing them with a governor (marzban) directly appointed by the Sasanian court. This inaugurated a new era in Armenian history known as the “Marzpanate”. This move angered the Romans who subsequently invaded. The Roman advance was successfully halted by Bahram. From the record left by historians we have evidence of great prosperity and renewal for the population which in turn strengthened the foundation of the dynasty. There are also historiacal records suggesting monetary inflation and problems of supply and demand (though not necessarily in the context of modern economies), given the prosperity of the population and the volume of money in the hands of the people. In the folk and literary history of the Near East Bahram V rivals the famous Baron Munchhausen with his adventures in exotic lands. His love stories have been immortalized by poets such as Ferdowsi and Nezami. Stories of his adventures also influenced later literature such as the tale of Sinbad in “One Thousand and One Nights”. Bahram died doing what he liked best, hunting gors (onagers). He took a wrong turn while pursuing his quarry and was traped in quick sand where he died (this the most popular version of his demise). Bahram’s reputation as a military leader, king and lover made him legendary. Long after the Sasanian Empire was gone, coins imitating his style called “Bukhar Khudat” were minted by the rulers and governors of Bukhara in Central Asia. The famous Persian Sufi Poet and mathematician Omar Khayyam, in one of his quatrains writes of Bahram:”They say the lion and the lizard keep, The Courts where Kings Gloried and drank deep, And Bahram, that great Hunter-The Wild Ass, Stamps o’er his Head, and he lies fast asleep” (translation from Victorian poet, Edward Fitzgerald).