Kavad I, First Reign, Sasanian King AD 488-497

Sunrise # 958, SNS Type I/1, Gobl Type I/1, Extremely Fine

Mint: KA (Karian).


Kavad, also known as Kavadh and Qobud, was the son and successor of Peroz. He was considered a lion at certain times and a fox at others. He survived twice being overthrown by usurpers. There are several important events that took place during his reign that had a lasting impact. First, on the domestic front, he had to deal with a full-blown social revolution led by a former Zoroastrian Priest and heretic named Mazdak. The Mazdakite movement was the first communist movement in the world where according to its doctorine, all material things had to be shared between all. The movement was highly organized with a strong intelligensia and appealed to all classes of people from peasants to nobles and even aristocrats. The historian al-Tabari mentions that Mazdakites had a highly sophisticated network of informants and dispersed information very quickly among its members. Mazdakites in their move to share power with monarchy, killed or exiled many members of aristocracy. At the beginning Kavad I had no choice but to cooperate with the movement. However in later years he sought to destroy them. He appointed his crown prince Khosrau I to elliminate the Mazdakite threat. Eventually a banquet was arranged where Khosrau destroyed the movement in streams of blood, killing all of its leaders including Mazdak. In the following days, nearly 80,000 members of the movement were killed forcing the remaining members into exiles or under ground. This movement never disappeared completely and surfaced sporadically long after this incident under various names and leadership all over the Near East. On the foreign front, Kavad was able to crush the Hephtalites and remove their threat on the eastern frontiers of the empire, annexing once again much of Bactria, including portions of the Ghandahar (Qandiahar) region in present-day Afghanistan. The sound defeat of Hephtalites was a blessing for the region, as the Hephtalites (Huns) had destroyed Afghanistan’s flourishing and established Budduhist culture. No where was the destruction was brutal than in Ghandahar were nearly 300,000 Buddhist inhabitants were put to death. Kavad I was able to re-establish Sasanian control over these regions where it had been lost for nearly half a century. On the the Byzantine front, Kavad scored some major victories in Syria forcing the Romans to enter into peace negotiations, signing a treaty ending the hostilities. Meanwhile, the Transcaucasian region came under heavy attack from the Huns and other nomadic tribes, threataning both the Sasanian and Byzantine empires on their northern frontiers. Finally a cooperation agreement was signed between Persia and Byzantium for protection of the Caspain passages and gateways where the nomadic tribes could be halted. The Byzantine Empire agreed to share the cost with Sasanian Persia. The Armenian frontier remained a contested area as both Sasanain Persia and the Byzantines sought to undermine the other. Kavad I minted very large number of silver drachms and increased the number of minting centers. Kavad also embarked on organizing the tax system which was left in ruin after the tumultuous years of his father Peroz. The large number of silver drachms minted in the years of Peroz and Kavad indicate massive military operations as well as the need for payment for goods as the result of years of famine. The large quantity of silver drachms also indicate a drop in value of silver due to various factors including inflation. In addition, there are number of surviving bronze and copper pieces from Kavad’s era that are indicative of goods being available for purchase in local markets where these copper and bronze pieces form the core of the currency available to ordinary people.