Hormizd (Ohrmazd) IV, Sasanian King AD 579-590

Sunrise # 971A, Goble I/1, Choice Very Fine

Mint Ni (Nishapur) in Khorasan Province at present day Iran.


Hormizd IV was the son of Khosrau I and succeeded him after his death. Unlike his father who earned the loyalty of the priesthood and the nobility by protecting them, Hormizd IV showed more concern for the lower classes of Sasanian society. This set him on a direct course of collision with the upper classes of the empire. He reduced the power of the priesthood and the nobility greatly, leading to the capture and execution of some 13,000 landowners and nobles according to the historian al-Tabari. In another move, he humiliated his most decorated general and commander Bahram (Vahram or Varahran) VI, also known as Chobin (or Zubin), following a defeat at the hands of the Byzantines, despite the fact the Bahram had won many other engagements against the Byzantines as well as the Turks. This spelled the beginning of the end for Hormizd IV. Bahram IV and another commander called Vistahm (Bistam), the brother in law of Hormizd IV, rebelled against the king. The rebellions took place in two different geographical regions of the empire, north and west. Eventually Bahram VI besieged the capital and captured it. Hormizd was removed from power, imprisoned and later executed. The coin illustrated here is an excellent example of a silver drachm of Hormizd IV. The name of the king appears in front of the face and reads clockwise. Behind the crown is the Pahlavi phrase “Apzun” (“may God increase his greatness”), written counter-clockwise. On the reverse, the mint abbreviation NI is written on the right (clockwise) and the regnal year “ashra” (“ten”) in Pahlavi is to the left, read counter-clockwise. The city Nishapur, also known as the “City of Shapur”, was built by Shapur I. It became an important center of trade and art. The pottery from Nishapur became world famous in the middle ages and was traded across Europe and Asia. The city was utterly destroyed by the Mongols in the 13th century. However, it was rebuilt and repopulated only a quarter of a century later. There are also numerous Turquoise mines around the city which are active in producing the beautiful stone. Persian turquoise is highly sought after by jewelers around the world, especially in south and southwestern Asia. The city of Nishapur is also the birth and burial place of one of the most famous Persian poets and mathematicians, the mystic Omar Khayyam.