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Indo-Sassanids / Kushano Sasanian - AD 200-636

The third century was a time of global crisis. In the West, the economically strained and overstretched Roman Empire was crumbling and near collapse in a phase that historians describe as the Crisis of the Third Century (235–284). In the East, the fall of the Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD) sent China into a period of turmoil and near-continuous warfare known as the Six Dynasties period. These events, and the sudden overthrow of the Parthian Empire in 224 AD by Ardashir I, founder of the Sassanid (or Sassanian) Empire soon put the profitable Silk Road trade on which the Kushans depended at grave risk.

Under Ardashir (ruled 226 – 241 AD), the Sassanians swept across Bactria (230-240 AD), and pushed the Kushans to India. By the end of the reign of Ardashir’s son Shapur I (240-270 AD), the Sassanian Empire stretched from the Euphrates River to Indus River. In the east this regime was known by various names - Kushano Sasanian, Kushano Sassanids, Indo Sassanids, Indo-Sassanian or Kushan Shahs.

The crown- princes deputed as governors enjoyed the privilege of using the title ' Kushan-shah', "the king of the Kushanas". A particularly interesting personality was Peroz, the brother of Shapur I, governor of Khurasan, who adopted the title of vazurg Kushdnshah, 'Great Kushan-Shah'. Shapur placed his son, who took the title “King of Kushan” (kushan-shah), on the throne in the east. Vahram II, who had been the Kushan-shah during his father's reign, ascended the throne in AD 276 while his brother Hormazd became the Kushan-shah.

The Kushan Shahs were a branch of Sassanid Persian Empire who filled the power vacuum in 3rd and 4th Century AD left by declining Kushan Empire. The once mighty Kushan Empire devolved into the long reign of Shapur II (310-79 AD). During the mid 5th Century, mass southward migration of Turkic Tribe from Central Asia known as the Hephthalites (white Huns or Huns) invaded Sassanian and created a new Kingdom. The coins of that time carried names such as Peroze Kushan Shah. Hermuzed Kushan Shah, Kushan Shah and Kushan Shahinshah, which are all Kushanid names, but they were taken over by the Sasanids as their empire was extended. The titles like Kushan Shah (king of the Kushanas) or Kushan Shahan-Shah ( king of the Kushan kings of the Sassanian) suggest that they were different from the Sassanians.

The end of Kushano Sassanian rule left a power vacuum at the end of 4th Century AD that was filled by tribe of Huns, hailed from Western Central Asia or Black Sea region and known as Kidarites. They rose to power in 420s. Many small Kidarite Kingdoms are known exclusively through their coinage only. Some of these coins include a legend that asserts the Kidarites as the inheritors of Kushans. According to Roman Ghirshman: Begram I corresponds to the period of the Indo- Greek domination, Begram II corresponds to the Kushan kings, and Begram III corresponds to the Kushano-Sassanid period and later the Hephtalites and Turcs.

The Kushan Shahs established their rule in the old Gandhara region. According to Ibn Khurdadhbih, the Kushan- shah was at one time styled ruler of all Transoxania. Displaced by Hepthalites invaders around 410 AD, the Kushan Shahs re-established their authority after the Sassanians destroyed the Hephthalites in 565 AD. Kushano-Sassanids culture embraced Buddhism as well as the secular arts, as evidenced in traded goods such as silverware and textiles that show Sassanid emperors hunting or administering justice. The example of Sassanid art remained influential for several centuries in Afghanistan and northwest India. Their rule finally was collapsed by Arab attacks during the mid-600’s. Some would date the Indo-Sassanian period from AD 319 to 700 AD.

Indo-Sassanian Gadhaya Paisa Saurastrat coins are fun and interesting, surprisingly inexpensive and a fine addition to any coin collection. For centuries the Indo-Sassanians copied the design of the Sassanion Drachm of Persia, and used it from about 300-650AD. The Obverse is a stylized bust facing right with the hair flowing left, and the reverse is a fire altar, common in the Middle East until this time period. Surrounding the altar is arms of servents to the religious ritual, both left and right. Zoroastrianism was founded by Zarathushtra in Persia.

After a disastrous campaign against the Hepthalites during the late fifth century, the Sassanians did not recover Afghanistan until Khosrow I (531–79) allied with the Central Asian Göktürks to defeat the Hephthalites. During this tumultuous period, any semblance of stable rule in Afghanistan depended on strong local kings at places such as Bamiyan and the region around the Kabul Valley where a final brilliant flowering of cultural pluralism mixing various Greek-inspired Buddhist styles reached great heights at a series of Kushano-Sassanian sites and monuments such as the Bamiyan Buddhas, the Buddhist monastery at Fondukistan and magnificent Buddhist stupas at Tepe Maranjan (Kabul), Shewaki, Guldura and other sites.

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Page last modified: 08-10-2012 19:55:02 ZULU