• Irakli Paghava PhD in Medicine (2007) PhD in History (2015) Associate Professor, G. Tsereteli Institute of Oriental Studies, Ilia State University (Tbilisi, Georgia)
  • Severiane Turkia Independent Researcher Member of Oriental Numismatic Society & Georgian Numismatic Society (Tbilisi, Georgia)
Keywords: : Georgian numismatics, new mint name, “Jurzān”, Abbasid dynasty.


The history of Arab sway in Georgia has been researched thoroughly by many scholars throughout the 20th and 21st century. However, futher research in this field has been impeded by the dearth of original sources. Fortunately, numismatic material serves as a specific but informative primary source. The goal of this work is to publish two ‘Abbāsid coins, anonymous AH 152 fals (weight 2.42 g, dimensions 22.5 mm, die axis 9 o’clock) and AH 240 dīnar (weight 4.38 g), citing al-Mutawakkil and the heir al-Mu‘tazz Billāh, both bearing the previously unpublished and unresearched mintname Jurzān; also re-publish AH 248 dīnar (weight 4.21 g) citing al-Musta‘īn Billāh, of Tiflīs mint. Jurzān mintname is being published and discussed for the first time by means of this article.

Jurzān was the term the Arabs employed for designating Georgia / east-Georgian region of Kartli. We knew the mintname pairs of province - major urban center of the province type, like Armīniya – Dabīl for Armenia, and Arrān – Barda‘a for Albania; now we have similar pair for Georgia as well: Jurzān – Tiflīs. We presume that all Jurzān coins were minted at Tiflīs, the major Arab stronghold in the contemporary eastern Georgia.

The significance of discovering the new Georgian / Caliphal mintname extends beyond the framework of exclusively numismatic history and is determined by 1) the date the aforesaid coins bear; 2) the coin metal employed; 3) their mintname, i.e. Jurzān , substituted for Tiflīs for some reason.

The AH 152 (14/I/769-3/I/770) fals was minted in Georgia in the epoch of major Khazar-Arab confrontation and anti-Arab insurrection / activities of the Georgian mountaineers, the Ts’anars, following the major Khazar invasions of AH 145 and 147. We discuss the political, military and administrative changes based on the narrative and numismatic data. The campaign of AH 147 / 764 (Rās Ṭarkhān’s invasion) culminated with Arab defeat. The northern provinces of the caliphate were pillaged by the Khazars who seized and ravaged Tiflīs; eastern Georgia and the Bāb al-Abwāb area were affected the most. The Caliph decided to re-conquer the ‘Abbāsid North, and resumed hostilities in AH 148 / 765: new army was led by Ḥumayd b. Qaḥṭaba; however, by AH 148 the Khazars had evidently already evacuated eastern Georgia and Tiflīs. The Arabs created a network of fortified centers against the Khazars, probably including al-Yazīdyah (issuing the fulūs in AH 149 and 150). It is unclear, who governed the province Armīniya in AH 148-152 (27/II/765-3/I/770) - Ḥumayd b. Qaḥṭaba, then again Yazīd b. Usayd? According to al-Kūfī, appointing Bakkār b. Muslim the Caliph dismissed none other than Yazīd. Bakkār was the governor in AH 152-153; he was replaced with al-Ḥasan b. Qaḥṭaba, who remained the governor in AH 154-158. Al-Ḥasan b. Qaḥṭaba was probably dispatched because of the Ts’anar revolt. The Ts’anars attempted to make use of the political vacuum caused by the Khazar invasions and gain independence from the Arabs, however, unsuccessfuly. The Caliph initiated the reconquest of the northern provinces, in particular, the Bāb al-Abwāb and Jurzān, two key areas, controlling the passes through the Caucasus mountains which the Khazars could make use of to invade the ‘Abbāsid North at some point in the future.

It is clear now that by 769 / AH 152 Tiflīs (and, undoubtly, significant part of Jurzān) was recovered by the Arabs, to such an extent, that they could operate a mint there (no matter who was the governor then).

It is significant, that Jurzān was indicated as the mintname, not Tiflīs. That could constitute a declaration of a kind, reflecting the Arab ambition and desire to control all of Jurzān (far from reality because of the Ts’anars). However, gold or silver currency would presumably have had more declarative value. The authorities had some reason for issuing the copper currency. In the decade and a half after Rās Ṭarkhān’s invasion minting of the ‘Abbāsid coppers in the region intensified. Copper currency possibly served as a public media outlet in a sense, in addition to its purely economic role, hence it was expedient to indicate the name of the current governor (or his deputy). However, we are inclined to consider that the intensive issuing of copper currency in the aforesaid cities within the aforesaid time frame reflects and indicates the increased Arab military presence (involving a number of Arab warriors, resp. settlers with families?) and ensuing local economic acvitivies.

The Jurzān dīnar of AH 240 (2/VI/854-21/V/855) and Tiflīs dīnar of AH 248 (7/III/862-23/II/863) pertain to the time period when Bughā affirmed and restored the ‘Abbāsid control over the northern provinces, in particular, the Tiflīs area in eastern Georgia (Jurzān).

When the anti-Arab revolt in Armenia started, Al-Mutawakkil assigned the governorship of the North to Bughā the Turk, who first suppressed the revolt in Armenia and then moved to Georgia, where he seized Tiflīs and killed local recalcitrant ruler, Isḥāq b. Ismāʿīl. This happened on 5 August, Saturday, 853. Having captured Tiflīs and decapitated Isḥāq, Bughā attempted to expand Arab control in Georgia. He gained victory over the army of west-Georgian kingdom, but was defeated by the Ts’anars. Eventually Bughā was replaced by Muḥammad b. Khālid. Bughā was the governor in AH 237 (?) – AH 240 or 241. Muḥammad was the governor from AH 241 or 242 till he was replaced by ‘Īsā b. al-Shaykh in AH 256.

The AH 240 dirham of Jurzān was minted when Bughā was still active in the region, specifically in Jurzān, while the AH 248 dirham of Tiflīs was minted in the governorship of Muḥammad. We know Tiflīs dirhams of AH 248-250, also issued in the governorship of Muḥammad. Dīnars were issued in Dabīl in AH 241 and in Armīniya in AH 243, 246 and 252; dirhams were issued in Armīniya in AH 241, 243, 246-253, 255-256. In both Armīniya-Dabīl and Jurzān-Tiflīs cases the coin-minting activity clearly intensified during and in the wake of Bughā’s stay in the region: the coin-minting activities ceased and were resumed well before and after that period.

The name of the entire province was indicated on the AH 240 Jurzān dīnar because Bughā considered it expedient to declare the Arab control all over Jurzān (which remained merely an ambition, since Bughā was defeated by the Ts’anars). The metal employed for minting both Jurzān and Tiflīs (as well as Armīniya and Dabīl) dīnars perhaps also indicates that the authorities employed the mint/s for declarative purposes. However, the more or less regular issue of silver currency at Tiflīs, and particularly Armīniya mints may rather reflect the more mundane intention to supply the local residents (including, no doubt, the military) adequately with means of exchange.

The discovery of the new mintname “Jurzān” (Georgia / Kartli), probably designating Tiflīs, expands our knowledge on the numismatic history of Georgia and the ‘Abbāsid caliphate. Two coins presented by means of this article probably constitute the earliest artifacts bearing the ethnotoponym Jurzān. Employing the name of the province as a mintname evidently emphasized the Arab control of not just the Arab outpost Tiflīs, but rather the entire province of Jurzān, i.e. eastern Georgia, or, rather the ‘Abbāsid ambition thereof. The unique copper and gold coinage of Jurzān along with the unique gold dīnar of Tiflīs provide us with an intimate insight into the contemporary political, military and economic proceedings in Georgia, or, generally speaking, the ‘Abbāsid North.

We consider the Jurzān coins, published and analyzed by means of this article, as one of the primary sources on the history of Georgia and the ‘Abbāsid North in this epoch. Comprehensive analysis of all the available and upcoming data would hopefully lead to the more up-to-date historiographic narrative of the rise and fall of the Arab sway in Georgia and the region.


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How to Cite
Paghava, I., & Turkia, S. (2021). NEW MINTNAME “GEORGIA” (“JURZĀN”): RESEARCHING THE HISTORY OF GEORGIA AND THE ‘ABBĀSID NORTH IN THE 8TH-9TH CENTURIES. The Ukrainian Numismatic Annual, (5), 228-258.