GÖBL, ROBERT, Austrian numismatist (b. Vienna, 4 August 1919; d. 8 December 1997; ; Figure 1). He joined the military in 1938, after graduating from high school, and spent the next nine years in the service, returning to Vienna only after the end of World War II. Göbl entered the University of Vienna in 1947, where he studied ancient history, classical archeology, and ancient numismatics, graduating in 1950. The title of his doctoral thesis was “Numismatisch-historische Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der Kaiser Valerianus und Gallienus.” His mentor in studying numismatics was Karl Pink, whose methodology had a lasting influence on Göbl’s further academic career. One of Göbl’s most pressing aims was to try out Pink’s structural methodology of the minting of coins in the Roman Empire on other well-defined numismatic complexes.

Göbl’s acquaintance with Franz Altheim made him interested in the coinage of the Sasanians. He published his “Aufbau der Münzprägung des Sasanidenstaates” in 1954, which is still today a valid structural analysis of coinage. In it, Göbl was able to apply successfully to other areas of study the systematic principles within the field of Roman numismatics as developed by Pink. It was submitted as his habilitation, which he defended in 1955 and which consequently qualified him to receive a lecturer position at the University of Vienna. He also took over from Pink the Numismatischer Lehrapparat, which had been founded by Wilhelm Kubitschek at the Department of Ancient History, Epigraphics and Classical Archeology. Later on he expanded this same contribution in his Handbuch zur Sasanidischen Numismatik, which was published in German in 1968 and in English translation in 1971. In 1973, Göbl published his Sasanidischer Siegelkanon, which has become a tool for the analytical classification of Sasanian seal stones. This contribution was closely connected to the recording of a large hoard of clay sealings from Taḵt-e Solaymān, which were assigned to Göbl for classification by the Deutches Archäologisches Institut (q.v.).

Göbl’s interest in ancient oriental numismatics extended beyond the geographical limits of the Sasanian state. Prompted by Franz Altheim, he published in 1957 an article about Kushano-Sasanian coinage that eventually became the groundwork for his Dokumente zur Geschichte der iranischen Hunnen in Baktrien und Indien (4 vols, Wiesbaden, 1967), a major contribution that revived a fascinating chapter in Asian history and that will undoubtedly remain as one of the milestones in the study of Oriental numismatics. Roman Ghirshman (q.v.) arranged for Göbl’s participation at the second Kanishka conference, which was held in London in 1960. This conference induced Göbl to make the coinage of the Kushans the central part of all his future research. In 1984, he published his monograph on the system and chronology of Kushan coinage, in which he gave an in-depth commentary on its controversial chronology. He published another study of the subject, DONUM BURNS: Die Kušānmünzen im Münzkabinett Bern und die Chronologie (Vienna, 1993), which he considered his “Kushan testament.” At the request of the present writer, however, he made further studies of the chronology problem following the publication of the Rabatak inscription in 1996.

In 1962, Ghirshman brought Göbl to Afghanistan as a UNESCO field expert in order to arrange the coin collection at the Museum of Kabul. During the course of his stay Göbl also traveled to Pakistan and discovered that some of the inscriptions of the Tochi-Agency kept in the Museum of Peshawar were not written in Mongolian, as had previously been presumed, but in Bactrian. Helmut Humbach read the bilingual texts, and the double datings included in them from then on formed a central point in Göbl’s argument for considering year 1 of Kanishka’s rule to be 232 C.E.

In 1965, the University of Vienna, on the occasion of the 600th anniversary of its foundation, established the Department of Ancient Numismatics and Pre-Islamic History of Central Asia, with Göbl, now Professor of Ancient Numismatics and the Pre-Islamic History of Central Asia, as its chairman. From this point on Göbl made the building up of this department the focal point of his attention, turning it into a major research institution that can justifiably be considered as the most prestigious of its kind throughout the world.

Göbl was a devoted, enthusiastic teacher, who never allowed his administrative responsibilities as department chairman to divert his attention from training his students. Some of his lectures have been published in his Antike Numismatik, which is an analytical handbook on ancient numismatics.

The Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften elected Göbl as corresponding member in 1963 and as full member in 1971. In 1970, the Numismatic Commission was formed within the Akademie der Wissenschaften and Göbl was appointed as its director, a position he kept until his death in 1997. From the very beginning Göbl led the Commission towards the goal he had envisaged for it, namely, to design and pursue larger projects that would serve the principles of research in the field of numismatics. This included preparation of the Fundmünzen der römischen Zeit in Österreich, the publication of coin collections within the framework of the Thesaurus nummorum Romanorum et Byzantinorum and the Moneta imperii romani series, which aimed to portray the structural analysis of Roman coinage in the imperial era.

Göbl’s main concern during the last decade of his tenure at the University of Vienna was to guarantee that the subject of numismatics would remain an independent discipline within the field of historical studies and to make it comprehensible to the beneficiaries of numismatic research. It was against this background that Numismatik, Grundriss und wissenschaftliches System was produced, in which his comprehensive understanding of numismatics as the science of the monetary system is expounded with precision.

Göbl retired as professor emeritus in 1989, earlier than expected, in order to concentrate all of his energy on the projects lying ahead of him. In a life of relative seclusion that was forced upon him by the increasing loss of hearing, he resumed the scholarly pursuit that he had started with, concentrating primarily on the reconstruction of the Roman minting system of the 3rd century in the framework of his Moneta imperii romani series, which he carried out within the Numismatic Commission at the Akademie der Wissenschaften. He published his Münzprägung des Kaisers Aurelianus (2 vols, Vienna, 1993) and followed it with a complete revision of his 1950 thesis. He died, however, before the latter could be published (Die Münzprägung der Kaiser Valerianus I, Gallienus, Saloninus [253-268], Regalianus [260] und Macrianus [und] Quietus [260-262], Moneta imperii romani 36, 43-44, Vienna, 2000).



A select list of Göbl’s works (for a list including works on non-Iranian topics see Numismatische Zeitschrift 106/107, 1999): “Sasanian Coins,” in Camb. Hist. Iran III, pp. 322-38.

“Sasanidische Münzstudien I: Generelle Vornotizen,” Mitteilungen der österreichischen Numismatischen Gesellschaft 7/9, 1952, pp. 112-14.

“Sasanidische Münzstudien II: Römische und sasanidische Büstengruppen,” Mitteilungen der österreichischen Numismatischen Gesellschaft 7/10, 1952, pp. 133-35.

“Sasanidische Münzstudien III: Die Kronenfolge des Sasaniden Artaxer I,” Mitteilungen der österreichischen Numismatischen Gesellschaft 7/11, 1952, pp. 138-40.

“Die Investitur des Djamasp,” Schweizer Münzblätter 3/11, 1952, pp. 57-58.

“Stand und Aufgaben der sasanidischen Numismatik,” La Nouvelle Clio 3, 1952, pp. 360-68.

“Die Münzprägung des Sasanidenreiches,” Vox Orientis 3, March 1953, pp. 2-3.

“Die sasanidische Zwischenkrone und ihr Problemkonnex,” Vox Orientis 3, September, 1953, pp. 2-3.

“Aufbau der Münzprägung (des Sasaniden staates),” in Franz Altheim and Ruth Stiehl, eds., Ein asiatischer Staat: Feudalismus unter den Sasaniden und ihren Nachbarn, Wiesbaden, 1954, pp. 51-128.

“Der Herrscher-Erlöser in spätsasanidischem Gewand,” Palaeologia 3, 1954, pp. 95-101.

“Neufunde sasanidischer Reichsmünzen,” WZKM 53, 1956, pp. 23-27.

“Die Münzprägung der Kusan von Vima Kadphises bis Bahram IV,” in Franz Altheim and Ruth Stiehl, eds., Finanzgeschichte der Spätantike, Frankfurt, 1957, pp. 173-256.

“Münzprägung und Aussenpolitik des Sasaniden—staates unter Sapur II,” in Akten des 24. Internationalen Orientalistenkongresses München, Wiesbaden, 1958, pp. 515 ff.

“Zu einigen Fälschungen vorislamischer orientalischer Münzen,” Mitteilungen der österreichischen Numismatischen Gesellschaft 11, 1959, pp. 1-4.

“Zwei moderne Fälschungen: 1. Ein angebliches Dekadrachmon des Vima Kadphises-Kaniska. 2. Das sogenannte Silbermedaillon Bahrams III,” in Franz Altheim, ed., Geschichte der Hunnen, 5 vols., Berlin, 1959-62, I, pp. 380-87.

“Pasiz und das sasanidische Kupfer,” in Franz Altheim, ed., Geschichte der Hunnen, 5 vols., Berlin, 1959-62, I, pp. 388-90.

“Narsē und nicht Bahrām III: Das Problem des Herrschers mit dem Lamellenkrone. Zugleich ein Beitrag zur frühsasanidischen Münzepigraphik,” Numis matische Zeitschrift 78, 1959, pp. 5-13.

“Zur hephthalitischen Münzkunde und ihren mittelasiatischen Zusammenhängen,” Mitteilungen der österreichischen Numismatischen Gesellschaft 11, 1959, pp. 49-51.

“Zwei Prägungen arabischer Gouverneure in Iran,” Schweizer Münzblätter 11, 1960, pp. 5-6.

“Investitur im sasanidischen Iran und ihre numismatische Bezeugung: Zugleich ein Beitrag zur Ikonographie der Göttin Anahit,” Festschrift Herbert W. Duda zum 60. Geburtstag, WZKM 56, 1960, pp. 36-51.

“Monnaies sassanides de Suse,” MDAFA 37, 1960, pp. 41-48.

“Zwei Neufunde in der Numismatik der Kuschan. 1. Die erste, griechische Emission des Kanischka. 2. Die Pallas (Minerva) auf den Kuschandinaren und die fälschlich so genannte ‘Roma,’” Mitteilungen der österreichischen Numismatischen Gesellschaft 11, Wiesbaden, 1960, pp. 94-96.

“Roman Patterns for Kushana Coins,” Journal of the Numismatic Society of India 22, 1960, pp. 75-96.

“Divus Vima Kadphises,” in Helmut Humbach, ed., Die Kaniska-Inschrift von Surkh-Kotal, Wiesbaden, 1960, pp. 57-59.

“Technische Notizen zur sasanidischen Münzprägung,” Mitteilungen der österreichischen Numismatischen Gesellschaft 12, 1961, pp. 29-30.

“Grundriss einer historischen Paläographie der Kušānmünzeņ,” Iranica Antiqua 1, 1961, pp. 93-116.

“Die Münzprägung des Sasanidenstaates. Stand der Forschungen und Auswertungsmöglichkeiten (Vortrag am XV. Deutschen Orientalistentag, Göttingen, 1961),” ZDMG 111, 1962, pp. 412-15.

“Von Wesen und Wirkung der sasanidischen Krone,” Mitteilungen der österreichischen Numismatischen Gesellschaft 12, 1962, pp. 96-99.

“ZEGOMONOKO,” East and West, N.S. 13, 1962, pp. 207-12.

“Die mehrfache Münzbildrand und die numismatischen Bezeihungen zwischen Byzanz und dem Sasanidenreich,” Jahrbuch der Österreichischen Byzantinischen Gesellschaft 13, 1964, pp. 103-17.

“Sammlungen orientalischer Münzen in Österreich,” Bustan 4/63-1/64, 1964, pp. 83-84.

“Die sasanidischen Tonbullen vom Takht-i Suleiman (Iran),” Anzeiger der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissen schaften, Phil-hist. Kl. 101, 1964, pp. 49-51.

“Zwei neue Termini für ein zentrales Datum der alten Geschichte Mittelasiens, das Jahr 1 des Kusankönigs Kaniska,” Anzeiger der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Phil-hist. Kl. 101, 1964, pp. 137-51.

“Die Bezeihungen zwischen den Münzgruppen der sogenannten kušāno-sasanidischen Serie, der Kidariten und der frühen Hephthaliten,” in Congresso internazionale di Numismatica (Roma, 1961) II, 1965, pp. 469-74.

“La relazioni numismatische tra Roma e l’impero dei Kushana,” in Congresso internazionale di Numismatica (Roma, 1961), 2 vols., Rome, 1961-65, II, pp. 509-14.

Die drei Versionen der Kaniška-Inschrift von Surkh Kotal: Neuedition der Texte auf verbesserter technisch-epigraphischer und paläographischer Basis, Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Phil-hist. Kl. 88, Vienna, 1965.

“Die numismatischen Forschungen auf dem Gebiet der Sasaniden: Kušān und Iranischen Hunnen,” in Kolbjorn Skaare and George C. Miles, eds., A Survey of Numismatic Research 1960-65 II: Medieval and Oriental Numismatics, Kopenhagen, 1967, pp. 267-72.

Dokumente zur Geschichte der Iranischen Hunnen in Baktrien und Indien, 4 vols., Wiesbaden, 1967.

“Der Bericht des Religionsstifters Mani über die Münzherstellung: Versuch einer Analyse,” Anzeiger der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Phil-hist. Kl. 104, 1968, pp. 113-32.

Sasanidische Numismatik, Braunschweig, 1968; tr. P. Severin as Sasanian Numismatics, Braunschweig, 1971.

“Numismatica byzantino-persica,” Jahrbuch der Österreich. Byzantinischen Gesellschaft 17, 1968, pp. 165-77.

“Numismatic Evidence Relating to the Date of Kanishka,” in Arthur L. Basham, ed., Papers on the Date of Kanishka (Conference on the Date of Kanishka, London, 20.-22. April 1960), Leiden, 1968, pp. 103 ff.

“Zum Chronologieproblem der sasanidischen Kunst,” in Oktayˈ Aslanapa and Rudolf Naumann, eds., Forschungen zur Kunst Asiens: In memoriam Kurt Erdmann, Istanbul, 1969, pp. 25 ff.

“Neue Ergebnisse zur absoluten Chronologie im antiken Mittelasien und ihre Folgen,” Anzeiger der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Phil-hist. Kl. 108, 1971, pp. 41-42.

“Die sasanidischen Tonbullen vom Takht-i Suleiman und die Problem der sasanidischen Sphragistik,” AAASH 19, 1971, pp. 95-112.

“Zwei moderne Fälschungen: Persis und Ostkelten,” Mitteilungen der österreichischen Numismatischen Gesellschaft 17, 1972, pp. 76-78.

“Spiegel der T’ang-Zeit mit sasanidischem Randdekor,” in Ex orbe religionum: Studia Geo Widengren oblata, 2 vols., Leiden, 1972, II, pp. 80-82.

“Sāsāniden, Kušān und Iranische Hunnen,” in J. Yvon and H. W. Mitchell Brown, eds., A Survey of Numismatic Research 1966-71 II: Medieval and Oriental Numismatics, New York, 1972, pp. 347-60.

“Der Triumph des Sasaniden Šahpuhr I. über drei römische Kaiser (Vortragsauszug 14.12.1973),” Anzeiger der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Phil-hist. Kl. 110, 1973, pp. 367-68.

“Die Rekonstruktion antiker Prägesysteme und ihre Bedeutung für die historische Forschung,” Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt (Festschrift Joseph Vogt) II/1, 1973, pp. 890-918.

Der Triumph des Sāsāniden Šahpuhr über Gordian, Philippus und Valerianus, Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Phil-hist. Kl., Denkschriften 116, 1974.

A Catalogue of Coins from Butkara I (Swāt, Pakistan), IsMEO, Reports and Memoirs 4, Rome, 1976.

“Der sasanidische Münzfund von Seleukia (Veh-Ardaser),” Mesopotamia 8/9, 1976, pp. 229-60.

Die Tonbullen vom Takht-e Suleiman: ein Beitrag zur spätsasanidischen Sphragistik. Takht-e Suleiman, Ergebnisse der Ausgrabungen 1. Berlin, 1976.

“The Roman-Kushanian Medallion in the British Museum,” Journal of the Numismatic Society of India 38, 1976, pp. 21-26.

Antike Numismatik (Einführung-Münzkunde-Münzgeschichte Geld-geschichte-Methodenlehre-Praktischer Teil), 2 vols., Munich, 1978.

“Christische Siegel der sāsānidischen Zeit: ein erster Nachtrag,” WZKM 71, 1979, 99, 53-62.

“Ikonographie und Epigraphik: ein Beitrag zur Methodenfrage in der sāsānidischen Sphragistik,” Litterae Numismaticae Vindobonenses 2, 1983, pp. 265-80.

“Die Titel der ersten beiden Sāsāniden auf ihren Münzen,” Anzeiger der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Phil-hist. Kl. 120, 1984, pp. 290-98.

System und Chronologie der Münzprägung des Kušānreiches, Vienna, 1984.

“L’altra parte della luna: Sul mondo non-classico nella numismatica antica,” Società Numismatica Italiana, Testo della conferenza Milano 19 Settembre 1987, Milan, 1988, pp. 1-12.

“Silberapplike mit dem Porträt eines vornehmen Iranischen Hunnen des Alxon-Zweiges,” in L. De Meyer and E. Haerinck, eds., Archaeologia Iranica et Orientalis. Miscellanea in honorem Louis Van den Berghe, 2 vols., Ghent, 1989, II, pp. 867-76.

“Das Antlitz des Fremden: Der Hunnenkönig Prakasaditya in der Münzprägung der Gupta-Dynastie,” Anzeiger der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Phil-hist. Kl. 126, 1990, pp. 131-38.

“Šābuhr, König der Könige von Iran,” Quaderni Ticinesi di numismatica e antichità classiche 20, 1991, pp. 239-45.

Donum Burns: Die Kušānmünzen im Münzkabinett Bern und die Chronology, Vienna, 1993.

“The Rabatak Inscription and the Date of Kanishka,” in Michael Alram and Deborah Klimburg-Salter, eds., Coins, Art and Chronology: Essays on the Pre-Islamic History of the Indo-Iranian Borderlands, 1998, pp. 151-76.

Obituary notice. Michael Alram, “Robert Göbl (1919-1997),” Stud. Ir. 27, 1998, pp. 279-88.

(Michael Alram)

Originally Published: December 15, 2001

Last Updated: February 9, 2012

This article is available in print.
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