Normans in Sicily. AE follaro (12 mm). William II (1166-1189). Obverse: Lion scalp facing. Reverse: Arabic inscription "al-malik/ Ghulyam/ al-thank" (King William the Second). This coin: Frank S. Robinson Sale 113, lot 405 (alternate). The Norman kingdom in Sicily, while fairly short-lived, is one of the more interesting states in medieval Europe. For a while, it served as a model of peaceful coexistence between different cultures (Latin [Roman Catholic] Christians, Greek Christians, and North African Muslims) and was a thriving center of agriculture and art. It played a part in the Crusades, and was deeply involved in the shifting political relations between the Catholic Church, the Holy Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire. I can't do the situation justice in this post; I recommend the book "The Normans in Sicily" by John Julius Norwich, which I read during pandemic lockdown this spring and which was my inspiration for buying this coin. William II was born in 1153, the son of William I "The Bad" (1154-1166). As William II was still a minor when his father died, he began his rule with a regency by his mother until he was declared an adult in 1171. He soon faced pressure to marry, as the only potential legitimate heir to the throne was an aunt named Constance, and she had been packed off to a monastery due to a prediction that her marriage would destroy Sicily. Negotiations for a Byzantine princess failed, and in 1177 William married Joan, the daughter of Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine. The couple, however, had no surviving children, which led to trouble after William's death. William mostly stayed in and around his capitol of Palermo, and devoted himself to enjoying life, including art, literature, gardens, and hunting. His reign was generally peaceful and prosperous for Sicily. In 1174, he sent a large army which landed near Alexandria in Egypt, but Saladin arrived and chased them off before they could accomplish anything. In 1185 he sent troops against the Byzantines, and they captured Dyrrhachium, Corfu, Ithaca, and Thessanonica, but were defeated at the Strymon River on their march towards Constantinople, and a peace treaty in 1189 relinquished all the conquered territories. William was planning to use Sicily as a base for all the European forces in the upcoming Third Crusade, but he died in late 1189. He had released his aunt Constance from the convent in 1184 and had her marry Henry, heir to the Holy Roman Empire, in 1186 and had his men take an oath to her as presumptive heir. However, upon William's death, the nobles instead supported an illegitimate cousin of William's called Tancred, as they did not want to be ruled by Germans. The Norman state in Sicily quickly declined, and in 1194 Henry and Constance took power, ending the period of Norman rule. I bought this coin mainly for the history behind it. I was especially intrigued by the use of Arabic for the legend, which is frequent for the Normans of Sicily but otherwise very unusual for medieval Christian Europe. The Arabic is perfectly readable, and the design does not imitate the coins of nearby Muslim states, indicating that William was appealing directly to his Arabic-speaking Muslim subjects. Palermo at the time had many mosques and a thriving souk, and it is recorded that William himself was quite fluent in Arabic. While relations were not always idyllic, Norman Sicily, and William's reign in particular, stands as an interesting example of peaceful co-existence between Christian and Muslim communities in medieval Europe. This also interests me because my ancestors are from Sicily, and I can't help wondering what they were doing during the time this coin circulated. Please post your coins of Norman Sicily, or whatever else is related.