Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by FitzNigel, Jun 4, 2017.
Some things to think about.
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For me, a truly great post @FitzNigel! I learned so much from it - thank you!
@FitzNigel I enjoyed your excellent post on the adaptability of the Normans. I have three coins to share. All three coins are linked to Roger the II, if I get the complicated genealogy right. The earliest coin : Conrad II, second son of the Holy Roman emperor Henry IV, held various roles: Duke of Lower Lorraine (1076-87), King of Germany (1087-98) and King of Italy (1093-98).
Conrad II's link to the Normans in Sicily is by marriage: Conrad II married Maximilla (aka Matilda) daughter of Roger the I, a Norman who became the first Count of Sicily and consolidated Norman holdings in Italy. Matilda was the daughter of Roger I and his third wife Adelaide del Vasto. Matilda was also sister of Roger the II of Sicily. Conrad and Matilda were married in Pisa in 1095.
Italian States, Genoa, Conrad II as King of Italy
AR denaro 16.8mm, 0.9gm, struck c. AD 1139
Obv: +·IA·NV·A· City gate within finely ribbed circle
Rev: CVNRADI REX Cross pattée within finely ribbed circle
Ref: Biaggi 825
The second coin is from William II "The Good" who was grandson of Roger II and is the same as your coin above.
Sicily: William II 1166-1189 A.D.
Obv: o REX W / SCYS in 2 lines in center +OPERATA IN VRBE MESSANE around
Rev: In Arabic الملك غليوم الثاني (al-malik/Ghulyalim/al-thani) "the King William the second" in center and further inscription around "duriba bi-amr al-malik al-mu'azzam al-musta'izz bi-llah" translated "struck by the order of the king the great and strong by the grace of God".
The third coin is from Tancred, who was the bastard son of Roger the III, which means he was also the grandson of Roger II.
Tancred (King of Sicily reigned 1189-1194) Æ Follaro
Obv: +ROGERIVS:; in center, REX; dots above and below
Rev: Arabic (Kufic) legend on two lines - المالك تنقرير (al-malik Tanqrir; the King, Tancred)
The trick to finding one may be not looking I didn't know what I was buying when I picked up both the William II & Tancred coins independently a few years ago. The mix of kufic & latin and very low price prompted impulse purchases.
@FitzNigel, When I read a wonderful post like your's and the replies I realize how little I know about the history of the coins I collect. I have three shelves of coin books and have read way too little of them. My goal is to change that in the very near future. In the meantime here is a coin of Charles the Bald and Norman Duke Richard I (943-996).
@Sulla80! It’s an old post, and in the meantime I have also nabbed a joint Tancred and Roger III:
Norman Italy - Sicily, Tancred and Roger, r. 1190-1194 (1191-1193)
Messina Mint, AE Follaro, 13.34 mm x 2.5 grams
Obv.: Arabic legend on two lines: al-malik / Tanqrīr
Rev.: +ROGERIVS around, REX in center, pellet above and below
Ref.: NCKS 406, MEC 14.449-53
Love the Richard I @alde - I still need to get one of those...
Funny, I hadn’t noticed the 2 year span from OP - of course “old” in ancients even medieval is usually measured in centuries or millennia I like your more recent addition.
Norman Italy - Apulia
Roger Borsa, r. 1085-1111
AE Follis, 19.08 mm x 2.2 grams
Obv.: Bust of Christ facing, cross behind, wearing pallium and Colvin , raising right hand in benediction, Gospels in left, crescent above, IC - XC flanking
Rev.: Cross with globule and two pellets at each extremity, large crescent below, four globules around each surrounded by pellets
This is imitating the Anonymous Class J Follis. This particular coin was found in Southern Italy, and its smaller weight and find location is what suggests it was minted by the Normans. My attribution to Roger Borsa in Apulia is due to coins if a similar weight and size from this time and region, and is pure speculation. But the coin may be evidence of an attempt by the Normans to add to the Byzantine copper coinage already in use in Southern Italy.
The next two are interesting for similar reasons:
Norman Italy - Sicily
William II, r. 1166-1189
Messina Mint, Second Copper Large Follaro, 25.28 mm x 11.2 grams
Obv.: Lion Head
Rev.: Palm tree with dates
Ref.: NCKS 372, MEC 14.425
Norman Italy - Sicily
William II, r. 1166-1189
Messina Mint, Second Copper Follaro, 12.04 mm x 2.0 grams
Obv.: Lion Head
Rev.: Arabic legend “al-malik / Ghulyalim / al-athani” (King William II)
Ref.: NCKS 373, MEC 14.432
On both of these coins, a lion head is shown which appears to be reminiscent of the Ancient Greek coins that were minted in the region hundreds of years previously (I keep meaning to find an example for my collection, but funds have been limited - if anyone has one, I would love to see it!) I believe several Greek states had the same motif of two opposing Lion heads (which the Normans interpreted as one facing head), but I could be wrong. I am not sure if the palm tree in the large Follaro has inspiration from elsewhere, but the small Follaro shows another example of the use of Arabic on Norman coins.
Lastly, not mine, but it fits with the theme of this thread:
Norman Kingdom of North Africa. William I AV Dinar. Mahdia AH 549 = AD 1154/5. Cufic legend outer rim: ‘Struck by order of the guide according to the command of God, King William, in the city of Mahdia in the year 549’; inner rim: ‘Praise be to God, it is fitting to praise Him and, He is deserving and worthy[of praise]’; centre: ‘King William’ / Cufic legend: outer and inner rims as obverse; centre: ‘the Guide according to the command of God’. For the only other known specimen see J. Rodriguez Lorente and T. Ibrahim. Numismatica de Ceuta Musulmana, Madrid 1987, 221; J. Johns, ‘Malik Ifriquya: The Norman Kingdom of Africa and the Fatimids’, Libyan Studies 18, 1987, pp. 92-4; MEC 14, p. 120; H. Abdul-Wahab, ‘Deux dinar normands de Mahdia’, Revue Tunisienne 1930, ns. 1/3-4: pp. 215-218 and plate. 4.08g, 24mm, 6h. (Description From Roma Numismatics, Auction XVIII, Lot 1364).
The Normans ruled a small portion of Northern Africa for a very short period of time. They did mint some coins, but very few are known to exist. This action listing is the first color photo of one of these coins I have seen.
A Day Out in Selby
Rambling around the web a little while ago I came across a thought provoking idea: A paper written by John Makdisi suggesting that English common law had, in large part, been adopted directly from Islamic models by Henry II in the 12th century. Reading on, I found that political connections within the Norman states gave Henry ready access to personnel, and thus ideas, from Norman Sicily, a state on the front line of Christendom deriving many cultural influences from Islam. Specifically, he mentioned a Thomas Brown, an Englishman who had worked in Sicily under its Chancellor, an Englishman, Robert of Selby. Brown later transferred from the Sicily to Henry’s court in London.
Makdisi adds a further philosophical dimension to his argument, drawing a distinction between active political measures, which attempt to direct the activities of subjects, and reactive political measures, which have a more restrictive purpose of assisting subjects in organising their own affairs. That the Anglo American world by tradition purports to impose less controls upon the activities of its citizens is, at least, a well enough known claim, which does seems in line with the Anglo American preference for common law rather than a civil legal systems. Note that I refer merely to well known aspirations, or perhaps, propaganda concerning such aspirations, as the details of practice are of course much more complex and controversial.
The matter caught my own attention because the claim seemed congruent to the history of English politics in general and the history of weight standards in particular. Regarding politics in general, controversy concerning British payments to the EU today is almost as prevalent as that concerning Papal revenues was in Henry II’s day. And the same can be said about the extent of the jurisdiction of the modern European Court and its counterpart, in the medieval church courts. 900 years on, at root, the fundamentals seem just the same.
We see the same pattern repeated in the microcosm of weight standards. In my own lifetime the imposition in Britain of European standards of metrology, SI, and a backlash against that imposition. The legal imposition of SI has been popularly represented as not merely activist but as outright authoritarian. And back in the 14th century, the imposition of Roman weight standards (avoirdupois) seems to have come amongst a raft of centralising changes to the English economy, overseen by Florentine bankers, which triggered the most violent public reaction London has ever seen staged, in 1381. Investigations of the reforms to Islamic weight standards brought in by ‘Abd al Malik around 700 AD seem to hint they were quite deliberately developed as an alternative to Roman standards, intentionally contradicting the latter. Thus England’s preference for this apparently intentionally non-Roman Islamic system, for the last millennium or so, is intriguing.
Such thoughts in mind, on a wintry Sunday we drove over to the small Yorkshire town of Selby, curious to check for any remembrances of Robert of Selby, the 12th century chancellor of Sicily. Selby is a friendly little place, too small to attract chain stores, its streets still lined with independent local shops. At the inapltly named ‘New Inn’ an enormous Sunday roast dinner, with a big bowl of fresh vegetables on the side, was £5, and in the Abbey church the verger made us coffee for 80p a cup, apologising that the chinaware was not available on Sundays. Of Robert of Selby we found no sign. The abbey held a dusty memorial of a chain mail clad crusader type of fellow, but as so often is the case, no one seems to remember who he was. However, the whole building proved a memorial to a more general matter, England’s fickle relationship with Central European power.
Selby Abbey Church is dedicated to St Germain. Now, around 430 AD this was the St Germain who was sent to England to defend Papal, Augustinian, orthodoxy against the British Pelegian heresy. However, Selby, a small town on the navigable Ouse, only came to prominence much later than this, just after 1066, and Hastings. Henry I was reputedly born at Selby in 1068, just two years after the conquest. The Abbey was founded there the next year, 1069, with its dedication to St Germain. A finger bone relic was transported from his tomb at Auxerre for the purpose. This, even then, ancient remembrance seems to be clear evidence that the mission of William I was in part to bring centralising European Papal authority to bear in England. So it is possibly interesting to remember that when William’s great grandson, Henry II, fell into argument over legal matters with his Papal representative, Becket, that the said Becket got much of his training in canon law at Auxerre.
Getting back to the Selby Abbey Church now, having discovered that it was built as part of a unifying project, we found that the fact it survived the reformation at all, under Henry VIII, was due to another centralising matter. The Abbot (around 1530) had switched sides, disobeyed the Pope, and signed Henry’s divorce papers. Had he not, the Abbey Church site would likely now be a car park, or some such, royal connection or no.
But at the time of the reformation Selby Abbey still had two great medieval stained glass windows. Installed in the 14th century, one a Jesse window, devoted to old testament genealogy and the like, the other commemorating life and doings of its patron, St Germain. When Parliamentary troops occupied the town around 1644, the Jesse window went untouched, but the window to St Germain was completely destroyed. Fascinating, since philosophically, the puritan concept of predestination was much in line with that of St Germain, and rather contrary to that of Pelagius. So it seems that the insular, antiPapal alliance, against St Germain, trumped more abstruse philosophical considerations.
Getting now to my penultimate point – I wonder how many visitors to Selby Church today understand the implications of all these matters, even as well as Cromwell’s foot soldiers did? UNESCO had a plan, back in 1950, to stamp out nationalist sentiment by cleansing our history text books of matters pertaining to nationalism. A mistake, I judge, since, as been said many times, those ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it. But I do seem to see traces of such a plan everywhere I look today. A century of state control of the teaching of history has changed but not improved our understanding of history.
And my ultimate point gets us back to the history of metrology. For it seems to me modern metrology has lost its way, and we have to back track 50 years, to Skinner, to begin to find it again. For I think we must understand the philosophical, economic and geo-political associations of metrological choices, and if we do not understand them, we hardly understand this matter it at all.
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