Featured Medieval Spain: A Quasi-Andalusian Oddity

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by +VGO.DVCKS, Apr 29, 2022.


    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    I just won this fun little curiosity from Aureo & Calico. It’s described as a fractional dinar, with barbarous quasi-Arabic legends, apparently naming Hixem. Regarding any further, effectively speculative attribution, Aureo & Calico demonstrate a level of, hmm, professional caginess. But it was listed with coins of al-Andalus (Muslim Iberia) of the 11th c. CE --and for medieval Iberian coins, the auction firm's level of erudition is unmatched. The obvious implication is that it’s likely imitating an issue of Hixem /Hisham III, the last Umayyad caliph (based in Cordoba), 1026 CE /c. 417 AH to his effective abdication in 1031 CE /c. 422 AH.
    Hixem was imprisoned after a revolt by a coalition of Muslim clerics and Cordoban elites. The end of his reign marks the fall of Umayyad rule, which was already a residual, regional survival of the original Caliphate of the 7th-8th c. CE. But as such, it was still a large, unitary state. From this point, the vacuum of Islamic rule was filled by several localized emirates, or taifas. For the first time since the original Umayyad conquests of the early 8th century, the collective Andalusian polity was as fragmented as its Christian equivalent to the north --who exploited the opportunity to the full extent of which they were capable. The opening moves of the Reconquista can be dated to this interval. But even before the more dramatic initial territorial conquests, the descendants of the Visigoths were raiding and collecting tribute from the neighboring taifas. These lucrative activities helped to fuel the meteoric inroads of the later 11th century, including Alfonso VI’s capture of Toledo in 1085, the temporary conquest of Valencia by Rodrigo Diaz /El Cid in 1094, and the ongoing subjugation of parts of Zaragoza by the kings of Aragon.
    Here’s a map of Iberia as of the fall of the Cordoban Umayyad Caliphate in 1031, showing the original extent of the taifas.


    (from Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61961349.)

    I’m helplessly illiterate in Arabic, but naturally had to look online for renderings of “Hixem.” Since Arabic calligraphy is as diverse, across geography and chronology, as it is beautiful, this wasn’t a whole lot of help to my unpracticed eye. I found two versions of the name, specifically for Hixem III, in Vives –for which renewed thanks are due to @dltsrq, from this post:


    Frankly, they weren’t much help, either. But then, on Zeno (thanks again, @dltsrq), I found these examples of fractional dinars which may have served as the prototype. This was under the alternate transliteration, Hisham, which is phonetically nearer the Arabic. They’re both of the same type, posted by rac56, citing Album F362 –of which I have the first edition, minus the plates.
    (https://www.zeno.ru/showgallery.php?cat=1686) TAIFAS, ANDALUS, HIXEM III, NEAREST MATCH, EX ZENO, Umayyad_Hisham_III_Frac_Dinar.jpg


    Granted my total illiteracy in the language, these examples have letter forms which, impressionistically, could have wound up as elements of the ‘legends’ on the barbarous imitation. (Any help with the Arabic would be greatly appreciated!) Beyond this, the Tonegawa Collection has two different issues of fractional dinars, citing Prieto. http://www.andalustonegawa.50g.com/HishamIII.htm

    I don’t have access to Prieto, and the operant volume (6) of MEC, generally at its weakest regarding Andalusian coins, has no examples of the reign.

    From here, the obvious inference (as Aureo & Calico undoubtedly well knew) is that the imitation is most likely northern and Christian, probably from the 11th century. Thanks to the tribute the latter were already collecting, prior to the major conquests of the 1080s and ‘90s, it may even predate them by a handful of decades.

    It would be terrific fun to see some medieval Islamic coins, Andalusian or not, along with Christian Iberian ones. And anything else of relevance. (And, Yep, I’d hugely appreciate any help with the legends of Hixem /Hisham III’s fractional dinars.)
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2022
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    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    And that's a terrific question. As a matter of fact, especially during the 12th and 13th centuries, Christians were imitating Muslim coins left and right.
    For the opposite, the first instances that come to mind are the 'Arab-Byzantine' coins of the earliest Caliphates (Rashidun and Umayyad), from the 7th-8th centuries CE, which, yep, imitate Byzantine bronze coins, and the incredible AEs of the Artuqids of Mardin, in Turkey, which very artistically imitate and adapt both Byzantine and Classical coins. --Other people here know A Lot more about both of these series than I do.
    Regarding Christians imitating Muslim coins, that happens all along the southern, Mediterranean 'frontier' of Christian Europe, from Iberia, to Norman Sicily, to the Crusader States. For these, along with the much earlier Aab-Byzantine series, a lot of the motivaton was sheer pragmatism; people imitated the coins of neighboring states, coreligionist or not, for the purposes of trade. ...The Normans, both in Sicily and Crusader Antioch, also imitated Byzantine coins, mainly for the same reason. ...Although some of the Norman Sicilian coins include both Byzantine and Islamic motifs and legends, along with legends in Latin, sometimes on the same coin. That's where you can suspect that some of the impulse might have been more purely esthetic, as with the Artuqids of Mardin. I can also imagine the Normans in Sicily, ruling substantial populations of both Muslims and Byzantines, may have been thinking in terms of propping up the demographic unity of their immediate neighborhood.
    ...And, By the Way, Welcome to the forum!
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2022
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  4. BenSi

    BenSi Well-Known Member

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  5. THCoins

    THCoins Well-Known Member

    I do not now much of this category, but this is how i would read the legends of the last two:
    On the left side is the familiar Kalima: la ilaha illa / allah wahdahu /la sharika lahu.
    Don't know what the word on the lowest line is supposed to be.
    On the right side:
    الإمام هشام al-Imam Hisham
    أمير المومنين Commander of the faithfull
    المعتد بالله God's warrior
  6. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

    ...fine article and coin :)
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    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    Huge thanks, @BenSi, @THCoins, and @ominus1. @THCoins in particular. This is my Friday, and I have to get out the door pretty soon, but I'm looking forward to seeing if I can squint out a candidate for Hisham's name on the imitation. Thanks Loads.
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    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    ...And, Yipe, thanks, @lordmarcovan, for featuring the thread!
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  9. Orielensis

    Orielensis Well-Known Member

    This is indeed a fascinating new coin. I have absolutely no idea how to date or locate this imitation, and I also don't know whether there is any scholarship on imitative Umayyad coins during the first taifa period. Hopefully, some expert will chime in and have something substantial to say!

    Both my coins from Umayyad Al-Andalus are much earlier and official:
    Orient, MA – Umayyaden in Spanien, Al-Hakam, dirham, 190 AH, Al–Andalus .png
    Umayyads in Spain (Emirate of Córdoba), under al-Hakam I (Alhaquén), AR dirham, 805/6 AD (190 AH), Al-Andalus mint. Obv: beginning of kalima, mint-date-formula around. Rev: Surah 112 and IX, 33. 26.5mm, 2.56g. Miles 81c; Album 341.

    Orient, MA – Umayyaden in Spanien, Abd al-Ramman II, 822-52, dirham,  230AH, Al-Andalus.png
    Umayyads in Spain (Emirate of Córdoba), under Abd al-Rahman II, AR dirham, 844/5 AD (230 H), Al-Andalus mint. Obv: beginning of kalima, mint-date-formula around. Rev: Surah 112 and IX, 33. 22mm, 1.80g. Miles 122; Album 342.1; Vives 197.
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  10. +VGO.DVCKS

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    (Left work early; sick; nothing life-threatening.) @Orielensis, that's the stuff! I want one! I've just got one Ayyubid one, from the opposite end of the Caliphate. The calligraphy on these is really compelling --and I like how, even this early, they generally include dates and mints, as you noted.
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  11. Sulla80

    Sulla80 Supporter! Supporter

    @+VGO.DVCKS, great to see this thread featured, an interesting, puzzling, gold coin. I did some squinting at your lettering...and I can imagine a wide range of imitated coins - I am still trying to see, reasonably, letters and cope with varitions in scripts. Google didn't help me:
    I will add this coin:
    Islamic, al-Maghreb (North Africa), Almohads (al-Muwahhidun), Anonymous Christian Imitation, 13th century AD, (AR 15x15 mm, 1.43g, 6h), a Christian imitation of an Almohad square dirham known as millares, uncertain mint in Spain.
    legend blundered Arabic - errors in writing the name of Mohammed may have been deliberate
    No God except Allah / It's all for God / No power except God
    God is our Lord / Mohammed is our messenger / The Mahdi is before us
    Ref: Album 498

    The Almohadids took over Morocco, replacing the Almoravids and new coins were introduced: the dirham at 1.5 grams a silver square using Naskhi script in place of Kufic. These coins became a widespread trading currency and were copied in Christian Spain (and France).
    Last edited: May 2, 2022
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  12. +VGO.DVCKS

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    Thanks, @Sulla80. Terrific imitative Almohad --and, along with @THCoins and other folks here, I wish I could approach your level of literacy.
    I've spent the last couple of years collecting in the early phases of the Reconquista, including taifas and Almoravids. Started a thread about it, but it ran way over, both the text (with a long set of references) and, eventually, the number of coins and other graphics. Maybe I should try doing it in two parts. (For right now, it's my Sunday, and there are errands to run.) As you'll know, the complexity of the period, politically, culturally and socially, is inexhaustible.
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  13. dltsrq

    dltsrq Grumpy Old Man

    I can't add very much. The right-hand image of the op seems to imitate the kalima. The word across the center is with reasonable certainty Allah (الله). The line above Allah has several crossed lines, resembling لا. The kalima begins لا اله الا ("no god but"). The third line of the kalima is typically وحده ("alone"). The third line of the op has the same number of letters. Could it be وحده? Maybe, maybe not. It could just as easily be a name or other stand-alone. I will go out on a limb, however, and suggest the inscription is intended as:

    لا اله الا

    One possibility for the opposite side is an attempt to continue the kalima in typical fashion with Muhammad / rassul / Allah ("Muhammad is the prophet of Allah") but it's admittedly a stretch:


    It could also be a blundered attempt at a name and/or title. Album lists fractional gold dinars for many of the Taifas, often with the off-putting "illegible" as part of the description.

    @+VGO.DVCKS If I read you correctly, you are using the first edition of Album's 'Checklist'. The much-expanded third edition is available as a free .pdf download at the author's website. There have never been plates, unfortunately, though Steve considered the idea for the third edition.
    Last edited: May 2, 2022
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  14. aleppo

    aleppo Member

    that's a super cool coin! i really like coins from the caliphate of cordoba, but i'm not too great at reading them. would like to get a gold dinar from there but they're pricey

    here are some that i have, both from aureo & calico.

    AH 170. Abd al-Rahman I. Al-Andalus. Dirham. (V. 68) (Fro. 1). Ex Áureo 19/12/2001, nº 3362. 2.53 g
    AH 392. Hisham II. Medina Azzahra. Dirham. (V. 569) (Fro. 31). 2.13 g. MBC+.

    Abd al-Rahman escaped from Syria after the fall of the Umayyad dynasty. He managed to evade the Abbasids who were trying to kill him and made his way to Spain where he founded the emirate of Cordoba
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  15. +VGO.DVCKS

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    @aleppo, those are both magnificent. Many thanks for the cool additional context. ...To wallow in the obvious, Aureo & Calico are unmatched for absolutely anything medieval Spanish.
    Meanwhile, you're reminding me again of how, even for an illiterate like me, the calligraphy is compelling on a purely esthetic level. It amazes me how Hebrew, Arabic and Syriac (with reference to the main offshoots of its alphabet, Armenian and Ge'ez /Amharic) are all Semitic languages, but with alphabets that so different from eachother. I can only surmise that they all share some of the same letters, but their interpretation is all over the map.
    Last edited: May 9, 2022
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  16. +VGO.DVCKS

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    Many thanks, @dltsrq, for your further enlightenment on the language, lettering and legends. (--Ow; English is subject to alliteration, to the point where sometimes, it gets just a little out of hand.)
    ...As it turns out, my paper copy of Album is the second, not the first, as I said to begin with. But also without illustrations. Thank you Lots for the reminder about his 3rd edtion being online for free. Too cool. Someone had alerted me to this at some point --yep, on this forum-- but I'd managed to forget about it. (Cf. my favorite Lennon quote: 'Life is what happens while you're making other plans.')
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