Featured Medieval - William II of Norman Sicily

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by FitzNigel, Oct 23, 2015.

  1. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist Supporter

    Here is a recent purchase due to a coupon I received to Forum - A Follaro of William II of Norman Sicily. While there's nothing too special about the coin itself, the Regno of Southern Italy during William's kingship is something a little special to me.

    I wrote my doctoral thesis on the military recruitment practices (and to a lesser extent the taxation practices) of twelfth century England, comparing it to the Regno of Southern Italy, for the purposes of seeing what impact on these two areas could firmly be attributed to the Normans (Spoiler: not much). One of the remarkable coincidences of the two regions is that they both created a survey of knight service in roughly the same time period. In England, it was the Cartae Baronum under Henry II in 1166, and in Southern Italy, the Catalogus Baronum initially under Roger II in 1150-1, but revised under William II in 1167-8.

    The Counties and Duchies of Norman Italy. Wikipedia Commons

    The knight survey for Southern Italy only took into account the Duchy of Apulia and Principality Capua. This could be because a similar survey had already been conducted for the old Greek and Muslim regions of Calabria and Sicily, because there was already a Muslim run financial department called the ad-dīwān al-ma’mūr. The Normans were also clearly utilizing the old Muslim office of the dīwān, particularly when they create a later section to this department called the duana baronum, or σέκρετον τών άποκοπών; accounting for a Latin name (for the Normans) and a Greek name for the native Greeks, but no Arabic name (there would even be an order that all Greek and Arabic documents be translated into Latin so that the new Norman officials could use them...).

    Anyway, this clear use of pre-existing Muslim practices in administration is clearly reflected on the coins of Norman Sicily, and seen in my new coin (I've included the seller's photos since it capture's the coin's color better than my own":


    Norman Kingdom of Sicily
    William II, r. 1166-1189 A.D.
    Messina Mint, AE Follaro
    16.7mm x 1.7 grams
    Obv.: + OPERATAT IN VRBE MESSANE outside, O / REX W / SCOVS in center (OV ligate)
    Rev.: Arabic legend"al'malik / Ghulyalim / al-thani" (King William 2nd) in center, "bi-amr al-malik al-musta'izz" around edge
    Ref.: MEC Italy III 401 ff., Biaggi 1233

    There are other financial connections between Southern Italy and England at this time, most notably Thomas Brown who served at the dīwān under Roger II, but after Roger's death would find employment at the Exchequer in England under Henry II. While Thomas Brown is recorded in several records, his role is firmly explained in the Dialogus de Scaccario written by Richard Fitz Nigel (hence my username) during the reign of Richard I in England. To bring it full circle, here's my Richard I coin again:


    Richard I, r. 1189-1199 A.D.
    London Mint, AR Short Cross Penny
    18mm x 1.8 grams
    Obv.: henricus Rex;
    Rev.: _ _ _ ard . on . Lund (Ricard, London)
    Ref.: Seaby 1347

    Okay, I've taken up enough of your time - Any Norman, Sicilian, English, or 12th century coins in general I would love to see!
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  3. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    Nice coins. I don't generally collect medieval coins, I have a couple. However, they are not from the regions you list. Hope you don't mind:
    FRANCE, FEUDAL, Valence, Bishops of Valence.jpg
    FRANCE, FEUDAL, Valence, Bishops of Valence and Die,
    OBVERSE: Stylized angel facing, +VRBS VALENTIAI
    REVERSE: Cross annulet in fourth quadrant, +S APOLLI NARS
    Struck at Valence, FR, 1157-1276
    1.18g, 19mm
    Boudeau 1021
  4. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist Supporter

    Not at all Bing! Gorgeous coin!
  5. chrsmat71

    chrsmat71 I LIKE TURTLES!

    cool coin an interesting write up FN. i saw an medieval italian coin not long ago (i can't remember if it was william ii or not) that look more like an islamic coin...i was curious as to the reason. interesting.

    have you seen the pseudo-islamic coins of bela iii of hungary? from about the same period as your coins. do you know why they were minted? i was asked once, and didn't know.

    here's one of his more usual coins...

    Puckles, Eng, stevex6 and 3 others like this.
  6. THCoins

    THCoins Well-Known Member

    By coincidence i just bought the same type (sellers pics):

    (Note : this is the correct orientation of the Arab text side. In the opening post it is upside-down.)
    randygeki, Puckles, Mikey Zee and 8 others like this.
  7. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist Supporter

    Thanks Chris - I have not seen those coins (nor the one you posted - Eastern Europe is not my strong suit...)! I did a quick look, but I couldn't tell you why they would mint something like that. Maybe it had something to do with the crusades? I just could not say, since there wouldn't be an Islamic influence in the area until the fall of Constantinople and the rise of the Ottoman Empire...
  8. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist Supporter

    Nice THC! Yours is defiantly the better example, since you get the full legend.
  9. Mat

    Mat Ancient Coincoholic

    Beautiful coins, don't own any of those types either.
  10. KIWITI

    KIWITI Well-Known Member

    This is more a pseudo byzantine rather than islamic. Not only in its type, but it even imitates scyphate trachys in its shape!
  11. chrsmat71

    chrsmat71 I LIKE TURTLES!


    yeah, my coins if very much in the style of the byzantine coins, but here is one of the coins i was talking about (this isn't my coin, i don't own one :( ).


    it has a "pseudo-arabic" script that i guess is just gibberish.
  12. John Anthony

    John Anthony Ultracrepidarian Supporter

    I owned one 12th-century coin for a few days last week, before it sold, but it is appropriate to this thread as Manuel I was at war with Roger II of Sicily, and in league with Conrad III of Germany to slice up Southern Italy and Sicily. This coin, however, would not have circulated anywhere near Italy...

    manuel i st george 500.jpg

    Manuel I, AD 1143-1180
    AE Tetarteron, 4.6g, 20mm, 6h; Thessalonica mint.
    Obv.: QΓE to left, ΩΓIOC to right of bust facing of St. George, unbearded, nimbate, wearing tunic, cuirasse and cloak, holding spear and shield /
    Rev.: MANVHΛ ΔECΠOTH, crowned, unbearded bust facing of Manuel, wearing loros, holding labarum and cross on globe.
    Reference: SB 1975, BMC 75-77
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  13. Quant.Geek

    Quant.Geek Well-Known Member

    Norman Sicily, Medieval Hungary and the Byzantine Empire are some of my core collecting areas. So, here is some of my coins that I hope you guys find interesting. Still have a few more, but needs to be classified.

    Normans in Sicily: William II "The Good" (1166-1189) AE follaro, Messina, ND (MEC 432-437; Spahr 118; Biaggi 1232; Thomsen 2481-2483; Varesi 37)

    Obv: Lion scalp facing ¾ left; beaded border
    Rev: Arabic kufic legend, الملك غليوم الثاني (al-malik Ghulyalim al-thani; the King, William the Second); beaded border


    Normans in Sicily: William II "The Good" (1166-1189) Æ Large Follaro, Messina, ND (MEC 426-431; Spahr 117)

    Obv: Lion scalp facing ¾ left; beaded border
    Rev: Palm tree bearing fruit; beaded border


    Normans in Sicily: Roger II (1105-1130) Æ Follaro, Messina (Spahr-53; MEC-163; MIR-17)

    Obv: Roger standing with cross on shaft and orb; in field left, R / II
    Rev: Christ seated on throne


    Normans in Sicily: Roger II (1105-1154) AE Doppio Follaro (Biaggi-1215; Spahr-50)

    Obv: Bust of Christ facing between CE and SS (in retrograde)
    Rev: Roger on throne with cross; R (in retrograde) and II in right field

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  14. Quant.Geek

    Quant.Geek Well-Known Member

    Here are some Hungarian coins:

    Hungary: Belá III (1172-1196) Follis (Huszár-72, Unger-114)

    Obv: SANCTA—MARIA, Nimbate Madonna facing the front, scepter in right hand, infant Jesus in left. Two crosses above.
    Rev: REX BELA on left, REX STS on right; Two kings seated on thrones facing, each holding scepter and globus cruciger; long cross between. Inverted crescent and three lines in exergue.


    Hungary: Charles Róbert (1307-1342) BI Denár (Huszár-450, Unger-357)

    Obv: Christ standing facing within mandorla, raising right hand in benediction; in left, book of Gospels
    Rev: Kneeling Angel facing left with a halo and cross


    Hungary: Béla IV (1235-1270) AR denár (Huszár-310; Unger-233)

    Obv: BELAE REX around Hebrew tet (ט)
    Rev: Angel slays dragon

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  15. Quant.Geek

    Quant.Geek Well-Known Member

    Another Hungarian coin that is an imitation of an Almoravid dinar with corrupt Arabic inscriptions. Here is my specimen with attributions:

    Hungary: Bela III (1172 – 1196) AE Rézpénz (Huszár-73, Unger-115, Mitchiner-510,511)

    [Hungary] Bela III (1172 – 1196) AE Fals (Huszár-73).jpg
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  16. Quant.Geek

    Quant.Geek Well-Known Member

    And now for some Byzantine coins:

    Byzantine Empire: Justinian I (527-565) Follis, Nicomedia (Sear-201)

    Helmeted and cuirassed bust facing, holding globus cruciger and decorated shield; cross right in field.

    Rev: Large M; cross above, B below. A/N/N/O-XXII across field; in exergue, NIKO.


    Byzantine Empire: Justinian I (527-565) Half Follis, Constantinople (Sear-165)

    Obv: D N IVSTINIANVS P P AVG. Helmeted and cuirassed bust facing, holding globus cruciger and decorated shield; cross right in field.
    Rev: Large K between ANNO - XII, cross above; E below.

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  17. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist Supporter

    Excellent Quant! Would you have an explanation as to why Hungary was imitating Arabic coins in the twelfth century?
  18. Quant.Geek

    Quant.Geek Well-Known Member

    I don't quite remember exactly, but I believe it was due to an influx of Arabic citizens in Hungary at the time. This is somewhat similar to the Jewish minters in Hungary who added their mintmarks to the coins. But, let me check my resources to be sure...
  19. dltsrq

    dltsrq Grumpy Old Man

    The Hungarian Islamic-style coins are imitations of a Samanid issue (at one time I knew of which ruler but I've forgotten). Samanid coins have been found at many locations in northern and eastern Europe, reflecting trade routes between those locations and Central Asia.
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  20. Quant.Geek

    Quant.Geek Well-Known Member

    Huszar and Mitchiner indicate that they were copies of an Almoravid dinar. I talked to Kiss, an eminent Hungarian numismatist, who also indicated the same. This is the first time I am hearing that they are imitations of a Samanid coin . Please do let us know which coin you are referring to. You have peaked my interest!
    chrsmat71 likes this.
  21. dltsrq

    dltsrq Grumpy Old Man

    The prototype is a dirham of the Samanid emir Mansur I bin Nuh (961-976). While I understand that some may find a superficial resemblance to Spanish or North African calligraphy, the resemblance really is only superficial. The so-called "pseudo" inscription on the Hungarian coin is not simply a collection of kuficesque squiggles. It is reasonably legible! The central reverse field is the same on both the Samanid prototype (courtesy zeno.ru) and the Hungarian imitation: Muhammad / rassul Allah / al-Muti' billah / Mansur/ bin Nuh. On the image below I have reproduced twice the samanid reverse and on the right, drawn in red portions of the names of the caliph and the emir in a hand similar to that found on the Hungarian coin. While those unfamiliar with kufic inscriptions may find this all very difficult, the name Mansur should be easy to find on both. [​IMG]
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2015
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