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Coin Of the Month - April 2003
GREG'S COIN OF THE MONTH - an Artuqid bronze
Note: Click on an image to see a larger version of the coin
I found this one at the Willamette Coin Club's show at the Double Tree
Hotel in Portland, February 15-16. Sometimes when you're scanning the
thousands of coins in dealers' cases at a show, one stands out, and you
think, "WOW, what a coin!". This is one of those.
The Artuqids were one of a couple of 'Turkoman' tribes that ruled areas of
southern central Asia and the near east in the 12th and 13th centuries.
Among the Islamic coinages of the Middle Ages, their's was the most unusual
because many of their coin types had images, while most Muslim coins have
only inscriptions, because Muslims generally very literally interpreted the
Biblical commandment against making 'graven images'.
There are differing opinions about why the Turkoman rulers used images on
their coins, one being that they wanted to use a style of coins more
familiar to the Crusaders, with whom they traded, as well as fought.
However, the Turkoman Atabegs copied, adapted, and combined designs from
ancient Greek and Roman coins that would not have been familiar to traders
of the time. Even the designs copied from Byzantine coins were ones that
were centuries old at the time.
Some of these coins used entirely new designs not related to any Greek,
Roman or Byzantine coins, and this particular type is an outstanding
example of a type unlike any ever minted anywhere else in the world. The
description of the image is, "helmeted Turk seated cross-legged, wearing
chain mail armor, holding a sword in his left hand and a severed head in
his right hand". (The strategy of 'decapitating' enemy leadership is not a
new concept in that part of the world!) The image seems to say, "I've got
a big sword, and happiness is totally vanquishing my enemies!"
Throughout the Middle Ages, the dirhem denomination was usually a broad
thin silver coin with a silver content comparable to a dime. Being
required to accept a large, thick, heavy bronze coin in place of a silver
coin was probably not welcome to the merchants of the time, but given the
image on the coin, I expect they were careful not to complain too loudly!
The city of Maridin is in southeastern Turkey about a hundred miles from
the border of modern Iraq.