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A Viking grail coin


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Along the lines of the last one I posted, mainly about the half-bracteate of Harald Bluetooth, here's another OP, unapologetically reappropriated from a certain other forum.  This time, though, it was copied directly from the website, without the intervening step of Google Docs --and it worked like a charm!  No formatting issues whatsoever.  ...Which inspires me to leave it as is, including that first line, in brackets, which I kind of like, anyway.  For one, it conveys how ecstatic I was to finally land one of these, especially as early in the series as it is.  --Which 'covers a multitude of holes,' especially ones that are this evidently near-contemporaneous.

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by +VGO.DVCKS, Dec 6, 2021.

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    +VGO.DVCKSWell-Known Member


    Sihtric /Siggtryggr Silkbeard /Silkiskeggi, Hiberno-Norse king of Dublin. AR penny, imitating the Long Cross coinage of AEthelred II (c. 997-1003).
    Obv. AEthelred (...I guess) facing left. Double strike eventuating in two left eyes, one neatly above the other. (...It helps if you’re a fan of the earlier phases of Cubism.) Wearing a mantle, secured by a broach at the throat. (Cf. the double holes in this example, suggesting that it may have been adapted to a similar use. Further possible abuse can be seen in the internal flan crack above the ear; cf. the description of the reverse.)
    (From 7 o’clock –symptomizing the double strike, if not relatively mild blundering of the legend: )
    (Sihtric [/Sigtryggr], king of Dublin. Regarding proper names, similar adaptations were made between Old Norse and Old English well into the 11th century. Cf. Siward [/Sigurd] ‘the Dane,’ earl of Northumbria and York from the reign of Cnut into that of Eadward ‘the Confessor.’) Peck marks in fields.
    Rev. Voided long cross; the three crescents at the terminus of each arm, as in AEthelred’s original issue. Internal flan crack (cf. above), suggesting either a problem with the original strike or (more evocatively …if not more accurately) someone having begun to cut the coin for halfpence, before having thought better of it.
    (From 3 o’clock: ) + FÆ [/] REM [/] N M Θ [...the holes] DYFLI.
    (Farman, moneyer at Dublin.)
    (Spink, Coins of Scotland and the Isles (22nd ed., 2002), 6103.
    (Blackburn, in an address to the British Numismatic Society in 2007 (https://www.britnumsoc.org/publications/Digital BNJ/pdfs/2008_BNJ_78_5.pdf), notes that
    “In particular, the hoards from List (Schleswig-Holstein) and Igelösa (Skåne) suggest that the large Long Cross issue was pretty well entirely struck during the currency of the type in England.” (p. 123.) Later, he reemphasizes this issue as one of the earliest phases of the Dublin coinage (p. 129, Fig. 6, 2-3; see also --No, Really; you won't be sorry-- the plates at the end of the article).
    Here’s some fun stuff on the origin of the given name, Farman:
    “English and French: from an Old Norse personal name, Farmaðr, denoting a seafarer or traveling merchant.”
    (From this website:
    MAPS, VIKING AGE BRITISH ISLES, YORK, DUBLIN tumblr_ppo29aEg591rasnq9o1_1280.jpg
    This map shows the approximate extent of Viking settlement and political ascendancy in the British Isles, as of the end of AElfred the Great’s reign in Wessex, at the close of the 9th century. A little early, but the best I could find online.
    For me, the following two centuries (10th and 11th) are much more compelling. Within decades of the initial raids, the Vikings’ agenda included organized invasion, along with ensuing settlement, attendant political consolidation, and the ubiquitous dynamic of trade –all of which were happening simultaneously from the 9th century. It was the Vikings’ permanent presence, notably in the British Isles, that ensured their lasting cultural influence there, as in other parts of Europe.
    In this context, it’s particularly relevant to note the disparity (not noted on the map) between the predominantly Danish influence along England’s eastern coast (including the ‘Danelaw,’ established by treaty from the end of AElfred’s reign), and the Norwegian presence to the west and north. The latter comprising the west coast of Ireland; the Irish Sea (including the Isle of Man, and Cumbria on the ostensibly English mainland); and, to the north, the Hebrides and Orkneys. …Not to mention the fact that York spent much of the 10th century under the rule of Norse /Norwegian Vikings, including immediate ancestors of Sihtric. Between the remarkable seafaring practices of the day, and comparably favorable political circumstances on the ground, communication between Norse Dublin and (often /recently) Norse-ruled York was seamless and, by contemporary standards, near-instantaneous.
    It’s in this context that Farman, the moneyer of this example, begins to acquire more resonance. It’s from an Old Norse name, Farmaðr, denoting a seafarer or traveling merchant.

    Blackburn, among others back to Dolley, suggested that the earlier issues of Sihtric involved die engravers ‘outsourced’ from England. …In the absence of independent documentation –apart from the coins themselves– positing any coherent correlation between actual die engravers and individual, named moneyers (/’mintmasters’) already plants us firmly in the speculative weeds. But of AEthelred’s known moneyers, as of 1994, only one was named Farman. (This while many moneyers, in several English mints, had Scandinavian names, well into the early Angevin period of the 12th century.) While anything but conclusive, it is no less resonantly evocative that this Farman is only of numismatic record as having been active in (the recently Norse, as well as Danish) York. North goes on to note that, during AEthelred’s reign, three other moneyers at York –two with conspicuously Scandinavian names– used “[o]bverse dies of Hiberno-Norse style [...] in ‘Long Cross’ by Hildulf and Thurulf and in ‘Helmet’ by Colgrim” (North, English Hammered Coinage, 3rd ed., v. 1, p. 167 and note 321).
    Maybe this is enough for one minute. Here are some other websites on the Hiberno-Norse series that are really fun, if you’re into this sort of thing. The first is the earliest one I ever saw, for which it gets my ongoing gratitude.
    …Then there’s this much later one, from CoinWeek.
    After which, there are two really fine, recentish academic studies, from divergent and, as such, resonantly complementary perspectives. (Even in terms of the preponderant primary sources; Downham is more Gaelocentric while Hudson is more, what, Norseocentric.) Both are recent enough to take numismatic evidence seriously, and to emphasize the complexity and nuance of the political and cultural dynamics between the Norse and the native Irish. (It’s been asserted, cogently –albeit somewhere that I can’t find in print, in the present light– that by way of various maternal lines, Sihtric himself was only a quarter Norse; the rest being Irish, via several generations of marriage in the immediate neighborhood. Not unlike his equally maternally Slavic contemporary, Jaroslav the Wise of Novgorod and Kievan Rus.’ –Who nonetheless features in the Heimskringla as having hosted two sons of Olaf II, Magnus the Good and Harald Hardrada, while they were in dynastic exile from Norway. In both cases –along with the Norman counts of Rouen at the same time– one can sense that lingering ties of Scandinavian family and culture continued to inform and animate what else was happening on the ground. Leading one to conclude that the word, “assimilation” is speciously simplistic. …And guess what? Often enough, the Irish Kicked some Serious Norse –well, broadly rhymes with “what.”)
    Downham, Clare. Viking Kings of Britain and Ireland: The Dynasty of Ivarr to A. D. 1014. Edinburgh: Dunedin, 2007.
    Hudson, Benjamin. Viking Pirates and Christian Princes: Dynasty, Religion, and Empire in the North Atlantic. Oxford 2005. (With a whole chapter on Sitric “Silkenbeard” [sic].)
    Then –just because I can’t shut up– there are these primary sources, all translations of c. 13th-century Icelandic sagas.
    …There are fleeting mentions of Sihtric in Snorri Sturluson’s Heimskringla, and the Orkneyinga Saga. Both refer to the Battle of Clontarf (1014 …which, Big Fat Oops, will now have to be another story).
    Forging ahead, Njal’s Saga (written down c. 1270’s) gives a very entertaining account of the same battle, with some of the political context and attendant military alliances, along with ostensible details regarding the adventures of certain Icelandic participants. The old Penguin Classics translation by Magnus Magnusson and Herman Palsson (with lots of fun annotation) is a literary tour-de-force. I never imagined that I could aspire to like Hemingway’s prose until I read this.
    Then there’s “The Saga of Gunnlaug Serpent-Tongue” [/”Worm-Tongue” –either translation denotes him as having been a poet, who, when need arose, could also extricate himself from difficult situations by other verbal means]. Here’s the translation I’m looking at.
    The Sagas of Icelanders: A Selection. Viking /Penguin, 2000.
    Gunnlaug ostensibly travels a fair amount of the Late Viking world, from Iceland to Sweden, and various points south, and in between. He briefly lands in Dublin, apparently early in Sigtrygg’s reign. Gunnlaug then recites a drapa (skaldic praise poem) to Sigtrygg, effectively hoping that he will perpetuate the martial prowess of his father, Olaf Kvaran. (See esp. pp. 574-5.)
    But this has to be end of the story, for this minute.

    Anyone is cordially welcome to add anything Viking, late Viking, or otherwise c. 10th-11th century CE. –Yes. From Anywhere. I think we all could use more of that vibe of things happening at more or less the same time, in widely divergent parts of the world.
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Nice write up.

Here is my coin of Sihtric “Silkbeard” 


Viking moneyer names are much more international.  In Viking East Anglia, there were many moneyers of Frankish, Germanic, Scandinavian, and Saxon origin.  Where as in England during roughly the same period the names are almost all Anglo-Saxon.

Sihtric is poorly remembered today, while his adversary Brian Boru remains a legend in Irish cultural lore.  Look forward to your discussion of Clontarf.

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Good Lord, @Nap, that is astounding.  There's his name, big as life.  ...I like the irony that, as a Danish penning, it still has peck marks, like the one of Dublin.  A little reminiscent of this one of AEthelred, but from Lincoln, in the heart of the Danelaw, from a moneyer with a Danish name (Dreng).  Did that stop the Danes from making a mess of it?  Not for a minute.  ...There's a passage in St. Olaf [right, of Norway]'s Saga where Olaf sends tax collectors out into the country, and they wind up with a lot of adulterated money.  (Quoted it somewhere or other in the other forum....)  Makes it look as though the Scandinavians had no more confidence in their own coinage than anyone else's.  Ever the pragmatists.



...I'm in the middle of something else, but would really like to get back to Clontarf.  One thing that comes to mind is that one of the major secondary sources cited above asserts that Olaf had something of a comeback around the 1020s.  But by the start of his reign, Dublin was already under serious pressure from the Irish.  Granted that alliances between the Norse and individual Celtic kingdoms were common enough.

(Edit:) Oh, No, @Nap, somehow I--couldn't tell you, apart from Long Covid Brain-- I wound up associating yours with Svein Forkbeard.  Hence the Danish reference.  But your example is no less astounding.

Edited by JeandAcre
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On 6/7/2022 at 6:00 PM, JeandAcre said:

(Edit:) Oh, No, @Nap, somehow I--couldn't tell you, apart from Long Covid Brain-- I wound up associating yours with Svein Forkbeard.  Hence the Danish reference.  But your example is no less astounding.

I wish it were Sven Forkbeard.

I think there are only 3 or 4 coins of his known, and I believe all in museums.

There are a number of Anglo-Scandinavian coins called "time of Sven Forkbeard" which imitate Aethelred II but not in Sven's name.  Brita Malmer investigated the chains of die sequences and assigns certain coins to Sven based on likely time of manufacture.

But I would rather get one in Sven's name.

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Vikings got around, their coins are still found in Ukraine and of course a lot of their DNA stayed on accounting for all the blue eyed blondes.

They would have gotten a better reputation if they were "civilised" Christians and didn't raid monasteries and churches and stuck to just sacking the regular populations like the "Christians" did.

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@Napmany thanks for your enlightenment regarding examples of Sven; I had no idea they were quite as scarce as that. 

And, @UkrainiiVityaz I'm liking your observations.  ...Granted that, as I'm sure you knew, the Vikings actually did become Christian --which, for another one, didn't stop them from acting like Vikings!

I'm about to add some stuff from Kievan Rus' to the other thread tagged 'Viking' (...which you liked --Thanks!), where it will have some company. 

(...'Reasons for editing:' Too many, all of them embarrassing.)

Edited by JeandAcre
...Too many....
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The Vikings did not stop being Vikings, but they did stop raiding monasteries churches etc - which did much to elevate their position in the eyes of those recording history - the ecclesiastical scribes formed opinion that even modern day scholars sometimes have difficulty discerning.




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Thanks for all this info, @JeandAcre!  Also for the links on these coins; I had seen the CoinWeek article but I don't remember the irishcoinage.com page.

Here's my Sihtric:



Like yours, it has a crack along the voided cross, which you can see also from the ear to the top of the robe on the obverse.  It does really look like a cut job that was abandoned to me!

I noticed that you refrained from assigning a phase to yours.  Any reason why?  What's the weight?  I'm thinking your sunburst thingie behind the head is more likely a phase II thing, but I'm no expert, far from it!

With the four pellets in the quarters and a weight of 1.32g, mine is clearly early phase II.  I have a note on the coin saying "The dots behind the head are copied from a Phase I coin (actually die flaws!)"

I see irishcoinage.com reports a Cnut Pointed Helmet type (started c. 1024) that appears to be phase I and so wonders about the phase II dates… perhaps early phase II is late rather than early 1020s?  IMO there’s little reason to think the phases were quite as linear as all that... why not expect some overlaps?

Very neat about "Farman"!  My moneyer is "Ndremin."

Edited by Severus Alexander
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@Severus Alexander, that is easily the coolest ostensibly Phase II example I've ever seen, either on the market or from anything I have in print.

Just looked up the auction page for my example.  It was Numismatik Naumann, Auction 111, 5 Dec. 2011.  With the holes, it's 1.12 g, diameter 19 mm.

Relative to both our examples, I've taken another look at the websites, along with my 2015 ed. of Spink, Coins of Scotland, Ireland and the Isles.  I'm inclined to think that Blackburn's observation, back to 2007, about the profusion of variations within Dolley's broader type range is spot on.  

From here, this goes back to having begun the latest phase of my collecting with French feudal (some of it contemporaneous to this stuff) as its initial center of gravity.  Compared to, for instance, Roman imperial (whose own variations still keep people up nights), you're looking at a perfect storm of relative political disorganization, and commensurate technological deficiencies, involving the innate limitations of dies predominantly made by punches, rather than engraving.  ...Segueing back to Depeyrot, the weights of a given issue can vary widely, even regarding 'official' Carolingian issues. 

...My takeaway is that, in any number of subcontexts, western European medieval simply requires a more relaxed attitude toward the minutiae ...most of which will never be published anyway.  Personally, my primary solution is to focus on the style of the principal motifs, along with the lettering, as well as the often progressive deterioration of the legends.  As even Dumas acknowledged (Tresor de Fecamp), past a certain point, we're left with (increasingly) informed guesswork.  That, all by itself, puts numismatics on a methodological level vaguely commensurate with the scientific method.  ...Just today, on NPR, a senator in Georgia noted that 'democracy isn't a noun; it's a verb.'  To wallow in the obvious, you can say the same of the sciences, 'hard' and 'soft.'  And maybe it's time to get off my soapbox.

...Regarding Sihtric's fortunes following Clontarf --it's like, he Wasn't going Anywhere, and really did make a comeback, in the regional politics, in the 1020's-- you really do need at least the second of these.

Downham, Clare. Viking Kings of Britain and Ireland: The Dynasty of Ivarr to A. D. 1014. Edinburgh: Dunedin, 2007.
Hudson, Benjamin. Viking Pirates and Christian Princes: Dynasty, Religion, and Empire in the North Atlantic. Oxford 2005. (With a whole chapter on Sitric “Silkenbeard” [sic].)

Edited by JeandAcre
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