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A pleasant Standing Caliph coin


Parthicus

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Arab-Byzantine. No date, struck c.73-78 AH (693-697 CE). Amman mint. Obverse: Standing Caliph, sheathed sword slung over left side, Arabic inscription around. Reverse: Steps surmounted by transformed cross, star to left, Arabic inscription around. Album 112. This coin: Zurqieh, May 2023.

As the early Muslim armies swept out of Arabia and into the Sasanian and Byzantine Empires, they soon ran into the problem of what coin types to strike in the newly acquired territories. For the first few decades, most coin types were based on the coins that had previously circulated in that region. Coins struck in Mesopotamia, Persia, and other former Sasanian territory mostly followed Sasanian models, while coins in former Byzantine lands largely followed Byzantine types. The reverse of this coin is based on contemporary Byzantine gold solidi, which featured a cross at the top of several steps. However, since the issuer of this coin is not Christian, the cross has been transformed into... well, I'm not sure exactly what I'd call it, but it is definitely no longer a cross. The obverse type, featuring a standing figure with sword which is thought to represent the Caliph, seems to be novel, and is not closely based on any contemporary Byzantine coin.

The caliph at the time this coin was struck was 'Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan (65-86 AH/685-705 CE). 'Abd al-Malik succeeded his father Marwan in 685 CE, at a time of turmoil in the Islamic world. The Umayyad Caliphate was having trouble holding onto power, and there were several rival pretenders to the caliphate and other rebellions. This map, borrowed from Wikipedia, shows the various territories under the control of different factions in 686 (the red area is what is solidly under 'Abd al-Malik's control):

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Within a few years, 'Abd al-Malik and his commanders would regain control over the entire Muslim world and take steps to consolidate Umayyad, and Arab, power. He established a major garrison in Wasit to better control southern Iraq, reformed the system of military pensions to reduce expenditures, and made Arabic the sole official language of government to foster unity throughout the Caliphate. He also started the "Post-Reform" coinage of gold dinars and silver dirhams, which replaced the former designs with standardized, simple inscriptions in Arabic lacking in any pictorial images. Bronze coinage was more local, but coins consisting solely of Arabic script quickly became the most common types, too. The Standing Caliph bronzes seem to have ended pretty quickly around 78 CE, right at the time the Post-Reform coins were introduced. This is an interesting coin from a tumultuous period in history, and it was not expensive at $35. Please post whatever coins you have that are related.
 
 

 

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As a class, Arab-Byzantine coins don't really float my boat, but this is quite appealing; fascinating both historically and pictorially. It's intriguing that the Islamic prohibition on human imagery was not enforced. It would be one thing if the obverse type simply copied a Byzantine design, but as a new creation, probably depicting a particular human in fact, this seems like it must have been a deliberate choice.

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Nice pickup! It's tough to find one with a fully struck face.

I've bought and sold probably about 50 of the type in the past 5 years or so - this was my personal favorite despite the caliph's face being flat-struck.

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To compliment it, also a pre-reform Arab-Sassanian Khusro II imitation minted under al-malik

ArabSassanianARdrachmyazdtempmarwan.jpg.af5ce7e0de5ffb74d34b5a515eac5e5b.jpg

And one of the first post-reform dirhems, 82h

Umayyaddinar.jpg.1dba46958659c4cb185fe9d72cc527c1.jpg

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Though much interested in the bronze coins of early Islam (but more so in Arab-Sasanians), I have only one standing caliph fals, that I bought because of the detailed dress. 

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5997. AE fals Umayyads, Arab-Byzantine Standing Caliph Type. Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan 685-705. Halab (Aleppo) mint, prob. 693-697. 21 mm, 2.46 gr. Album 3529 (p. 37), SICA I, 615-625. Cf.  Zeno 171166. 

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Here's an Arab-Byzantine coin from a few years earlier during the time of the founder and first caliph of the Umayyad Caliphate , Mu'awiya I. Stephen Album notes: "these coins have a very distinctive style and are found to the south of Damascus, in what is now northwestern Jordan. A modest selection was published by R. Milstein in Israel Numismatic Journal, vol. 10 (1991)."

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Pseudo-Damascus type, Foss 58, CE 660-680

Islamic, Umayyad Caliphate. temp. Mu'awiya I ibn Abi Sufyan. AH 41-60 / AD 661-680. Æ Fals. Imperial standing figure type (Type VI). Pseudo-Damascus mint. Struck circa 660s-680.

Obv: Standing imperial figure, holding long cross and globus cruciger;

Rev: Large M surmounted by trefoil ornament; pellet in each void; A/И to left; SO/C to right; in exergue, wavy line with pellet in each void.

Ref: similar to DOCAB Foss 58; Walker, Arab-Byzantine, ASK2 p. 50, Album 3522.1;

Notes: https://www.sullacoins.com/post/roman-baths-in-7th-century

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"The public accession in Jerusalem of the fifth caliph, Muʿāwiya b. Abī Sufyān, is unique among early Islamic ceremonies of accession because of the existence of a near-eyewitness account of events. An anonymous Syriac fragment, now known as the Maronite Chronicle, explains that, having been “made king” by the “Arab nomads,” Muʿāwiya went up to Golgotha, where a complex of Christian churches stood. there, he sat down and prayed, before setting out for Gethsemane, outside the east wall of the city, where he visited the church of the tomb of Mary, and prayed. a separate report states that “in July of the same year” the “emirs and many arab nomads gathered.” they “proffered their right hand” to Muʿāwiya. an order went out that he should be “proclaimed king in all the villages and cities of his dominion;” their inhabitants were ordered to “make invocations and acclamations to him.”

-Andrew Marsham, The Architecture of Allegiance in Early Islamic Late Antiquity: The accession of Muʿāwiya in Jerusalem, ca. 661 CE", Chapter 4 in Court Ceremonies and Rituals of Power in Byzantium and the Medieval Mediterranean, Comparative Perspectives, The Medieval Mediterranean, Volume: 98, eBook ISBN: 9789004258150, Brill, 01 Jan 2013, p.88 https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004258150_006

If anyone knows where to find a copy of Rachel Milstein's "A Hoard of Early Arab Figurative Coins" from Israel Numismatic Journal, vol. 10 (1988–1989) pp.3–26, I am interested to read.

and an Arab-Sasanian coin from roughly same time period.

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Islamic, Umayyad Caliphate, time of Mu'awiya I ibn Abi Sufyan, AH 41-60 / AD 661-680, AR Drachm, Khusro type, BYŠ (Bishapur) mint, dated AH 48 (AD 668/9).

Obv: Crowned Sasanian-style bust right; rabbi and bismillah in Arabic in outer margin

Rev: Fire altar with ribbons and attendants; star and crescent flanking flames; date to left; mint to right

Ref: SICA I 122-7; Walker, Arab-Sasanian 25; Album 5

Note: This type is now identified as an issue of Ziyad b. Abi Sufyan as governor of al-Basra, before he was granted the governorship of al-Kufa as well. (Album 5) administrator of the Umayyad caliphate, governor of Basra in 665–670, first governor of Iraq and virtual viceroy of the eastern Caliphate between 670 and his death.

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Edited by Sulla80
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