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A Crusader in a turban


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(photo borrowed from seller)
Crusaders, Principality of Antioch. AE follis. Tancred as regent (1104-1112). Obverse: Tancred facing, holding sword over shoulder and wearing turban. Reverse: Cross, in 4 quadrants abbreviated Greek legend IC XC NIKA (Jesus Christ Conquers). This coin: Forum Ancient Coins, December 2023.  

Tancred was born around 1075 to a noble Norman family. In 1096, he accompanied his uncle Bohemond on the First Crusade. He showed a great military strategic mind in leading troops into the Levant through Cilicia, capturing strategic sites along the way. He was part of the siege of Antioch in 1098 and was among the first Crusaders to enter Jerusalem in 1099. (He claimed to be the very first, but this was disputed.) He became regent of Antioch in 1100 while his uncle Bohemond was prisoner of the Danishmendid Turks (which lasted until 1103), and in 1104 also took over the County of Edessa when Baldwin II was captured by the Seljuk Turks at the Battle of Edessa. Also in 1104, Bohemond returned to Europe to recruit more soldiers, leaving Tancred regent at Antioch again. In late 1108 Baldwin was released and had to fight Tancred to regain possession of Edessa. Meanwhile, Bohemond had signed a treaty swearing an oath of fealty to the Byzantine emperor Alexius I, but Tancred refused to honor the treaty, keeping Antioch independent of the Byzantines. Tancred died in 1112 in a typhoid epidemic.

This coin appealed to me because of the portrait of Tancred. It is somewhat worn, but the main features are reasonably clear, showing a long, straight beard, a high forehead, and most interestingly, a turban atop his head. Why would a Christian, European Crusader portray himself wearing a turban? Presumably it is some sort of attempt to appeal to the locals and show that he accepted at least some part of their culture. An interesting coin, from an interesting period of history that I haven't explored much before now. Please post your related coins.

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As always an interesting post and coin @Parthicus!  Here's a different Tancred - this coin appealed because a Norman King ruling in Sicily writing in Arabic & Latin seemed an interesting combination.


Tancred, King of Sicily, reigned 1189-1194, Æ Follaro

Obv: +ROGERIVS:; in center, REX; dots above and below

Rev: Arabic (Kufic) legend on two lines - المالك تنقرير (al-malik Tanqrir; the King, Tancred)

Notes: https://www.sullacoins.com/post/normans-in-sicily

and one from the same Tancred as the OP Leu describes as: "This is probably the earliest issue struck under Tancred, the Prince of Galilee, and it bears the image of Antioch's patron saint St. Peter, who was the first Patriarch of Antioch according to early Christian sources and the 9th century Liber Pontificalis."

TancredStPeterAntioch.jpg.5e98eaa4f040a3afb200000604156f35.jpgCRUSADERS. Antioch. Tancred, regent, 1101-1112. Follis (Bronze, 23mm, 4.96g, 6h)

Obv: Nimbate bust of St. Peter facing, raising his right hand in benediction and holding cross in his left.

Rev: KЄBOI / ΘHTOΔV / ΛΟCOVT/ ANHPI ('Lord, help your servant Tancred' in Greek) in four lines; below, cross.

Edited October 16, 2023 by Sulla80

Edited by Sulla80
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Huge thanks, @Parthicus, for tossing this, and your other memorable medieval post over the same, fun day, into the mix.  And Congratulations on expanding your horizons!  ...Something I try to do, generally by fits and starts.

Specifically for late Lombard Italy and  Norman Sicily and southern Italy, this post covers some high points.

 More generally, what's terrific fun about the breadth of the northern Mediterranean, from Iberia to Norman Sicily to the Frankish Levant, over the 11th-earlier 13th centuries, is that this pitch of eclectism was almost the default mode.  In Iberia and Sicily, it went well beyond mere coexisstence.  Alfonso VI. who had spent his youth in dynastic exile at the court of Toledo, had the collections  of the Islamic and Jewish libraries in Toledo translated into Latin --once he'd conquered it in 1086.  In SIcily, Norman princes were educated by Islamic and Jewish tutors.  --Here's a brilliant Wiki article that I just found.


Meanwhile, as early as the decades immediately following the period of Tancred, an Islamic diplomat reported the magnanimity and cultural receptivity of the Franks who'd been settled in the Levant for all of a generation, notably in contrast to literal crusaders, arriving off the boat from Europe.  ...I have to love how issues both from Norman Apulia /Calabria and Sicily, and the Frankish Levant (granted, as of the earlier 13th century, via imitative Ayyubid dirhams), use accurate AH dates.  That's the primary means by which you can tell the imitations from the originals; the Frankish ones are all posthumous to the Ayyubid emirs whose names they're issued in. 

Here's my favorite example of that, dated to 1217 CE by the Yale or Harvard grad student (from memory) who sold it.  


CCS, "Imitative Silver Dirhams;" pp.129-32 (interpretive material); No. 1 (imitating issues of Al-Zahir Ghazi, the Ayyubid emir of  Aleppo, 1186 and 1216 CE).  Malloy dates the Frankish issue to 613-630 AH, corresponding to AD 1216-1233.

These people weren't just passively adapting to surrounding populations out of purely pragmatic motives; they were learning stuff as they went along.  Like their Germanic ancestors, relative to the Roman Empire, they had the intelligence to appreciate the (value judgment alert:) superiority, on numerous levels, of the cultures they had 'inherited' by conquest.  --Another thing I need is that, going back to Iberia, Rodrigo Diaz ('El Cid') also included Jews in high administrative positions, notably in Valencia, the Andalusian taifa (emirate, more or less) which he conquered at the end of his career. 

...For medieval Europe, this interval has to be as cosmopolitan as it gets.  Over the course of the later 13th century, there's already a retrenchment --witness, for instance, the Spanish Inquisition, whose origins go back as far as the 1260's.  But as long as it lasted, it was some serious stuff.  Subjectively, it really feels like a breath of fresh air.


Edited by JeandAcre
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Nice coin!

Yours, just like mine, shows traces of overstriking. That is not unusual: most coins of this type were struck over Tancred's earlier folles (Metcalf 49–62). It would be fascinating to know the economic reason for this. Renovatio monetae? Revaluation of circulating bronze coins? I don't know...


Principality of Antioch, Tancred, AE follis, 1104–1112 AD. Obv: [KE BO TANKR or similar; as usual not struck]; bust of Tancred, bearded, wearing 'turban,' holding raised sword in r. hand. Rev: Cross as the Tree of Life; in quadrants, IC-XC / NI-KA. 22 mm, 2.45g. Ref: Schlumberger II.7, Metcalf 63-70, CCS 4a. Overstruck on Schlumberger II.6; Metcalf 49-62.

Edited by Ursus
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  • 2 weeks later...

I think it is still meant to be hair. Indeed, I think nobody in Antioch wore a turban, let a lone the local prince. The principality of Antioch had about 20’000 inhabitants in the 12th century consisting mostly of Armenians and Greeks and a few Moslems living outside the city. 

Edited by Tejas
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I think a turban is not confusing, but highly unlikely. It may be some double striking which gives the impression that Tancred is wearing some kind of headdress. I guess we need to look at more depictions of Tancred on coins and otherwise.

Edited by Tejas
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Well put!  The most current references in English are Malloy, Coins of the Crusader States (usually cited as 'CCS'), 2nd ed., 2004.  The section on Antioch is pp. 178-98 (a solid interpretive introduction), and 198-232 (the catalogue, with good line drawings).  Despite the relative comprehensiveness, for the full series, this issue of Tancred is only gets two listings, 4a and 4b (distinguished only by 'smaller dies and flan' (--OOPS: BIG FAT EDIT:) c. 18 mm. or smaller) in the later issue.  ...And, yes, describing the coiffure, or lack thereof, as a 'turban.'  To @Tejas' and @Victor_Clark's points, were contemporary Arabs even wearing turbans?  Not sure.  

(Instant edit:) Then there's the older, but more exhaustive catalogue, Metcalf's Coinage of the Crusades and the Latin East in the Ashmolean Museum (2nd ed., 'thoroughly revised and enlarged,' 1995).  Sadly enough, the one time I got my hands on a copy, by way of old-fashioned, public Interlibrary Loan --and xeroxed the holy stuff out of it-- I neglected the early Antiocene stuff.  Surely, though, that would give you a better idea of the varieties, with real b&w photographs.  With the caveat that, as with other medieval series, you have to live with the fact that the full range of known variants is likely to never be fully published.  With ancients, numismatists can at least aspire to that, I guess; with medievals, well, not so much.

...Why not.  Here's my only example, summarily blown out of the water by everyone else's.  The only selling point was the chain mail.




Edited by JeandAcre
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On page 27, Metcalf simply says "On this much-discussed type, Tancred appears to be wearing a turban surmounted by a jewel. (But well-struck specimens suggest that the turban is a figment of the imagination)."

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I am now in the Crusader bowl cut camp. I looked at all the Tancred examples on acsearch and there were a lot. Sometimes it is not very clear but other times it is definitely just a poor haircut. Of course, depending on whether the same thing is being engraved each time. You can often see what looks like a decoration over his head. Here are some of the better examples--







the best for last--


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