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Very excited - a rare Alexandria coin for my collection


ValiantKnight
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As a collector interested in coins from Egypt, in addition to the usual like Greek and Roman, I also was looking to add Islamic Egyptian coins to my collection. Mainly I was searching for something from the first couple of centuries of Islamic rule (i.e. the early caliphates). Looked around a couple of times but didn't really find anything of interest and the goal was kind of left on the backburner. Earlier this year I found out about a rare, bilingual type struck by the Umayyads in Alexandria with both Greek and Arabic letters, that fascinated me. Of course, given its rarity, I did not find any offered for sale. Until last month when I found my example. Normally, I make it a point to avoid buying coins from what I call the "Sandmen" (the dealers who controversially slather their coins with sand patina), but I could not pass this coin up and so I made an exception to my rule. This one will definitely be in my top 10 for this year.

This particular type was struck in the last year of Umayyad rule (749-750 AD), right before the Umayyad royal family were deposed by the Abbasids and forced to flee to al-Andalus (Islamic Hispania). It mentions the name of the then-finance director (and later, governor) of Egypt, Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, in the obverse margins, and the reigning Umayyad caliph, Marwan II, in the reverse margins. In the center obverse within the circle is the Arabic name for Egypt, Misr, and the Greek letters Aλ for Al[exandria]. The reverse center has a shortened version of Alexandria's Arabic name, al-Iskandariya.

Marwan II and Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, Umayyad Caliphate
AE fals
Obv: مِصر ("Misr")  over Aλ (AL) in center, finance director's name in margin
Rev: Abbreviated Arabic name of al-Iskandariya "al-Is/rîya" in circle. caliph's name in margin
Mint: al-Iskandariya (Alexandria)
Date: 749 AD
Ref: A-151, W-Kh.9

iskandariya.jpg.48c0c661f09aa9b532560a96277eba38.jpg

After the Arabs conquered Alexandria from the Byzantines in the 7th century AD and ended nearly a thousand years of Greco-Roman dominance, Greeks continued to live in the city for some time afterwards. This coin, I think, is a symbol of this continuation of Greek life and culture in Alexandria, or as the Arabs call it, al-Iskandariya. Egypt itself would continue to be majority Christian until around the 10-12th centuries, and Arabic would become the sole main language of Alexandria in the 11th century. The loss of Alexandria and the rest of Egypt was a huge blow to the Byzantines as the region was the main source of grain for the rest of the empire. Due to the risk of invasion from the sea, the Arabs moved the capital from Alexandria (a position it had held since the Ptolemies) to a new city farther into the interior called Fustat. The Greeks/Romans/Christians of Egypt were reported to be more welcoming to the Muslim Arabs over the previous Byzantine rulers, who had ruled heavy handed and tried to impose their religious views (Chalcedonian Christianity on a land that was mostly non-Chalcedonian). As in other conquered territories, the Muslims applied the jizya tax onto the dhimmi (non-muslims) of Egypt that did not convert to Islam. In exchange, the dhimmi were promised religious freedom, exemption from military service, and granted protection by Muslim rulers. After the initial conquest, Egypt would be ruled by a succession of Muslim rulers and dynasties.

Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan was descended from a famed general who had helped conquer North Africa and Hispania, Musa ibn Nusayr. He started as finance director of Egypt before being chosen by Marwan II as governor in 750 after the death of his predecessor. During his governorship, Abd al-Malik needed to handle both the Abbasid Revolution that had spread to Egypt as well as a Coptic rebellion against the government. The caliph Marwan II escaped to Egypt after his defeat by the Abbasids in Syria, but was later killed by them. Abd al-Malik himself, despite being an Umayyad-appointed official, received a pardon by the new authorities due to tolerance shown towards the Abbasids during his term as Egyptian governor.

1280pxMohammadadilMuslimconquestofEgyptwiki.png.36640068a82850c1d8fd15a4791c69aa.png

cTTjIrBLRSKoqSXPv3RFIslamExpansionMapStudentsofhistory.jpg.467caa3a723fd9e8bc13233c66630846.jpg

9557821550_3a6f8c9ae9cflikr.jpg.762dee5a9e90ac3052e2f3e36184f822.jpg

Feel free to share any Islamic coins, coins from Alexandria/Egypt, or anything else related! And any additional information related to this coin type and/or Islamic Egyptian coins in general is much appreciated.

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Congratulations! Most of my Alexandrian are RPC (or Late Roman Bronze for which the mint is of less interest), but I love seeing how the Alexandrian mint's output changed from the Ptolemaic period to the Islamic. I'm sure a lot of people have built fascinating Alexandria collections spanning that whole period.

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1 hour ago, Curtis JJ said:

Congratulations! Most of my Alexandrian are RPC (or Late Roman Bronze for which the mint is of less interest), but I love seeing how the Alexandrian mint's output changed from the Ptolemaic period to the Islamic. I'm sure a lot of people have built fascinating Alexandria collections spanning that whole period.

For me, it’s great to have a coin from this lesser-known part of Alexandria’s history. And it’s an interesting feeling to put it next to a Ptolemaic coin and know they come from the same place but have a thousand years of history separating them.

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Very cool coin, VK, I'm envious!  I don't have any Egyptian coins from this period, but I do have some relevant coins from Asia.  Dated AH 129 (746-747), this coin was minted by 'Abd Allah b. Mu'awiya in Jayy (=Isfahan in Iran).  He was an Aliid, the great grandson of Ali's brother.  The Aliids were the third party in the civil war and a big distraction for Marwan II, since they had taken control of much of Persia. Although Marwan defeated them in 747, the resources it took ultimately ensured that the empire ultimately fell into the hands of the Abbasids.

image.jpeg.ef4066ac3025082e232beec9e7ace007.jpeg

And here's one of the first coins from the guy who won it all, the Abbasid al-Saffah, dated exactly the same year as your coin i.e. AH 132 = 749/50 (al-Kufa mint, the first Abbasid capital, until it was moved to Baghdad in 762):

image.jpeg.0686956a724b246783cd63a98ea4fa73.jpeg

I will be looking for an example of your coin to add to my Abbasid revolution set!  I'd also like one of the last dirhams of Marwan II, though they're hard to come by, at least dated 132 AH.

You did say to add coins from Alexandria, so just to open it up a bit, I will.  Here's a new acquisition I'm pretty excited about and will be up your alley too, I think... it's the last Roman output at Alexandria, which was closed under Leo I.  (Later reopened under the Byzantines, of course.)  These are pretty rare!  The vast majority of the littel Leo nummi are from Constantinople, and have the lion looking back across his shoulder, like this one (also mine):

image.jpeg.060ad95c6bf2d35e8dc07de04ed03768.jpeg

 

By contrast, here's the Alexandria mint product, where the lion is looking forward, and there's a cross above:

image.jpeg.f86955a046f3181681a9637290b52336.jpeg

You can see a bit of the mint signature at the bottom.  Keep your eyes peeled for the looking-forward lion as these coins are likely to be mistaken for the ordinary Constantinople variety and you might get yourself a deal. 😄 

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Congrats! It seems your coin is the same coin as https://www.zeno.ru/showphoto.php?photo=212149. To make it on topic, here is a few coins from North Africa:

 

Umayyad Caliphate, North Africa: Anonymous (ca. 760 AD) AE Fals, NM, ND (Album-145; Walker-P116; Lavoix 1342; Frochoso III-a)

Obv: ⸙ لا إله إلا ☆ الله; There is no God but (pentagram) Allah (palm branch)
Rev: محمد ر ﹏ سول الله; Muhammad is the (wavy line) messenger of God

normal_Walker-P116.jpg

Edited by quant.geek
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I thought I'd share another example of ValiantKnight's al-Iskandariya fals. This one is from my (former) collection of early Islamic copper. Ex J.S. Wagner Collection, CNG Triton XIV, 2011, lot 1825 (part).

Misr-1101-1-62.jpg

Edited by DLTcoins
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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi @DLTcoins,

I am the current curator for this coin. Can you let me know if you got it from CNG Triton XIV or later? (I bought it from you in July 2016.)

I should note the the word Misr is retrograde on this one, and it’s Walker p. 230, Kh.9v (Misr not retrograde); Lane-Poole 845; SICA-2, 1111v (same); Album 151 var: E.

P.S., this is my first post to Numis Forums.

- Broucheion 

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7 hours ago, Broucheion said:

Hi @DLTcoins,

I am the current curator for this coin. Can you let me know if you got it from CNG Triton XIV or later? (I bought it from you in July 2016.)

I should note the the word Misr is retrograde on this one, and it’s Walker p. 230, Kh.9v (Misr not retrograde); Lane-Poole 845; SICA-2, 1111v (same); Album 151 var: E.

P.S., this is my first post to Numis Forums.

- Broucheion 

Yes, I was the winner of the Triton lot and incorporated most of the coins into my collection. By 2016, the collection was large and I was finding it difficult to add anything new, so I decided to move them along. I've assembled (and subsequently dispersed) several collections over the years. The Islamic bronzes were my favorite and the only collection I sometimes miss. I knew right where to look for the photo. My notes, however, are more elusive. Thank you for posting the full description and thanks again for your purchase!

Edited by DLTcoins
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  • 1 month later...
On 8/1/2022 at 12:51 AM, DLTcoins said:

I thought I'd share another example of ValiantKnight's al-Iskandariya fals. This one is from my (former) collection of early Islamic copper. Ex J.S. Wagner Collection, CNG Triton XIV, 2011, lot 1825 (part).

Misr-1101-1-62.jpg

 

On 8/10/2022 at 11:00 AM, Broucheion said:

Hi @DLTcoins,

I am the current curator for this coin. Can you let me know if you got it from CNG Triton XIV or later? (I bought it from you in July 2016.)

I should note the the word Misr is retrograde on this one, and it’s Walker p. 230, Kh.9v (Misr not retrograde); Lane-Poole 845; SICA-2, 1111v (same); Album 151 var: E.

P.S., this is my first post to Numis Forums.

- Broucheion 

It was this very coin that made me aware of the existence of this type, actually. Thanks for posting it! I'm been wondering, though. On my coin, do you guys think there is an E after Aλ? Or it looks more like just a section of the circular border? I still haven't been able to tell even in hand. My guess that its an E but when it was struck the E got distorted and this is why it looks strange.

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14 hours ago, ValiantKnight said:

On my coin, do you guys think there is an E after Aλ? Or it looks more like just a section of the circular border? I still haven't been able to tell even in hand. My guess that its an E but when it was struck the E got distorted and this is why it looks strange.

On the examples at Zeno, it's written  Aλ'  with a large apostrophe-like or crescent-like stroke following λ. The same is true for the single example in the Ashmolean sylloge.

https://www.zeno.ru/showgallery.php?cat=15414

 

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On 8/1/2022 at 12:51 AM, DLTcoins said:

This one is from my (former) collection of early Islamic copper. Ex J.S. Wagner Collection, CNG Triton XIV, 2011, lot 1825 (part).

Hi All,

A closer look at this and now I’m convinced the Aλ'  is mirror image as is the Misr which of course makes sense.

- Broucheion 

 

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