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Research Coins: Affiliated Auction

Sale: Nomos 2, Lot: 230. Estimate CHF6250. 
Closing Date: Monday, 17 May 2010. 
Sold For CHF27000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

ISLAMIC, Umayyad Caliphate. Pseudo-Byzantine types. Dinar (Gold, 4.26 g 6), uncertain mint in North Africa, circa 695-705/715. [NON] EST dS NISI IPSE SO[... Two imperial busts facing (based on those of Heraclius and Heraclius Constantine), both draped and wearing crowns with a triple ornament; the one on the left larger and bearded, that on the right beardless and smaller. Rev. dE d NO CIAS MA ET OMN AN Pillar, with cross bar on top, on base and two steps; to right, pellet. BMC (Arab-Byzantine) 143. Extremely rare. Minor nicks and scrapes, otherwise, nearly extremely fine.

This very rare dinar (it was struck on a slightly lower standard than the Byzantine gold solidus) was produced based on Byzantine prototypes at some point towards the end of the 7th century. The curious fact is that the types are those used on coins minted at Carthage under Heraclius, which were last struck in 641, even though Carthage itself was only captured by the Arabs in 695. In the winter of 697/8 a Byzantine fleet was able to recapture the city, but the Byzantines were driven out later in 698 by a very much superior Arab force that retook the city. At that point our sources differ: most say that the city was destroyed during the final attack, but others suggest that the city was deliberately dismantled in 705 to prevent any further foreign occupations. In any case, after the city was destroyed it was replaced by the nearby town of Tunis, to which much of the old population of Carthage was transferred. The minters of this coin chose to produce a Byzantine-looking coin that would be familiar to local users, but not from a prototype that was so recent that it would imply Byzantine overlordship. The legends on both the obverse and reverse relate to the Islamic profession of the faith (the shahâda) but are not in fully canonical form; they are in Latin and can be expanded to: NON EST DeuS NISI IPSe SOLus CuI Socius Non est and DEus Dominus NOster CIAS MAgnus ETernus OMNiA Noscens. The most recent discussion of this coinage is in Michael Bates’ Roman and Early Muslim Coinage in North Africa, North Africa from Antiquity to Islam, edited by M.Horton and T. Wiedemann (Bristol, 1995) pp. 12-15 (a more expanded version is in preparation): he suggests that the North African Arab-Byzantine issues were produced in the period running from c. 695 to 715/718. They were replaced by completely Arabic issues, albeit using typically local thick flans in 718, and by broader, flatter coins in a style close to that used in Damascus and the other main mints of the caliphate in 719/720. He also suggests that the figural types were struck in Carthage while those with Latin inscriptions but no images were produced in the purely Islamic city of Kairouan, which had been founded in 670. This makes sense, especially since the inscriptions used on the coins seem to run in parallel and make it very likely that two mints were involved. If, however, the sources that state that Carthage was destroyed in 698 are correct, this makes the minting history of the figural types rather complicated. The possibilities are as follows: 1. all the figural issues were produced in Carthage from 695 through the Fall of 697 and then ended; 2. figural types began to be produced in Carthage 695, stopped with the Byzantine occupation, and then resumed in 698, either in Carthage if a) the city was only destroyed in 705 as some sources suggest, or b) in Tunis, if Carthage was dismantled in 698 and its population, and mint, removed to that nearby city. This would be an intriguing possibility; and it might also be where the issues of Hasan ibn al-Nu’man that are dated to A.H. 80 (699/700), as BMC 164 ff., were produced (though they bear only a single bust and have inscriptions that are only in Arabic) or c) in Tripolis, where a whole series of bronzes were struck (c. 699-704) in the name of Musa ibn Nusair, who was the governor of Africa from 698 and was soon to be the conqueror of Visigothic Spain (these coins seem marginally different in style from those in the main series and probably should be seen as a parallel issue).