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CNG Islamic Auction 2

Lot nuber 273

Saffarids. Ya'qub b. al-Layth. AH 247-265 / AD 861-879. AR Dirham (23.5mm, 2.64 g, 2h). Madinat al-Salam mint. Dated AH 263 (AD 876/7). Fine.

CNG Islamic Auction 2
Lot: 273.
 Estimated: $ 1 000

Pre-Mongol Iran, Silver

Sold For $ 1 500. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Go to Live

Saffarids. Ya'qub b. al-Layth. AH 247-265 / AD 861-879. AR Dirham (23.5mm, 2.64 g, 2h). Madinat al-Salam mint. Dated AH 263 (AD 876/7). Obverse field: la ilaha illa / Allah wahdahu / la sharik lahu Ya‘qub bin al-Layth in four lines. Unpublished. Some weak striking on both sides, but mint, date and Ya‘qub’s name all extremely clear. Fine. Of the highest rarity, apparently unique.

While the forces of Ya‘qub b. al-Layth entered Iraq during the year AH 262, the Saffarid ruler never in fact reached Baghdad itself. During the month of Rajab, the Saffarid forces met an ‘Abbasid army near the town of Dayr al-‘Aqul, some fifty miles from Baghdad. Ya‘qub was comprehensively defeated and obliged to retreat to Wasit with heavy losses. He subsequently withdrew to Junday Sabur, and made no further incursions into Iraq thereafter.

How, then, are we to account for the existence of the present coin, apparently struck in Baghdad and clearly naming Ya‘qub, even though he never actually set foot in the ‘Abbasid capital? One possible answer comes from a comment attributed to Ya‘qub himself, who was asked by one of his own commanders how a general of his undoubted skill had made a series of major strategic misjudgements leading to the disaster at Dayr al-‘Aqul. Ya‘qub replied that he had not expected that he would actually have to fight, and modern scholars have argued that Ya‘qub had been in touch with pro-Saffarid sympathisers in Baghdad, possibly even the son and heir of the caliph himself, al-Muwaffaq. Seen in this context, this coin can be interpreted as having been struck by pro-Saffarid elements in the ‘Abbasid capital, and it may even be that such a physical demonstration of support played a part in convincing Ya‘qub that he would be able to occupy Baghdad without fighting.

The final winners of all CNG Islamic Auction 2 lots will be determined during the live sale that will be held on 27 October 2022.

Winning bids are subject to a 22.5% buyer's fee for bids placed on this website and 25% for all others.

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