Zacour, N. P.; Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / Volume VI: The impact of the Crusades on Europe
XI: Crusader coinage with Arabic inscriptions, pp. 421-473 PDF (5.7 MB)
Ch. XI CRUSADER COINAGE WITH ARABIC INSCRIPTIONS 423 by count, suggesting that one of the two latter conditions obtained, but in the crusader period most precious metal issues were weighed out in transactions. A payment of 100 dinars, for example, took the form of an amount of coins equal in weight to 100 times the current standard weight of the dinar, an amount which might be more or less than 100 individual coins. The process of weighing was recognized as an inconvenience, but was considered normal. Almost every transaction required a balance, with standard weights supplied or regulated by the government.3 To alleviate the inconvenience somewhat, coins were often sealed in purses, with a label indicating the content by weight; these purses, if sealed by government agencies or reputable moneychangers, could be passed from hand to hand like large-denomination notes today. A form of check, ruq'ah, also was used in payments.4 It is important to realize, therefore, that while the words "dinar" and "dirham" meant respectively "a gold coin" or "a silver coin", a payment of a certain number of dinars or dirhams meant transferral of that many weight units of the coinage in question — the number of coins was immaterial. Because the intrinsic value of precious metal coins was close — even though not equal — to their monetary value, it would have been impossible for any government to guarantee effectively the relationship of denominations in two different metals. To do so would have meant to back up the relationship by standing ready to exchange either for the other at a set rate, but this was impossible in practice because of fluctuations in the prices of the metals. (It is impossible even in the twentieth century, as shown by the abandonment by all governments of precious metal coins with a defined legal tender value. The fixed relationships of modern coins and notes are possible only because their intrinsic worth is far less than their nominal value.) Hennequin, "Problèmes théoriques et pratiques de la monnaie antique et médiévale," Annales islamologiques, X (1972), 1—51. 3. The major exception in the crusader era was the new dirham coinage introduced by Saladin in Syria and Egypt in the late twelfth century, which circulated by count at least some of the time. Other exceptions would include most copper coins, which were probably sold by the mint against payment in silver or gold coins at a price far above the value of the copper in them, many small transactions (a Syrian market manual of Saladin's time refers to a rule that transactions of less than four coins could be by count), and informal payments — no one weighed a coin before tossing it to a beggar. On the other hand, no eastern Mediterranean Islamic gold coinage of the period 1092—ca. 1420 could have circulated by count, although the western Mediterranean dinars of the type introduced by the Muwabbids probably did. 4. Solomon D. F. Goitein, A Mediterranean Society, 3 vols. (Berkeley, 1967—1978), I, 229— 266, discusses means of payment in lOth—l3th-century Egypt and Syria in detail. For the evidence for weighing see also Bates, "The Function of Fgtimid and AyyUbid Glass Weights," Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, XXIV (1981), 70-81.
Copyright 1989 The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. All rights reserved. Use of this material falling outside the purview of "fair use" requires the permission of the University of Wisconsin Press. To buy the hardcover book, see: http://www/wisc/edu/wisconsinpress/books/1737.htm