University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The History Collection

Page View

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)

Page 431

 The eleventh and most of the twelfth centuries have been regarded as an
era of "silver famine" for the Moslem Near East, with little or no silver
coinage, but this is a misconception, as shown not only by the frequent references
in Arabic written sources to transactions in dirhams, but also by the increasing
repertoire of silver coins of Egypt and Syria found by numismatists once
they began looking for them.27 It is nevertheless true that the full-weight
good silver dirham of the eighth to tenth centuries vanishes from the central
Islamic lands in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and it seems that many
areas, especially east of the Euphrates, almost totally ceased coinage in
silver for some time. The silver coinage of Egypt and Syria that survives
from this period is difficult to study for a variety of reasons,28 and the
present state of numismatic knowledge is fragmentary indeed. Only a few generalizations
can be made at this time. The region east of the Euphrates can be dealt with
summarily: dirhams disappear completely, as far as is now known, in the early
eleventh century (except in the farthest east) and do not reappear until
the thirteenth century. 
 The type of small dirham characteristic of Egypt and Syria in the Fãtimid
era first appeared in Sicily or North Africa under the Aghlabids in the ninth
century. This coinage was continued by the Fätimids and introduced by
them to Egypt and Syria when they conquered these lands in 969. It is difficult
to say if Egypt had any substantial dirham coinage before that date, for
only a handful of Egyptian Ikhshidid dirhams are known. As with the absence
of late IkhshIdid dinars, the paucity of Ikhshidid dirhams may be a result
of the recoinage forced at the beginning of the Fãtimid period. On
the other hand, Egypt had no Islamic silver coinage at all before 787, and
Egyptian dirhams are rare throughout the ' AbMsid and TUlunid eras. 
 27. Claude Cahen, "Monetary Circulation in Egypt at the Time of the Crusades
and the Reform of A1-K~mil," in The Islamic Middle East (700-1900), ed. Avram
L. Udovitch (Princeton, 1981), pp. 315—334; Balog, "History of the
Dirhem in Egypt from the Fatimid Conquest until the Collapse of the Mamluk
Empire, 358—922 H./968—1517 A.D.," Rev. numis., 6th ser., III
(1961), 109—146. 
 28. The silver coins of the period are small and much alloyed with copper,
making them especially liable to corrosion, which usually renders the inscriptions
partially illegible. Judging by those that survive, they were not particularly
well struck to begin with; the dies are larger than the coin blank, so that
only a part of the inscription appears on the coin. Sometimes most of the
coin surface is blank, with only one or two letters to be seen. As a result,
only a small proportion of the coins can be attributed with certainty to
a specific date and place. These small dark-colored bits have often been
overlooked or ignored in scientific archeological excavations, and they are
of no interest at all to the illicit diggers who, for better or worse, are
the main source for numismatic finds from the Near East. 

Go up to Top of Page