Front Page Titles (by Subject) 7.: SARACEN COINAGE — ( P. 241 ) - The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 9
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
7.: SARACEN COINAGE — ( P. 241 ) - Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 9 
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, ed. J.B. Bury with an Introduction by W.E.H. Lecky (New York: Fred de Fau and Co., 1906), in 12 vols. Vol. 9.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
SARACEN COINAGE — (P. 241)
The following account of the introduction of a separate coinage by the Omayyads is taken from Mr. Stanley Lane-Poole’s Coins and Medals, p. 164 sqq.
“It took the Arabs half a century to discover the need of a separate coinage of their own. At first they were content to borrow their gold and copper currency from the Byzantine Empire, which they had driven out of Syria, and their silver coins from the Sassanian kings of Persia, whom they had overthrown at the battles of Kadisia and Nehavend. The Byzantine gold served them till the seventy-sixth year of the Flight, when a new, but theologically unsound and consequently evanescent, type was invented, bearing the effigy of the reigning Khalif instead of that of Heraclius, and Arabic instead of Greek inscriptions. So, too, the Sassanian silver pieces were left unaltered, save for the addition of a governor’s name in Pehlvi letters. The Khalif ’Aly or one of his lieutenants seems to have attempted to inaugurate a purely Muslim coinage, exactly resembling that which was afterwards adopted, but only one example of this issue is known to exist, in the Paris collection, together with three other silver coins struck at Damascus and Merv between a.h. 60 and 70, of a precisely similar type. These four coins are clearly early and ephemeral attempts at the introduction of a distinctive Mohammadan coinage, and their recent discovery in no way upsets the received Muslim tradition that it was the Khalif ’Abd-El-Melik who, in the year of the Flight 76 (or, on the evidence of the coins themselves, 77), inaugurated the regular Muslim coinage which was thenceforward issued from all the mints of the empire, so long as the dynasty endured, and which gave its general character to the whole currency of the kingdoms of Islam. The copper coinage founded on the Byzantine passed through more and earlier phases than the gold and silver, but it always held [an] insignificant place in the Muslim currency. . . . ”
The gold and silver coins of ’Abd-El-Melik “both bear the same formulae of faith: on the obverse, in the area, ‘There is no god but God alone, He hath no partner’; around which is arranged a marginal inscription, ‘Mohammad is the apostle of God, who sent him with the guidance and religion of truth, that he might make it triumph over all other religions in spite of the idolaters,’ the gold stopping at ‘other religions.’ This inscription occurs on the reverse of the silver instead of the obverse, while the date inscription, which is found on the reverse of the gold, appears on the obverse of the silver. The reverse area declares that ‘God is One, God is the Eternal: He begetteth not, nor is begotten’; here the gold ends, but the silver continues, ‘and there is none like unto Him.’ The margin of the gold runs, ‘In the name of God: the Dînâr was struck in the year seven and seventy’; the silver substituting ‘Dirhem’ for ‘Dînâr,’ and inserting the place of issue immediately after the word Dirhem, e.g., ‘El-Andalus (i.e., Andalusia) in the year 116.’ The mint is not given on the early gold coins, probably because they were usually struck at the Khalif’s capital, Damascus.
“These original dînârs (a name formed from the Roman denarius) and dirhems (drachma) of the Khalif of Damascus formed the model of all Muslim coinages for many centuries; and their respective weights — 65 and 43 grains — served as the standard of all subsequent issues up to comparatively recent times. The fineness was about ·979 gold in the dînârs, and ·960 to ·970 silver in the dirhem. The Mohammadan coinage was generally very pure. . . . At first ten dirhems went to the dînâr, but the relation varied from age to age.”
Thus the dīnār of the Omayyad Caliphs, weighing on the average 65·3 grains of almost pure gold, was worth about 11s. 6d. In later times there were double dīnārs, and under the Omayyads there were thirds of a dīnār, which weighed less than half a dirhem.
As to a coin which Gibbon supposes (p. 241, note 9) to be preserved in the Bodleian Library, Mr. S. Lane-Poole kindly informs me that no such coin exists there. “The Wāsit coins there preserved were acquired long after Gibbon’s time and none has the date 88 a.h. There is a dirhem of that year in the British Museum weighing 44·6 grains. [S. Lane-Poole, Catalogue of Mohammadan Coins in the Bodleian Library, 1888; Catalogue of Oriental Coins in the British Museum, vol. i. no. 174 (1875).]”