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Dinar of Nur al-Din Mahmud b. Zangi (r. 1146–74)

Not on view

Gold and Silver Coinage

Gold and silver coins were considered high-value money, used and traded over long distances. It was the principal form of currency used by high-ranking officials to pay land tax or iqta' (revenue from grants of land). In Rum Seljuq lands, very fine dirhams (silver and certain copper coins) and a few gold coins were minted. They are exceptional in Islamic coinage for the presence of figural imagery. The two main themes are the astrological sun-lion and the equestrian, the latter of which is an embodiment of power and control and a symbol of an ideal ruler in the Great Age of the Seljuqs. The motif of the equestrian was also used in Christian regions, for example, by Het'um I the Great, king of Armenian Cilicia. He wears a crown instead of a turban and holds a fleur-de-lis staff, a Christian royal symbol that replaced the Seljuq bow and triple arrows or mace. A cross further distinguishes this coin from the Rum Seljuq regalia such as stars or a crescent.

Copper Coinage

The period from the mid-twelfth to the mid-thirteenth century witnessed a growing regional economy in the Jazira that led to a profusion of unusually large and heavy copper coins depicting a variety of figural imagery. Their large size (approximately 2.4 to 3 cm), the presence of figural imagery, and certain themes recall Byzantine copper coins, which were used as petty coinage and which this new coinage complemented. The iconography of many of these coins relates to ancient Roman, Greek, and Byzantine coins. Certain rare examples even copy coins from different periods, while others have unusual iconography, the visual sources and artistic models of which remain difficult to identify. The nearly exact rendering of certain images suggests that mint makers had their models at hand. Ancient gold and silver currency was probably uncovered when rebuilding or erecting monuments, as many of the towns and cities occupied by the Artuqids and Zangids were important centers in antiquity.

Dinar of Nur al-Din Mahmud b. Zangi (r. 1146–74), Gold

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