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Objects "Morton & Eden"


FATIMID, AL-MUSTANSIR / AL-BASASIRI. Dinar, Madinat al-Salam 450h. OBVERSE: In field: Ma’add | ‘Abd Allah wa waliyat | al-Imam Abu Tamim | al-Mustansir billah | Amir al-Mu‘minin. REVERSE: In field: ‘Ali | la ilaha illa Allah | wahdahu la sharik lahu | Muhammad rasul Allah | wali Allah. WEIGHT: 3.51g. REFERENCE: cf Nicol 2092. CONDITION: Edge shaved, double-struck on obverse and some scrapes on reverse but with mint and date clearly legible, fine overall, historically important and of the highest rarity. The Fatimid partisan Arslan al-Basasiri was a Turkish general who had enjoyed status and prestige when Baghdad and the Abbasid caliph were under Buwayhid protection. With the fall of the Buwayhids and the arrival of the Great Seljuqs under Tughril Beg, al-Basasiri began to fear for his own position and started making overtures to the Fatimids. One may question how deeply al-Basasiri, the former protector of the Sunni caliph, was now attached to the Fatimid cause, but he was given money and arms to support his operations against the Seljuqs. At this period the authority of the Abbasid caliph, al-Qa’im, was limited to religious affairs, with political and military matters firmly in the hands of the Great Seljuq sultan, Tughril Beg. In 450h, however, the latter was campaigning elsewhere in his domains and had taken his entire army with him. Al-Basasiri was therefore able to enter Baghdad with only a small force. Perhaps Tughril Beg had misjudged the situation, or perhaps he had deliberately exposed the city in this way for his own political reasons; in any case, the khutba in Baghdad, capital of the Sunni caliphs, was now being read in the name of the Fatimid al-Mustansir. Al-Basasiri even forced al-Qa’im to sign a declaration waiving the rights of the Abbasids to the caliphate as long as the Fatimid line endured. In spite of his successes al-Basasiri seems to have received surprisingly little support from the Fatimids once he had taken control of Baghdad. It may be that they had never intended him to remain there indefinitely: Tughril Beg and his powerful army would certainly return to Baghdad eventually, while there are reports of al-Basasiri antagonizing the citizens and even committing atrocities against them. The Fatimids may have been content with the propaganda value of a symbolic victory, not to mention the document al-Qa’im signed abrogating his caliphal rights. Al-Basasiri also tried unsuccessfully to capture the caliphal heir, who would have been a real prize for the Fatimids and of great value in future negotiations. As well as the khutba al-Basasiri also used the coinage to assert al-Mustansir’s authority in Baghdad. All Fatimid dinars struck during this episode are rare; most surviving coins are dated 451h, and the present specimen is one of only two surviving examples from 450h. The other published piece (Nicol 2092) included the name of a month - Ramadan - in the mint/date legend, which is not found on this coin. This parallels the issues of the following year, which are found with and without the month Muharram. Including the month as well as the year of issue is a feature which recurs from time to time within the Fatimid coinage, and contemporary dinars from the Fatimid mint of al-Mahdiya also bore month names (see lot 100). Jafar reports a contemporary belief that the Fatimids had supplied al-Basasiri with these special dinars before he took control of Baghdad, rather than striking them while the city and mint were under his control. Instead of the characteristic Fatimid ‘bull’s-eye’ types with several concentric rings of legends, al-Basasiri’s dinars follow a design not otherwise being currently issued in the Fatimid lands but which would have been closer to other types then circulating in Baghdad. Stylistically, however, there is a clear distinction between al-Basasari’s dinars of 450h and those dated 451h. The latter are closer to contemporary Fatimid dinars in their fabric and calligraphy, which perhaps supports the view that they were made within the Fatimid domains, but the present coin of 450h would seem to have more in common with the Seljuq gold then being struck in Baghdad. A possible explanation for this would be that the Fatimid-made dinars which al-Basasiri took with him when he embarked on his expedition bore the mint and date ‘Madinat al-Salam 451h’, in anticipation of him being able to take control of the city in that year. In the event, however, Tughril Beg’s absence from the capital allowed him to take control of Baghdad in 450h, giving him the opportunity to strike at least some dinars - possibly including the present coin - in Baghdad itself.Read more

  • GBRUnited Kingdom
  • 6d 7h
Low estimate
5 000 GBP

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Morton & Eden
Nash House
St George Street
London W1S 2FQ
+44 (0)20 7493 5344