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ISLAMIC, Anatolia & al-Jazira Dirhem c.1200


ISLAMIC, Anatolia & al-Jazira (Post-Seljuk). Artuqids (Mardin). Husam al-Din Yuluq Arslan. AH 580-597 / AD 1184-1200. AE Dirhem (31mm, 16.35 g, 6h). Unlisted (Mardin[?]) mint. Dated AH 596 (AD 1199/1200). The planet Mars represented in contemporary Turkish garb, in military outfit and cross legged, seated facing, holding severed head and raised sword; to left, floral spray containing three buds or flowers (roses or pomegrantes; ornamental scrollwork in exergue / Name and titles of Abbasid caliph in three lines; names and titles of Ayyubid overlord in inner margin; name of Husam al-Din Yuluq Arslan and AH date in outer margin. Whelan pp. 103-4; S&S Type 36.3; Album 1829.4. VF, earthen brown patina. Ex CNG ex Warden Family Collection from CNG 97 Although Islamic tradition (hadith) prohibits the depiction of humans or animals, it was not always strictly enforced. One such instance of this was the coinage of the Turkoman dynasties the Artuqids, Zangids, and Danishmendids, as well as the Ayyubids which included a variety of human and animal figural types on their bronze dirhems. Initially nomads, these groups, once they settled in the regions of Mesopotamia (al Jazira) and Anatolia and established dynasties there, recognized the need to establish political legitimacy over the areas they now ruled. These territories had been governed by a variety of earlier empires (Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Sasanian), and consisted of various Christian and Arabic groups, all of whom had long exposure to coinage as a medium for expressing political legitimacy. Respecting western culture, these Turkoman rulers also admired and appreciated western art (S&S p. xvii) and were open to accepting certain religious tenets and iconography within Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, which provided models for some of the Byzantine inspired coin types. Concurrently, a neoclassical revival was under way in the region of the al Jazira. Greek and Roman coins that existed as parts of then-available collections or individual examples provided the models for other coin types. These new coin types did not simply copy their ancient prototypes, but through an historical understanding of their motifs, they combine ancient and more contemporary iconography, or in turn classicize contemporary iconography, causing the viewer assume a connection to classical prototype which does not actually exist. The presence of so many different coin types might suggest a broad logical pattern to their usage, something that often fails when consideration is based on the types themselves. With so many different coin types in the series, it would seem impossible to find a logical pattern, However, when one considers that the origins of these dynasties were on the Central Asian steppes, where the heavens were fundamental for negotiating their day-to-day existence, these coin types demonstrate a marked astrological influence in their designs, something that makes them unique to their Turkoman issuers.

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Spengler and Sayles in their book on this coinage, write that this is not a Turk holding a severed head, but "an astrological representation of the planet Mars."
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That is an interesting thought. I have not read that hypothesis. I understand that this type is unusual in that Islamic coins tend not to show the human image. But why it would be interpreted as depicting the planet Mars.....not sure I see the connection.
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