as-Sikka السكة
The Online Journal of The Islamic Coins Group 
as-Sikka is a peer reviewed publication
ISSN 1496-4414 

Summer 2001AD / 1422AH        Vol. 3.1


Two Unpublished Almohad Coins
Sebastian Gaspariño

We present in this article two Almohads coins, presumed to be unpublished. We hope these will contribute to extending our knowledge of this dynasty's coinage and history.

The first new coin is a recently discovered and to date unique Almohad dirham. The interpretation of the mint name, located -as in the majority of Almohad coins- in the bottom of face IA, does not seem to raise any difficulty. The date in which the coin was struck is another question. Even though, with our presents state of knowledge, it may be impossible to point to an exact date, we can at least try to delimit the dates within which the coin must have been struck and to propose a hypothesis.

I.A                                          II.A
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1. Almohad dirham struck at Silves
Type: Dirham. Weight: 1,50 gr Dim.: 14x14 mm.
Tonegawa Collection

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Mint: Silves

The first connection between Silves and the Almohads took place in 541H, when Ibn Qasi, deposed in Silves, came back from Africa with an Almohad army and recovered the city[1]. In this period Silves would not have been considered as a Almohad city, but rather a city of Almohad influence. Ibn Qasi recognized the Almohads, but without renouncing his independence[2]. It is from this period that we must date the coins struck to the qirat module with the same inscriptions of the Almohad dirhams, published by Rodrigues Marinho[3].

After Ibn Qasi's death, Silves became an independent city, first under Ibn al-Mundir, and later under Ibn Wazir. In 552H, an Almohad army commanded by Sayyid Abu Ya’qub took possession of the domains of Ibn Wazir including Silves. Silves remained a secondary city of the Almohad empire until its capture by Alfonso Enriquez in the year 585H[4].

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When the Almohad caliph al-Mansur received the news of Alfonso's capture of the city, he wasted no time in assembling an army and launching a campaign against him. After a long siege, Silves was finally recovered[5]. It seems evident that the coinage of Almohads struck at Silves can not be consider sporadic (as far as we know, this dirham is the only specimen known). The reasons that so secondary a city should at this time strike coins, can be, in our opinion, for one of two reasons: To pay the army (we know that the Almohads took mobile mint on their military expeditions), or to celebrate the recovery of the city. In both cases the striking of this coin would be in the years 586-7H. It seems more probable that it was struck in the 586H, during the prolonged siege, but it could just as well have been struck in 587H to celebrate the city's return to the Islam.

I.A                        II.A
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2. Almohad eight of dirham from the mint of Fez:
Type: 1/8 dirham Weight: 0,19 gr. Dim.: 8x8 mm.
Tonegawa Collection

The identification of this type of coins as one of Almohads, was carried out by Antonio Medina[6], who studied a similar example that was struck in Seville. This identification was fully corroborated by the find of another similar coin with mint name of Marrakus[7]. Since Seville and Marrakus never recognized, at the same time, any later ruler after the Almohads, and since they were the first to strike square coins, the confirmation of the coin's dynastic attribution is at hand. Now we present a new and similar coin with the mint of Fez. This should further confirm the attribution of the coins as those of the Almohads.

[1]Ibn al-’Abbar, Kitab al-Hulla al-Siyara’, ed. H. Mu’nis, Cairo, 1963, II, pp. 199-200: “In Muharram of the year 41, Ibn Qasi came back  with the army that had conquered Tarifa and Algeciras [200]. When Silves was conquered, they left him in the city as wali.

[2]Ibn al-’Abbar, Hulla, loc.cit., p. 200: “After his return to Silves he revealed his intention to withdraw his loyalty,  and Ibn al-Riq, the faithless lord of Coimbra, assisted him and showed his approval by sending him horses and arms”.

[3]José Rodrigues Marinho. “The monetary issues of Ahmad ibn Qasi in Silves and the beginning of the characteristic Almohad coinage”. Problems of medieval coinage in the Iberian area. Aviles, 1986, pp. 43-58.

[4]al-Himyari, Kitab al-Rawd al-Mi’tar, Ed. Lévi-Provençal, Paris, 19.., pp. 219-220: “In Rabi al-Awal of the year 585H, Silves was put under siege by Ibn al-Rinq, lord of Coimbra and a neighboring territory to Algarve. His blockade was long[220] and the inhabitants of the city feared what would become of them if the city should fall. They then sent him their terms of surrender of the city, asking that their lives and their possessions be spared. Promising that they would leave the city intact, the Christian prince entered in the city on the 20 of Rajab of the same year”.

[5]Anónimo de Madrid y Copenhague. Trad. de A.Huici Miranda, Valencia, 1917, pp. 63-4: “They left Rabat at the end of Muharram in the year 586H and marched until they arrived at Qasr Masmuda. From here al-Mansur sent new official statements to Seville, confirming their sovereignty  and announcing his arrival in the near future. It happened, meantime, as a good omen of his victory, that the Christian ships were intercepted and  destroyed, and their crews were killed or captured. Al-Mansur was praised for this and sung by the poets. He remain in Qasr Masmuda while his troops crossed the strait. They began there crossing on the 15 of ... of that year.

When the troops had crossed the Strait, al-Mansur followed them on the morning of Sunday, 23 of Rabi’al-Awal. He rested in Tarifa the following day after disembarking and gave audience to delegates who arrived from the neighboring region. They complained about their governors and judges, accusing them of shameful things, but he disregarded their complaints and said: “We will investigate later... and judge between the beggars and the masters”...

al-Mansur left Tarifa the first of Jumadà al-Awal, and the march continued until they stood before Arcos (...) he detoured to the Campiña of Seville and ordered the Sayyid Ya’qub, the greater ... of banu Hafs to Join him with his troops and volunteers. The Sayyid did as ordered and joined al-Mansur on the first of Jumadà al-Awal. They continued their march until they arrived before Silves at the end of the mentioned month. There, they built the siege machines and began the siege of the city. The troops pressed on until they were closer to the walls and thus the battles raged.”

(68): “In the year 587H al-Mansur prepared to attend to Silves in person. He recharged his troops after their will began to waiver when the siege passed from summer to autumn. He also refreshed their weapons and their tools in order to better siege the city”.

(70): He arrived on Thursday the second of Jumadà al-Thani. The camps surrounded the city from every side, so that they didn’t allow it to breath, nor could news arrive to the city form any road. The moats were filled with  brush, and misfortune visited the inhabitants with arrows day and night. On Wednesday the Fifteenth of the month, the Christians met. They agreed that the time for the final attack was not at hand. They expected the Muslims would attack with the new moon of Shawwal. But one of the Muslim chieftains took advantage of the Christians' negligence and assaulted the wall. He was followed by the soldiers who lifted the flags, and the beat of the drums filled the air along with the cries invoking God. The Christian woke up too late to find themselves in a lake of their own blood. They cried requesting the terms of surrender. He granted them a term of ten days and the battle was disengaged. Their tyrant allowed them to surrender and he thanked them for their perseverance. They left the castle of Silves on Thursday, the Twenty-third of Jumadà al-Thani, and al-Mansur left Silves on Tuesday the twenty-eighth. He arrived in Seville on the fourth  of Rajab and his campaign lasted three months.

[6]Antonio Medina Gómez. Monedas Hispanomusulmanas. Toledo, 1992, p. 437.

[7]Sebastián Gaspariño, IV Jarique de Numismática Andalusí. Jaén, 2000, p. 219.

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