|Summer 2001AD / 1422AH Vol. 3.1|
Photos mar1 et mar2 : 4 Falus , ND and NM , 34mm
Seal Of Solomon On Coins Of Morocco
At the center of numismatic studies, whether we are addressing dates, rulers or motifs on coins, is the history behind these coins. To illustrate this observation, let us examine the following question, which should take us on a trip through time and space: Why did the Moroccan ruler My Sulayman 1206-38 H / 1792-1822 AD use the "Seal of Solomon"(1) on his bronze falus?
As you may know, The values placed on gold coins and thence on silver and bronze coins were markedly different in the Muslim world from those of Europe. In Europe the values were fixed to a large degree with the values of the bullion. In the Muslim world, gold and silver coins were valued for both business transactions as well as legal and customary exchanges. Bronze or copper coins, on the other hand, were look at as abject pieces and shunned.
At the beginning of the reign of My Sulayman, the economic situation in Morocco was so bad that it was very difficult for the sultan to produce enough silver Dirhams for the need of his country. His ingenious response to this crisis was to stop minting Dirhams and allow the use of European silver coins, more specifically Spanish coins, in Morocco. In conjunction with that strategy, and over a twenty year period, he replaced the silver Dirhams in circulation with bronze falus.
These cast bronze coins, stamped with the "Seal of Solomon" on the obverse, and sometimes on the reverse, were named "falus slimani" (falus of My Sulayman). The great ornamental design, characteristic of this ruler on coins of Morocco, was formed with two equilateral triangles, one pointing upward, and the other downward.
But how did this symbol (Seal of Solomon) succeed in rallying the population to bronze coins; these coins that were considered earlier as abject metal pieces? We may wish to consider that the seal become a symbol of sultan My Sulayman, and was a reminder of his namesake, king Solomon. This, however, is not sufficient to explain the acceptance of the coins by the population.
Indeed , we must consider that the use of the "Seal of Solomon" on cast bronze coins was continued until 1310 H / 1892 AD. The issue was popular for more than a hundred years. With the monetary reform of al-Hasan I, the "Seal of Solomon", was eliminated as a motif on the coins of Morocco; a change that was viewed negatively by the population.
In it's earliest form, this seal, this hexagonal star-like form, represented a buckler made with two skins of animals and joined with a bronze rivet. Ancient and Medieval philosophy, viewed this buckler as representing in a single symbol the four natural elements: fire, water, air and soil. It was seen as a protective magical icon and as endowed of it's original power as a buckler. Moreover, it's magical powers are multiplied by the fact that it also represent a pair of eyes - one upright, and the other flipped over - sharing a single pupil. It thus acts as a shield from the "evil eye". It is preponderant with it's magical power .
So, we have then on the cast bronze coins of My Sulayman, a "Seal of Solomon" that stands as a symbol of the sultan and at the same time as a powerful icon for the superstitious. This particular ornamentation was reserved for bronze coins. These abject metal pieces, were the fruits of mines and the fires of foundries - places frequented by evil and characterized by disagreeable smells , described in literary Arabic as "el- muntin"(stinking metal). Through the "Seal of Solomon", the metal loses all the vices of it's origins, and turns into an object that bring good luck and protects against evil.
In using the "Seal of Solomon", My Sulayman was able to successfully persuade his population to forgo the use of silver for bronze. The population, which was not easily submissive in this period, agreed to curtail the use of the silver Dirham for twenty years. This strategy saved Morocco from a financial disaster, and allowed domestic and international trade to flourish. The coffers of the States were swelling, and when the sovereign died , his successor was able to strike Moroccan silver coins afresh.
This piece of history, regarding the bronze coins produced in the reign of My Sulayman, will hopefully bring to the readers' attention the part that coins of each country play as mirrors of history.
(1) : " Corpus des Monnaies Alawites " by Daniel Eustache , Bank of Morocco , Rabat 1984
For more on the Seal Of Solomon visit: King Solomon's Seal.
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