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10 Fascinating Arabian Myths and Legends
Arab civilization and peoples have some of the most diverse and colorful stories and legends in the world, with many of the stories being passed down orally from generation to generation over thousands of years. While some of these are known to be pure myths and have taken the role of the common fairytales among Arabs, many others still hold a hint that they actually did take place, which makes these myths and legends ever more exciting.
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The Egyptian javelin was more than a hand-launched missile. It also functioned in close combat as a short spear about a meter long (3.3 feet). New Kingdom soldiers would carry a quiver of javelins over their shoulder like arrows. At close range, they would use the javelin to thrust at the enemy behind their shields, but they could also launch the armor-piercing javelin at attacking chariots or lines of infantry. Eliott says that Egyptians didn’t treat the javelin as a disposable ordinance like an arrow. They fitted their javelins with diamond-shaped metal blades and made them easier to aim and throw with a well-balanced and reinforced wooden grip.
History of Swords
The sword was called by many the “Queen of the weapons”. There is a lot of merit in this epithet as the sword, throughout the ages possessed beauty in its many forms and the art with which it has been adorned. It took a lot of skill and sophisticated knowledge to make a sword and also, it took a lot of skill and knowledge to know how to wield the sword efficiently. The sword has a very long history and throughout times it has evolved and morphed into many forms. As a result it can be classified and grouped into many groups and subgroups.
The sword is a weapon that had been developed mainly for inflicting cutting wounds although stabbing was also important (especially in Roman times and Europe). The sword is often attributed to old world civilizations and the peoples who inherited the weapon. The sword was one of the main weapons in Egypt, Africa, Chaldea, Asia, pre-Hellenic Greece, Rome and Europe. It is possible to classify the sword according to geographical spread.
It is important to note, that in this classifications some swords in the Oriental and Asiatic group and the African group originated in Egypt. The Oriental types of swords evolved to a very distinguished form compared with European swords. The metal sword failed to develop on American and Australian continents. In South and Central America there was a wooden sword (macana) used by the native cultures. The Aztecs studded the wooden sword with obsidian blades to create a cutting edge.
To classify all the swords, it takes a lot of classes to get the general view of the swords used throughout the world. Some of the swords are so eccentric that belong to their own eccentric class and they have to be mentioned separately. The typical European sword is the one with straight and pointed blade, whereas the curved sword was developed in the Middle East and Asia. It is very probable that both swords originated in Egypt. Both types of swords retained their characteristics and over time evolved into many different forms. It is possible to classify sword into the following groups:
- The two edged straight sword
- The one edged sword straight or curved
- The one edged spud ended sword
- The curved sword with expanding blade (scimitar)
- The curved pointed sword edged on the inner (concave) edge
- The Egyptian falchion
- Eccentric types (flamberge, executioner’s sword, etc.)
Swords can be also divided into single-handed group and double handed group. The double-handed sword is any sword that is requires the use of both hands. This group includes swords such as the European longswords, landsknecht flamberge, Scottish great Claymore sword, Kriegsmesser, Japanese Odachi, etc. A single-handed sword was a short sword with handle that would only accommodate grip with only one hand.
The Two Edged Straight Sword
The two edged straight sword can be further divided into two subcategories:
The leaf-shaped blade sword featured a blade that widened usually at the middle of the blade and ended in a point. The straight-shaped blade sword featured a blade that had straight edged and ended with either a point or rounded point. The leaf-shaped sword was predominant during the bronze era and it was also the predominant in many different areas among various cultures. Leaf-shaped swords were found in Spain, Italy, Greece, Egypt and even in Britain, Scandinavia and other parts of Europe. The dominance of this blade shape during the bronze era is probably due to the fact that it was easier to achieve this type of blade with bronze. It is also probable that the shape of the sword originated from successful fusion of a spearhead and a dagger. The Greek Xiphos sword is an example of a leaf-shaped sword. The average length of a leaf-shaped sword is about 22 inches however, there were specimens found that measured up to 32 inches long. The leaf-shaped sword blades were the most common during the Bronze Era however, there were also bronze swords with straight and tapered blades. The early Roman swords were also leaf-shaped. The leaf-shaped sword is the most dominant sword of the Bronze Era. The sword was excellent for cutting but also offered incredible thrusting force. The first Roman swords were leaf-shaped but with development of iron the swords evolved to straight blade. The good examples of the Roman transitional period are the swords found in Hallstadt, Austria. The straight edged, iron Roman sword was the weapon that was prevalent during most of the Empire. The Roman Gladius was about 22 inches in length during the early times. The Roman Spatha was longer and it was probably adopted from Spain or other area.
The next development in iron swords was the dawn of the “Late Celtic Period” that was characterized by swords featuring straight-edged, iron blades that tapered from the tang and finish with a rounded point. Some swords had iron or bronze handles. Swords, such as these occurred in many places in Europe. The finest of the straight swords were found in Scandinavia. These early and middle Iron Age, Scandinavian swords varied in regards to the handle, pommel and hand guard but later merged into the now famous Viking type swords. The Viking swords were an example in craftsmanship and swordsmanship. Many of them featured lavished ornaments on their guards and pommels. The handles were often incrusted with precious stones and metals. The Viking sword featured straight edged blade that tapered slightly and ended with a rounded point. The swords, on average, measured between 34 to 44 inches in length.
The straight sword pattern began to change in the 9th century. The main change was the narrower blade compared with the length of the sword. Also the hilts become longer and reminiscent of the classic cross guard. The pommel of the sword was heavier and round and often highly ornate. Some of the swords during this transition period featured some of the Viking sword features and some of the new, cruciform characteristics. This “transitional sword” continued to evolve into the knight’s sword or arming sword, which featured the classic, cruciform characteristic. The arming sword was a double-edged, single-handed sword that was very common during the Middle Ages, between 11th and 14th century. The arming sword was the standard sword carried into battles. This sword was light and had an excellent balance. The sword was designed more for cutting than thrusting. The length of the sword varied, measuring between 30 inches to 32 inches. With time, knights began to wear heavier armor and this was one of the reasons for continued evolution of the sword. Larger and longer swords were needed to deliver either blunt trauma through the armor or to pierce the armor. This led to development of the longsword.
Between 13th and 17th century the straight sword became longer as it measured between 3ft to 4’3”. Longswords featured the classic, cruciform hilts with two-handed grips that measured 10 to 15 inches in length. The blade of the longsword was double-edged and measured between 40 to 48 inches in length. The weight of the longsword was between 2.5 to 5lbs. In combat, the swords were used for thrusting, cutting and striking using all parts of the sword including the crossguards and pommel.
One of the most famous two-handed swords was the claymore sword. The word claymore is derived from the Gaelic word “claidheamh mòr” meaning “great sword”. The name claymore actually refers to two types of swords. One of the swords is the two-handed longsword and the other one refers to much shorter and single-handed basked-hilted sword. The basket-hilted claymore sword was first used in the 16th century. This type of sword is still used as a part of the ceremonial dress of the Scottish highland regiments. The two-handed highland claymore sword was used during the late Medieval Age and in the Renaissance. This longsword was used in the wars between Scottish clans and the wars with the English. The Scottish claymore had distinctive design that featured a cross-hilt with downward sloping arms. The arms of the cross-hilt often ended with four-leaf clover design. There were also other, less known, claymore swords that had a very different, clamshell hilt design. An average, two-handed claymore sword was about 55 inches in length where the blade part measured 42 inches and the hilt measured 13 inches. The weight of the claymore was about 5.5lbs.
The basket-hilt claymore sword (circa 1700) could be either single-edged or double-edged. The sword was much shorter as it was single-handed sword with blade between 30 to 35 inches in length. The weight of the sword was ranged between 2-3 pounds. The basket hilt of the sword protected the entire hand of the person wielding the sword. The basked was often lined with red velvet and often it had tassels on the hilt and pommel for decoration.
The only straight and double-edged sword that was in use in Japan is the tsurugi. The name tsurugi also referred to Chinese straight and double-edged broadswords.
A rapier is a slander and sharply pointed sword that was used for thrusting attacks. Rapiers may feature two cutting edges. The blade might be sharpened on its entire length or from the middle of the blade to the tip or completely without a cutting edge (estoc). The Rapier was very popular in Europe between 16th and 17th century. Rapiers usually featured very complex hilts that were designed to protect the wielding hand. The word rapier was not used by the Spanish, French or Italian masters but rather the terms spade, epee or espada were used.
The one edged sword had its origins in a long knife and this type of sword was first used by hunters from wild tribes. When the tribes evolved into nations, they retained their long knives as weapons. Often they were used as supplemental swords. The Teutonic Scramasax or Yataghan can be an example of such weapons. The Scramasax varied in shape and size depending on the culture and area where it was used. The length of the Scramasax ranged from 20 to 27 inches. The blade of Scramasax was rather straight however, there were some specimens found that featured a slightly curved blade. Similar, knife-like, one-edged swords were found in other areas such as Japan, Afghanistan, Greece, Persia, Turkey and some African countries. The first Japanese knife-like swords featured a narrow blade with straight back and plain tang. These swords measured up to 45 inches in length. Other, similar and famous Oriental swords were the Afghan Salawar, Yataghan and Khyber Knife. The Ghurka kukri is a similar weapon the one-edged, Kopis sword used by the Greeks. The Kopis type sword was also used by the Persians and similar swords (called Falcata) were found in Spain.
The one-edged swords can be divided further into two curved classes. The first class features a blade that has the edge on the convex side and the second class has the edge on the concave side. The first sword group is rather large as it includes Scimitar type swords and their variants, whereas the second group is rather small and much localized. The first group encompassed swords like scimitars, cutlass sword or Dacian sword. The cutlass sword was used in Europe but it has been designed based on scimitar. The cutlass sword was developed in Bohemia in the 15th century. The sword’s blade and the handle were made of one piece of metal. The grip of the cutlass sword was either an iron ring or the slit in the blade. The Dacian sword was a long sword with thin and curved blade. The second group included swords such as the Greek Kopis, Falcata and Khyber Knife swords.
The scimitar is the typical sword of the East and especially Islam, whereas the typical straight sword with its cruciform shape was typical of the European, Christian culture. The name Scimitar came from the Persian word “shamshir”. The Indo-Chinese races used also curved swords. The Parang sword used in the countries such as India, Malaysia, Borneo, Burma and Nepal, featured a blade that was thin at the handle and which widened toward the end. The sword was used for chopping in agricultural operation and also in warfare. Another sword used in Indo-China was the dao sword. The sword was about 18 inches in length and it was narrow at the haft and square and wide at the top. The sword’s blade was sharpened at one edge and the handle was set in wooden or ebony handle. The dao sword was heavy and was able to deliver heavy blows. Another interesting curved sword is the Egyptian Khopesh sword. This weapon is illustrated on many Egyptian monuments and walls and according to the illustrations it was used by all the Egyptian warriors including the Pharaoh. The sword’s blade is curved and it is still not clear whether it was edged on concave or convex side however, it is more likely that it was edged on the convex side. The very thin handle of the swords ends in a pommel. The Khopesh sword was about 18 inches in length.
Another interesting sword was the German Kriegsmesser sword. The Kriegsmesser was a large, two-handed, one-edged sword that was slightly curved. The Kriegsmesser simply looked like an oversized knife. The sword has its origins in the European Seax knife and the Falchion. The Falchion failed with its popularity in Germany and the big, knife-like sword developed on its own. The name of the sword, Kriegsmesser, means literally “war knife”. The sword really deserves this name as the hilt of the sword looks like an oversized knife handle. The pommel of the sword usually was curved to one side. The handle was made of two pieces of wood or bone, with full tang between them. The guard of the sword frequently was made of steel ring or plate or cruciform crossguard.
The Japanese swords also belong to the one edged sword group. Tsurugi sword was the only exception. The Japanese swords were usually two-handed and featured a slightly curved blade with one edge. The blade ended in a point. The swords were fitted with an ornamental hand guard called tsuba. The blade of the sword was very rigid and the edge of the blade was very sharp. The Japanese swords were grouped according to sword-making method and size. The most popular sword was the katana which was worn the Japanese samurai class. Wakizashi was the shorter version of the katana sword. Odachi and Nodachi swords were also single-edged swords but they predate the katana and wakizashi swords.
Another single-edged sword is the sabre. The sabre usually features a slightly curved blade and a large hand-guard that protect the knuckles of the hand, thumb and forefinger. Most of the sabres had curved blades but there are also sabres with straight blade that were more suitable for thrusting. The straight sabres were usually used by the heavy cavalry. These sabres would also feature double-edged blades. The origin of the sabre is well known. It is said that the sabre appeared for the first time in Hungary in 10th century. The sabre may have its design influenced by either European falchion or the Middle-Eastern scimitar. The sabre was very popular in the 19th century and it was effectively used by heavy cavalry, especially during the Napoleonic Wars. However, with the advent of the firearms the weapon faded by the mid-century.
Executioner’s sword can be classified as an eccentric sword as this sword was not meant for combat but rather for decapitation of condemned criminals. Executioner’s sword was double-handed and featured a very wide and straight blade that ended that did not taper towards the end. These types of swords were in wide use in the 17th century.
Another eccentric sword is the landsknecht flamberge sword. It is eccentric due to its size and the shape of the blade. The sword was simply huge as its overall length was over 6ft. The blade of the sword had a characteristic wavy shape that resembled flame. The name of the sword “flamberge” comes from the words “flammard” and “flambard” meaning “flame blade”. The landsknecht flamberge sword was used in the 16th century by the German mercenaries called Landsknechts. The flame-shaped blades were very effective against wooden pikes and halberds because the shape of the blade provided more cutting surface while reducing the mass of the sword.
The sword consists of the sword blade and the hilt. The blade of the sword is used for cutting, thrusting and striking. The blade can be either double edged or single edged. Sometimes the single edged blade can have secondary edge near the very tip of the blade. The blade is divided into two parts called “forte” and “foible”. The “forte” (strong) part is between the center of balance and the hilt. The “foible” (weak) part is between center of percussion and the tip of the blade (point). The section between the center of percussion and the center of balance is called the middle. To make the blades lighter and at the same time more rigid, the blade may have grooves along the blade. Such grooves were called fullers or sometimes blood groves. The ricasso is the short section between the sharpened portion of the blade and the hilt. The ricasso is unsharpened and its length depends on the length of the sword. On some large swords, such as the Landknecht Flamberge the ricasso part may be significant to allow additional hand grip. Some swords don’t have ricasso at all.
The hilt is the upper part of the sword that allows wielding of the weapon. The hilt consists of the grip, the guard and the pommel. The pommel acts as a counterweight to the blade and allows balancing the sword thus improving the ability to wield the sword. The pommel also can be used for blunt strikes at a very close range. Pommels can come in variety of shapes including, globular, circular, semicircular, disc and rectangular. Pommels may be plain or be adorned with ornate designs or inlayed with jewels and gemstones. The crossguard prevents en enemy’s blade from sliding down onto the hands of the sword wielder. The guard may have various forms and the most common form of the sword guard is the cruciform that was prevalent in the Middle Ages. The sword’s cross guard may also be knows as quillons.
The tang is part of the hilt however, it is also a part of the blade. In traditional sword making the tang was made from the same piece of metal. The tang goes through the grip and the grip is most often made from two pieces of wood bound together by rivets and wrapped with leather, leather cord or metal wire. The Japanese swordmakers used shark skin to wrap the handles in their bladed weapons. The term “full tang” usually refers to the tang made from the same piece of metal as the blade. The term “rat-tail tang” that is often used in present and commercial sword making refers to tang that has been welded to the blade.
A scabbard is the protective sheath for the swords’ blade. The scabbard protected the blade from the elements, namely rain, snow or moisture. Various materials were used for making scabbards including wood, leather, steel or brass. Usually the scabbard had two metal fittings on both ends. The portion where the blade entered was called the throat and the portion at the end of the scabbard, meant to protect the tip of the blade was called chape. A sword belt was a belt that was used to attach the sword to carry it on a person. The sword could be attached to a person’s waist or sometimes on back and it was designed to make it easy to quickly draw the sword from the scabbard. A baldric is a belt that is worn over one shoulder. The advantage of the baldric was that it didn’t restrict any movement of the arms and offered more support for the carried sword.
Sometimes swords may feature tassels or swords knots. The tassel is woven material, leather or silk lace that is attached to the hilt of the sword and looped around the hand of the person wielding the sword. This prevented the sword or sabre from being dropped. Tassels have also very decorative design.
The Japanese swords being constructed differently have different terminology and classification.The Japanese katana sword consists of the blade and mountings. The classic and authentic Japanese swords are made of special steel called Tamahagane meaning “jewel steel”. The tamahagane steel consists of layers of high carbon and low carbon steel that are forged together multiple times. The high carbon steel has different characteristics compared with low carbon steel. The high carbon steel is harder and therefore it can hold a sharper edge. The same steel is also very brittle. On the other hand, the low carbon steel is more malleable that is able to withstand impacts without breaking. By combining the both, Japanese swordmakers were able to achieve a superior sword blade. The steel layers are heated, folded and hammered together. Such process is repeated multiple times (up to 16 times). Some sword makers use different pieces of steel for the core, the edge and the sides. The slight curve of the sword is achieved by quenching the steel. Before the quenching process the blade is covered with a layer of clay. The clay is applied very lightly over the edge intended for cutting whereas the core and the back of the blade are covered by a thicker layer. The blade is heated again and submerged in water. The quenching process causes the blade to curve slightly. This is due to the difference in hardness (and crystalline structure of the steel) between the edge and the core and back side of the blade. The edge of the blade is much harder whereas the core and the back are softer. The quenching process also creates the distinct wavy line along the blade called hamon. The most prominent part of the blade is the middle ridge called shinogi. The point of the blade is called kissaki. The kissaki has a curved profile and it is separated from the rest of the blade by a straight line called yokote. The tang of the sword is called nakago. This is also the part that bares the signature (mei) of the sword-maker. The tang has a hole called mekugi-ana that is used to mount handle (tsuka). The handle is mounted to the tang by a bamboo pin called mekugi. The handguard of the Japanese sword is called tsuba and often times it is intricately designed. Tusba may come in various shapes (round, oval or square). The decorative grip swells are called menuki. The habaki is the piece metal (usually copper) that envelopes the base of the blade near the tsuba. The purpose of habaki is to provide tight fit in the scabbard (saya) and to lock the handguard (tsuba) in place. The scabbard of the Japanese sword is made of light wood. The outer surface of the scabbard is often lacquered.
Japanese swords are also classified according to their lengths. The unit of measurement is shaku where one shaku is about 13 inches. The Japanese blade lengths are classified into three groups.
- 1 shaku or less for tanto (knife)
- 1-2 shaku for Shoto – short sword (wakizashi)
- 2 shaku and more for Daito – long sword (katana)
- 3 shaku and more (Odachi or Nodachi)
Swords with blades longer than 3 shaku were carried across the back. They were called Odachi meaning “great sword” or Nodachi meaning “field sword”. Both swords were in use before the katana sword became popular.
The Dying Gaul &ndash 230-220BC
Image via http://www.vulture.com
The original sculpture is believed to have been designed around 230BC to celebrate the victory of Attalus I over the Gauls of Turkey. The version we have today is a marble copy of an older bronze sculpture that has been lost to history. The sculptor of the original work is unknown, although historians believe it could be the work of Epigonus, who was a court sculptor at the time. The statute depicts a man dying from a sword wound to the chest, and is praised for its realism and depiction of pain. Until the 20th century it was assumed the statue was of a gladiator, but further examination showed the subject to carry the trademarks of a Gaul, including the hairstyle and moustache, and a torc around the neck.
Plate ArmorHorses and Riders in 16th-Century Plate. By Mattes – CC BY-SA 2.5
Plate armor made from bronze existed in ancient times. The softness of bronze meant it was abandoned when iron weapons and armor came to the fore. For centuries, iron was more effective than bronze but could not be worked in large enough pieces to make plate armor.
By the fourteenth century, European smiths learned how to work iron and the tougher metal, steel. Able to offer greater protection against arrows and crossbow bolts that penetrated chain mail, plate armor became popular among the wealthy.
Entire suits of it were produced in the 15 th and 16 th centuries, with increasingly sophisticated joints.
World 2500 BCE
The rise of civilization here has been astonishing. By this date, some of the most spectacular structures in all world history have been built - the Great Pyramids of Egypt.
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World history in 2500 BCE - ancient civilizations thrive
In 2500 BCE much of the world is still populated by hunter-gatherers. But farming and pastoral populations are continuing to encroach on their lands, and in many parts of the world the rise of civilization is astonishing.
The Middle East and Egypt
In the Middle East of the early Bronze Age the two great civilizations of ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt are flourishing. They have sophisticated writing systems, bronze technologies and highly developed public administrations. The first literatures are flowering, and already some of the most spectacular structures in all world history, the Great Pyramids, have been built in the Nile valley.
An urban civilization has also appeared on the Indian sub-continent, in the Indus valley. This shows advanced features such as town planning and effective drainage systems.
In the river valleys of China, villages are growing in number and size, and their technologies are advancing. Soon one of the world’s great civilizations will emerge here.
South East Asia and Oceania
On the islands and coasts of southern China the ancestors of the Malays and Polynesians are starting their great migration down into South East Asian waters. From here, in the course of their history they will travel over a vast area of the globe: eastwards as far as Hawaii and Easter Island, and westwards as far as Madagascar.
Europe and Central Asia
Another group who, in the course of history will come to cover a large part of he globe, are spreading outwards from the steppes north of the Black Sea. These are horse-breeding peoples who have been moving both eastwards across central Asia, and westwards into Europe. They take their ancestral Indo-European language with them. By this time, they have harnessed horses to the first wheeled vehicles. The first of these are heavy carts, but it will not be long before they evolve into light, two-wheeled chariots.
In North America, arctic hunters, ancestors of the present-day Inuit, are beginning to spread over the far north. In South America, farming is expanding over a wide area, and large, permanent villages are appearing in Peru. The majority of the continent, however, remains home to hunter-gatherers.
For details of the different civilizations, click on the relevant timeline above.
Roland was the most courageous of the 12 paladins who served the Holy Roman Emperor, Charlemagne, in the 8th century. The medieval legends surrounding Roland involve also his famous sword – the gleaming white and stainless Durandal. It is said that the sword had four sacred relics in the golden hilt: a piece of Saint Mary’s robe strands of Saint Denis’ hair Saint Basil’s blood and a tooth from Saint Peter.
Alleged fragment of Durendal in Rocamadour. Photo by Patrick Clenet CC BY-SA 3.0
Like many legendary swords, Durandal’s origins remain a mystery. In the poem The Song of Roland, Durandal is described as abnormally sharp and indestructible.
Roland won many battles with Durandal. In the poem, he even cuts an armored Saracen soldier in half with a single swing of the sword.
‘Roland’s Sword at Rocamadour,’ sketch by Louis de Veyrières, 1892.
According to the legend, Roland was defeated at the Battle of Roncevaux and attempted to destroy the Durandal, creating La Breche de Roland, a 130-foot natural gap, high in the Pyrenees.
Local folklore claims that it still exists, embedded in a cliff wall in Rocamadour.
Arabian Bronze Hand - History
The Islamic Coins From 1-100 AH / 622-719 CE
After the Muslims defeated the armies of Byzantine and Sassanian empires, there came the need to administer the conquered territories. The early Muslim from Arabia did not have a sophisticated system like that of the two defeated empires. So, the best recourse for them was to maintain the existing administrative systems just like other conquerers before and after them did. However, the early Muslims inherited two different administrative systems from the conquered two empires. Hence they had to maintain two parallel administrative systems one in the east and another in the west, which differed in their languages, culture, monetary systems and controls. The Muslims maintained these parallel systems for over 50 years until the reforms of the Umayyad caliph ʿAbd al-Malik.
Before the reforms of ʿAbd al-Malik, the Muslims used the existing monetary systems of their Sassanian and the Byzantine predecessors. There is a debate concerning the earliest coinage and their dating. Some argue that Muslims started striking coinage almost immediately as they did in the former Sassanian domain. Other argue that the Muslims did not strike coins in the former Byzantine realms until the reign of ʿAbd al-Malik. However, the middle ground appears to be more appropriate as the the coinage of the era before the advent of ʿAbd al-Malik was very complex. At some point in time, both in the east and in the west, the Islamic empire started to make its presence known via the coins that circulated in their domains. Initially, the changes were very minor with the addition of short phrases in Arabic and/or the addition of hijra dates. These lasted until a complete reform of the administrative system by ʿAbd al-Malik who united it in Arabic and changed the coinage drastically to what we essentially call as Islamic coins. The reformed coinage of ʿAbd al-Malik was different from its earlier predecessors in epigraphy as well as religious content. The new coins asserted the oneness of Allah and Muḥammad as His last Messenger.
Our aims here are quite modest. We would like to display the unique Islamic coins between 1-100 AH / 622-719 CE. These coins are unique in the sense of epigraphy as well as the religious content and not unique with respect to where they were minted.
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1. Chronological Arrangement Of Islamic Coins From 1st Century AH
Arab-Sassanian Coins From Year 20 (Assume Yazdgird Era, So 31 AH / 652 CE) Onwards.
Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust and fire-altar with attendants. Obverse margin : jayyid ("Valid" or "Good"). These are some of the earliest dated Islamic coins and believed to have been struck for about 15 years.
Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust and fire-altar with attendants. Obverse margin : bism Allāh ("In the name of God").
Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust and fire-altar with attendants. Obverse margin : lillāh ("Unto God").
Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust and fire-altar with attendants. Obverse field has Maawia amir i-wruishnikan ("Muʿāwiya, commander of the faithful") written in the Middle Persian. Obverse margin : bism Allāh ("In the name of God").
Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust and fire-altar with attendants. Obverse margin : bism Allāh al-malik ("In the name of God, the King").
Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust and fire-altar with attendants. Obverse margin : bism Allāh rabbī ("In the name of God, my Lord").
Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust and fire-altar with attendants. It comes with a hephtalite countermark and testmark. Obverse margin : bism Allāh rabb al-ḥukm ("In the name of God, the Lord of judgement").
Typical Arab-Sassanian bust, i.e., standing profile potrait of Khusraw II. The reverse field has a unique Middle Persian legend that says: ŠNT ’YWK Y YZYT ("Year one of Yazīd"). The dating "Year one of Yazīd" belongs to Sassanian system the "Year one" being the first year of the current reign. There is no indication of the "Islamic" character of this coin.
Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust and fire-altar with attendants. Obverse margin : Ṭalha lillāh ("Ṭalha, unto God").
Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust. Obverse margin : In an unpointed Arabic script Bism Allāh, Allāhu / Akbar ("In the name of God, God is / Great"). This appears to be the earliest known Islamic coin to bear the famous slogan Allāhu Akbar .
Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust and fire-altar with attendants. Obverse margin : bism Allāh / Muḥammad rasūl / Allāh ("In the name of God, Muḥammad is the messenger of God"). This is the earliest occurance of the name "Muḥammad" in a dated Muslim text .
Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust and fire-altar with attendants. It comes with a hephtalite countermark and testmark. Obverse margin : bism Allāh al- ʿ azīz ("In the name of God, the Great").
Two standing figures, facing, wearing long robes and Arab head-dress adorned with six-pointed stars. Their right hand is on their swords. Between them, on three steps, a pointed staff with globe. Obverse margin : bism Allāh ʿ Abd Allāh ʿ Abd al-Malik Amīr al-Mu ʾ minīn ("In the name of God. The slave of God ʿAbd al-Malik, Commander of the Faithful"). Although the coins bears no mintmark, the kufic inscription leaves no doubt that it was an official issue of the Umayyad caliph. Clive Floss is of the opinion that this type apparently represents the caliph ʿAbd al-Malik and his brother ʿAbd al-Azīz, who were jointly proclaimed as successors to their father Marwan in 684/85 CE.
Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust with Pahlavi afzut before bust. Obverse margin : bism Allāh ("In the name of God") in the second quadrant of obverse margin. Reverse field: Fire altar between mint (Dārābjird) and date, in margin afzut (Pahlavi) and baraka ("blessing").
Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust and fire-altar with attendants. Obverse margin : lillāh al-ḥamd ("Unto God be praise").
Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust and fire-altar with attendants. Obverse margin : bism Allāh ("In the name of God") BPRWY (in Middle Persian) with a countermark lillāh ("Unto God") in the fourth quadrant.
Obverse field : Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust without the name of governor. Instead it is occupied by Middle Persian legend MHMT PGTAMI Y DAT ("Muhammad is the messenger of God"). Obverse margin : bism Allāh walī / al-Amr ("In the name of God, the Master / of affairs"). The reverse field has typical Arab-Sassanian fire-altar with attendants with unidentified mint (GRM-KRMAN) in the Kirman province and the date. This is the second earliest known record where the name "Muḥammad" is mentioned in a dated Muslim text . Furthermore, this is the earliest mention of the name "Muḥammad" in Middle Persian (Pahlavi) .
Obverse field : Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust. Middle Persian legend on the left of the bust: GDH ’pzwt' xwarrah abzūd ("Increase in glory") and on the right: ’pdwl ’cyc Y ’pdwl’ Y ’myl’n ("ʿAbdul ʿAzīz ī ʿAbdullāh ī Āmirān"), i.e., the name of the governor. Obverse margin : bism Allāh / al-ʿazīz ("In the name of God / the Great"). Reverse field : Absence of typical Arab-Sassanian fire-altar with attendants. Instead it contains the legend in Middle Persian in five line, three of which state full shahada in Middle Persian. This full shahada is perhaps the earliest surviving physical record of it in Pahlavi .
Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust and fire-altar with attendants. Obverse margin : bism Allāh / bakriyya ("In the name of God. Bakriyya"). This is the only known instance of appearance of the word bakriyya on any of the Arab-Sassanian coins. Bakriyya is a reference to the Bakr bin Wā’il tribe .
Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust and fire-altar with attendants. Written in Arabic to downwards to the right of the bust: Muḥammad rasūl Allāh ("Muḥammad is the messenger of God"). The conventional Pahlavi benediction formula khurra afzut is behind the bust. Obverse margin : bism Allāh ("In the name of God"). This is an extremely rare coin and marks the initial steps of ʿAbd al-Malik's monetary reforms in Damascus.
Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust and fire-altar with attendants. Obverse margin : bism Allāh walī al-Amr ("In the name of God, the Master of affairs"). This is a lesser known slogan of the Kharijites.
These Arab-Byzantine gold solidi imitations including the one which has "three standing imperial figures" bear no Kufic legends to identify themselves as Arab issues. They are recognized as such only by the defacement or elimination of the crosses. Another noticeable feature of these imitation coins is the clumsy arrangement of the legend on the margins of both obverse and reverse sides, with little attention paid to positioning of the letters. G. C. Miles is of the opinion that these coins are roughly contemporary to each other.
This is the Umayyad imitation of the Byzantine prototype - both of them consist of three standing imperial figures on the obverse side. Reverse field: Staff ending in globe in steps. Reverse margin : bism Allāh lā-ilaha il-Allāh waḥdahu Muḥammad rasūl Allāh ("In the name of God. There is no god but God alone. Muḥammad is the messenger of God"). This full shahada is perhaps the earliest surviving physical record of it in Arabic .
Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust and fire-altar with attendants. Obverse margin : bism Allāh / lā-ilaha il-Allāh wa / ḥdahu Muḥammad ra / sūl Allāh ("In the name of God. There is no god but God alone. Muḥammad is the messenger of God").
Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust. In the place of the usual Sassanian fire-altar and two attendants, three bearded figures standing, the central one facing with hands raised on either side of his head, in an attitude of prayer, with smaller figures left and right, respectively, having their heads turned toward him. Obverse margin : bism Allāh / lā-ilaha il-Allāh / waḥdahu Muḥammad / rasūl Allāh ("In the name of God. There is no god but God alone. Muḥammad is the messenger of God").
Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust. In the place of the usual Sassanian fire-altar and two attendants, three bearded figures standing, the central one facing with hands raised on either side of his head, in an attitude of prayer, with smaller figures left and right, respectively, having their heads turned toward him. Obverse margin : bism Allāh Muḥammad / rasūl Allāh ("In the name of God. Muḥammad is the messenger of God").
Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust and fire-altar with attendants. Obverse margin : lā ḥukm illā lillāh ("Judgement belongs to God alone"), the typical Kharijite slogan.
Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust. In the place of the usual fire-altar and the two attendants, a standing figure of the caliph, bearded and with his right hand resting on his sword-hilt in the attitude of the imām delivering a khutba. Kufic legends on sides running downwards khalfat (sic) Allāh / amīr al-mu'minīn ("khalifa of God, Commander of the Faithful"). Obverse margin : bism Allāh / lā-ilaha il-Allāh / waḥdahu Muḥammad ra / sūl Allāh ("In the name of God. There is no god but God alone. Muḥammad is the messenger of God").
Obverse field has an image of the caliph standing in the centre, bearing a sword in a scabbard. Obverse margin : bism Allāh lā-ilaha il-Allāh wa / ḥdahu Muḥammad rasūl Allāh ("In the name of God. There is no god but God alone. Muḥammad is the messenger of God"). Reverse field shows a mutiliated cross on steps along with the date. The "standing-caliph" coin was only minted for three years (74-77 AH / 693-697 CE) before giving way to a wholly aniconic form, that is, engraved only with words and no images at all.
Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust with the name "al-Ḥajjāj bin Yūsuf" written in Arabic on the right hand side of the bust. Obverse margin : bism Allāh / lā-ilaha il- / Allāh waḥdahu Muḥammad / rasūl Allāh ("In the name of God. There is no god but God alone. Muḥammad is the Messenger of God"). This is a very unique coin. The shahadah is arranged in striking fashion radially in the obverse margin. As far as we are aware, no other coin from 1st century of hijra which shows this feature. The Arab-Sassanian and Arab-Byzantine coins which show either full or partial shahadah, show its arrangement running along the obverse margin.
The aniconic reformed silver coinage of ʿAbd al-Malik was different from its earlier predecessors in epigraphy as well as religious content.
The differences between the reformed Umayyad gold and silver coins are quite subtle. The obverse margin in gold became the reverse margin in silver. The reverse margin in gold became obverse margin in silver. The silver also adds wa-lam yakun lahu kufūwan aḥad ("And there is none like unto Him") which is absent in the gold.
Since this was an exceptionally early issue it was struck before the precise format of the design had evolved. This might also explain why the legends are placed differently on this specimen. What was obverse margin in the experimental Umayyad dirham became reverse margin in the "reformed" dirham.
Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust and fire-altar with attendants. Obverse margin : quwwat Yazīd billāh ("Strength of Yazīd is from God").
Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust and fire-altar with attendants. Obverse margin : In an unpointed Arabic script Muḥammad ("Muḥammad"). Roman letter ‘T’ replaces star in crescent at 6 o'clock.
Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust and fire-altar with attendants. Obverse margin : lā-ilaha il-Allāh wahdahu Muḥammad rasūl Allāh ("There is no god but God alone, Muḥammad is the messenger of God").
Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust and fire-altar with attendants. Obverse margin : bism Allāh / rabb ḥarasahu ("In the name of God. May God protect him").
Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust and fire-altar with attendants. Obverse margin : bism Allāh / baraka ("In the name of God. Blessing").
Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust, but with a new type of head-dress with a top like weather-vane. On the reverse side, in place of the usual Sassanian fire-altar and two attendents, a standing figure, facing, in armour, wearing helmet with "weather-vane" like that on the obverse side and holding in his left hand a spear, while grasping with his right hand a sword in its scabbard. Obverse margin : bism Allāh / al-ʿAẓīm ("In the name of God, the Mighty"). Reverse margin : Contains both Hephthalite (Greek) and kufic scripts. The kufic script says duriba jizya bi-al-Jūzjān ("struck for tribute in al-Juzjan").
Typical Arab-Sassanian fire-altar with attendants. Obverse margin : Naṣr Allāh al-ḥaqq ("May God give victory to the truth").
Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust and fire-altar with attendants. Obverse margin : bism Allāh / ʿ Amr lillāh ("In the name of God. ʿAmr, unto God").
Typical Arab-Sassanian fire-altar with attendants. Obverse margin : Muḥammadun rasūlu’llāhi wa’lladhīna yatlūna ma ʿ ahu ashiddāʾu ʿ alā’l-kuffāri ruḥamāʾu baynahum ("Muḥammad is the Messenger of God, those who recite with him are severe [in their dealings] with the unbelievers, compassionate among themselves").
Obverse field : Bust of Emperor Heraclius on left and smaller bust of his son Heraclius Constantine on right, each wearing a crown. Obverse margin : INNDNM [ ] IEST <= "IN Nomine DoMni [ ] non EST">("In the name of the Lord. [ ] does not exist"). Reverse field : A globe on top of a column with a base of three steps with a bead below. Reverse margin : [ ] DSNISOLVSDS <= "[ ] DeuS NIsi SOLUS DeuS">("[ ] there is no god but the one God"). These earliest Islamic coins from North Africa are modifications of those struck by the Byzantines in Carthage immediately before the Muslim conquest. The globe at the top of a column on three steps is the Muslim adaptation of the Byzantine cross on steps.
Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust and fire-altar with attendants. Obverse margin : MY (Pahlavi) / bism Allāh / al- ʿ izza lillāh ("In the name of God. Unto God belongs the honour").
Obverse field : lā-ilaha illa-Allāh waḥdahu la sharīkalah ("There is no god but God alone, He has no associate"). maʿdin amīr al-muʾminīn ("Mine of the Commander of the Faithful'). Obverse margin : Muḥammad rasūl Allāh arsalahu bi-l-huda wa dīn al-ḥaqq liyudhhiru ʿala al-dini kullahi ("Muḥammad is the messenger of God whom He sent with guidance and the religion of truth that He might make it prevail over all religions"). This unique historic coin is of the highest rarity and the earliest known dīnār to bear the legend ‘Mine of the Commander of the Faithful’.Two other dīnārs with similar legend were sold at Morton & Eden on 4th April 2011. These coins are dated 92 AH (sold for £768,000) and 105 AH (sold for £3,720,000). The latter has the legend maʿdin amīr al-muʾminīn bi al-ḥijāz ("Mine of the Commander of the Faithful in the Ḥijāz").
Obverse field : Eight pointed star in the middle. Obverse margin : INNDNINIDSNSDSSLSIN <= "IN Nomine DomiNI Non DeuS NiSi DeuS SoLuS cuI Non (socius)>("In the name of the Lord. There is no god but God alone who has no partners"). Reverse field : INDCXI <= "INDictione XI">. Reverse margin : HDFRTINSPNANNXCIII <= "Hic soliDus FeRiTus IN SPaNia ANNo XCIIII">("This solidus was made in Spain in the year 94"). These coins were modelled in size and design after the Arab-Byzantine coinage. However, their inscriptions were in Latin. A large star in the centre of the obverse field distinguished the Spanish coins from the ones minted in Africa. Notice half shahadah in Latin in the obverse margin.
Obverse field : SOMNC <= "SOMNium Creator">("God the Creator of all"). Obverse margin : DSETRNSDSMGNSDSOID <= "DeuS ETeRNuS DeuS MaGNuS DeuS OmnIum Deus">("God the Eternal, God the Mighty, God the Omniscient"). Reverse field : A globe on top of a column with a base of three steps. Reverse margin : INNDINMSRCSLFERINAFRC <= "IN Nomine DomINi MiSeRiCordis SoLidus FERitus IN AFRiCa") ("In the name of the Lord, the Merciful. Solidus made in Africa").
Obverse field : RTERCIN. Obverse margin : DSETER. <= "DeuS ETER[nus Deus magnus Deus]">("God is eternal. [God is great. God is]"). Reverse field : Cippus topped with 'T' on two steps. Reverse margin : [INNDNI]MISRCVSDNS <= "[IN Nomine DomNI] MISeRiCordis UnuS Deus Non Socius">("In the name of the Lord. One God with no partners"). A tremissis is a gold coin which is the third part of a solidus.
Obverse field : lā-ilaha il-Allāh ("There is no god but God alone"). Obverse margin : SLDFRTINAFRKANCVIII <= "SoLiDus FeRiTus IN AFRiKa ANno XCVIII">("Solidus made in Africa in the Year 98"). Reverse field : Muḥammad rasūl Allāh ("Muḥammad is the Messenger of God"). Reverse margin : INNDNINDSNSSISNDCVNSM <= "IN Nomine DomiNI Non DeuS NiSSI Deus CUi Non SiMilis">("In the name of the Lord. There is no god but God, nothing is similar to Him").
Obverse field : Eight pointed star in the middle. Obverse margin : FERITOSSOLIINSPANAN <= " FeRITOS SOLIdus IN SPANia ANno">("Solidus made in Spain in the Year (omitted)"). Reverse field : Muḥammad rasūl Allāh ("Muḥammad is the Messenger of God"). Reverse margin : ḍuriba hadhā al-dīnār bi-al-andalus sanat thamān wa tisʿīn ("In the name of God, this dīnār was struck in Al-Andalus the year 98").
2. Coin Weights & Other Standard Weights
Coin weights were made to correspond to the weights of particular coin denominations, and the denomination in question was usually indicated in the design. Measuring the weight of a coin is an objective measurement. It can be repeated and it will come out the same time and time again and by different people. The purpose of the coins weights was to check the weight of coin in circulation and ensure that coin received was of good quality. Normally they would correspond to the lowest weight at which the coin remained legal tender. They could be used to guard against clipped, worn or counterfeit coin and to check the standards of foreign coin permitted in currency.
Coin Weight Of The Umayyad Governor Al-Ḥajjāj Ibn Yūsuf, c. 75 AH / 695 CE.
This is a unique coin weight in bronze was issued by the authority of the Umayyad governor al-Ḥajjāj ibn Yūsuf. Walker identified it as a weight of six mithqāls (= six dīnārs, in modern terms 25.5 gms). It weighs 25.14 gms, very close to Walker's suggested six mithqāls.
This standard weight was issued by Muḥammad bin Marwān while he was serving as Governor of the North, where he would have been in charge of implementing the Umayyad coinage reform of 77-78 AH. This piece would have acted as the control tool against which the mint could validate the standard weight of its precious metal coinage. It is certainly the earliest surviving documentary evidence of the famous seven to ten ratio between the weight of the mithqal and the dirham, a standard which has survived in the traditional usage ever since that time.
This glass half dīnār weight may be from the latter part of Caliph ʿAbd al-Malik ibn Marwān's rule when coinage reforms came into effect, for the gold coinage, in 77 AH / 696-697 CE.
Colour unknown. Diameter unknown. Weight =175.50 gm.
The weight of ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz ibn Marwān's (r. 65-86 AH / 685-705 CE) glass piece, 4.29 gms, shows that it must be dated to the latter part of his governorship in Egypt, for it is clearly on the standard introduced for the dīnār in ʿAbd al-Malik's coinage reform, which came into effect, for the gold coinage, in 77 AH / 696-697 CE. The standard is normally calculated at 4.25 gms. Other than the coins themselves it is one of the earliest, perhaps the earliest, of the documents we possess for the standard of the reform dīnār.
This weight is a circular disk of diameter 35.5 mm and thickness 7 mm with a two-grooved tooled profile.
This disc type weight is well known to have been used under Byzantine rule in the sixth century. Only one half of the weight survives.
Dīnār Minted By King Offa, 157 AH / 774 CE.
Albeit not an Islamic coin, this unique dīnār or the gold coin of King Offa of Mercia is generally considered as one of the rarest and most remarkable coins in the world. This piece is considered to be a copy of an Arab dīnār of the year 157 AH issued by caliph al-Mansūr, and was issued in, or more probably, subsequently to the year 774 CE.
The corpus of dated Muslim texts until 72 AH / 691 CE for the study of early Islam.
The corpus of dated texts containing the Qur'an from 1-100 AH / 622-719 CE proving the early codification of the Qur'an in Arabic.
The corpus of dated non-scriptural Muslim and non-Muslim texts mentioning Prophet Muhammad from the first Islamic century.
The Maskukat Collection. This is perhaps the most comprehensive collection of Islamic coins on the web. The arrangement of material is chronological.
Arab-Sasanian (Or Early Muslim) Coinage. Not as comprehensive as the above collection, this site has coins containing different epigraphic material. It also has very useful tables of the Arab-Sassanian mints and Arab-Sassanian ornamentation.