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    Rare Arab-Byzantine Solidus

    ARAB-BYZANTINE. Imitating Heraclius (ca. AD 695-710 / AH 65-92). AV solidus (16mm, 4.35 gm, 6h). NGC Choice MS 4/5 - 5/5. Uncertain North African mint (likely Carthage). [NON EST DEUS NI]SI IPSЄ SOLOL CIS ЄT (truncated and garbled version of Non est Deus nisi ipse solus cui socius non est), crowned and draped facing male busts (Heraclius and Heraclius Constantine), the left bearded, each crown topped by trefoil ornament / d' (or pellet) Є SNCIPIAS MN ЄT OMNNA N (truncated and garbled version of Deus dominus noster sapiens magnus eternus omnia noscens), T (truncated cross) on three steps. Wilkes 143. Extremely rare! Sharply struck on a compact flan, with lustrous fields.

    The early decades after the Islamic conquest of Arabia, the Levant, and North Africa witnessed a transitional era wherein the burgeoning Umayyad Caliphate experimented with various forms of coinage based upon that of the new-conquered territories. The East Romans had long maintained a mint at Carthage in North Africa that produced gold solidi and fractions of a peculiar thick fabric. In the mid-seventh century the mint had produced vast numbers of solidi depicting Heraclius and his son Heraclius Constantine in a frontal pose, with the familiar Cross Potent on the reverse. Carthage fell to the Arabs in AD 695 and switched hands twice again over the next five years before the city's final destruction circa 698. Although half a century had passed since Heraclius ruled, his solidi remained in wide circulation and the new Arab masters produced their own version of this ubiquitous coin. Bearing a Latinized version of the Islamic statement of faith (the shahada) slightly different than the "canonical" form later adopted on the coinage of Caliph 'Abd al-Malik  (the legends translate to There is no god but He alone who has no associate / God, our wise Lord, the Great, the Eternal, the All-Knowing), it represents a fascinating period in early Islamic history. The use of Latin in place of Arabic at once evinces the Arab conquerors' interest in preserving a familiar coinage - indeed Roman officials were likely retained to mint these new pieces - while at the same time "de-Christianizing" it through removal of blatant Christian symbolism (the crosses on the emperors' helmets have been reduced trefoil ornaments and the cross-on-steps on the reverse is now a "T-bar on steps" or a "mutilated cross"). It also relates the Umayyads' concern to distance their claim to caliphate from the foundational role of Muhammad, whose name does not appear on the coin (the Umayyad caliphs certainly recognized the role of Muhammad as the founder of their faith, but they did not utilize him as the chief legitimizing pillar of their rule). Surviving examples of this type are extremely rare, numbering in the high single digits or low teens, presenting historically minded collectors a unique opportunity to acquire what is likely the best specimen extant. 

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    January, 2018
    7th-8th Sunday-Monday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 7
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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