History of the Dirhem in Egypt from the Fāimid Conquest until the collapse of the Mamlūk Empire.
In: Revue numismatique, 6e série - Tome 3, année 1961 pp. 109-146.
Citer ce document / Cite this document : Balog Paul. History of the Dirhem in Egypt from the Fāimid Conquest until the collapse of the Mamlūk Empire. In: Revue numismatique, 6e série - Tome 3, année 1961 pp. 109-146. doi : 10.3406/numi.1961.1704 http://www.persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/article/numi_0484-8942_1961_num_6_3_1704
Paul BALOG HISTORY FROM OF THE THE OF IN UNTIL THE DIRHEM CONQUEST EMPIRE
EGYPT COLLAPSE 922 H 1517 AD
FÀTIMID THE MAMLUK
358 H 968 AD
ABBREVIATIONS TO THE REFERENCES ANS = George С. Miles, Fatimid Coins, Numismatic Notes and Monographs, No. 121, The American Numismatic Society, N. Y., 1951. Bergmann = Karl v. Bergmann, in Sitzungsberichle der К. Akademie der Wissenschaften, Wien, 1873, p. 158-162. BGA = Bibliotheca Geographorum Arabicorum, éd. M. J. de Goeje, I-VIII, Leiden, 1870-1894. BIE = Bulletin de l'Institut d'Egypte, articles by Paul Balog, XXXIII, 1951, XXXIV, 1952, XXXV, 1953. BM = Catalogue of Oriental Coins in the British Museum, by Stanley Lane-Poole, vol. IV, 1879. BM Suppl. = Vol. IX of the above, 1889. Khed. = Catalogue of Arabic Coins in the Khedivial Library in Cairo, 1897, by Stanley LanePoole. L = Vol. Ill of the Catalogue des Monnaies Orientales à la Bibliothèque Nationale à Paris, 1896, by Henri Lavoix. Maqrizi-Sacy = Traité des Monnoies Musulmanes, traduit de l'arabe de Makrizi... in Magasin encyclopédique, VI, p. 472-507, 1796. Suite du Traité des Monnoies Musulmanes, traduit de l'arabe de Makrizi... in Magasin encyclopédique, I, p. 38-98, 1797. Both translated by Antoine Isaac Sylvestre de Sacy. Maqrizi-Sacy Reprint = Extracts in Institut Français d'Archéologie Orientale (IFAO), Biblio thèque des Arabisants Français, 1905. Edited by Emile Chassinat. 0strup = C. 0STHUP, Catalogue des Monnaies Arabes et Turques au Musée National de Copen hague, 1938. QDAP = The Quarterly of the Department of Antiquities of Palestine. RT = J. Farrugia de Candia, Monnaies Fatimites au Musée du Bardo in Revue Tunisienne, 1936. RT Suppl = As above, but Premier Supplément, 1948.
Sauvaire = Henri Sauvaire, Matériaux pour servir à Vhistoire de la Numismatique et de la Métrologie Musulmanes, Journal Asiatique, 1882-1887. Soret = Frédéric Soret, Lettre à M. le Conseiller d'État de Dorn, Troisième Lettre sur les Méd ailles Orientales inédites de la Collection de M. F. Soret. No. 88, Bruxelles, 1856, Impr. E. Devroye, and Lettre à M. C. J. Tornberg sur Quelques Monnaies des Dynasties Alides, in Revue Archéologique, 1856. A remarkable study of the development of Egypt's monetary system during the Middle Ages, from the Arab conquest until the fall of the Mamldk empire, was made by Michel de Boiiard in 1939 1. Based on extensive research in Medieval and modern lit erary sources, this publication presents a clear picture of the evo lution of economic life, and the political factors which played an important part therein. We are told what the country's original resources were and what caused its riches to be ceaselessly drained. M. de Bouard's paper deals with every aspect of the slow but inexorable process of impoverishment and the continuous efforts of consecutive governments to remedy the difficulties constantly arising. M. de Botiard's references are fully comprehensive and one can safely say that the author has made an excellent work on this subject. Of course, this study is entirely based on a critical anal ysis and synthesis of the numerous notes handed down by the Medieval Arab historians, but some information gained from modern numismatic works and catalogues of coin collections is also profitably used. A special merit of the work is the welldefined and set out role played by all the three metals — gold, silver and copper — in the monetary history of Egypt. Important contributions to the knowledge of the monetary evolution in the Muslim Middle East were also made by A. S. Ehrenkreutz. His « Extracts from the Technical Manual of Mansur Ibn B'arâ » is of great value to the knowledge of the minting technique, affinage, etc., used during the Ayyubid period 2 ; furthermore, he studied the fiscal administration of the same epoch and the sub sequent monetary changes 3. In other publications, Ehrenkreutz deals with the gold coinage only * 5. 1. Boúard (Michel de), Sur révolution monétaire de l'Egypte médiévale. In L'Egypte Con temporaine, XXX, No. 185, May 1939, p. 427-459. 2. Ehrenkreutz (Andrew S.), Kashf al asrár al ilmiya fi dar al darb al misriya, by Mansur ibn В 'ara al Dahabi al Kàmili( Extracts from the Technical Manual on the Ayyubid Mint in Cairo. In Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, XV, 1953, p. 502-514). 3. Ehrenkreutz (Andrew S.), Contributions to the knowledge of the fiscal administration of Egypt in the Middle Ages. In Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, XVI, 1954, p. 502-514. 4. Ehrenkreutz (Andrew S.), The standard of fineness of gold coins circulating in Egypt at the time of the Crusades. JAOS, LXXIV, 1954, p. 162-166. 5. Ehrenkreutz (Andrew S.), JAOS, LXXVI 1956, p. 178-184.
HISTORY OF THE DIRHEM IN EGYPT
Another paper, although on a somewhat different subject, must be mentioned here, as it contains notes on the rapid debasement of the dirhem : « The System of payment in Mamlùk Military Society », by David Ayalon 4 This study too is based on literary sources alone. When dealing with the economic or monetary history of Muslim Egypt, one should bear in mind that this country was, until the Fâtimid conquest in 358 H, only a province of the Khalifate. During the whole Umayyad and 'Abbasid period, Egypt had no inde pendent coinage ; its currency was that of the Khalif. It is true that, by 181 H, silver, and from 170 H onwards, also gold, were minted in Cairo, but these issues were not different from any other issues of the Khalifate. After the Arab conquest, however, there was a new factor in the economic status of Egypt : the annual tribute, always as heavy as it was possible to squeeze out of the population, was the first step in the slow bleeding of the country which received nothing in return from the Khalif. A first step towards independence was taken by Ahmad Ibn Tulûn, who was appointed a full governor in 258 H. However, the first gold issue bearing his name did not come out until 266 H, so that his complete independence should be reckoned as from that date only. Another attempt towards independence was made by Muham mad Ikhshïd, numismatically under the same circumstances, al although under the Ikhshidids the weight of gold coins was not any more that of the legal dinar. The situation changed drastically when Egypt fell under Fâtimid rule. From that time on, the country was completely independent, its economic and political links with the Khalifate were severed and, because of the newly introduced sh'ia doctrine, the pondéral and monetary systems were reformed. Although in 567 Saladin abolished the Fâtimid Khalifate and returned to the allegiance of the 'Abbâsids, Egypt henceforth remained an independent, sovereign state. In 569 H, after Mahmud ibn Zengui's death, not only did Saladin declare himself absolute master of Egypt — which fact is clearly expressed on his coinage — but his recognition of the Baghdad Khalifate became only an act of pure courtesy. Saladin's rule in Egypt, however, brought no perceptible economic change to the population ; although the cir1. Ayalon (David), The system of payment in Mamluk military society. In Journal of the Eco nomic and Social History of the Orient, I, pt. 1, 1957, p. 37-65 and I, pt. 3, 1958, p. 257-296.
dilating Fàtimid coinage was gradually replaced by currency struck in Saladin's name, this coinage did not differ essentially in its appearence and contents from the Fàtimid silver. There is no doubt that, in order to understand the state of the economic and monetary evolution of the Ayyubid period, it is necessary to study first the preceding Fàtimid epoch, of which it is but a continuation. The same applies to the transition from the Ayyubid rule to that of the Mamluks. It is therefore necessary to examine the course of the economic life in Egypt as a whole, from the arrival of the Fàtimids to the collapse of the Burji Mamluk empire, so that a true and coherent picture can be obtained. On the other hand, it was thought useful, or even necessary, to complete the information gathered from the historians — which was about the only knowledge we had so far — by as full an exa mination as possible of the coin material itself. Just as coin ep igraphy contributes important data to history, so does a study of weight, fineness of metal, frequency or rarity of certain denomin ations, and abundance or scarcity of entire emissions, add to our understanding of the state of wealth at any given time. It also enables us to grasp the true nature of countermeasures taken in times of crisis, often insufficiently or erroneously explained by historians. For example, literary sources state that the « round » dirhem struck in 622 H by Kàmel Muhammad contains 2/3 silver and 1 /3 copper. A chemical examination of the coins, of which we have described a large number 1 2, now establishes a proportion of 1/3 silver to 2/3 copper in the alloy. Direct examination of the coins — when the number of specimens allows a large scale enquiry — also permits to avoid such errors as may occur by individual interpre tationof historical notes. For example, when speaking of Kàmel Muhammad's reform of 622 H, Hans L. Gottschalk, in his excel lent work « Al Malik al Kamel von Egypten und seine Zeit » 3 (p. 129) believes that the reform consisted of a debasement of the existing silver coinage. This author thought that the current silver of the period was the so called Kâmeli dirhem of pure silver, which was withrawn in 622 H and replaced by the new issue of a lesser 1. Balog (Paul), Études Numismatiques de l'Egypte Musulmane, BIE, XXXIII, 1951, p. 1930. 2. Balog (Paul), Études Numismatiques de l'Egypte Musulmane III, BIE, XXXV, 1952, p. 416-424. 3. Gottschalk (Hans L.), Al Malik al-Kdmil von Egypten und seine Zeit, 1958, Otto Harrasowitz, Wiesbaden.
HISTORY OF THE DIRHEM IN EGYPT
quality alloy. We now know (cf. chapter on Ayyubid silver of this paper) that the emission of good quality, normal flan dirhems of the Syrian type, was repeatedly attempted by the Cairo mint since Saladin's days, but always unsuccessfully. As there was little silver left in the government coffers, the fine silver coins were rapidly hidden by the public, and the low-grade dirhems waraq continued to circulate. At this point it must be recalled that, as it is now well known, Saladin had to sanction officially a situation which already existed. Under the last Fàtimids, gold became scarce and lost its standing as a monetary standard. Silver was then adopted as the official standard by which currency was counted and exchanged, and gold became a commodity with no fixed value ; it was purchased and sold at a daily fluctuating market price. Consequently silver became the currency standard by which we should judge the state of the monetary situation and its changes during subsequent periods, lasting through the Ayyubid dynasty and the entire Mamluk period. To our knowledge, no research has yet been made on the chemical composition of Fàtimid, Ayyubid and Mamluk silver, nor has any enquiry been conducted as to whether these coins belong to cer tain denominations or not, such as the dirhem and its fractions ; in other words, whether some order could be brought into what appears to be a complete pondéral anarchy. Fortunately, during our many years' residence in Egypt, we had occasion to collect a large enough coin material of these periods to enable us to melt down some of it in order to establish the fine silver content. For high quality silver alloys, the conservative method — i. e. the mesasurement of specific gravity — gives reliable results. When, however, the alloy is of poorer quality, the specific weight method becomes completely unreliable. As an appreciable number of the coins with which we are now dealing are made of more or less base metal, it was necessary to use the assay method. For this purpose, the coins had t;o be melted down, with the addi tion of lead, in a crucible. When, in the heating process, the lead * and the inferior metals had been absorbed by the crucible, the remaining pure silver was weighed \ The number of coins which could be used for this purpose was naturally restricted. In cases where coins were numerous, more 1. Caley (Earle R.), Estimation of composition of ancient metal objects. Analytical Chemistry, 24, 1952, p. 676-681. Revue Numismatique, 1961. s
assays were made ; when the coins were scarce or even rare, only one or two were examined. While our tables of fine silver content give only a relatively small number of figures and there are many gaps, we feel that a general idea on the matter can be arrived at. We have endeavoured to note the weight of as many coins as possible of our collection, and of the BM, ANS, L and Farrugia de Candia (Bardo Museum, Tunis). Not only did we want to find out whether the coins had weights approaching those of the legal dirhem and its fractions, but the pure silver content of the coins could only be calculated from the total weight of the piece and the percentage of silver it contained. FATIMIDS The writings of Medieval Arab authors contain several notes on the progress of the economic life in Fàtimid Egypt and mention frequent times of crises and difficult periods, as well as the countermeasures taken by the government to remedy the ensuing hard ships to the population. Chroniclers often attribute to natural calamities, such as the failure of crops caused by an especially low Nile, or an outbreak of epidemics, the direct cause of the financial distress. In most cases, they fail to recognise its true reasons in the continuous deterioration of the country's general resources. We are told, for example, that at one given time, the dinar was worth 16 dirhems, or that, on another occasion, it was exchanged for 35 dirhems. It is however left entirely to the reader's imagina tion to find out why the value of apparently one and the same silver coin fluctuated to such an extent in such a short interval (436 H and 441 H). No chronicler ever mentions how the weight or the fine silver content of the dirhem had, in such cases, been altered. The following notes on the exchange rate between dinar and dirhem, written by various Medieval authors, are well known. They all concern Egypt under Fàtimid rule : Abu Dinar reports that the dinar struck by al M'uizz, the foun derof Cairo, had the value of 15 and 1/2 dirhems 4 Between 363 1. Sauvaire, I, p. 275, 2nd para. — Maqrizi, Historia Monetae Arabicae, p. 35 f. and 112 f. - Khitat, II, p. 6. — Maqrizi-Sacy Reprint, p. 36. — Maqdisi, BGA, III, p. 24012.
HISTORY OF THE DIRHEM IN EGYPT
H and 365 H, the same exchange rate is recorded by Maqrizi S but a note by al Maqdisi (al Moqaddisi) simply says that, for some (undetermined) time after Jawhar's occupation of Egypt, the value of the Fàtimid dirhem was « week » 2. Then we are told that, in 371 H 3 as well as in 390 H 4, the dinar was worth twenty dirhems. Five years later however, in 395 H, a crisis started, which proved not only a long, but also a serious one. The circulating silver at that time is said to have consisted of « z'aida » and « qat'a » (cut) pieces, but no description is given, and it is entirely left to our imagination to find out what their true nature was. They are said to have caused much hardship to the public. Anyway, the dirhem rapidly lost its value. In 397 H already, the rate of exchange was one to 26, reaching soon one to 34 5. In 399 H, the crisis culminated in complete confusion, so that the corrupted dirhems had to be withdrawn and were forcibly replaced by new coins at the rate of 4 old dirhems against one new coin. It is not clear from the text whether there was a new emission, or whether simply old full value coins hoarded in the state coffers were again put into circulation. Their rate of exchange was fixed at one dinar to 18 dirhems 6. No information is forthcoming for the following 39 years ; then we are told of a slight improvement. In 436 H, under the wizirate of 'AH b. Ahmad al Jarjarài, the value of the dirhem rose from 1 : 18 to 1 : 16 7. Quatremère gives a slightly different value for the same year, i. e. 16 1/4 dirhems to the dinar 8. Barely five years later, in 441 H, Mustansir is said to have issued a new type of dirhem, 35 to the dinar 9. This sudden drop in the value of the dirhem is in no way explained by the historian, though it no doubt constituted a serious loss to the public and must have caused much bitterness. As can easily be seen from the above, the value of the dirhem in relation to the dinar — and consequently its purchasing power — 1. Description de l'Egypte, II, p. 6. 2. BGA, I, p. 240. 3. Zeitschrift d. Deutschen Morgenland. Ges., XI, p. 239. 4. Amedroz (H. F.), Kitab al Wuzara, p. 395. 5. Sauvaire I, p. 276-7. — Maqrizi, Description de l'Egypte, II, p. 193. — Khitat I, p. 41619 and 47915. 6. Maqrizi, Traité des Famines, Paris Ms. sup. ar. No. 1938, fol. 6r & v. — Maqrizi, Hist. Mon. Arab., p. 36 f., 113 f. 7. Maqrizi, Descr. de l'Egypte, p. 416 and 419. 8. Mémoire Géographique sur l'Egypte, II, p. 374. 9. Ibn Hazary-Dozy, p. 290.
fluctuated considerably during the Fàtimid administration in Egypt. The Medieval Arab historians generally fail to give an explanation to the technical sides of the problem ; the actual weight of the coins, as well as the denominations which chiefly composed the issues, are not mentioned, and the fineness of the alloy is noted only very exceptionally, and then mostly incor rectly 1. As already mentioned in the introduction, our intention was to investigate the amount of pure silver which the government was able to put into the dirhem at each new issue. In order to establish this amount, we had to estimate the pure silver content and the weight of as many Fàtimid silver coins as possible. We thereby hoped to find a pattern showing how the silver coinage was kept adjusted to the continuous decrease of silver stocks. For a long time, a serious obstacle to such an investigation was the relatively great scarcity of Fàtimid silver. It is true that the great collections (BM, ANS, L, Bardo, etc.) contain an appre ciable number of Fàtimid dirhems ; these, however, could never be sacrificed for the estimation of their pure silver content by a destructive method. Nor were any such coins available for the same purpose from private collections. Fortunately, Fàtimid silver is not now as rare as it used to be. In the first place, the weights of nearly all the coins in the above mentioned collections are noted, as are those in our possession. These coins chiefly represent the period after al Mustansir's reign. Consequently, a list of 164 Fàtimid silver coins was drawn up in chronological order, each coin in the column of the denomination to which it belongs, in order to show whether a specific issue was based on the full dirhem or on one of its fractions. We know, of course, that, especially during the later period, the Fàtimid silver flan was rather carelessly prepared, not only with respect to its finish, but also to its weight. Inaccurate as the weight may be, these coins all the same, within a certain limit, belong to one or the other denomination. We have, therefore, incorporated the coins into four series, that of the full dirhem, the half dirhem, the quarter and the eighth. The limit between the different fractions was fixed by us arbitrarily ; the weights are really individual, and, for any transaction on a larger scale, these coins could never have been accepted by count, but only by weight. fol.1. 44>\ Sauvaire, I, p. 208-9. — Maqrizi-Sacy, p. 44. — Maqrizi, MS P. 1938, Séries Arabes,
HISTORY OF THE DIRHEM IN EGYPT
As regards the fine silver content, public collections still cannot afford to destroy some of their specimens for assaying. It is there fore fortunate that, during the long years of our coin collecting, we have accumulated a certain number of specimens which could be used for chemical estimation of their fine silver content. Al though their number is necessarily small and only five of the Khalifs are represented, the conclusions to be drawn from the expe riment are valuable. It is hoped that, as more material becomes available, more assays will be performed and that, in due time, the entire Fàtimid period will be covered. While until now only thirteen coins have been committed to the furnace of the assayer, the results show a definite tendency of debasement of the alloy. It is interesting to note that the fine silver content, under one and the same ruler, varies considerably from specimen to specimen. One has the impression that silver, being less precious than gold, was prepared with less accuracy, or that the much praised ability of the Medieval minter did not reach a very high standard of skill, at least as regards silver. The following tables present a series of 164 silver coins with recorded weight : Fàtimids. Weight of the silver coins in grams : 1 /Idrh. Ref. Al Mahdi 297-322 H Weight Ref. 1/2 DRH. Weight Ref. 1.43 1.30 1.40 1.27 1.36 1.32 1.23 1.58 1.23 1.40 1.30 1/4 DRH. Weight Ref. 1/8 DRH. Weight
L. 77 BM. 9
RT. 4 2.50 L. 76 L. 78 2.65 BM. 6 BM. 7 BM. 8 BM. 10 BM. 11 BM. 102 d Khed. 1071 1072
118 1/1 DRH. Réf. Al Qaim 322-334 H Weight Réf.
P. BALOG 1/2 DRH Weight Réf. 1.40 1.45 1.45 0.91 1.37 1.75 1.25 1.22 0strup 1937 1.39 1.37 1.45 1.35 1.39 1.44 1.40 1.41 1.47 1.27 1.35 1.37 1.20 1.25 1.43 1.20 1.29 1.46 1.31 1.30 1.35 1.40 1.40 1.45 1.33 1.26 ANS. 121 1.35 ANS. 122 1.31 ANS. 123 1/4 DRH. Weight Réf. 1/8 DRH. Weight
RT. 15 RT. 16 L. 85 ANS. 9 ANS. 10 ANS. 11 BM. 14 RM. 15 ANS. 16 RT. 21 RT. Suppl. 13 0strup 1940 ANS. 73 ANS. 68 2.57 ANS. 69 2.96 ANS. 70 ANS. 71 ANS. 72 ANS. 74 ANS. 75 2.70 RT. 32 T. 43 R RT. 44 RT. 45 RT. 46 RT. Suppl. 19 BM. 48 BM. 49 0strup 1947 1948 1949 L. 129 L. 130 L. 131 BM. 72 ANS. 116 ANS. 117 ANS. 118
Al Man súr 334-341 H
Al Mu'izz 341-365 H
Al 'Aziz 365-386 H
0.73 0.67 0.61
HISTORY OF THE DIRHEM IN EGYPT 1/1 DRH Réf. Al 'Aziz 365-386 H 1/2 DRH. 1/4 DRH. Weight Réf.
119 1/8 DRH. Weight
Weight Réf. ANS. 119 ANS. 120 ANS. 124 0strup 1952 1953 RT. 53 RT. 58 RT. 59 RT. 60 RT. 61 BM. 104 L. 209 L. 210 L. 211 L. 212 L. 213 L. 214 ANS. 176 ANS. 180 ANS. 182 ANS. 183 ANS. 185 ANS. 186 0strup 1958 1959 1960 RT. 68 RT. 71 RT. 72 .
Weight Réf. 1.35 1.28 1.37 1.05 1.36 1.40 1.40 1.20 1.27 1.40 1.45 BM. 105 1.23 1.08 1.42 1.42 0.93 0.98 1.30 1.79 1.12 ANS. 181 1.05 ANS. 184 1.41 1.10 1.39 1.86 0.90 1.35 1.40 1.50 1.10 L. 253 1.31
Al IIâkim 386-411 H
0.65 BM. 103 BM. 106
L. 215 0.66 0.80
ANS. 177 4.77 (double drh. ) ANS. 178 4.40 (double drh. ) ANS. 179 2.36 ANS. 191 3.15
RT. 73 0.73 L. 254
Al Zâhir 411-427 H
ANS. 257 ANS. 258
2.74 BM. 123 h 2.05 0strup 1964 2.92 BM. 193 ANS. 386 (billon) ANS. 388 (billon) ANS. 390
Al Mustansir BM. 193 f 427-487 H
1.62 1.94 ANS. 389 ' L. 408 1.58 0strup 1984 1.30
0.77 0.78 0.82
120 1/1 DRH. Réf. Al Mustanšir 427-487 H Weight Réf.
P. BALOG 1/2 DRH. Weight Ref. 1/4 DRH. Weight Ref. 1/8 DRH. Weight
(billon) ANS. 387 1 0strup 1983 L. 404 L. 405 L. 406 L. 407 L. 409 BIE. XXXIII 1,
1.46 1.25 1.58 1.65 1.03 1.46 1.45
Al Must'ali 487-495 H Al Amir 495-524 H Al Muntazar 525-526 H Al IIafiz 526-544 H Soret Bergmann Balog unpubl. 2.69 3.00
0strup 1995 1996
BIE. 2.79 XXXIII 2. 3. BIE. XXXV. 3-6. from to 7-11. from to 13. BIE. 2.25 XXXV BIE. XXXIII 4. 3.60 5. 6. 2.10 BIE.
BIE. 1.79 XXV 1. 1.23 2.
BIE. 0.67 XXXV 14. 0.42 0.68
1.22 1.30 1.57 1.74 1.08 1.07
Al Zafir 544-549 Al 'Adid 555-567 H
Balog unpubl. BIE. XXXIII. 7. BIE. XXXV 16.
1.88 1.01 1.27 BIE.
HISTORY OF THE DIRHEM IN EGYPT 1/1 DRH. Ref. Al 'Adid 555-567 H 17. 18. Balog unpubl. 1. 2. 3. 4. Weight Ref. 2.19 XXXV 3. 2.20 5. 6. 7. 2.25 8. 2.72 9. 2.57 10. 3.25 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 1/2 DRH. Weight Ref. XXXV 1.26 1. 0.93 2. 1.21 4. 1.35 1.40 1.43 1.43 1.45 1.49 1.49 1.81 1.99 1/4 DRH. Weight Ref.
121 1/8 DRH. Weight • 0.74 0.76 0.74
Fàtimids. Repartition of different denominations : 1/1 DRH Al Mahdi Al Qâim Al Mansûr Al M'uizz Al 'AzTz Al Hakim Al Zâhir Al Mustansir Al Must'ali Al Amir Al Muntazar Al Hâfiz Al Zâfir Al f Adid 2 3 4 2 1 2 1 1 8 24 1 /2 DRH 11 8 4 20 14 19 2 11 1 2 12 1 15 120 1/4 DRH 1 /8 DRH TOTAL 13 10 4 23 14 31 6 14 1 2 2 16 2 26 164
4 1 2
2 3 13
1 — 7
Average (approximative) weight of the Fâtimid dirhem. 1/1 dirhem ( 24 coins) : 2.61 1/4 dirhem (13 coins) : 0.75 1/2 dirhem (120 coins) : 1.38 1/8 dirhem ( 7 coins) : 0.30
P. BALOG Fine silver content of the Fâfimid silver coins. 'Aziz Hakim Zâhir Mustansir 1) 2) Al 'Adid Al Al Al Al 81 66 /o 86 66 48 46.6 34 28.8 88 70 48 31
Several conclusions can be drawn from these tables. In the first place, it appears that the Fâtimids issued their silver coinage according to the system of the dirhem. They reduced, however, the weight of the coins by about ten percent, so that the dirhem weighs approximately 2.60 grams, and the half dirhem about 1.38 grams. The quarter dirhem corresponds more exactly to the theoretical weight, with an average of 0.75 gram. The weight of the coins remained at this level until the end of the dynasty. From the number of surviving full dirhems, however, it seems that rela tively few entire dirhems circulated, and that the bulk of the coinage consisted most of the time of half dirhems. The fact that under al M'uizz the dinar was exchanged for 15 1/2 dirhems indi cates that, at that period, the full coin was still in use. No entire dirhems are known of al 'Aziz ; yet his coins were still exchan ged : 20, and the fine silver content was quite high. Soon after al Hakim's advent, however, the coinage definitely worsened ; although there are four full dirhems, the bulk of his coinage is defi nitely made up of half dirhems. Moreover, the alloy is now only two-thirds silver for one-third copper, which explains the 395 H crisis. One should think that somehow, during the following period, the coinage was kept at a steady level of fineness, because the value of the dirhem remained between 16 and 18 to the dinar until 441 H. This appears to be confirmed by the average weight which did not diminish. The steady quality of the coinage was, however, only apparent, as al Zahir, as well as al Mustansir, struck dirhems with less than 50 % of fine silver content. This fact must have escaped the attention of the public, for there are no records of any crisis until 441 H, when a new issue with only 34 % pure silver content suddenly lowered the purchase power of the dirhem (35 to the dinar) x. 1. Ibn Hazary-Dozy, p. 290.
HISTORY OF THE DIRHEM IN EGYPT
Finally, the silver content of al 'Adid's coins dropped to an even lower level, as, although the weight of the money was about the same, it only contained 25 to 30 % pure silver. No more eloquent indication of the great shortage of silver in the country can be imagined than this extreme debasement of the currency. AYYUBIDS The first report in literary sources on the silver coinage of the Ayyûbids shows that, in the month of Shawâl 583 H, Saladin withdrew from circulation the then current black dirhems or dirhems waraq and issued the so-called Násiri dirhems, containing equal parts of silver and copper г. This notice also indirectly means that Saladin continued to circulate silver essentially similar to the latest Fàtimid issues, as far as 583 H. The new Nàsiri coins were reported to remain in circulation well within the reign of Kàmil Muhammad. In Dû al Qàda 622 H came the famous reform of Kàmil Muhamm ad, when the entire silver currency was withdrawn and replaced by the new round dirhems (mostadirah). This new coin was sup posed to contain two thirds of silver and one third of copper 2. Nevertheless, the black dirhems must have remained in circulation, because Maqrïzi relates that around 640 H one Násiri dirhem was worth three dirhems waraq 3. The only other important literary work on the matter is a tech nical manual composed by a retired official of the Ayyubid mint in Cairo 4. This treatise has precious information on many a detail of the minting procedure. Ibn B'ara's treatise describes, among others, the manufacturing of the пщга flans. Modern authors often tried to identify the dirhem nuqra, but failed to do so. Origi nally nuqra (°^£3) meant an ingot of silver (or gold), or else nonminted silver (or gold) \ The expression dirhem nuqra has been discussed in detail by Grohmann « ; as, however, Ibn B'ara's manuscript was not yet published, the exact meaning, as used in 1. Maqrizi, Hist. Mon. Arab., p. 37-39. — Sauvaihe, I5, p. 58 f. and I?, p. 300 f. 2. Maqrizi, Hist. Mon. Arab., p. 39, p. 117 f. — Khitat I, p. 11021 f. — SuyOti, Husn al Muhadara. II, p. 22623 f. — Sauvaire, I2 p. 245, I5, p. 29-31 and offprint from J. A., I, p. 208209. .3. Maqrizi, Descr. de l'Egypte, I, p. 367. 4. Cf. reference No. 2. 5. Dozy, Supplément aux Dictionnaires Arabes, p. 710. — Sauvaire, I, p. 240-243. 6. Grohmann (Adolf), Einfuhrung und Chreslomathie zur Arabischen Papyruskunde, p. 213.
Ayyubid Egypt, necessarily escaped him. Some confusion is caused by the fact that at different times, and probably in different count ries, the name had different meanings. For Egypt under Ayyubid rule, however, Ibn B'ara gives an exact description of the technique by which the flan of the dirhem nuqra was produced : the molten silver was poured over a wooden cone (covered with charcoal) from which it cascaded into a basin of water placed underneath. The resulting small ingots, each a frozen drop of irregular shape and, of course, individual volume, were then, after appropriate heating but without further adjust ment, directly struck in the dies. The resulting globular dirhems are now well known x ; they belong to the reigns of Kàmil Muhamm ad, Sàleh Ayyùb, Mu'azzam Toronshàh and to the early Bahri Mamluk period (Ashraf Músa under Aibak and Shajar al Durr). Fortunately, we can now compare the few notes left to us by the chroniclers with the information obtained from the examination of a great number of coins. The results are shown on the following tables in chronological order, with the individual weight recorded and the coins listed according to denominations. The percentage of pure silver content is also given on a separate table. Ayylbids. Silver, weight in grams. CAIRO Dirhems waraq. (BIE XXXV, 1953, p. 408-411) Saladin I. For Mahmud b. Zengui : 1 . 33 0 . 82 1.20 0.69 0.92 (BIE XXXIII, 1951, p. 27) II. As sovereign : a) under the Khalif al Mustadi : 2.28 1.26 0.80 0.36 1.19 0.75 1. Balog, BIE, XXXIII, 1951 and XXXV, 1952. — NC, XV, 1955, p. 201
HISTORY OF THE DIRHEM IN EGYPT 1. 30 1. 15 1. 14 1. 12 1. 12 0. 98 0. 91 1. 04 b) under the Khalif al 2.15 1. 04 0. 65 1. 04 0. 65 0. 98 0. 78 0. 93 0. 66 1. 24 0. 58 1. .42 0. 66 1. 32 0. 53 1. ,26 0.,72 1..48 0. 83 1.,16 0.,76 1.,73 0..69 1.,67 0. ,65 1,,96 1 .99 1 .94 1..47 1 .77 1 .34 1 .34 1 .40 1 .38 1 .35 1 .14 1 .37 1 .00 1 .10 0 .97 1 .07 1 .00 1 .22 1 .69 1 .28 1 .37 1 .36 0 .99 ťAzTz 'Othmân 1 .30 1 .34 1 .18 0 .77 0 .75 0 .82 0.47
P. BALOG 0.96 1.49 1.74 1.59 1.59 1.58 1.46 1.22 1.23 1.07 1.19 1.31 0.90 Mansúr Muhammad 1.52 1.18 1.15 1.21 1.42 'Adel I 1.82 1.14 0.99 Kâmel Muhammad 1.19 1.81 1.35 1.09 1.23 1.17 0.75 0.76 0.81 0.85
Globular dirhems : 0.96 0.90 0.76 0.73 0.49 0.44
(BIE XXXV, 1953, p. 417-420) With Khali f al Nasir : 2.54 2.24 1.86 1.65 1.61 0.80 0.70 0.68
HISTORY OF THE DIRHEM IN EGYPT With Khalif al Mustadi : 1.79 1.59 1.32 0.93 With Khalif al Mustansir : 1.92 0.55 1.88 1.58 1.00 0.99 (Balog, unpublished) With Khalif al Nasir : 4.32 2.96 1.92 0.78 1.68 0.66 1.16 0.65 With Khalif al Mustansir : 3.12 2.00 0.85 1.75 1.36 1.10 0.93 'Adel II Saleh Ayyub (BIE XXXV, 1953, p. 421-423) 1.62 0.90 1.00 0.76 0.97 (Balog unpublished) 2.39 2.00 2.19 1.93 1.83 1.82 1.31 TORONSHÂH (BIE XXXV, 1953, p. 423) 2.73 0.73 (Balog unpublished) 2.40 1.77 1.67
P. BALOG Approximative weight of the waraq and globular dirhems. struck in Cairo. (81 specimens examined). Double dirhem Full dirhem Half dirhem Quarter dirhem ( 1 ( 3 (54 (23 coins) coins) coins) coins) 4.32 grams 2.46 1 . 43 0 . 70
Percentage of fine silver content : CAIRO Dirhems waraq. Saladin I. For Mahmud b. Zengui II. As sovereign 'Aziz 'Othmân Mansûr Muhammad ..." 'Ade'l I . Kâmel Muhammad Globular dirhems. 'Adel II. Sâleh Ayyûb 30, 28.5, 28, 27, 26, 25.5, 23 — 28.5, 27.4, 26 Normal flan dirhems. Sâleh Ayyûb (BIE, XXXIV, 1952, p. 26-28) 1. 2.36 grams 2. 2.89 3. 2.72 4. 2.75 5. 2.97 74.6 % fine silver 33.2 30 , 29 , 29 , 28 , 28 , 27, 28 , 28 , 28 , 26 27 . 8 28 20 , 29 , 28 . 5 , 28
N. B. The fine silver content of the Cairo normal flan dirhems of Saladin (BM. 867ZZ) and of 'Adel I (L. 608) is not known.
HISTORY OF THE DIRHEM IN EGYPT SYRIA All coins on normal flan. 245 coins in BM, BIE, and Balog unpublished coins. Fine silver content : BER OF AVERAGE COINS WEIGHT Saladin 'Azïz 'Othmán 'Adel I Kamel Muhammad . 'Adel II Saleh Ayyûb 38 29 29 7 8 30 2.80 2.70 2.66 3.00 2.84 2.85
FINE SILVER o/ /o 94 94 90, 89, 88.4, 88, 87 86 83, 78 86, 81, 80, 79 80, 80 80 76 89, 81, 80 76, 73.2, 72.2 79, 77, 76, 76
Aleppo Damascus Damascus Damascus Damascus 636 H after 643 H Hamáh Damascus Hamáh Damascus Damascus « Damascus »
ToRONSHAH Ism'aTl. . ofSâleh Saleh Ism'aTl ňasir yûsuf Crusader imitations
13 NUM 7 25 40 19
2.77 2.76 2.72 2.80 2.62
From the above tables, it becomes immediately clear that Saladin did not change the quality of the Fàtimid silver coinage. In the first place, he allowed that the Fâtimid black dirhem should continue to circulate freely. Secondly, although he struck silver of his own, the latter had exactly the same aspect and composition as its Fâtimid prototype. As already mentioned, in 583 H Saladin issued a new dirhem called Ndsiri, which was supposed to contain silver and copper in equal parts, and was meant to replace the unsatisfactory black dirhem. The latter should have been withdrawn from circulation x. That such a Násiri dirhem has really been issued is shown by a unique normal flan dirhem of Syrian style struck in Cairo in 586 H (BM 867 7L). Another unique specimen, issued in Cairo by Saladin's brother al 'Adel I in 600 H (L. 609), and five normal flan 1. Maqrizi, Hist. Mon. Arab., p. 37-39 and 114-117. Revue Numismatique, 1961.
P. BALO G
Cairo dirhems of Sàleh Ayyub around 645 H or 646 H (BIE, XXXIV, 1952, p. 26-28), are further proof that such coins of finer alloy have been periodically issued. Maqrïzi's assertion, however, that the Násiri dirhems successfully and completely replaced the dirhems waraq (black dirhems) is to be accepted with much caution : much too few of these normal flan dirhems (struck in Cairo) have been preserved in order to ascertain whether they were isolated, shortlived attempts which failed because of the general shortage of silver, or whether there was a great quantity in circulation which later disappeared. I believe, however, that the first alternative is the correct one. Not only have but one or two Ndsiris been preserved, of the whole Ayyubid period, but the black dirhems continued to circulate in such quantities that, without any doubt, they must have consti tuted the bulk of the entire silver currency. They were issued by Saladin, by 'Azïz 'Othmàn, then by Mansur Muhammad and 'Adel I, and even by Kâmel Muhammad until 622 H. More often than not, the dirhems waraq were the only silver coins issued. Not only did the Ayyûbid black dirhem retain the external aspect of the Fàtimid dirhem waraq, but it also contained the same percentage of fine silver. As already stated, al 'Adid's dirhem had an average fine silver content of around 28 %. A glimpse at the table of fine silver percentage of the Ayyubid coins shows that aTl the emissions, from Saladin to Kâmel, contain about the same amount of fine silver, i. e. an average of 28 %. As already stated, in 622 H al Kâmel Muhammad introduced his famous monetary reform ; he withdrew the entire silver currency then in circulation and struck new round dirhems (mostadïrah). It is not clear what the immediate reason for the introduction of this reform was. No deterioration of the coinage can be detected during the period preceding 622 H, and the black dirhems of Kàmel Muhammad were in no way worse than those issued by 'Adel I, Mansur Muhammad, 'Azïz 'Othmàn or Saladin himself. The reform was probably the final result of continuous difficulties caused by the worthless coinage. However, the « reform » of 622 H was nothing but a huge fraud. Instead of being better, the average silver content of the round dirhem was now even a little less than that of the dirhem waraq. As far as can be ascertained from the largely fluctuating figures (between 23 and 30 %), the average was around 27 %, so that in fact the reform changed the aspect of the coins, but not their intrinsic value.
HISTORY OF THE DIRHEM IN EGYPT
Nevertheless, the introduction of the globular dirhem was suc cessful and thereafter constituted the only Egyptian silver cur rency up to the end of the Ayyubid dynasty. We have globular dirhems not only of Kâmel Muhammad, but also of Sàleh Ayyúb and Mu'azzam Toronshàh, all with a silver content of around 27%. To the Ayyubid kings, who ruled simultaneously over Egypt and Syria, the colossal incongruity between the excellent Syrian silver and the inordinately debased Egyptian coinage must have caused many a disturbing problem. The proof of it is that repeated attemps were made by Saladin * (cf. also : BM. 867/z), 'Adel I (L. 608) and Sàleh Ayyub (BIE, XXXIV, 1952, p. 26-28) to issue normal flan dirhems in Egypt. These dirhems imitate the aspect of the Syrian coin of superior quality and also try to attain its fineness. The only specimen which has been assayed has, however, a pure silver content of 74.6 % only, about ten per cent less than the Syrian prototype. It appears from the evidence of these coins that the regular coinage in Ayyubid Egypt consisted, probably exclusively, of dirhems waraq until 622 H, and of globular dirhems (mustadïra) after that date. The repeated attempts to introduce the Syrian type dirhem seem to have failed. It should be mentioned however that the matter is not easy to understand from Maqrïzi's records. Sauvaire, in his Matériaux 2, says that Kàmel Muhammad, in 620 (!), suppressed the dirhems waraq and issued round dirhems called Kâmeli ; made of 2/3 silver and 1/3 copper, these coins were produced in Cairo until the amir Mahmud the ustàdàr (in 781 H) replaced silver with copper issues. On the next page, Sauvaire continues to identify the round di rhems of 622 H with the dirhems Kâmeli, and repeats that they were in general use during the remaining Ayyubid period, and even under the Bahri Mamluks. We believe therefore that there is some confusion in the text of Maqrizi, and Sauvaire does nothing to clear it up. From the te stimony of the coins themselves, we conclude that in Ayyubid Egypt the globular dirhems remained the current coinage and pro bably the only one. Its content was one-third silver to two-thirds of copper, and not the reverse, as recorded by Maqrizi. The ultimate reason for the impoverishment of Egypt, which 1. Maqrizi, Hist. Mon. Arab., p. 37-39 and 114-117. 2. Offprint, I, p. 208-210.
started unter the Fâtimids but reached its highest peak unter the Ayyubids, has been masterfully pointed out by Michel de Botiard 1. He attributes the continuous decrease in wealth, the incessant flight of gold and silver from Egypt, to various basic factors : The inexhaustible sources of gold, which the Arabs found and exploited since the conquest of Egypt, began to dry up. The mines of Nubia and the innumerable antique tombs, which were suff icient to supply the necessary gold for circulation under the Umayyads and 'Abbâsids, were now, under the Fâtimids, practically empty. Many commodities which could not be found in the country were imported, and naturally had to be paid for in gold or silver. As no silver mines existed, this metal had also to be bought abroad ; consequently, the precious metals began to flow steadily out of the country. Egypt had no export worth mentioning, and there forethe constantly diminishing stock of gold or silver could not be replaced. Saladin, when taking over the administration of Egypt, was confronted with the very grave problem of shortage of funds. This was all the more serious, as he was obliged to start campaining in Syria against the Crusaders, as well as against his Muslim rivals. In the meantime, gold became so scarce that Saladin decided on a change of the monetary standard, which can only be consi dered as a revolutionary step. As there was not enough gold to satisfy the needs of circulation, silver was to become the new stan dard of coinage, by which all payments had to be made ; gold lost its position as a standard of currency, and from now on was consi dered only as a commodity with a daily fluctuating market price, calculated in silver dirhems : one mithqàl (4.25 grams) of gold for so many dirhems. The Fâtimids were already engaged in defensive military action in Syria. Under Saladin, the war in Syria was greatly activated and became more or less permanent. The armies — those already in the war theater and the reinforcements ceaselessly recruited in Egypt — had to be equipped and supplied from their Egyptian bases. The Cairo treasury had to supply not only arms and equip ment, but also the currency necessary for the army's expenses in Syria and the soldiers' pay. It is not surprising therefore that all efforts to repair the damage caused to the silver coinage of Egypt proved unsuccessful in the face of the continuous outflow of gold and silver. 1. Cf. reference No. 1.
HISTORY OF THE DIRHEM IN EGYPT
On the other hand, the money brought to Syria was lavishly spent there by the army for local supplies, as well as by the soldiers themselves for their own necessities and luxuries. As a direct con sequence, when Egypt's economy was on the verge of ruin, that of Syria was definitely flourishing, its coinage stable and of high qual ity. The table of weights and fine silver content of the Syrian Ayyubid coinage shows that, from Saladin to Sâleh Ism'ail, the weight of the dirhem is always around 2.80 grams and the fine silver content between 80 and 94 %. Only during al Nàsir Yusuf's occupation of Damascus (648-658 H) was the fine silver content of the dirhem lowered to 72-76 %, at a time of political troubles, when the remaining small part of Ayyúbid Syria was breaking up altogether. MAMLÛKS More notes on Mamluk coinage have come down to us in the Medieval Arab literature than either on Fàtimid or Ayyubid cur rency. The first sultan mentioned was Baibars I ; according to Maqrizi S the Záheri dirhems, struck in 658 H, contained 70 % pure silver and 30 % copper. This author also states that, between 658 H and 676 H, the dinar was worth 28 1 /2 dirhems 2, and gives the same figure for 660 H 3. A flagrant discrepancy is however found for the same year 660 H in Quatremère 4, who relates an exchange rate of 20 dirhems to the dinar. This rate of exchange seems to have been maintained under Nàsir Muhammad's reign also 5. No mention is made in the chronicles of the copper coinage or the relationship between silver and copper during the Fàtimid or the Ayyubid administration of Egypt. It is therefore the first time that, in Qalqashandi e, the exchange rate between dirhem and fels is discussed ; during the reign of Nàsir Muhammad b. Qalâun,* the dirhem brought 48 felûs, which is a rather low purchase value for the copper coin. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. MS P. 1938, fol. 44'. — Maqrizi-Sacy, Reprint, p. 39. Descr. de l'Egypte, p. 345-6. Ibidem, II, p. 298. — Maqrizi-Sacy, p. 45. — Sauvaire, I, p. 288. Histoire des Sultans Mamelouks, II, 2nd part, p. 167. Descr. de l'Egypte, I, p. 226. Subh al 'Asha, III, p. 443.
Suyuti x states that in 740 H the course of the dinar was off icially fixed at 25 dirhems; this order had however to be with drawn very soon and in 741-742 H already, the rate 1 to 20 was again restored 2. This ratio was violently upset in the same year (742 H) when, after the looting of the amir Qawsan's palace, so much gold went into circulation, that one mithqâl of gold fetched 11 dirhems only 3. But, however rich the loot, it was not large enough to upset the balance for long. A notice later in the same year ment ions once more the earlier ratio of 1 to 20 between gold and silver. From that time on the ratio between the dinar and the dirhem (1 to 20) remained stable for a long period : there are notices to this effect for the years 745 4, 746 \ 751 to 753 6, 757 to 760 7, and finally, for 761 H 8. Then suddenly, in 770 H, the exchange rate fell to 1 : 30, and there is no explanation for this crisis. The next notice, in Maqrizi 9, says that, in 781 H, the Kdmeli and Zdheri dirhems, which continued to circulate until that date, were now « altered » by the emission of the « Mahmudi » dirhems. This happened under the wizirate of Barquq, during Mansúr 'Ali's sultanate. As no silver of Mansur 'Ali's reign, struck in Cairo, has been preserved, we do not know what really the « Mahmudi » dirhems were ; they are said, nevertheless, to have caused much harm to the public. Towards the end of his first reign, in 789 H, Barquq, now the sultan, ordered his wizïr, Jarkas al Khalili, to strike dirhems of a new type10. The dirhems of this issue seem to have been valued at the rate of thirty to the dinar. The situation worsened considerably when, in 794 H, Barquq ordered his ustàdàr, Mahmùd b. 'Ali, to issue large quantities of copper fulús ; the copper had to be imported from Europe and paid for with silver, with the effect that the striking of dirhems practically ceased. When Faraj succeeded his father Barquq, the dinar/dirhem 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. Husn al Muhadara, 2nd part, p. 163. Ďescr. de l'Egypte, II, p. 35. Ibidem, II, p. 73. Ibidem, II, p. 231 and 309. Ibidem, II, p. 231. Ibidem, II, p. 61. Ibidem, II, p. 316. Ibidem, II, p. 212. Maqrizi-Sacy, Reprint, p. 39. Ibn Fubàt, MS Vienna, vol. IX, fol. 3*, И. 16 fî. and fol 4v, 11. 4-3 from bottom.
HISTORY OF THE DIRHEM IN EGYPT
exchange rate was still 1 to 30 г. Silver however became very scarce, and copper was the only currency available in sufficient quantities. Silver, virtually non-existent, now became money of account and was expressed in terms of fels 2. « Dirhem-fels » (in Arabic dirhem min al fulus) simply means the number of copper coins equivalent to the dirhem(money of account). This may explain the confusion which sometimes has resulted when modern authors speak • of the rapid deterioration of the dirhem. Actually, it was not the silver dirhem which lost its value with such rapidity, but the copper fels referred to in its relation to the dirhem. Even to-day, in the popular tongue in Egypt, « darâhim » means « coins », « pennies », and not necessarily « si lver coins ». In any case, when Faraj came into power, the economic situa tionmust have been greatly troubled, as we read that, in 806 H, in Cairo, the mithqàl of gold was valued at 151 dirhems-fels, whereas at the same time in Alexandria, it was worth 300. In 807 H, Faraj decreed that the dinar was to be valued at 100 dirhems 3 and in 808 H, in both cities, the mithqàl-fels exchange rate was 1 to 250 4. Things went from bad to worse. Faraj made two attempts to save the currency : one in 803 or 804 H, when he tried to re-establish the ancient standard of the gold-dinar, and the second in 810 H, this time introducing a new gold coin of 3.40 grams, a monetary system based on the Venetian zecchino. Both attempts failed because of the complete lack of precious metals. In 815 H, al Muayyad Shaikh, the new sultan, struck dirhems of pure silver ; 30 of these coins were exchanged against a dinar of gold 5. Two years later, in 817 H, the sultan issued an order to strike dirhems (Muayyadi); on the 24th Safar 818 H, the new silver was put into circulation and the population rejoiced at the abundant emission of dirhems of such excellent quality e. At the beginning of 856 H, the dirhem has once more dropped to 320 per dinar. The ratio even reached the level of 370 to one, when, in 862 H, Ainàl fixed it at 300 to the dinar 7, but barely a year later, the dinar was already worth 460 dirhems 8. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. Descr. de l'Egypte, II, p. 292. Maqrizi, Nuqùd, éd. Constantinople, 1292 AH, p. 15, 11. 15 ff. Abvj'l Mahâsîn, VI, 272. Khitat, II, p. 420. Suyuti, Husn al Muhâdara, 2nd part, p. 167 (in Sauvaire, I, p. 316). Cf. Réf. 54. Ibn Iyâs, II, p. 57. Ibidem, II, p. 61.
We have but little information on the dirhem during the fo llowing period. The few existing notes deal mostly with the copper issues and their often enforced course. The effect of the artificially fixed exchange rate on the economic life can be easily imagined. In 873 H, for instance, one ratl of the newly issued copper coins sold for 24 dirhems nuqra (« nuqra » here probably stands for the real silver coin), instead of 36, as was usual previously, causing much prejudice 1. In 881 H, the half dirhem was worth 18 pieces of copper ; there were however two tariffs, one in silver and the other in billon (?) ; confusion and complaints ensued 2. In the same year, silver could only be accepted by weight because of the constant filing and cut ting around the edges of the coins 3. Finally, in 903 H, the circulation of the new fulùs increased to such an extent, that a half dirhem (nusf al fidda) fetched 14 copper coins *. Until a short time ago, to many an author it seemed that the Mamluks did not follow any metrological system at all in their coinage. If, therefore, Lane-Poole went so far as not even to note the weight of Mamlúk coins in his Catalogue of Islamic Coins in the Khedivial Library, this had a certain justification, as it was really difficult to establish any order, when apparently each coin had a different individual weight. We have studied Mamluk coins for over ten years and agree that the gold issues have quite irregular, individual weights. This is, however, directly due to the fact that the Bahri Maml uks, just as their predecessors, the Ayyubids, established the silver dirhem as their coin standard instead of the dinar. Gold, as has already been pointed out, became only a commodity, which had a fluctuating daily market price. The dirhem was the real unit, the currency standard, by which all transactions were carried out. Following our studies, we came to the conclusion that the Bahri dirhem did not have the exact weight of the legal dirhem. Nevert heless, one should take into consideration a certain negligence in the often hurriedly carried out minting. On the whole, in spite of many fluctuations and irregularities, one can observe that the 1. 2. 3. 4. Ibn Iyâs-Wiet, Inst. Français d'Arch. Orientale, Le Cairo, 1945, II, p. 21. Ibidem. Ibidem, p. 138. Ibidem, p. 436.
HISTORY OF THE DIRHEM IN EGYPT
Bahri mamllks. Approximative average weight of 556 specimens : FULIj DIRHEM HALF DIRHEM QUARTER DIRHEM
ber of coins Shajar al Durr ASHRAF MÙSA . . AlBAK Mansûr 'Ali .... Qutuz Baibars I Baraka Qân. . . . Salamish Qalâûm Khalïl Ketbughâ LÂJÏN Baibars II Nâsir Muhammad Nasir Ahmad . . Sàleh Ismaïl' . . Kâmel Sh'abàn . MUZAFFAR I.lÂJJI. Nàsir Hassan. . . SÂLEH SÂLEH • • . Mansûr mad ASHRAF Sh'aBÂN. Mansûr 'Ali. . . . Sâleh I.Iajji .... 4 1 18 8 3 91 21 8 46 15 14 6 2 43 1 27 6 11 13 2 2 12 11 2 2 2 4 •
ber of coins
ber of coins
3.50 2.30 2.75 2.87 2.52 2.76 2.77 3.00 2.82 2.87 2.85 3.10 2.75 2.93 3.43 2.63 2.66 2.63 3.00 2.80 4.30 (double ?) 4.00 (double ?) 2.73 4.71 (double ?) 2.20 3.75 (double ?) 3.10
1 9 5 62 12 14 15 12 6 7 1 1 1
1.42 1.34 1.67 1.43 1.58 1.50 1.33 1.33 1.50 • 1.57 1.75 1.56 1.68
2 1 10 2 3 2 1
0.76 0.92 0.83 0.90 0.93 0.53 0.73
375 full dirhems
160 half dirhems
P. BALOG Burji Мамы" ks. Approximative average weight of 427 specimens DIRHEM Numb FULL er of coins Weight Numb HALF er of coins 8 1 5 121 2 2.08 (1/2 + 1/4) 2 3 15 40 46 15 33 5 13 89 full dirhems Weight DIRHEM
QUARTER DIRHEM Numb er of coins 2 Weight
4 16 1
11 Must'ain Muayyad Shaikh 23 Muzaffar Ah mad Sâleh Muham mad Barsbâi 34
4.00 (double ?) 2:68 4.30 (double ?) 2.68 2.63
1.50 1.65 1.35 1.30 1.40 1.15 1.62 1.03 (1/4 + 1/8) 1.66 1.50 1.45 1.42 1.42 1.19
Jaqmaq AlNÂL Khúshqadam. . . . Qâitbâi Nâsir Muham mad QÂNSÙH AL GhÙRI
2 1 2 2
0.80 0.75 0.73 0.45
319 half dirhems
individual coins all belong either to the denomination of the full dirhem, or to one of its fractions. This order was not clear regarding the Burji Mamluk coinage. In the manuscript of my « Mamlúk Coins », which, for some time now is in preparation for printing, I believed that silver coins struck by consecutive sultans were gradually and constantly redu cedin weight.
HISTORY OF THE DIRHEM IN EGYPT
Fortunately, an important hoard of al Muayyad Shaikh's silver was recently acquired by us. This hoard, composed of over twohundred full dirhems and fractions, enabled us to correct our incomplete knowledge on the subject. We are now convinced that the Burji Mamluks, as well as the Bahris and before them the Ayyûbids, followed the classical dirhem system in the manufacture of their silver coinage. As, however, silver became more and more scarce, the emissions were constantly reduced in volume, and finally, the authorities had to be content with the issuing of the half and quarter dirhem, in ever decreasing numbers. The following tables present the approximative average weight of the different denominations, the number of coins with known weight, and the fine silver content expressed in percentage of a number of specimens. Naturally, the assays were restricted in number, as silver Burji coins are rather scarce. Mamlûks. Fine silver content of the dirhem, in percent. There is no difference of alloy between the Syrian and Egyptian issues. Bahri. Aibak ' Baibars I. Baraka Qân Khalil Nâsir Muhammad • dirhems waraq normal flan Nâsir Hassan Saleh Ïsm'aïl : . Kâmel Sh'aban MUZAFFAR HaJJI Armenian Trams overstruck by Nâsir Muhammad b. Qalâûn '. o/ /o 74 77 , 73 , 66 , 66 , 62 77 67 78, 73, 68, 66, 66, 66, 65, 64, 52.4, 49.5, 46 74, 74, 72.5, 68, 65.2 68 70, 69, 68, 66 63 64.4 77.2, 73.6, 73.6 Burji. Muayyad Shaikh Barsbai Ainal Qâitbâi o/ /o 94.5, 92.5, 91.5, 90, 90 96, 95.5, 95, 94.5, 92 96, 96, 96, 95.5, 95,5 95,5 95,5 95, 92.5, 92, 90, 82.7
Hereunder we shall endeavour to make good use of the above data covering the entire Mamluk period. Bahri period. The financial policy of the Ayyubids, as already described above, was dictated by the prevailing conditions, namely, by a disastrous deficit in precious metals in Egypt, and an ever increasing wealth of gold and silver in Syria. As soon as the early Bahri Mamluks consolidated their rule, they reversed their line of conduct as far as Egypt was concerned and a marked improvement is to be observed. The first Mamluk rulers, Shajar al Durr, and the Ayyubid prin celing Ashraf Musa (a puppet of Aibak's), issued globular dirhems only, similar to the Ayyubid prototype silver struck in Cairo. Regarding these, we have no data on their fine silver content, in view of the extreme rarity of the specimens. Although the coinage continued to imitate the Ayyubid emissions under Aibak, Mansur cAli and Qutuz, the silver was, from now on, of the Syrian normal flan type. The only coin of this period which could have been ana lysed, a dirhem of Aibak's, contains 74 % pure silver. Baibars I introduced what was to become the Mamluk coinage proper. Although the bulk of the emissions consisted mostly of full dirhems, enough half dirhems, and, to a lesser extent, quarters, were struck for the needs of household transactions. Not only the full dirhems, but also the fractions were near enough to the legal weight, with a certain fluctuation tolerated. The abundance of Baibars's silver coins in all the modern collections is a testimony that during his 18 years of reign, he issued currency profusely. The silver content of his coins is high, but there are important fluctuations between the individual specimens ; the fineness varies between 62 and 77 %. It should be noted here that a dirhem of Baraka, son of Baibars, contains 77 % silver, and one of Khalïl, son of Qalàûn, only 67 %. During the entire Bahri period, the full dirhem appears with the same frequency. The half dirhem is also frequent from the beginning to the end of the dynasty, but the quarter is much more scarce and has apparently been altogether discontinued after Sàleh Ism'ail. The weight of the full dirhem is more or less equal to the legal dirhem, and so is that of the fractions. They could have been accepted by count for small so-called household pur chases. The fluctuations were nevertheless important enough, so that, in large transactions, the coins had to be weighed.
HISTORY OF THE DIRHEM IN EGYPT
What has been said of the fine silver content of the coins of Baibars I generally applies to the entire Bahri period. The alloy of the Bahri dirhem usually contains between 62 and 78 % fine silver. Special mention must be made of Nàsir Muhammad's coinage. His normal flan dirhems do not differ in silver content from all the other Bahri coins. But he also issued square flan coins, manuf actured in exactly the same way as the dirhems waraq of the Fàtimids and Ayyubids, only they are larger and their weight is not different from that of the normal flan dirhems. (They are of thick fabric.) These square coins have a much wider range of fluctuation of the fine silver content than any other Bahri issue ; besides specimens of as high a silver content as 78 %, the whole gamut of percentages appears right down to 46 %. Could it be that the enforced low exchange rate of 740 H (when the dinar was equal to 25 dirhems г, and the economic crisis which followed, were caused by the poor silver content of the square flan dirhems waraq struck during that year ? A few heavy dirhems were issued towards the end of the Bahri dynasty ; one would be tempted to classify these as double dirhems, were it not for their much lighter weight (between 3.75 and 4.71). In spite of the fluctuating individual weight of the coins and the relatively wide limits of the fine silver content, the Bahri Mamluk silver coinage is a tremendous improvement over the Ayyubid globular dirhem. Also, notwithstanding the various differences in weight, it certainly belongs to the traditional dirhem system. Finally, we have noted the fine silver content of three Armenian trams which have been overstruck by Nàsir Muhammad. They prove that the alloy used for the Armenian coinage was at least equivalent to that circulating in the Mamluk empire. They also prove that they were badly needed to replenish the always dange rously empty treasury of Nàsir Muhammad. The Armenian trams, captured in Sis in one of Nàsir Muhammad's raids, or paid as a tribute by the Armenians over a period of many years, were overstruck in great quantities by the Mamluks. Burji period.
The pressing shortage of silver felt by the public during the reign of Barquq is not quite faithfully reflected by modern collections, which contain about thirty coins, a not negligible number for this 1. Cf. Réf. 1 on p. 134.
period, with weight recorded, comprising dirhems, halves and quart ers. Although unfortunately no estimation of the fine silver con tent could have been made, the coins, by their aspect, colour and touch, do not suggest a low grade alloy. If there was any crisis, it certainly was not due to the silver coins themselves, but rather to their absence from circulation. The same applies to Barquq's son and successor, Faraj, of whose coinage at least a dozen specimens are known. There is, however, no reason to doubt the chroniclers, who una nimously state than an acute shortage of silver caused severe di scomfort, and even an alarming crisis in the country. The greater was therefore the rejoicing of the population when al Muayyad Shaikh, upon his election to the sultanate, brought with him from Syria enough silver to set the circulation afloat x. We have excellent proof of the abundance and high quality of Muayyad Shaikh's new silver from an important hoard which was in the possession of a Cairo dealer for a certain time, but came to our knowledge towards the end of 1960 only. This treasure is com posed exclusively of 222 silver coins struck by Muayyad Shaikh ; the bulk of the treasure is made up of half dirhems, numbering more than half of the total, but there is also a number of full di rhems. The weight of the specimens — although the approximative average of the full dirhem is a little short of the legal weight (2.68 grams) — is clearly within the system of the legal dirhem. Repeated assays show a surprisingly fine quality alloy in the coins of al Muayyad Shaikh. The fine silver content remains bet ween 90 and 94.5 %, a result never achieved since the emanci pation of Egypt from the Khalifate, and the more remarkable as the precious metal was now quite scarce. The next two sultans left only a few half dirhems, but then they only reigned during a very short time. Barsbài continued to strike silver in great enough quantity ; he however reduced the weight of the coins. Instead of the full dirhem, he issued combinations of different fractions, such as the half + quarter dirhem, and the quar ter eighth dirhem; but he also struck straight halves and quarters. + As already mentioned, al Muayyad Shaikh reduced the weight of his dirhem by about ten per cent for the benefit of the public treasury. This measure was also adopted by Barsbài, who reduced the weight of his coins even more : in the first place, by substitut ing the dirhem by a combination of fractions, and then, by cutting 1. Cf. Réf. 3 and 4 p. 135.
HISTORY OF THE DIRHEM IN EGYPT
down the theoretical weight of the new coin. Consequently, Barsbâi's new coinage has the following denominations and weights : 1/2 1/2 1/4 1/4 + 1/4 (3/4) drh. = theoretical : 2.175, in practice : 2.08 grams drh. = theoretical : 1.45, in practice : 1.62 grams + 1/8 (3/8) drh. = theoretical : 1.09, in practice : 1.03 grams drh. = theoretical : 0.725, in practice : 0.77 grams.
Barsbài thought it necessary to mark the newly introduced denominations on his coins, an innovation in Mamluk silver coi nage. The 3/4 pieces are inscribed: я^^^^и and the 3/8 frac tions show : (Jt^j (^j- Only part of the emissions have the denomination engraved in the field, the others do not carry it. It should also be noted that the denomination does not always correspond with the actual weight, an error for which, most pro bably, the negligent mint official is responsible. Similar errors are not infrequent on earlier Islamic coins. After Barsbài's death, silver was continuously issued until the end of the dynasty. The scarcity of silver is nervertheless noti ceable, because from now on, the largest denomination is the half dirhem. We have halves and quarters of Jaqmaq, Ainàl, Khushqadam, Qàitbâi and his son, Nâsir Muhammad's reigns, all of them of satisfactory weight. Only under Qànsuh al Ghúri are the coins reduced in weight, which is certainly due to the general disorga nisation during the last years before the final disaster. The fine silver content, in spite of the growing difficulties, always remains on an exceptionally high level. Three coins of Ainàl con tain between 95.5 and 96 % silver, and five specimens struck by Qâitbâi show a similar result : four coins have between 90 and 95 % silver, only one is as low as 82.7 %. There can be no doubt that, during the final stages of the Bahri dynasty, as well as under the entire Burji rule, the silver dirhem was a coin of high intrinsic value. The weight, although somewhat fluctuating, was always near the legal limit, and the fineness, ins tead of losing its former high level, became even better in later times. There is, therefore, no explanation why at the end of the Bahri and the beginning of the Burji rule, the silver coin should so catastrophically lose its value, as is recorded by the chroniclers. According to Ayalon *, the dirhem, in the course of an extremely short time, dropped from 20 dirhems to 460 dirhems to the dinar. 1. Cf. Réf. 1 on p. 111.
On the evidence of the coins, the disastrous drop in the exchange rate, 1 dinar = 460 dirhems is absurd, at any time, if we think of the dirhem in terms of the real silver coin. If, however, we accept the undoubtedly correct statement of the Medieval chronicler, that silver vanished from circulation and was replaced almost comp letely by copper, then the collapse of the exchange rate is under standable. Dirhem does not mean any more a real circulating silver piece, but merely money of account. As money of account, the dirhem was used to express the cor responding number of copper fulus, hence the expression used by the historian : dirhem-fels, in Arabic dirhem min al fulùs. From there, it was only one step to drop the word fulus and substitute the expression of dirhem to any coin, even copper, as can still be heard in the popular tongue in Egypt when speaking about small change, or coins in general. Therefore, when the Medieval author mentioned that the mithqál (dinar) of gold was exchanged against 460 dirhems, he really meant 460 copper coins. This would corre spond to : 1 mithqál gold = 20 silver dirhems = 20 x 24 copper fulus (480). Summary. The Fàtimids issued, at the beginning of their reign in Egypt, an abundant silver coinage of good quality (81-88 % fine), con sisting of dirhems and halves. The latter were in fact the coins which circulated in greatest numbers. Soon enough, under al Hâkim, the alloy has been adulterated (66-70 %) and under al Zàhir it dropped to 48 % fine. The debasement continued through al Mustansir's rule (from 44 to 34 %) and reached its deepest level at the advent of al 'Adid (31 to 25 %). This steady worsening of the currency is a sure sign of increasing impoverishment of the country. There was no improvement in the silver coinage under the great Saladin and his successors, the Ayyùbid dynasty. On the contrary, the scarcity of funds has been officially acknowledged by the aban donment of the gold standard and introduction of silver as the standard of currency. A curious anomaly has, however, developed : although Egypt and Syria belonged under the same rule, the latter country grew richer, in contrast with Egypt, which steadily lost its stock of pre cious metals. Accordingly, at the same time at which the Egyptian currency became poor in quality, that of Syria stayed on an excel lent level. From time to time the Ayyubids attempted to intro-
HISTORY OF THE DIRHEM IN EGYPT
duce in Egypt, a good silver coinage similar to the Syrian dirhem ; every time they met with immediate failure because of lack of the necessary precious metal. A new era was started by the Mamluks, who succeeded in el iminating the long standing difference between the silver currency of Egypt and Syria. Thus, the silver coinage of the Bahri Mamluks, at least at the beginning, was abundant and of satisfactory qual ity. Toward the end of this period, however, the shortage of bul lion was again heavily felt, resulting, not in the debasement of the alloy of the dirhem, but in its rapid disappearance from the ci rculation. It has been replaced by copper which soon became the only coin available to the public. Al Muayyad Shaikh, one of the early Burji sultans, restored the silver coinage not only to its former high level, but even above its former state : his dirhem contains more than 90 % fine silver. The succeeding sultans maintained the quality of the silver currency, although the fatal shortage of the precious metal soon caused its disappearance once more. The economic confusion and distress continued now until the final collapse of the Mamluk empire in 922 H (1517 AD), when the victorious 'Othmanlis put an end to Egypt's independence 1. Illustrations (PI. XII). 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. Black dirhem of the last Ffilimid, al 'Adid. Black dirhem of Saladin. Black dirhem of 'AzTz 'Otmán. Black dirhem of Mansur Muhammad. Black dirhem of fAdel I. Black dirhem of Kiimel Muhammad. Round, (globular) dirhem of Kamel Muhammad, a coin of his 622 H reform. Syrian dirhem of the same ruler. Globular dirhem of Saleh AyyQb, Cairo. Syrian type dirhem of the same, struck in Cairo. Dirhem of the same, struck in Damascus. Dirhem of the same, struck in Damascus, 646 H. Crusader imitation of Sáleh Ism'aTl's dirhem, 1241 AD. Dirhem of Aibak. Baibars I, dirhem with heraldic lion. Heraldic lion on the dirhem of the former's son, Baraka Qûn.
1. Moritz (В.), Beitruge zuř Geschichte des Sinaiklosters im Mittelalter nach arabischen Quellen, in Abhandl. d. Kgl. Preuss. Akad. d. Wissenschaften, Phil. Hist. KL, Berlin, 1918, № 4, p. 30, footnote 2, contains only a few references already mentioned above. Revue Nuinismalùfiie, 1961. 10
146 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25.
P. BALOG Nâsir Muhammad. Armenian tram, overstruck by Nasir Muhammad. Cairo silver of Ashraf Sh'aban. Dirhem of BarqCiq, struck in Cairo by his wizïr Jarkas al Khalïli. The fine silver dirhem of Muyyad Shaikh. Dirhem of Barsbái. Ainal's dirhem. A silver coin of Qâitbai. Dirhem of Qânsûh al Ghuri.