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Taboo Numismatics Part IV: Comparison of the coinage of Christian Byzantine Emperor Justinian II, 685-692 CE [L], and that of the Muslim Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik 693 CE (AH 77) [R] | by Ted Kandell
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Taboo Numismatics Part IV: Comparison of the coinage of Christian Byzantine Emperor Justinian II, 685-692 CE [L], and that of the Muslim Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik 693 CE (AH 77) [R]

Left: Byzantine Emperor Justinian II Rhinometus. First reign, 685-695 AD. Gold Solidus (4.45 g, 6h). Constantinople mint. Struck 692-695.

 

Obverse: Facing bust of Christ holding jewelled Gospel; cross behind head, right hand raised in blessing. 692 CE.

Legend: IHS CRIST D S REX REGINORUM

Latin: Ihesus Cristus Dominus Salvator Rex Reginorum = "Jesus Christ Lord Savior King of Those Who Rule". This is the very first instance this motto being used on coinage..

 

Reverse: Cross potent on base of four steps. Struck 685-691 CE. Typical Byzantine reverse pre-692. The cross potent on steps is thought to be a portrayal of the great jewelled cross erected in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on site of the Crucifixion.

Legend: VICTORIA AVGuH

Latin: Victoria Augusti = "Victory of the Emperor" a traditional Roman numismatic legend signifying a recent victory in battle by the Emperor, in this case over the Caliphate in Syria in 689. (S 1247; DO 6)

 

Right: Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan 77 AH (693 CE).. Gold Dinar, Damascus mint.

 

Obverse: Center: The Prophet Muhammad, flanked on the left by his Companion and First Caliph Abu Bakr, and on the right by his wife and Abu Bakr's daughter Aisha. All three are grasping swords in their right hands, including Aisha, and Aisha is wearing a veil.

 

Reverse: Single column with ball on four steps. Legend: "There is no God but God and Muhammad is the Apostle of God." (The Muslim profession of faith) and "Damascus Year 77". The single column is a symbol of the unity of God, as opposed to the cross potent, both a symbol of the Crucifixion of Jesus and a symbol of the Trinity.

 

It certainly seems that the Islamic type here represented is directly modelled on the previous Byzantine type (the reverse) and the obverse is in clear response to the copy of the face of Jesus from the Mandylion, the "Holy True Image", a portrait believed "not to have been made by human hands". The unacceptable ot Muslims Christian profession of the divinity of Jesus was replaced by the Muslim profession of failth on the reverse. and a corresponding true-to-life portrait of the Prophet Muhammad, along with his wife and closest companion, to signify the Prophet's pure humanity, replaced the "divine" portrait of Jesus as Lord and Savior. The motto on the Byzantine coin "King Over Those Who Rule" is a direct attack as well on the Islamic name of the Caliph Abd al-Malik, which means in Arabic "The Servant of the King". In Islam, Khalifa [Caliph] in Arabic means "successor [to the Prophet]". Rulers were "Emir al-Muamin", the "Commander of the Faithful", or "Successor", not "King". There is only one "King" in Islam, God himself, and not his "Son".

 

A Bibliography of Recent Work on Syrian Arab-Byzantine Coinage

 

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Uploaded on May 17, 2006