Damascus Syria Islamic Silver Coin Mamluk Dirham 678-689 AH /1279-1290 AD Al-Mansur Sayf al-Din Qala'un
Description: A nice silver coin from the times of Qala'un (Al-Mansur Sayf al-Din) the Mamluk Sultan who ruled Egypt and Syria during the period 678-689 AH (1279-1290 AD). Qala'un is from the Bahari Mamluk dynasty. This is a dirham weighing about 2.7 grams and measuring 21 millimeters in diameter. It is in generally fine condition with wear commensurate with its circulated state. It shows quite a bit of the legends on both obverse and reverse and shows part of the mint name as ...mishq (Dimishq or Damascus Syria). The obverse shows the words "...al-Sultan al-Malik al-Mansur Sayf al-Donya wa al-Din ..la'un al Salehi." The reverse shows the end part of the word Dimishq (Damascus) on top of the field then the words "La Illaha ella Allah; Muhammad Rasul Allah; Arsaluh Bil Hudah ...." The coin does not show a date of minting but shows part of the mint name. Please carefully review the photos presented as they are part and parcel of our description.
Date: Date off flan, struck in the period 678-689 AH (1279-1290 AD).
Mint: Dimishq or Damascus the current capital of Syria.
Size and Weight: This is a silver dirham, weighs ~27 grams of silver and is ~21 mm in diameter.
References: It is Album #894, listed in Balog as 129, and it is Wilkes 967.
Condition: I would grade this coin as a good fine or better. The coin itself is much better than the photos show with well defined and legible calligraphy on both the obverse and reverse. The coin shows part of the mint name, which is rather rare for these coins. It also clearly shows most of Qala'un's name. The coin shows considerable wear throughout and some pronounced areas of strike weakness on the top of both the obverse and reverse. However, it is still very readable and looks good. A nice and rather difficult to find coin, which would make a nice addition to your collection. Please see the photos for additional condition information.
Historic Perspective: The word Mamluks in Arabic means "owned", hence their nickname "Slave Kings". They succeeded the Ayyubids and ruled Egypt and Syria for about 250 years. They had been recruited by the Ayyubids and then, like the Turkish mercenaries of the Abbasid caliphs, had usurped power from their enfeebled masters. Unlike their predecessors, however, they were able to maintain their power, and they retained control of Egypt until the Ottoman conquest in 1517. Militarily formidable, they were also the first power to defeat the Mongols in open combat in 1260, at Ayn Jalut near Nazareth in Palestine.
The Mamluk sultans are usually divided into two dynasties, the Bahris (1250 - 1382 AD), chiefly Turks and Mongols, and the Burjis (1382 - 1517 AD), chiefly Circassians. These names arise from the location of the barracks of the Mamluks within the city of Cairo (Al Kahira). Those originating from the barracks on an island in the Nile are Bahari (sea dwellers) and those who were in the towers of the Cairo Citadel are the Burjis (the tower dwellers). The Bahri sultans were usually selected from a few chief families, but during Burji times there was scant respect for hereditary principle in the selection of rulers. Neither dynasty was able to exercise more than a limited power over the turbulent Mamluk soldiers. The sultans reigned, on average, less than seven years and usually met violent ends. In spite of the dangers that threatened the sultans at home, they usually conducted a vigorous foreign policy. They defeated the last of the Crusaders and repulsed the Mongol invasion of Syria. At times they held all Palestine and Syria and the holy places of Arabia. Even after the Ottomans occupied Egypt they wheeled quite a bit of power until Mohammad Ali massacred the last of them at the Cairo Citadel in the early 1800's.
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