Fils (copper coin)
National Museum of Damascus
Hegira 541–69 / AD 1146–74
Diameter 2.5 cm, weight 3.55 g
Raqqa, and possibly Damascus, Syria.
Muslims generally minted coins in three kinds of metal. The first type is a gold coin called the dinar, the second is a silver coin called the dirham, and the third is a copper coin called the fils (Arabic plural: fulus).
This piece is a fils made in the Byzantine style and resembles specifically the fils of Emperor Constantine X (r. AH 451–9 / AD 1059–67). It is attributed to the reign of the Zangid ruler Nur al-Din Mahmud. The coin has figurative images and Arabic inscriptions in kufic script as described below:
Obverse – There is a standing person with a halo around his head. On the lower left is the phrase “The King of Princes” and on the right is the name of the king,
Reverse – The following text is written inside a rectangular frame: the titles "al-'Adil” (The Just) and “Nur al-Din” (The Light of Religion).
Considering that this type of coin was minted in a manner that resembles Byzantine coins, numismatic experts expect that it was circulated equally in two areas – amongst Muslims and in the Byzantine areas adjoining Muslim territories.
This copper coin, known as a fils, was minted by Nur al-Din Mahmud bin al-Zangi. It shows an intermingling of Arabic and Byzantine features from the Atabeg era.
Nur al-Din Mahmud bin Zangi (r. AH 541–69 / AD 1146–74)
The coin is attributed to the reign of Nur al-Din Mahmud bin al-Zangi (r. 541–69 / 1146–74).
This coin is from a collection of copper coins found accidentally by a resident of Raqqa. It was turned over to the Directorate of Antiquities in 1955.
The coin was found in the city of Raqqa and is part of a collection of copper coins weighing 50 kg. The place of mint is not recorded on the coin but it is known that Nur al-Din minted copper fils in Damascus.
Delpont, E. (ed), L'Orient de Saladin: l'art des Ayyoubides, Paris, 2001, p.34.
Sayles, W., and Spengler, W., Turkoman Figural Bronze Coins and their Iconography, Vol. II, Wisconsin, 1996, p.57.
Mona al-Moadin "Fils (copper coin)" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2021. https://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;sy;Mus01;41;en
Prepared by: Mona Al-Moadin
Translation by: Hilary Kalmbach (from the Arabic)
Translation copyedited by: Mandi GomezMandi Gomez
Amanda Gomez is a freelance copy-editor and proofreader working in London. She studied Art History and Literature at Essex University (1986–89) and received her MA (Area Studies Africa: Art, Literature, African Thought) from SOAS in 1990. She worked as an editorial assistant for the independent publisher Bellew Publishing (1991–94) and studied at Bookhouse and the London College of Printing on day release. She was publications officer at the Museum of London until 2000 and then took a role at Art Books International, where she worked on projects for independent publishers and arts institutions that included MWNF’s English-language editions of the books series Islamic Art in the Mediterranean. She was part of the editorial team for further MWNF iterations: Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean Virtual Museum and the illustrated volume Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean.
True to its ethos of connecting people through the arts, MWNF has provided Amanda with valuable opportunities for discovery and learning, increased her editorial experience, and connected her with publishers and institutions all over the world. More recently, the projects she has worked on include MWNF’s Sharing History Virtual Museum and Exhibition series, Vitra Design Museum’s Victor Papanek and Objects of Desire, and Haus der Kulturen der Welt’s online publication 2 or 3 Tigers and its volume Race, Nation, Class.
MWNF Working Number: SY 67
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)The Atabegs and Ayyubids | Travelling and Trading
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