Hamdanid Rulers of Syria & Iraq

Silver Medal


In field: a cavalryman mounted on a spirited horse prancing to right bearing a lance horizontal in his left hand, to right of head in Kufic script Sayf, to left al-dawla/abu’l-Hasan

In margin anticlockwise from 12:00: amir al-mu’minin al-Muti’ lillah al-amirayn al-fadlayan Nasir al-dawla wa Sayf al-dawla al-umara abu-Taghlib wa abu’l-Mukarrim wa abu’l-Ma’ali wa abu’l-Kitabut “commander of the faithful al-Muti’ lillah, the two exalted princes Nasir al-dawla and Sayf al-dawla the four princes Abu-Taghlib and Abu’l-Mukarrim and Abu’l-Ma’ali and Abu’l-Kitabat”


The same words found in the obverse margin are repeated in five lines: amir al-mu’minin al-Muti’ lillah/ al-amirayn al-fadlayan Nasir al-dawla/wa Sayf al-dawla al-umara abu Taghlib/wa abu’l-Mukarrim wa abu’l-Ma’ali/wa abu’l-Kitabat

It is recorded that the ambition of the creator of this medal, Sayf al-dawla, was to be a ghazi, a knight of the jihad, and on this medal he is portrayed as the archetypal cavalryman. The work of two separate hands may be detected in the execution of the medal. The obverse, with its figure of the horse and rider, has a natural sense of movement and balance which is classical in its majestic grandeur. No other example in the field of Islamic numismatics is known where the artist was such a careful and observant student of natural movement in contrast to the static figures usually found in the rare representational art of the time. The reverse legend, on the other hand, was carried out in a monumental Kufic script which was customarily used for inscriptions on public buildings. While it is sober and dignified, there are several small decorative details which anticipate the more elaborate Kufic script which became the fashion in the following decades. It was a considerable technical feat to strike, rather than cast, this piece on such a broad flan (43 mm) and on such a thick planchet, with the extraordinarily high weight of 16.23 grams, at a time when most coins weighed between 3.00 and 4.00 grams.

Hamdanid Rulers of Syria & Iraq

RulerSayf al-dawla abu’l-Hasan ‘Ali
DateUndated but c. 336-346 H/947-957 CE