Bezant in imitation of a Fatimid dinar of al-Amir, 12th-13th century
Diameter: 22 mm; 7/8 in; Weight: 4.01 g
Purchase with the Marian Hayes (Class of 1925) Art Purchase Fund
Between the 11th and 15th centuries, European powers sent armies into the Middle East to conquer Islamic lands under the banner of Christianity. Some of these violent invasions were successful, resulting in the establishment of Crusader states like the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, which minted this remarkable coin. Rather than visually distancing themselves from native Islamic numismatic traditions, the crusaders made almost exact copies of Islamic coins for their own use, probably in an effort to make trade and commerce with local communities easier. This crusader coin is a copy of a dinar minted in Egypt under the Fatimid caliph al-Amir, complete with its Arabic inscriptions proclaiming the oneness of God and the role of Muhammad as Prophet. The only difference between a Fatimid dinar and its crusader copy is the quality of the inscriptions: the Arabic calligraphy on Fatimid coins is precise, proportional, and highly legible, while the inscriptions on the crusader copies are slightly less so. The crusader-controlled lands in the Levant were finally reclaimed by Islamic armies at the end of the 13th century.