The Classical Economies Collection  


al-Nasir Salah al-Din Yusuf (Saladin)
AH 564-589 / AD 1169-1193

                AR Dirham (2.93 g, 22mm, 2). With Calph an-Nasir.



Dimashq (Damascus).
Dated AH 583 (AD 1187/8).
Central Kufic legend:
         el-malik al-Na- | sir Salah al-D- | unya wa al-Din
         (The Prince, Defender, Honor of the world [and] the faith)
Marginal Kufic legend:
         Yusuf bin Ayub | zuriba bi-Dimishq | sanat thelath wa thema- | nin wa khams mi'at
         (Yusuf bin Ayyub | Struck in Damascus | Year three and eighty and five hundred)
Central Kufic legend:
         el-imam al-Na- | sir li-Din Allah | amir el-muminin
         (The Imam al-Na- | sir li-Din Allah | Commander of the Faithful)
Marginal Kufic legend:
         la ilah illa | Allah wahdahu | Mohammed rasu- | luallah
         (There is no deity except | God alone | Muhammad is the messenger | of God)
Balog 93; SICA 6, -; Album 787.2.
Ex Album FPL 221 (February 2007), no. 48835.
Notes: Saladin was born into a Kurdish family in Tikrit. His uncle, Shirkuh, was the vizier of the Zengid overlord Nur al-Din, and Saladin was given military training by him. He later joined his uncle on campaign against the Fatamids in Egypt, and defeated them. In 1169, he succeeded his uncle as vizier, but, remaining in Egypt, his personal power and prestige was such that he became a rival to his overlord in Damascus. Recognizing that he would not be able to defeat Nur al-Din, Saladin never sought to overthrow him, and instead consolidated his power in Egypt. In 1171, when the last Fatamid Caliph in Egypt died, he forced the Shi'a imams to declare for the Sunni Caliph in Baghdad, who was the nominal overlord of all the Sunni dynasties, including the Zengids. When Nur al-Din died in 1174, Saladin had himself declared Sultan of Egypt, and declared his independence; thereby founding the Ayyubid dynasty (his father's name was Ayyub). Over the next few years, Saladin either conquered or subdued all of the Sunni dynasties from Yemen northward to the Jazira. By this time, Saladin had become known as an incredibly talented military and political leader, and many of the Sunnis were drawn to follow him simply based on his prestige. His greatest threat, however, was from the traditional enemy of the Muslims in the region, the Crusaders, particularly, the Kingdom of Jerusalem. The two forces met in battle on many occasions during Saladin's conquests, with Saladin suffering only a single defeat, at the Battle of Montgisard in November 1177. The year 1187, though, proved to be a watershed in his reign, with most of the Crusader cities falling to Saladin's forces. The culmination occurred on July 4, when his army overwhelmingly defeated the combined forces of the Kingdom of Jerusalem and the Knights Templar at the Battle of the Horns of Hattin. The debacle virtually crippled the Crusader kingdom, and resulted in Jerusalem falling back into Muslim hands for the first time in 88 years, following Saladin's successful seige, on October 2. This event sent a shockwave throughout Christian Europe, and was the catalyst for the Third Crusade. King Richard I led a massive English component on this crusade, and financed it through a tax (begun by his father, Henry II) that was colloquially known as the "Saladin tithe." Although other kingdoms participated in the crusade, it is best known for the great rivalry between Richard and Saladin. In the end, Richard won the tactical victories, but Saladin won the strategic, for Richard recognized he could never recover Jerusalem (though they signed a treaty in 1192 that recognized the right of Christan pilgirms to visit the holy city). The two became admirers of, and showed great respect for, one another, as evidenced through their correspondence. Saladin even sent his own doctors to aid Richard when the English king was taken ill. Saladin died in 1193, shortly after Richard departed. Saladin's memory was not only honored in the east, but also in the west, where he had a great reputation as a truly chivalrous knight.

The present coin was struck in AH 583 (AD 1187/8), the year of Saladin's triumph over the Crusaders at Hattin. Damascus, where it was struck, was the closest mint in proximity to the event. On the obverse, the inner legend cites the laqab of Saladin: el-malik al-nasir salah al-dunya wa al-din (The Prince al-Nasir Salah al-Dunya wa al-Din [Defender (and) Honor of the world and of the faith]). The outer legend begins at the top with the ism and nasab of Saladin: Yusuf bin Ayyub (Yusuf, son of Ayyub). This is followed on the left by the mint: zuriba bi-Dimishq (Struck at Damascus). Finally, on the bottom and right is the date of striking: sanat thelath wa themanin wa khams mi'a (Year three and eighty and five hundred). On the reverse, the inner legend cites the name and titles of the current Abbasid Caliph: el-imam al-Nasir li-Din Allah amir el-muminin (The Imam, al-Nasir li-Din Allah, Commander of the Faithful). The caliph was the nominal overlord of Saladin (and all other Sunni dynasties), but had no real power over the Ayyubid prince. The outer legend, running counterclockwise from the top, cites the kalima (or shahada): la ilah illa Allah wahdahu Mohammed rasul Allah (There is no deity except God, (and) Muhammad is the messenger of God).