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HOME : Islamic Art : Archive : Islamic Gold Dinar of the Fatimid Dynasty
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Islamic Gold Dinar of the Fatimid Dynasty - C.7427
Origin: Egypt
Circa: 909 AD to 1171 AD

Collection: Islamic Art
Style: Fatimid
Medium: Gold

Additional Information: SOLD

Location: United States
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At the height of their power, the Fatimid Caliphate ruled much of the Islamic world, including North Africa, the Hejaz, and the Eastern Mediterranean, from their capital in Cairo. However, their roots can be traced to the shores of Ifriqiya in modern day Tunisia and eastern Algeria where in 909 A.D. an imam from the Ismaili sect of the Shia branch of Islam declared himself caliph and adopted the name of al-Mahdi (the Divinely Guided One). Directly opposing the power of the Sunni Abbasids, the Fatimids legitimized their claim to authority by tracing their descent to Muhammad by way of his daughter Fatima (hence the name Fatimid) and her husband Ali, the first Shia imam. Soon after their founding, the Fatimids began to expand outwards, swiftly bringing all of the Maghreb under their dominion. Thereafter, the Fatimids set their sights to the East where the Abbasids centers of power lay.

After numerous campaigns launched under multiple caliphs, the Nile Valley was finally conquered in 969, opening up the Middle East to their armies. The city of Cairo was founded as a new capital. Opulent mosques and centers of learning including al-Azhar University were constructed, as Cairo quickly became the spiritual center for Ismaili Shia. The arts flourished during the Fatimid era, specifically rock-crystal carvings that became treasured by the Caliphs themselves and throughout the Mediterranean world. In their ultimate pursuit of usurping Abbasid power, the Fatimids eventually extended their control throughout the Red Sea and the Hejaz (including the two holy cities of Mecca and Medina), thereby opening up direct sea routes with India and effectively diluting Abbasid trade with these foreign markets.

The middle of the 11th century marked the height of Fatimid power in the East, when a dissident general in Iraq switched side and declared his allegiance to the Fatimids. Yet this turn of events was brief as Seljuk Turks soon regained control of Baghdad, marking the beginning of the decline of the Fatimid Dynasty. A combination of local opposition by the largely Sunni populations they ruled and outside attacks by Byzantines, Turks, and Crusader armies of Europe would ultimately prove lethal as the once extensive reach of the Fatimid Caliphate was eventually reduced to Egypt itself. By the time the last of a series of ineffective caliphs passed away in 1171, the vizier Salah al-Din had become the real master of Egypt and the Fatimid Caliphate was formally abolished.

How many hands have touched a coin in your pocket or purse? What eras and lands have the coin traversed on its journey into our possession? As we reach into our pockets to pull out some change, we rarely hesitate to think of who might have touched the coin before us, or where the coin will venture to after it leaves our hands. More than money, coins are a symbol of the state that struck them, of a specific time and location, whether active currencies in the age we live or artifacts of a long forgotten empire. This stunning hand-struck coin reveals an expertise of craftsmanship and intricate sculptural detail that is often lacking in contemporary machine- made currencies. This luminous gold dinar is a historical testament to the Fatimid Dynasty, simultaneously reflecting the luxury and wealth of the Islamic Egypt passed from the hands of civilization to civilization, from generation to generation. - (C.7427)


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