ONE OF THE ‘NEW CITY’ (SHAHR AL-JADID)
COPPER COIN TYPES:
READING THE OBVERSE LEGEND
Bachelor of History, Independed Researcher, Numismatist,
Member of Oriental Numismatic Society
(UK-based international), Central Asia Numismatic Institute
The article deals with two particular topics of Juchid numismatics. The author examines the legend written in Arabic letters on the obverse of copper coins struck at Shahr al-Jadid, a town once located on the site of nowadays’ Old Orhei settlement (Moldova). Researchers use to attribute the coinage of this type to the final stage of Juchid presence in the region (second half of the 1360s). Silver coins of that period, save for the latest issues (AH 769–770), bear the name of Khan ʿAbd Allah (1363–1370). As for copper coins, all belonging to the same undated type, those were long considered anonymous. Early in the 2000s the Romanian numismatist Eugen Nicolae suggested to see on them the Turkic name ﻗﺘﻠﻐﺒﻮﻏﺎ Kutluğboğa, implying certain graphic errors in the coin inscriptions. On the basis of written sources researchers use to associate this name with one of the Juchid Khan’s regional governors, a dignitary who took part in negotiations with Venice in the middle of 1340–1350 and later also in the battle against the Lithuanian prince Olgerd’s army at Sinie Vody (‘Blue Waters’) in 1362.
Two completely different reading versions of the same coin inscription have induced the author to carry out a study aimed at clarifying the real spelling and translation of the obverse legend. In the course of joint work with colleagues (Vladimir Nastich), the author has come to the conclusion that Eugen Nicolae’s reading of the obverse legend on the copper coins in question is critically erroneous and the proposed reading of the legend as the name Kutluğboğa is impossible, which is confirmed by a detailed analysis of the arabographic legend, accompanying with high quality photos of clearer samples. The author has succeeded to reaffirm the reading of the legend proposed by Svetlana Yanina in 1977. Vladimir Nastich offered a refined translation of the cited expression as “glorious [is] who is moderate”. Other types of Juchid copper coins of the late 14th century containing the same legend were also found. A similar dictum was detected as part of a more complete saying on a copper coin of the Qajar dynasty (Rasht, AH 1229 / 1813–1814 [Zeno numismatic database, #9077]). All this has led the author to transferring his search from numismatics to Islamic texts. As a result, the cited saying has been found among the Hadith ascribed to Prophet Muhammad. Spelling, transcription and translation of the expression look like this: ﻋﺰ ﻣﻦ ﻗﻨﻊ ﻭذل ﻣﻦ طمع ʿazza man qanaʿa wa-d̠alla man ṭamaʿa “glorious [is] who is moderate, and despicable [is] who is greedy”.
The result of the described work can be outlined in several paragraphs:
The legend on the ‘New City’ copper coin obverse is not Turkic as per Eugen Nicolae, just Arabic. Instead of whatever name, it contains the first part of the saying ﻋﺰ ﻣﻦ ﻗﻨﻊ ʿazza man qanaʿa “glorious [is] who is moderate”.
The cited saying is present within the set of Hadith allegedly uttered by Prophet Muhammad. Thus, the question of correctness of its reading and translation can be considered settled and closed.
The text of Hadith has been fixed on a Juchid coin for the first time. The use of part of the Hadith in the design of a mass coin issued in Eastern Europe before the withdrawal of the Juchids requires special attention and further study.
The article should be interesting to historians and numismatists studying the history of Juchi Ulus, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the earliest history of the Moldavian principality, Islamic numismatics, and also to all those who are curious about the given topic.
Golden Horde, Juchids, Moldova, 14th century, Shahr al-Jadid, Kutlugbuga, copper pul, coin legends, Hadith.
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