To Gonzalo Cores Uría,
In the past decades our knowledge of the 711 Umayyad conquest of the Iberian Peninsula, and thereon the rapid dismantling Visigoth kingdom of Toledo, has been enriched by the appearance of a whole series of previously unknown lead seals all bearing early Arabic script.1For the first paper on the subject, see Ibrahim, “Evidencias de precintos”. See “Nuevos documentos”, with previous bibliography. More recently, Sénac and Ibrahim, “Notes sur des sceux de la conquête” and Sénac and Ibrahim, Los precintos de la conquista. The lead seals, notwithstanding their plain unadorned appearance, have given us a wide spectrum of possible insights as to the administrative complexity and nature of the said conquest. Some give us names of governors,2Sénac and Ibrahim, Los precintos de la conquista, nº 1-14, see also Ibrahim, “A new lead seal”. many of peace or capitulation pacts established with various cities or regions,3Sénac and Ibrahim, Los precintos de la conquista, nº 34-41, see also Gaspariño and Ibrahim, “Nuevo ‘precinto de paz’ (muṣālaḥa)”. others of poll taxes on the new subjects of specific localities, also those of redistribution of properties and wealth,4Sénac and Ibrahim, Los precintos de la conquista, nº 42-55. of the ‘licit in al-Andalus’5Sénac and Ibrahim, Los precintos de la conquista, nº 87-94. On the problematic term ǧaza (‘licit’) in the seals, see Ibrahim, “Additions to the lead seals”, p. 128 ff. and of booty taking among others, in addition to a significant number of a very diverse group which due to their fragmentary nature still remain to be deciphered.6Sénac and Ibrahim, Los precintos de la conquista, nº 58-73; 74-94; 95-111, respectively. In essence, the lead seals of this early period indicate, even better than the coins, the imposition of a sophisticated and very energetic tax gathering system as recorded by the anonymous Latin Chronicle of 754, the only source written in the Iberian Peninsula that is contemporary to the Umayyad conquest and its governors.7López Pereira, Crónica mozárabe de 754.
Recently we have been able to study a novel type of seal held in a private collection from Seville which is quite different from all those previously known. The uniqueness of the said object is that it is bilingual, Arabic script on one area with a couple of Latin letters on the other. On the Arabic side, written retrograde, is the single word muṣālaḥa, مصلحة,8The mad in the word muṣālaḥa is not put, which is the usual in the early Kufic script of the lead seals. literally, ‘peace pact’, although the term would be better understood as a negotiated capitulation whose actual conditions could vary significantly from one pact to another. On the other side we have in Latin just two separate characters: an inverse S, and a P (Fig.1). The data of the seal is:
I Area: مصلحة
II Area: ƧP
16.49 g; 30 (length) x 18.20 (width) x 4 (thickness) mm.
This brief two lettered Latin legend engraved in the second area of the seal is epigraphically very close to the same two characters as found on one typology of the so-called Visigoth coppers, specifically the SP types attributed to the city of Seville. The contended Visigoth copper has been rather polemically discussed since they were first made known in mid-1990s by Miquel CrusafontCrusafont, Miquel, El sistema monetario visigodo: cobre y oro, Barcelona, ANE, 1994..9Crusafont, El sistema monetario visigodo. The initial reticence to accept this new material by a part of Spanish numismatic researchers seems to have been slowly overcome by the numerically growing material evidence.10Pliego, “The Circulation of Copper Coins”. However, this continues to raise various questions, in terms of chronology and its role in Visigoth Hispania, which indicates that we are still at a very early stage of investigation.11See recently Pliego, “Rethinking the minimi”.
It is possible to draw a certain parallel between the seals of conquest and the Visigoth coppers. In both cases, the crude technique and the poor state of preservation may explain the difficulty in recovering them archaeologically and therefore their near-total absence from the inventories of excavations.12Regarding the Visigothic copper, at the time of the publication of Crusafont’s work (El sistema monetario) it was limited to Valencian finding of L’Illa de Cullera (see Mateu y Llopis, “Hallazgos Monetarios XV” and “Bronces imperiales y vándalos”). In those articles Mateu y Llopis considered those still unknown peninsular series as minimi Byzantines. Both materials have become known quite recently, and their late incorporation into numismatic research is also explained by their limited attractiveness to collectors, although in both cases the initial interest has originated precisely from the latter. In fact, their interest in the historical data has brought a considerable, and hitherto unknown, repertoire to the surface. Although recently some copper Visigoth coins have been registered in archaeological excavations,13Pliego, “Rethinking the minimi”. The most recent ones have been recovered in València la Vella (Riba-Toja de Túria), a settlement relatively close to L’Illa de Cullera, see Pliego and Caldés Aquilué, “Nuevos hallazgos”. to date, none of the many Arabic lead seals have so been found.14Even though all the French seals come from Ruscino (see Marichal and Sénac, “Ruscino”), they were recovered by two archaeologists with the use of a metal detector, directly from the many discarded mounds left over from a near century of previous archaeological digs. On this subject see Ibrahim, “Additions to the lead seals”, p. 115, n. 2.
The Visigoth bronzes showing the SP legen-as in this Umayyad seal-evidence various peculiarities which distinguish them from the rest of the known typologies. It is the most homogeneous series counting with two denominations ranging the largest between 1.30 and 1.45 g and the smallest weighing about 0.30 g.15Crusafont, El sistema monetario, p. 48. See also Fernández Flores, Pliego and Carvajal, “Nuevos hallazgos de bronces visigodos”, pp. 285-286. Likewise, it is this typology that shows the characters SP in both denominations-possibly sometimes SPL in the heaviest-,16Several specimens seem show the L linked to the P. clearly attributable, in our opinion, to the city of Seville (Fig. 2).
Some authors, however, have suggested that SP would not allude to the city of Hispalis but to Spania,17Vico, Cores Gomendio and Cores Uría, Corpus Nummorum Visigothorum, p. 115. the name of the province that the Byzantines gave to the territory of the Iberian Peninsula that they controlled for almost 70 years,18On the byzantine province of Spania see Vallejo Girvés, Bizancio y la España tardoantigua and Vizcaíno, La presencia bizantina en Hispania. It is generally accepted that the Byzantines minted tremisses in Spania between the mandates of Justinian I (527-565) and Heraclius (610-641) (see Grierson, “Una ceca bizantina en España”, although this is not supported by the findings. This evidence is made up of about thirty pieces preserved in private collections, some of which are somehow related to Spain, see more recently Bartlett, Oddy and Morrisson, “The Byzantine gold coinage of Spania”. implicitly assuming that the coins were issued by official Byzantine authorities. This suggestion finds a first obstacle in its adaptation to the Byzantine coinage since it is not a common or widespread practice among the Byzantine authorities to indicate the mint of their issues.19According to Ph. Grierson “Byzantine mint authorities made only occasional efforts to indicate where and when coins were struck”, see Grierson, Byzantine Coins, p. 20. But in addition, it should be assumed that these authorities haven’t engraved the name of a mint but the name of a province Spania, on these rude and diminutive bronzes without allusion to the authority.20The uncommon allusions to the name of province are exceptional and limited to province-islands, as the folles issues in Cyprus with mint-mark KVPR-during Heraclius’ reign c. 626-629 (see Hahn, Moneta Imperii Byzantini, henceforth MIB, III, p. 198), Sicily-a decanummi issue by Maurice Tiberius (582-602) probably in Syracuse with mint-mark SECILIA allusive to Sicily (MIB, I, pp. 136-137). There are also peculiar folles countermarked with the mark of Sicilia (SCLS) from the reign of Heraclius (610-641) (MIB III, p. 104) and Sardinia (S) (c. 690 to c. 720). The findings of the SP type in the limited territory that was occupied by the Byzantine province are negligible, as is evident in Málaga-precisely an area that claims to have numerous findings in archaeological context-the same in Cartagena and the Balearic Islands. In contrast to this dearth, we have an overwhelming frequency of SP type finds in Seville and its immediate surroundings, as has been previously dealt by one of us. The most convincing evidence, however, is the fact that in Leovigild’s first tremisses-the gold coins-the name of this city is abbreviated in a similar way (Fig. 3). The very characteristics of this type take us back to the reign of Leovigild (c. 568-586), both in terms of its typology, such as the front bust in the larger denomination as well as the cross on steps in the smaller, which were introduced as an innovation in the tremissis of this monarch, and in terms of the allusion to the mint, since it was also under Leovigild’s rule that the name of the issuing city began to be introduced on the gold coins.
The similarity between the Latin characters on this Umayyad seal and those shown on the coins of the Visigothic coins attributed to Seville is evident. It is interesting to note that many of those coins including the retrograde S, while the P, sometimes has a noticeably short stem and a not excessively developed loop, both of which are characteristics of this seal. A vertical line between the letters of the seal appears in the place where the vertical stem of the cross would be in the Visigothic bronze (Fig. 4). This simple stem replacing the cross was first done in some of the earliest gold coins of the Umayyad of Damascus in which the Byzantine solidus with reverse of cross on steps typology were imitated, precisely the typology of the minor Visigothic denomination with SP. The truncated cross is directly related to the Quranic ayas where the crucifixion of Jesus is flatly denied as a factual event and affirmatively recalled as spurious.21Quran, Sūrat al-Nisāʾ, 4,157-158. The stem on steps also was used in the bronze coinage22Walker, Catalogue of the Arab-Byzantine, pp. 30-42. See 64-67. and is present in the transitional fractional gold coins struck during Mūsā b. Nuṣayr’s stay in the Iberian Peninsula23E.g. Walker, Catalogue of the Arab-Byzantine, pp. 76-78. (Fig. 5).
The correct transmission of Latin characters SP contrast with the peculiarity of the retrograde writing of the muṣālaḥa formula of the obverse (Fig. 6), an oddity unknown until now among the relatively large repertoire of such seals naming other Iberian cities: the engraver who made the seal adopted the mentioned usual spelling during the Visigoth period,24Monogram which appears not only in the Visigoth bronzes, but also in in other objects of the period. See a ring found in Osuna (Seville) with a remarkably similar monogram in Crusafont, El sistema monetario, p. 22. but it was perhaps his lack of knowledge of the Arabic language, which lead him to record the message of this word in a retrograde manner.
Seville according the various Arabic sources was taken twice during the early conquest period, the first directly by Mūsā b. Nuṣayr in the year 93H after a relatively brief siege.25 Aḫbār Maǧmūʿa, p. 16; Ibn ʿIḏārī al-Marrākušī, Al-Bayān, vol. II, p. 14; Al-Maqqarī, Nafḥ, vol. I, p. 269; Al-Aṯīr, Al-Kāmil, nº 224, p.17; Al-Nuwayrī, Nihāyat, p. 196. References taken from Gaspariño García,Historia de Al-Andalus, III, pp. 77-78. But very shortly after, while Mūsā was away besieging Merida, the city of Seville rebelled with the help of detachments from Beja and Niebla resulting in the killing of the small garrison of some 80 soldiers that had been left behind. The city had to be quickly retaken by his son ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz in the same year.26 Aḫbār Maǧmūʿa, p.18; Ibn ʿIḏārī al-Marrākušī, Al-Bayān, vol. II, p. 15; Al-Maqqarī, Nafḥ, vol. I, p. 271; Al-Aṯīr, Al-Kāmil, nº 224, p.18; Al-Nuwayrī, Nihāyat, pp. 196-197. See Gaspariño, Historia de Al-Andalus, III, pp. 84-85. Seville’s rebellion and slaughter of the small garrison could have been within the laws of war of the period sacked and totally reduced to booty taking. Nevertheless, being one of the largest and most prosperous cities of the subjugated Visigoth kingdom, this option was evidently not thought to be the most beneficial in the long term and a second peace pact was seemingly negotiated. The establishment of this metropolis as the first capital of this new Umayyad province till 98H,27Actually Al-Andalus was for most of the near half century of Damascus Umayyad governorship not a separate entity but a sub province of Ifrīqiya and from which most of its governors were named. and the material existence of quite a few lead seals of the peace pact of Seville are both testimony to that eventuality.28Sénac and Ibrahim, Los precintos de la conquista, nº 19-27. The question remains as to which of these two peace pacts the present seals is to be attributed, to the first very brief one of Mūsā b. Nuṣayr or to that of its permanent re-conquest by his son ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz?
Before trying to answer that question we must mention the first coins minted in the Iberian Peninsula by the conquerors, the so-called transitional coinage which were adapted from the Byzantine monetary system of the exarchate of Africa. The first dinars were struck exclusively with Latin legend from the year 93H to 95H, coinciding with Mūsā b. Nusayr’s stay in the Peninsula, and they include the mint name Span(ia).29On the transitional coinage see Balaguer, Emisiones transicionales; in particular, on the epigraphic Latin series, see pp. 67-72. Until a few decades ago, there were hardly any findings of transitional dinars (see e.g. Pliego, “El dinar epigráfico latino”). In recent times these issues have aroused renewed interest. The direct consequence has been the proliferation of forgeries, having been registered not only in auctions of commercial firms in some cases of certain prestige, but what is more worrying, some of these forgeries have reached scientific journals (Ibrahim and Gaspariño García, “Dubious coins”). In the single year 98H the bilingual dinars in Latin and Arabic were minted and the mint appears as Spania on the Latin side and al-Andalus on the Arabic one.30See Balaguer, Emisiones transicionales, pp. 69-75. See the recent work of Ariza, “Los dinares bilingües”, even though we do not share some of the speculative opinions put forward there. The bilingual dinars are the first dated of Arabic writing on a material evidence and very importantly, the first dated testimony of the geographic-and enigmatic-name of Al-Andalus. A mint name clearly identified with Spania, a toponym reinforced by the representation of a central star representing Hesperides.31We share the reasonable opinion of Delgado (Estudios de numismática, p. 56) on the identification of the star at the centre of the first area of the Latin dinars as an allusion to Iberia-Hesperides. See Ariza, “Los dinares bilingües”, for a dissenting opinion.
Nevertheless, this does not imply that it was in 98H-the date of the first bilingual dinars-when both innovations first took place as sometimes has been assumed. In fact, it is quite probable that many of the undated lead seals could be prior to the bilingual dinars, as one of us has already proposed.32See Ibrahim, “Nuevos documentos”, p. 149, fig. 3. Furthermore, we can assume that many of the numerous undated fals were minted before 98H. This is clearly the case of the dated 92H Arabic fals readily found in the Iberian Peninsula as Codera33Codera, Tratado de numismática, pl. II, 8. and Walker34Walker, Catalogue of the Arab-Byzantine, nº 944-949. Note that this author gives five die varieties for this coin, an indication of its commonness. listed, and the dates 93H and 95H of the same series,35Walker, Catalogue of the Arab-Byzantine, nº 950 and B. 60. dates that would perfectly cover Mūsā’s stay in the Iberian Peninsula.
The exclusive use of Latin script in all the transitional coinage struck during Mūsā’s stay in the Iberian Peninsula could perhaps point to the likelihood that this seal could have been the early work of any one of the non-Arab mint masters.36The previous gold solidus of Mūsā’s governorship of Ifrīqiya was also all done in abbreviated Latin, see Walker, Catalogue of the Arab-Byzantine, pp. 64-73.A mint master who was familiar with the Byzantine tradition of the old mint of Ifrīqiya that the Arab conquerors had inherited. Mūsā could have brought them along from Ifrīqiya to monetize the expected booty to be taken in the same coinage as his army, the Arab ǧund, had long been acquainted with since 85H (704-705).37Walker, Catalogue of the Arab-Byzantine, p. 64, nº 168. Furthermore, the fact that the Arabic word for peace treaty muṣālaḥa, مصلحة, was written retrograde on the present seal could indicate, as stated above, that the engraver was not intimately knowledgeable in the Arabic script of his overlords.38A new lead seal of Talavera-probably of the same period as the one here analyzed-evidences a retrograde form of an Arabic word (Gaspariño and Ibrahim, “Importante adición”). In addition, there is another Narbonne seal with a retrograde legend, although in this case, it may have been accidental, resulting from the manufacturing process of the seal (Sénac and Ibrahim, Los precintos de la conquista, nº 64).
All this and the singular use of the Latin letters SP could very well suggest, on the one side, that the seal could be of the very first brief taking of Seville by Mūsā in 93H. On the other hand, it cannot be ruled out that the Visigoth bronzes were still in circulation at the time of the Arab conquest and that is from where the SP legend was probably copied from. The obvious fact that this seal is in relation to a ‘peace pact’ with the specific city should confirm the association between the abbreviation SP in relation to Hispalis as opposed to other, more intricate and difficult to prove opinions not backed by any acceptable evidence.39See notes 17 and 21. Also, needless to say, SP for Hispalis on the seal is to be fully differentiated from the abbreviation SPN standing for a geographic name Spania as it appears on the transitional Latin coinage of Mūsā.40Balaguer, Emisiones transicionales, pp. 125-141, nº 1-37. Evidently a peace treaty, a muṣālaḥa, could be done with an administrative entity, like a city, and not possible with an abstraction as would be a geographic area.
The seal presented is to date a single example, but undoubtedly future finds may open up further insights. In fact, despite being tiny, badly struck, worn out and corroded both, Visigoth copper and Umayyad seals, are a valuable material evidence that may help us rethink the transition from Late Antiquity to the Iberian Medieval Period.