BRIEF NOTES ON THE NUMISMATIC EVIDENCE FOR THE TULUNID DYNASTY
What follows are a few brief notes trying to expand upon some of the findings of this project. The purpose of these notes will be to expand upon the connections made between the roles of various players and events in the history of the Tulunid dynasty and the numismatic evidence we have for these events. These notes will not be inclusive, but will try to illuminate upon what is presented elsewhere in this project.
The Tulunid dynasty first came to power in 254/868 when Ahmad ibn Tulun was
appointed as governor in residence over Egypt by the Turkish general Baykbak
who had been given Egypt as an apanage. We know that Tulun’s abilities
in Egypt at this time were limited, most notably by the fact that he spent his
first four years in conflict with Ibn al-Mudabbir, the minister of finance in
Egypt who was also appointed by caliphal agents in Samarra. After this conflict
had come to an end, with Ibn al-Mudabbir being removed from office, we see what
are considered the first Tulunid coins, copper fils recognized as Tulunid by
the mysterious symbol |<>|| which is assumed to be a stylized variation
of the name Ahmad, indicating Ahmad ibn Tulun. The appearance of coins bearing
the name of Ahmad ibn Tulun would be appropriate to the time in which Ahmad
ibn Tulun won out over his rival, the administer of finance Ibn al-Mudabbir.
As Egypt’s finances came under full Tulunid control, the minting of coins
indicating Tulunid dominance would be a logical step.
The purpose for the minting of coins is most typically associated with the
direct needs of state. The most common of these expenditures in the 9th century
would have been pay for the military. Around the same time that Ahmad ibn Tulun
triumphed over Ibn al-Mudabbir, he was able to use the revolt of the governor
of Palestine, Amajur, as an excuse to build up his own army, independent of
the army of the caliph. This army was made up of slaves and another rationale
for the appearance of Tulunid coins at this time could be the payment of this
The payment of soldiers is a factor in the next major change in Tulunid minting
policy. In 266/880, the first Tulunid gold dinars appear. Like the earlier fils,
these coins are minted in Fustat, but this time clearly contain the name of
Ahmad ibn Tulun. The appearance of these coins come two years after Ahmad ibn
Tulun’s first military forays into Syria in 264/878. These adventures
into Syria eventually brought geographic Syria (modern day Syria, Lebanon, Israel,
Palestine, and Jordan) into Tulunid control. The military forces necessary to
make such gains and to protect the region of regular Byzantine incursions, holy
war against the Byzantines became Ahmad ibn Tulun’s justification for
his conquest of the region, would have required greater expenditures for the
military and thus we have the minting of coins.
A year later, coins are minted with Tulun’s name in al-Rafiqa, near Mawsil.
This site would mark the furthest gains of the Tulunids at the time and also
a strategic zone sandwiched between the Byzantines in Anatolia and `Abbasids
in Iraq. Mint production here indicates both an increased need for payment of
the army, now at a distance most likely too far from Fustat to effectively be
serviced from the capital, and to officially mark Tulunid control so far from
their original position in Egypt.
A reconciliation of sorts between the Tulunids and the `Abbasids is demonstrated in Tulunid coins produced between 269-271/883-885 as the name of the caliph al-Mu`tamid and his son Ja`far (al-Mu`fawwad) appear on Tulunid gold coins. It is at this point when Ahmad ibn Tulun began to openly attack the position of al-Muwaffaq in the line of succession from al-Mu`tamid and al-Muwaffaq’s unofficial domination of the empire. In 269, Tulun had organized a failed attempt to bring the embattled caliph al-Mu`tamid to Fustat as a refugee, hiding him from his brother al-Muwaffaq. His plan failed and al-Muwaffaq had the caliph essentially imprisoned in Samarra. By placing the names of al-Mu`tamid and al-Mufawwad on Tulunid coins, Ahmad ibn Tulun is making another gesture in opposition to al-Muwaffaq by weighing in on not only the place of power in the caliphate but also on the proper succession from al-Mu`tamid.
The minting of gold coins in the Tulunid name finds its widest spread after
273/887 when Khumarawayh, Ahmad’s son and successor, makes an agreement
with al-Muwaffaq, giving the Tulunid official and legal control over Egypt and
Syria for thirty years. It is at this moment that Tulunid minting reaches its
peak as a number of mints appear across Syria, the lands now officially in the
hands of the Tulunid dynasty. Even though this agreement is made between Khumarawayh
and al-Muwaffaq, the coins continue to display the names of al-Mu`tamid and
his son al-Mufawwad. While Khumarawayh makes his agreements with individual
actually capable of wielding power, he still uses Tulunid coinage to recognize
what is seen as the proper place of power and line of succession.
While these notes have been rather brief, I hope they help illuminate some
speculations as to the nature of Tulunid minting practices and forces which
helped shape the Tulunids monetary policy.