Gold Tari

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The tari was a Christian name for a type of Islamic gold coin formally known as a ruba'i or quarter-dinar. The name tari (lit. 'new') was adopted from Arabic and was used by Christian traders to refer to Islamic coins minted by Muslims of the Sicilian regions, which was smaller in size and subsequently, in value, compared to the standard dinar. The Islamic tari, minted from circa 913 to around 1859, contained 1.05 grams of gold, lesser when compared to the dinar that contained 4.25g of gold, and was preferred largely by North African Muslims more than those who were situated in Sicily. [1] Because the tari was relatively smaller, it became more popular than the dinar as it was easier and lighter to transport, and was less conspicuous than the larger, and subsequently heavier coins. The gold that was used in the creation of ruba'i came from Northern Africa, especially in Tunis, where it was exchanged for precious grain. With the arrival of the Normans by the 12th century, other sources for gold were used in the minting of tari. [2]

Historically, there were two types of tari – authentic tari (formally referred to as ruba'i) and imitation tari minted by Christian rulers such as the Normans. [3] It was widely used in trade and daily commerce, and both authentic tari and imitations (bearing unintelligible pseudo-Kufic[3] legends or downright gibberish scribbles or abstract shapes in imitation of Arabic calligraphy) were used alongside another popular gold coin of the time – the michaelaton of Byzantium. While authentic tari have no designation of the purity of its gold, imitation tari made by Normans such as Robert II of Sicily followed a standard of 161/3 carats of gold alloyed with minute amounts of silver and copper – a somewhat equal amount when compared to the michaelaton, the debased Byzantine histamena issued during the reign of Michael VII that contained about the same purity in gold as the Sicilian tari. [4]

Examples of pre-Norman tari, called ruba'i, usually possessed highly delicate Arabic calligraphy detailing the ruler who issued the coins along with blessings or exhortations from the Qu'ran. After the Norman conquest of Sicily, the production of ruba'i was copied by the conquering leaders in order to continue the standard coinage of the area without disrupting any economical flow. These post-Norman tari featured imitations of Arabic calligraphy, sometimes even displaying totally abstract designs in a similar vein to Kufic, but which bore no meaning whatsoever and were untranslatable. Roger II Sicily was the first Western ruler to have issued gold coins, with his imitation tari becoming quite popular well into the 1500s. Its production was later taken up by subsequent rulers and conquerors, slowly creating a hybrid gold coin that soon lost any trace of Islamic influence, only retaining (in bastardized form) its name. Due to its Islamic origin, many extant tari, even ones that were minted after the Norman Conquest, still did not feature the images of rulers or even animals.

Original ruba'i bore only Arabic calligraphy, in accordance with Qu'ranic laws which forbade the creation of images of humans or beasts. [5] Later on, as the symbolism of the tari became distinctly Christian, it soon began to display coats of arms, Christian symbols, and crusader crests, until finally, it too succumbed to the stamping of rulers' portraits in the coin face. As time progressed, other types of tari aside from the gold ones were introduced, such as ones made with silver and copper. Eventually, the production of gold tari was discontinued sometime during the latter part of the 1400s, and examples of both authentic and imitation tari are now highly sought-after collectibles.

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Content researched and created by Alexander Leonhart for ©

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