Normans began to arrive in mainland
southern Italy around 1025. They came in small groups, each led by a single
knight who sought to carve out a piece of territory and set up a feudal
At the time, Sicily and southern Italy
constituted a frontier region where widely diverse cultures lived almost
side-by-side. In Sicily, Calabria, Basilicata, Apulia, and in and around
Naples, there was a strong Byzantine legacy mainly as a result of Byzantine
reconquest of Italy in the 6th century. The Lombards, a Germanic people
who had invaded Italy from north of the Alps in the 6th century, established
the duchy of Benevento in southern Italy, which split in the 9th century
to give rise to the duchy of Salerno. The southward expansion of Carolingian
rule in Italy under Charlemagne and his successors in the later 8th and
9th centuries also introduced a Frankish element into the region.
By the time that the Normans began
to arrive, the Muslims had controlled Sicily for nearly two centuries.
Sicily was, in fact, a thoroughly Muslim island, with a spoken language
much like the Semitic tongue of Malta. There were also Muslim settlements
scattered throughout mainland southern Italy. In the 9th century, the
Arabs had set up the Emirate of Bari, and they later established outposts
around the mouth of the river Garigliano on the Tyrrhenian coast south
of Gaeta, in the old city of Capua just north of Naples, and among the
ancient Greek temples at Paestum on the Tyrrhenian coast south of Salerno
near the mouth of the river Sele.
about 1030, the Norman knight Rainulf had established the first Norman
settlement in southern Italy at Aversa north of Naples. The town came
under Rainulf's control as a result of his marriage to the sister of the
Duke of Naples, and Rainulf's nephew Richard later expanded the settlement
to embrace nearby Capua. The two settlements, known as the principality
of Capua, were of strictly local significance.
The descendents of another
Norman knight, Tancred of Hauteville, were far more important. In the
mid-11th century, Tancred's son Humphrey became count of Apulia. Robert
Guiscard, another son of Tancred and half-brother of Humphrey, succeeded
Humphrey in Apulia in 1057. Two years later, Robert obtained papal patronage
from Pope Nicholas II (1058-61), and this legitimised the Norman conquests
in the Italian south. By 1072, Robert had conquered Calabria and driven
the Muslims from most of Sicily, appointing his younger brother Roger
I as count of Calabria and Sicily.
By the end of the 1070s,
Robert was one of the most powerful rulers in Italy. He named his second
son Roger Borsa as his successor, and when Robert died in 1085, Roger
became the most powerful Norman ruler in the Italian south. Internal divisions
among the various Norman rulers nevertheless eroded Roger's control, and
during the last decade of the 11th century, Roger I, the so-called 'great
count' of Calabria and Sicily, became increasingly powerful.
After the death of Roger I in 1101, Roger's first son Simon inherited
his title, but Roger II became count after Simon died in 1105. When Roger's
cousin William of Apulia died in 1127, Roger II became master of the entire
mainland, and three years later, he was crowned king in Palermo on Christmas
day. Roger's principal legacy is that he succeeded in bringing the various
states of Sicily and southern Italy together as a single political unit,
governed after is death in 1154 by his descendants for a further forty
years, until the German Emperor Henry VI deposed the last Norman king,
William III, in 1194.
2.1 Coinage in Southern
Italy and Sicily before the Normans
The type of
coinage most often mentioned in southern Italian documents of the 8th
and early 9th centuries is the gold coinage of Benevento. In some parts
of the Italian south, and particularly in Sicily, Byzantine coinage predominated.
Eight years after Charlemagne invaded northern Italy in 773, however,
he introduced the new silver penny of the Carolingians into Italy, but
this coin did not play an important role in southern Italy until the second
half of the 9th century, and then only briefly. This is because the southern
Italian economy was a distinctly Mediterranean economy, and the exigencies
of this economy required a coinage that could be more readily exchanged
in trade with the Byzantines and Arabs, who both used a gold coinage in
about 880, Carolingian influence in southern Italy waned, and the silver
penny drifted out of circulation. In its place, a new coin was mentioned
increasingly in southern Italian documents from the beginning of the 10th
century onwards. This coin was the tarì, or quarter-dinar, struck
by the Aghlabid caliphs in Sicily after their conquest of Syracuse in
878. The south Italians used the term tarì as a noun, but it was
actually an Arabic adjectival meaning 'fresh', in the sense of 'freshly
struck', or perhaps simply 'new'.
The Aghlabid quarter-dinar
was indeed new, and unknown in other parts of Islam. It was modelled partly
after the Byzantine tremissis of Syracuse and then calibrated to the dinar,
the standard gold coin of the Muslim world. In 909, the Fatimid caliphs
expelled the Aghlabids from Sicily and North Africa (roughly the area
of modern Tunisia), but they continued to strike the quarter-dinar in
On the obverse, these coins carry the Muslim profession of the faith,
'There is no God but God, Muhammad is the Prophet of God', while the reverse
identifies the ruler and, in the outer ring, the mint and hegira date,
reckoned in lunar years from Muhammad's flight from Mecca to Medina in
July 622 AD.
quarter-dinar was the principal currency in much of mainland southern
Italy for most of the 10th century, at least for larger purchases and
for inter-regional and international trade. For smaller transactions,
copper coinage was used, either Byzantine folles or locally struck follari,
based on Byzantine models. Sometime after 969, southern Italian mints
at Amalfi and Salerno began to issue their own imitation tarì modelled
after the quarter-dinar of the Fatimid caliph al-Mu'izz but with blundered
pseudo-cufic legends, no doubt because the coins had been produced with
dies cut by engravers who were unfamiliar with Arabic.
The imitation tarì
of Salerno and Amalfi (21-22)
were at first indistinguishable from each other but they were made of
good quality gold and circulated alongside the Fatimid quarter-dinar as
the principal gold currency in southern Italy. Only towards the middle
of the 11th century did the quality of the gold in the southern Italian
imitations begin to deteriorate, probably in response to economic needs,
particularly increased demand for the coins.
Gold tarì or quarter-dinar of Siqilliyyah (Sicily
under Arab rule), the fourth Fatimid caliph al-Mu'izz (953-73),
with two rings of cufic epigraphy around a central pellet, by a
design introduced in 969; earlier quarter-dinar typically had three
or four lines of cufic epigraphy in the field, surrounded by an
outer ring of cufic epigraphy in the margin, as, for example, in
the 11th century quarter-dinar of Sicily in the name of al-Zahir
Gold tarì of Salerno with pseudo-cufic epigraphy,
Anonymous princes (c. 1000), modelled after the Fatimid quarter-dinar
of Sicily struck in the name of the caliph al-Mu'izz (20).
Examples of these coins vary in style and diameter, but they typically
weigh just above 1 gram and are made of high-quality gold, better
than 90% fine, similar in standard to the Fatimid coins.
Gold tarì of Amalfi with pseudo-cufic epigraphy,
Anonymous dukes (after 1038), again modelled after the Fatimid quarter-dinar
of al-Mu'izz (20). These coins have
a slightly different style and fabric from the Salernitan tarì
and are almost certainly later issues. They typically weigh just
less than 1 gram, not much different from the Salernitan coins,
but they contain less than 40% gold.
2.2 The early Norman
coinage of southern Italy and Sicily
When the Normans began to produce their own coinage in southern Italy
and Sicily, they simply continued to issue the same coin types that their
predecessors had struck. In Salerno on the mainland, the mint continued
to issue its own gold tarì under the Normans, but the coins grew
increasingly distinct from the Fatimid quarter-dinar of Sicily and ever
more debased (23), with examples from the
late 11th century onwards containing less than fifty per cent gold and
sometimes even much less.
Amalfi remained independent of the Normans until 1127, but
its coinage followed a similar pattern. Robert Guiscard struck most of
his coins in the Salerno mint on the mainland, where he continued to issue
the same sort of copper follari that the Lombard princes of Salerno had
produced. Roger Borsa went on striking follari in the Salerno mint, and
after 1085, Roger I began to strike follari in Calabria at Mileto, where
he also based his administration (24). Elsewhere
on the mainland, various Norman rulers in Capua followed the existing
traditions of the Lombard princes.
Though most of Robert's coins were Salernitan follari, his earliest coins
were Sicilian gold tarì of Palermo with cufic epigraphy and the
hegira date 464, or 1072 (25), the same year
in which Robert and his brother Roger I conquered Palermo. This indicates
that there was no significant break in the activity of the Palermo mint
between Arab and Norman rule. Robert's tarì did not follow the
concentric design of the Fatimid quarter-dinar struck under the 10th century
caliph al-Mu'izz but rather the more traditional design with horizontal
inscriptions across the field. They were modelled instead after the coins
of later caliphs that were circulating in Sicily when the mint came under
Robert's control (26).
Robert and Roger also continued to strike small silver
dirhem fractions in Sicily, called kharruba, which further demonstrates
the continuity of minting during the transition from Arab and Norman rule.
Gold tarì of Salerno, Roger Borsa (1085-1111),
with the letter 'R', for Roger, in the centre of the obverse, and
the letter 'B', for Borsa, in the centre of the reverse.
Copper trifollaro of Mileto, Roger I (1072-1101, struck
c. 1098-1101), obverse with the legend ROQ E RIVS COMES, for 'Count
Roger', around a knight on horseback.
Gold tarì of Palermo, Robert Guiscard (1059-85),
with the reverse inscription 'illa Allah Muhammad rasul Allah la
ilah', for 'There is no God but God [and] Muhammad is the Prophet
of God', written across the field, and the reverse inscription bi-amr
Ubart al duqah al-ajall malik Siqilliyyah, for 'By the order of
Robert the duke [and] very glorious lord of Sicily'; the mint and
hegira date, in this case 466 (1072/3), are given in the outer ring.
Gold quarter-dinar of Muslim Sicily, al-Zahir (1021-36),
with horizontal inscriptions across the obverse and reverse fields.
2.3 The 'Christianisation'
of the coinage under the Normans
Although Robert's tarì were only
a little more than 16 carat gold, or 70% fine, in contrast to the 24 carat
fineness of the coins of Muslim Sicily, they were otherwise entirely consistent
in terms of style with the earlier coins of the Fatimids. After Robert's
death in 1085, however, Roger I began to strike tarì with a sort
of tau in the obverse field, displacing the Muslim profession of the faith
and relegating it to the reverse. The tau has been interpreted variously,
but it was probably intended as a cross, the idea presumably being that
this type of cross would be less offensive to the largely Muslim population
of Sicily than a fully Christian cross.
The most profound changes nevertheless occurred under Roger II, who ruled
for nearly half a century, united the various states of the Italian south,
and carried out an extensive reform of the currency in 1140. Roger's earliest
Sicilian tarì, issued during his minority from 1105 to 1111, simply
continued the type of his father, though with a more ornate tau in the
obverse field. In 1112, Roger issued a new type of tarì that reduced
the Muslim profession of the faith to the first part only, 'There is no
God but God', and dropped the declaration that 'Muhammad is the Prophet
of God'. Roger became king in 1130, and two years later, he began to strike
a new type of 'Christian' tarì in Sicily that identified him on
the obverse by his new title, 'al-malik' ('king'), and carried on the
reverse a Greek cross with the inscription IC XC NI KA in the angles,
meaning 'Jesus Christ conquers'. The Muslim profession of the faith was
now completely eliminated.
The different types of tarì
issued by Roger II before the monetary reform of 1140 all gave the obverse
inscription horizontally across the field, but the reformed tarì
give a circular legend, while continuing the Greek cross on the reverse
(27). From the time that Roger II assumed
the title of king in 1130, he replaced the concentric design on the mainland
tarì struck in Salerno with a new design featuring horizontal inscriptions
across the field. More significantly, his Salernitan tarì for the
first time began to carry legible cufic inscriptions (28).
Presumably, this was because Roger had reformed his administration and
placed the mint under the supervision of an Arabic speaking mint-master.
In Amalfi, however, the mint continued to strike tarì with pseudo-cufic
inscriptions even after Roger II reformed his coinage in 1140 (29).
Roger also issued copper follari from his mint in Messina and from mainland
mints in Salerno and Capua. He also struck follari in the Apulian city
of Bari in 1140 to celebrate his successful siege of the city the previous
year to put down a rebellion. Roger did not introduce the sort of silver
or billon pennies that were circulating in northern Italy and throughout
much of western Christendom, nor did he make any move at all in the direction
of a more typically western mono-metallic silver coinage, but he did introduce
the silver ducalis (30)
and the tercia ducalis (31),
which reflect, respectively, the continuing Byzantine influence in Sicily
and southern Italy and the realities of an increasingly bi-lingual society.
Gold tarì of Palermo
or Messina, Roger II (1105-54, as king, post-reform, 1140-54), with
the obverse inscription 'al-mu'tazz bi-'llah al-malik Rujjar al-mu'zzam',
for 'the powerful through God, King Roger the magnificent'.
Gold tarì of Salerno,
Roger II (1105-54, as king, pre-reform, 1130-40), with the obverse
inscription 'al-malik Rujjar', for 'King Roger', and the reverse
inscription 'nasir al-Nasraniyyah', for 'protector of Christianity'.
tarì of Amalfi, Roger II (1105-54, as king, post-reform,
after 1140), with two rings of pseudo-cufic inscriptions around
the letter R in the centre of the obverse and a small cross in the
centre of the reverse.
Silver ducalis of Palermo, Roger II (1105-54,
as king, post-reform, 1140-54), with the obverse inscriptions +IC
XC RG and IN ÆTERN, for 'Iesus Christus regnat in aeternum',
or 'Jesus Christ reigns in eternity', around a bust of Christ; the
reverse has the inscriptions R DVX AP and R R SLS, for 'Rogerius
Dux Apulie' and 'Rogerius Rex Sicilie', respectively, or 'Roger
Duke of Apulia' and 'Roger King of Sicily', around an image of Roger
receiving the symbols of office from his father; the reverse also
gives the date of the issue as AN [ligatured] R X, for 'Anno regni
decimo', or 'in the tenth year of his reign', which is to say 1140.
Silver tercia-ducalis of
Palermo, Roger II (1105-54, as king, post-reform, 1140-54),
with the obverse inscription 'duriba sanata' 535 in the margin,
for 'Struck in the year 535', and 'bi-madinat Siqilliyyah' across
the field, for 'in the city of Sicily [i.e., Palermo]', and the
reverse inscription +TERCIA DVCALIS in the margin around a cross.
2.4 Later Norman coinage
Despite some relatively
minor changes in the coinage under Roger's successors, the later Norman
rulers for the most part followed the established pattern.
William I (1154-66) struck gold tarì and copper follari in Messina,
and silver ducales and silver kharruba in Palermo. On the mainland, he
struck gold tarì with pseudo-cufic epigraphy in Amalfi, and copper
follari in Salerno.
II (1166-89) continued to strike gold tarì (32)
and copper follari in Messina, and silver kharruba in Palermo, but he
replaced the silver ducalis of Palermo with the silver apuliensis and
the fractional tercius apuliensis.
the Amalfi mint for the first time began to strike tarì with legible
cufic inscriptions in two concentric rings around either a W on the obverse
or REX on the reverse (33), while Salerno
struck tarì in the same style as the Salernitan tarì of
Roger II with three lines of cufic epigraphy across the field (34).
Salerno and Capua also issued their own copper follari. Probably around
1180, the Messina mint issued a second copper coinage that consisted of
large follari of about 10 grams (35) and
smaller follari of about 2 grams. At the same time, Palermo issued a second
silver coinage consisting entirely of the new quarter-tercenarius, sometimes
called a half-denaro.
(1190-94) was the last Norman king of Sicily and southern Italy. He struck
gold tarì, silver quarter-tercenarii, and copper follari in Sicily;
gold tarì in Amalfi and Salerno; and copper follari in Salerno.
Gold tarì of Messina,
William II (1166-89).
Gold tarì of Amalfi, William II (1166-89),
with the obverse inscription 'al-malik Glulyalim al-thani al musta'izz
billah', or 'King William the Second the desirous of power through
God', around W; the marginal ring, which ought to give the mint
and date, is mostly missing. The reverse inscription is the same
as the obverse, around REX.
Gold tarì of Salerno, William II (1166-89),
with the obverse inscription 'al-malik Glulyaim al-thani', for 'King
William the Second', and the reverse inscription 'nasir al-Nasraniyyah',
for 'protector of Christianity'.
Large copper follaro of Palermo, second copper
coinage, William II (1166-89, struck after c. 1180), anepigraphic,
with a palm tree on one side and a lion's mask on the other, probably
struck in an effort to cope with silver shortages.
2.5 After the Normans
In 1194, the Hohenstaufen emperors of Germany replaced
the Normans as rulers of Sicily and southern Italy. In many ways, their
rule was a continuation of Norman rule, with western elements continuing
to displace Arab and Greek elements and the political and economic orientation
of the Italian south turning increasingly towards the north.
When Emperor Henry
VI (1194-7) assumed control in 1194, he continued to strike gold tarì
with cufic inscriptions in Sicily, but he soon abandoned the production
of base gold tarì and copper follari on the mainland in favour
of characteristically western billon denari, or base silver pennies (36).
As king, Frederick
II (1197-1250) continued to strike gold tarì in Sicily, but after
Honorius III crowned him emperor in Rome in 1220, he substituted a Latin
inscription for the cufic one in the obverse margin and added an imperial
eagle in the obverse field (37).
From 1231 onwards, he struck tarì with pseudo-cufic inscriptions
in the obverse margin. Throughout his reign, he also struck base silver
pennies in roughly the same style of those of Henry VI, and in 1231, in
a major artistic innovation, he introduced an entirely new gold coin,
the classically inspired augustale (38).
Billon denaro of Brindisi, Henry VI and Constance,
The Brindisi mint was opened to replace Salerno, which was closed
by Henry VI probably in revenge for their handing over his wife
to Tancred in 1091.
Gold tarì of Frederick II (as emperor,
1220-50), Messina, 1221-30?.
This coin has the Latin inscription F IMPERATOR around an imperial
eagle on the obverse.
Gold augustale of Frederick II (as emperor,
1220-50), Messina, 1231-50.
This coin is quite exceptional in medieval coinage for its classical
portrait moulded in high relief, and it anticipates the taste of
Renaissance Italy in the 15th-16th centuries. Frederick is known
to have had an interest in Roman antiquities, and the model for
this coin seems to have been a Roman engraved gem stone
Lent by Prof. Philip Grierson: 20-23, 25-30,
Given by C. Davies Sherborn, 1939: 24
Uncertain provenance: 31