Irish Coin Daily: Silver Penny (Phase I, Class F – Pointed Helmet type) in the name of Anlaf Sihtricsson


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Date: c. 1024-1030

Hiberno-Norse Coinage. Anlaf V (ca. 1029-1034). ‘Cnut-style’ Penny. struck likely at Dublin, moneyer: Oda (?) Draped bust l. breaking circle, wearing pointed helmet and holding scepter; +∧NLF +CVIN-E (the ‘N’ retrograde), rev. Central double circle enclosing pellet, which intersects a voided and a jeweled cross within a circle; +OD∧:ON (the ‘N’ retrograde) DNLNVF

Description:

Anlaf (c. 1024-1030). ‘Cnut-style’ Penny. Likely struck at Dublin, moneyer: Oda (?). This coin is the only known example in Anlaf’s name and is one of the greatest rarities in Irish, Viking and Anglo-Saxon numismatics.

  • Unlisted in North and Spink. Cf. Roth, BNJ, vol. 6 (1909), p.55.
  • Bold strike on a full flan, toned a handsome light gray.
  • Unique.
  • Slabbed by NGC and graded MS 61

This unique penny probably refers to Amlaíb mac Sitriuc (“Amhlaeibh, son of Sitric”) or Olaf Sigtryggsson, was the son of Sigtrygg Silkbeard, the Hiberno-Norse King of Dublin, and Sláine, the daughter of Brian Boru. According to the 17th century Annals of the Four Masters, Amlaíb mac Sitriuc “was slain by the Saxons” on his way on a pilgrimage to Rome in 1034 – thus he predeceased his father.

  • Pennies of this design issued by Cnut were minted in England between 1024-1030
  • This makes a coin (of this design) issued under the name of Anlaf during the reign of his father (Sihtric) rather difficult to explain

In 1029, Amlaíb was taken prisoner by the King of Brega, Mathghamhain Ua Riagain, who exacted a ransom of 1,200 cows for his release. Mathghamhain also demanded:

  • 140 British horses
  • 60 ounces of gold and silver
  • the “sword of Carlus”
  • the Irish hostages of Leinster and Leath Cuinn

Perhaps this coin is part of the 60 ounces of gold and silver. Was it named after Amlaíb so that it couldn’t be spent in Dublin, or perhaps used as a ‘marked coin’ to track down the followers of Mathghamhain, or was Amlaíb (temporarily) king of a territory outside of Dublin at some time between 1024 and 1030?

After the death of Máel Sechlainn II in 1022, there was chaos as multiple Irish princes bid for the High Kingship and Sigtrygg Silkbeard was forced to make a new alliance with the men of Brega.

  • In 1027, Amlaíb joined Donnchad of Brega in a raid on Staholmock, Co Meath
  • The army of Sigtrygg and Donnchad was defeated by the men of Meath under their king, Roen Ua Mael Sechlainn
  • Sigtrygg rallied to the fight again, and fought another battle – this time at Lickblaw (near Castlepollard, Westmeath)
    • In this battle, both Donnchad of Brega and Roen Ua Mael Sechlainn were slain
    • Could Amlaíb have been declared king in their place?
      • His coin (although blundered) alludes to CUNUNC (Old Norse: King)
    • Could he have ruled between 1027 and 1029, before he was captured and ransomed by Mathghamhain Ua Riagain – the new king of Brega?
      • This CNUT penny design was minted in England between 1024-1030

Obverse:

  • Draped bust facing left, breaking circle, wearing pointed helmet and holding scepter
  • +∧NLF +CVIN-E (the ‘N’ retrograde)

Reverse:

  • Central double circle enclosing pellet, which intersects a voided and a jeweled cross within a circle
  • +OD∧:ON (the ‘N’ retrograde) DNLNVF

Country:

  • Ireland ?

Category:

  • Hiberno-Norse
    • Phase I
    • Class F (Pointed Helmet issue)
      • Mint = Dublin, or by one Cnut’s moneyers at Lincoln ?
      • Moneyer = Ada
  • Hammered

Additional Information:

  • Anlaf V is apparently Olaf Sigtryggsson (Amláib mac Sitriuc), son of Sihtric Silkenbeard.
    • His wife is said to have been Sláine, daughter of Brian Boru, King of Munster and High King of Ireland.
    • In 1029, he was taken prisoner by the Lord of Brega and ransomed for the lofty sum of over 1200 cows, 140 British horses, 60 ounces of gold and silver, the “Sword of Carlus” and the Irish hostages of Leinster and Leath Cuinn, “four hostages to Ua Riagain as a security for peace, and the full value of the life of the third hostage.”
      • An additional 80 cows “for word and supplication” were added to the total, to be paid to the man who entreated for Amlaíb’s release.
  • Sihtric went on pilgrimage to Rome in 1028 and Anlaf may have ruled Dublin while his father was away
    • In 1030, Sihtric allied with the King of England, Cnut, and together their fleets raided Wales. A Dublin colony was established in Gwynedd.
      • This coin, being an imitation of the Pointed Helmet issue of Cnut, might date from this period.
      • Could Anlaf V have issued coins for this Hiberno-Norse colony in Wales?
      • Could the Moneyer Ada have been working in Dublin?
      • Or, were the dies produced by Ada at one of Cnut’s mints?
        • ADA (Quatrefoil type) at Cambridge ?
        • ADA (Short Cross type) at Huntingdon ?
        • ADA (Pointed Helmet type) at Lincoln ?
  • According to the early 17th century “Annals of the Four Masters” (Annála na gCeithre Máistrí), Olaf (Anlaf) “was slain by Saxons on his way on a pilgrimage to Rome in 1034.”
    • He was survived by a daughter, Ragnhild, mother of Gruffydd ap Cynan, progenitor of the Kings of Gwynedd in Wales.

 


Further Reading:

 

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