- I thought that that was a subject line that would grab everyone's
I have a translation problem that is really "pulling the wool over my
eyes" - in the early Middle Ages (10th century), the common form of exchange
in Prague, as recorded by Arab travellers of the time, was not coins, but
squares of finely woven material, called "��te�ky" ("satecky" w/o
diacriticals) in Czech. Does anyone know of an equivalent English word that
I can use for these? (Otherwise, I shall have to use a descriptive phrase,
which seems to be a very inelegant solution).
- Hello Alastair,
>I thought the pyramid-scheme spammers had hit the list already :)
>I thought that that was a subject line that would grab everyone's
>Well funnily enough, I had this same problem only a few weeks ago which does
>I have a translation problem that is really "pulling the wool over my
>eyes" - in the early Middle Ages (10th century), the common form of
>in Prague, as recorded by Arab travellers of the time, was not coins, but
>squares of finely woven material, called "��te�ky" ("satecky" w/o
>diacriticals) in Czech. Does anyone know of an equivalent English word that
>I can use for these? (Otherwise, I shall have to use a descriptive phrase,
>which seems to be a very inelegant solution).
not necessarily mean that I can help you. I asked around about whether this
platno (hence "platit", I am told) was used for any other purpose (e.g.
blowing noses, wiping parts of anatomy, tucking under chin etc - in which
case I would have used some more specific word like kerchief, napkin or
whatever) but I was left with the impression that such were not the primary
Nor could I find anything in scripophily or "history of money" resources to
suggest that a specialist term exists.
So my reasoning was something like yours. If it was cloth then just call it
cloth, and let the anticipated readership determine what degree of
explanation you give.
I did find the following at
An even more detailed record is found in one of the most extraordinary
in the history of central Europe, the eye-witness account
written in 970 by the
Jewish merchant Ibrahim
ibn Ja'quab. Ibrahim was born in Muslim Spain and travelled
north as an envoy for
the caliph of
Cordoba. Like so many masterpieces of the ancient world the
diary was saved by
an Arab scholar, in
this case the eleventh-century Abu Obaid Abdallah al Bekri,
who found it so
impressive that he
reproduced it in his Book of Ways and Lands. Ibrahim ibn
Ja'quab's journey took
him along the
established trade routes through Prague and probably to
Cracow, and then
where it is thought he described the settlement at Schwerin.
He was struck by the
large, secure Slavic
fortresses with their high wooden walls strengthened by
mounds of packed earth
and protected by
rivers so that one could only reach them on `a wooden bridge
over the water.
Evidence shows that
even the smaller fortresses at Potsdam, Treptow and
Blankenburg were built on
islands and were not
merely defensive but housed carpenters, weavers, tanners,
furriers and other
tradesmen. Ibrahim ibn
Ja'quab noted that the Slavs `are especially energetic in
fortresses also provided a safe
haven for the priestly hierarchy who kept the shrines for
Dazbag, the god of the
sun, Jarovit, the god of
spring, and the fertility gods Rod and Rozanicy in their
midst. Ibrahim also
recognized that the Slavs
were skilled merchants and that `their trade on land reaches
to the Ruthenians
and to Constantinople'.
The fortresses of Spandau-Burgwall and Kopenick had grown
powerful from their
position on an
important medieval east -- west trade route which extended
from the Rhine and
Magdeburg, on to Brennabor, over the Berlin area to Leubus
and Posen and on to
Kiev. Muslims and
Jews were the most influential traders, regularly travelling
from China to Africa and
up the Caspian
Sea and the Volga to the Baltic; trade with the Latin west
was maintained primarily
merchants who, according to the early ninth-century
Khurradadhbeh, were highly
sophisticated and could `speak Arabic, Persian, Greek,
Frankish, Spanish and
Slavonic. They travel
from west to east and from east to west, by land and sea.'
The Jews were not the
only merchants to
visit the fortresses, however, and although the Slavs
themselves used cloth as
currency around 1,000
foreign coins of Arabian, German, English, Scandinavian,
Polish, Bohemian and
Hungarian origin have
been found there.
BTW I have heard Ibrahim variously described as an Arabic-Jew or a Moorish
- Melvyn -
Thanks for yours...
Yes, 'platno' meaning 'piece of cloth/fabric' perhaps being related to
'platidlo' or 'medium of exchange'. The medieval pieces were apparently used
for nothing else - and from the archaeology seem to have been high quality,
finely woven items that were presumably created especially for the function
of payment. Interestingly, metal coins were used at the time for trade with
foreign merchants - 1 silver denarius was worth a stable 10 woven 'satecky'
through the 9th and 10th centuries.
The article that I am translating talks a great deal about Ibrahim ibn
Ya'qub, who is the first written source to mention these pieces of cloth.
Anyone know of an English translation of his writings? (I know these have
survived only fragmentarily, but I assume that they have been brought
together somewhere). I ask because the translator must already have worked
around this problem, and I'd like to know
Didn't the Chinese have something similar at one time?
Ibrahim was born to a Jewish family in Tortosa in Andalusia - I have a fifty
line biography of him in this catalogue, so if anyone wants a copy
(off-list!!) let me know. (Current format Word97, convertible to anything
Archaeological witness to this interest is offered by the numerous Baltic
finds of silver coins in circulation from the mints of the Caliphates and
the Sassanids; until the beginning of the 9th century the products of
western Islamic mints dominated, and were then gradually eased out by the
Asian mints of the Abbasids. The second half of the tenth century is then
characterised by coins of the Central Asian Samanids, and the period around
the year 1000 by a flood of Buwayhid (Buyid) and Ziyarid coins.
Some names for the glossary:
Samanids = samanove
Sassanids = sasanove
Buwayhids (a.k.a. Buyids) = bujove
Ziyarids = zijarove
I'll keep digging - if I find a good translation, I'll let you know.