Thundering Jackets and fleur de lys

I was not comfortable to leave the subject of folio 85v-1 without spending more time on the last figure’s jacket.

I think I’ve found not only an explanation for it, but an explanation of the oddly asymmetrical headwear .. and possibly even the fleur-de-lys which isn’t.

They can all be explained by reference to the Mongols in Persia.  What put me off the scent was the seemingly European cast of the face.  But drawing long, slender noses and pointed chins is pretty typical of Persian art.

Here is design of the Mongol jacket (and, by the way, a type of yurt which looks almost like the conical tents.)

fol 85v-1 Mongol 1A Mongol riding jacket found in a 10thC tomb looks even more like the image on fol. 85v-1, including knots/ties along the side opening. Unfortunately I can’t add a picture of that here.


Now for the headwear

fol 85v-1 Mongol hatPreacher fleur partizan

What do you think?


Then, (on pages 149-150 of Judith Kolbas’ The Mongols in Iran: Chingiz Khan to Uljaytu 1220–1309)   I read:

Almaligh produced money in 650 and 651H, and Bukhara and Samarquand issued large flat billon, probably in 651H. …. All of these inscriptions were similar to those of Bulghar and Tiflis, specifically in not having the name of the local dynast except in Fars. Instead, they had the great khan’s name and, except in Greater Khurasan and Transoxiana, his tamgha. In Fars, the imperial tamgha was artfully  drawn to resemble a graceful fleur de lys

So how about that?

As it happens, the ‘graceful fleur de lys’ here is really a version of a much older Persian motif – if this indeed the design which Kolbas means; this example doesn’t appear to have been made for Fars.

graceful fleur de lys

Altogether…. long odds on all these details occurring together by coincidence… but in the end, it’s the jacket that is so difficult to dismiss.

Mongol composite

And since we’re talking about thundering soldiers of the east, did you know that the word ‘soldier’ comes from the term for the high-quality gold solidus with which they were paid from the time of Constantine to the tenth century or so?

Another coin from Mongol Persia.

Mongol era coin

What does it mean? It think it means that the diagram on folio 85v-1 is typically medieval in having several simultaneous readings.

More later.


  1. Only that peculiar object on the figure’s head held me back from another reading which suggested itself. I add it now in fairness to readers.

    There is a famous iris which grows in what was once called Illyria. It is mentioned in early medical texts and its formal description hasn’t been changed. It is still Iris illyrica.
    As regards its connection with the Tatars or Mongols: in 1241, Utegis, son of Genghis Khan swept down through Hungary only just behind its King, Bela, who fled southwards with his wife, children and treasures. Pressed hard, Bela left his treasures and a daughter (so it is said), and raced through Illyria heading for the Adriatic, along an almost forgotten Roman road. The story of what happened to the Tatar forces was vividly told by one Thomas, Archdeacon of Spoleto whose words are quoted from a more recent, secondary, source:

    [The Tatar general] pursued Bela “with a furious host, flying rather than marching, scaling the most inaccessible heights” until finally he swept down on the Dalmatian littoral, there to dash his horses in vain against the walls of the coast-cities, and see his horses waste way on the Dalmatian rocks”*

    The event would still be fresh in the minds of those who formulated the image on this folio, plainly a late addition to the original material but perhaps added during a recensions earlier than that we have.

    *- as if pierced by the boundary marking Iris. – D.
    quoted section above from Arthur Evans, Ancient Illyria: An Archaeological Exploration, pp.57-8, which you can read on g/gle books.

    Surprised to see reflected here the Egyptian idea of iris as boundary marker? Don’t be. The traces of Egyptian lore found in later coastal folk lore are many.


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