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Is This The Supernova of AD 1054 ?


Al Kowsky
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Yesterday LIVE SCIENCE published an article on a rare & well known histamenon nomisma from the reign of Constantine IX, that most likely depicts in a disguised form the famous supernova of AD 1054.

https://www.livescience.com/byzantine-coin-supernova-1054

image00427.jpg.535c3c53eea007da95932a5a01ff8ba2.jpg

Constantine IX Manomachus, AD 1042-1055. AV Histamenon nomisma: 4.43 gm, 25 mm, 6 h. Sear 1831. Photo courtesy of Morton & Eden.

931044305_CrabNebulaHubbleimage2005.jpeg.635deca7f5ca70089dbaf059fdfeb02d.jpeg

Crab Nebula, Photo courtesy of Hubble telescope, 2005.

 

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I'm as open to astronomical interpretation of coins as the next guy but the original European Journal of Science and Theology article (to which Live Science refers) theorizes conspiracy upon conspiracy in a manner that would make fans of 'The Da Vinci Code' blush!

Edited by DLTcoins
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5 hours ago, DLTcoins said:

I'm as open to astronomical interpretation of coins as the next guy but the original European Journal of Science and Theology article (to which Live Science refers) theorizes conspiracy upon conspiracy in a manner that would make fans of 'The Da Vinci Code' blush!

Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction....🤨

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1 hour ago, kirispupis said:

I've read about the coin. It may be the only Byzantine I'd buy, though recent sales seem to be very high - so probably not.

You're right, they are very pricey 😏. The coin pictured from Morton & Eden sold last may for $4,170.00 😲.

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Yes, I'd just read about this coin in an auction description -- but it was for a different Constantine IX from the same issue, so there wasn't actually a photo of one. Interesting to see it!

Without being able to comment on whether the hypothesis is plausible or not, this reminds me of the 2005 article in the Journal for the History of Astronomy about the Istros inverted heads representing a solar eclipse! (Who even knew that such a journal existed -- much less that it would've made it to volume 36 and beyond!!!)

[Saslow, W. & P. Murdin, “The double heads of Istrus: the oldest eclipse on a coin?JHA 36, Part 1, No. 122, pp. 21 - 27]

Gives me a little something extra to ponder every time I look at my pair of Istros Drachm Triptychs!

 

475982857_CONSERVATORI-IstrosARDrachm1DR

607606731_CONSERVATORI-IstrosARDrachm2Tr

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Here's a coin I recently purchased on a whim. Note that this is the dealer's photo instead of mine because I haven't received it yet (according to USPS should be in my mailbox in a few hours). This is a civic issue of Pergamon attributed to 310-282 BCE.

The stars (and low price) are what enticed me. Two stars became the symbol of the Pontic kingdom about 150 years later, due to two bright comets that occurred during Mithridates VI's lifetime. Certainly the dioscuri were mythological characters even in this day, but do those two stars represent them? It seems that Halley's Comet appeared in roughly 316 BCE (we have records from 240 BCE and it appears roughly every 76 years). It seems that records of celestial events for that time are spotty (the Chinese did record them well, but I couldn't find an online translation of their records).

I'm also a bit suspicious of the 310-282 BCE date. Lysimachos took control of Pergamon in 301 BCE, and Philetairos took over in 282. The period from Alexander's death in 323 to Lysimachos taking ownership seems to have been in flux. Therefore, the issuing of civic coinage would make sense in that period IMHO. Perhaps this coin was minted between 316 and 301 BCE, and was influenced by both Halley's Comet and some other comet or event. That's what I'd like to believe, since I own this coin now. 🙂 

 

pergamon_stars.jpg.2b558ce86a2f8319721072502652cb8d.jpg

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1 hour ago, Curtis JJ said:

Yes, I'd just read about this coin in an auction description -- but it was for a different Constantine IX from the same issue, so there wasn't actually a photo of one. Interesting to see it!

Without being able to comment on whether the hypothesis is plausible or not, this reminds me of the 2005 article in the Journal for the History of Astronomy about the Istros inverted heads representing a solar eclipse! (Who even knew that such a journal existed -- much less that it would've made it to volume 36 and beyond!!!)

[Saslow, W. & P. Murdin, “The double heads of Istrus: the oldest eclipse on a coin?JHA 36, Part 1, No. 122, pp. 21 - 27]

Gives me a little something extra to ponder every time I look at my pair of Istros Drachm Triptychs!

 

475982857_CONSERVATORI-IstrosARDrachm1DR

607606731_CONSERVATORI-IstrosARDrachm2Tr

Curtis, That's an interesting speculation I never would have considered 🤔. Thanks for the link ☺️. The obverse design of two heads of young men makes an immediate impression of the Dioscuri, but how they are placed begs for more information. I personally would have a hard time accepting the eclipse idea knowing that such an occurrence was fleeting. On the other hand, the supernova was a shocking experience that lasted for many days, initially had a sound impact, & was seen in the daytime & also in the evening darkness for nearly a year. The supernova was also recorded in different areas of the world. 

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1 hour ago, kirispupis said:

Here's a coin I recently purchased on a whim. Note that this is the dealer's photo instead of mine because I haven't received it yet (according to USPS should be in my mailbox in a few hours). This is a civic issue of Pergamon attributed to 310-282 BCE.

The stars (and low price) are what enticed me. Two stars became the symbol of the Pontic kingdom about 150 years later, due to two bright comets that occurred during Mithridates VI's lifetime. Certainly the dioscuri were mythological characters even in this day, but do those two stars represent them? It seems that Halley's Comet appeared in roughly 316 BCE (we have records from 240 BCE and it appears roughly every 76 years). It seems that records of celestial events for that time are spotty (the Chinese did record them well, but I couldn't find an online translation of their records).

I'm also a bit suspicious of the 310-282 BCE date. Lysimachos took control of Pergamon in 301 BCE, and Philetairos took over in 282. The period from Alexander's death in 323 to Lysimachos taking ownership seems to have been in flux. Therefore, the issuing of civic coinage would make sense in that period IMHO. Perhaps this coin was minted between 316 and 301 BCE, and was influenced by both Halley's Comet and some other comet or event. That's what I'd like to believe, since I own this coin now. 🙂 

 

pergamon_stars.jpg.2b558ce86a2f8319721072502652cb8d.jpg

kiris., The comet idea doesn't seem too far fetched, especially knowing the Romans used the star symbol on denarii for the same purpose 😉.

157139473_Romandenarii.jpg.51d40616312dd18b5e6dbb8b8634e908.jpg

On the other hand, why is there two stars on your coin 🤔? The simple answer would be they represent the Dioscuri, who are frequently represented with stars on their caps, like the coin pictured below. 

853911031_CaracallaAD215-217.Prieur1225.jpg.d25bfdd58e3e270113a094a94e90c4c0.jpg

 

 

Edited by Al Kowsky
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18 minutes ago, Al Kowsky said:

Curtis, That's an interesting speculation I never would have considered 🤔. Thanks for the link ☺️. The obverse design of two heads of young men makes an immediate impression of the Dioscuri, but how they are placed begs for more information. I personally would have a hard time accepting the eclipse idea knowing that such an occurrence was fleeting. On the other hand, the supernova was a shocking experience that lasted for many days, initially had a sound impact, & was seen in the daytime & also in the evening darkness for nearly a year. The supernova was also recorded in different areas of the world. 

I was thinking about the Dioscuri for the Constantine IX coin, but would a strictly Christian emperor evoke a pagan mythological cult on his coins? I know very little about this period of history, but it just seems unlikely.

Note that there's a third star on his breast. This doesn't appear on his other coins.

My biggest question concerning this coin is: why three stars (or even two)? There was only one supernova.

From a short bit of research, these coins aren't dated but it seems 'likely' they were minted around 1054. Given that, the coincidence seems too great.

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5 minutes ago, Al Kowsky said:

kiris., The comet idea doesn't seem too far fetched, especially knowing the Romans used the star symbol on denarii for the same purpose 😉.

On the other hand, why is there two stars on your coin 🤔? The simple answer would be they represent the Dioscuri, who are frequently represented with stars on their caps, like the coin pictured below. 

The Dioscuri would be an obvious answer, except AFAIK images of the Dioscuri as stars didn't appear until the time of Mithridates VI. A number of his coins use that motif - though always with the Dioscuri's caps.

My theory/hope is that the two stars represents Halley's Comet and some other celestial event, for which we don't have records. I admit it's a stretch.

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3 minutes ago, kirispupis said:

I was thinking about the Dioscuri for the Constantine IX coin, but would a strictly Christian emperor evoke a pagan mythological cult on his coins? I know very little about this period of history, but it just seems unlikely.

Note that there's a third star on his breast. This doesn't appear on his other coins.

My biggest question concerning this coin is: why three stars (or even two)? There was only one supernova.

From a short bit of research, these coins aren't dated but it seems 'likely' they were minted around 1054. Given that, the coincidence seems too great.

The two stars in the field of the coin may represent their visibility in daylight & darkness; that's just a guess on my part 🤔. The star on the emperor's breastplate is a different design than the other two.

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1 hour ago, Al Kowsky said:

The two stars in the field of the coin may represent their visibility in daylight & darkness; that's just a guess on my part 🤔. The star on the emperor's breastplate is a different design than the other two.

So, the plot thickens.

I finally found a reference to ancient recorded comets. Sure enough, there was a pretty big comet in July-December of 303 BCE, shortly before Lysimachos entered Asia Minor (and Ramsey even quotes this event). The comet was recorded by both Greek and Chinese sources so it must have been good-sized.

I tried to find the inscription, references as Inscriptiones Graecae xii.5 no. 444.130. It should be here, but I didn't find xii.5 listed. From the title, the inscription seems to be from the Cyclades.

So a great comet foresaw Lysimachos' entry into Asia Minor. The original date range of this coin was 310-282 BCE. If this is amended to 302-282 BCE to correspond with Lysimachos' reign, then perhaps the stars do refer to comets. Of course, I've only identified one comet. Halley's in 316 BCE seems too early. This would be a super stretch, but Lysimachos did expand his power in 315 BCE, and again in 302 BCE. Both events were preceded by comets... The coin has two comets and was issued during Lysimachos' control of the city.

I may have twisted history to my needs, but I'm pretty happy right now. 🙂 

Edit: With a cursory look at Lysimachos' coinage, I noticed he has many tets with a similar star under the throne. Of course, that's one star - not two. Sadly, my tet from him doesn't have a star. 

Edited by kirispupis
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I don’t buy the attribution. This is (in my opinion) a case of pushing a known event onto a coin which happened to have a star. There are hundreds of Byzantine coin types that have stars on them with no associated astrological phenomenon. 
8ABB4285-E4E7-4221-854F-437F7503E767.jpeg.538bf34066e9cdb231af7b1d5fcd589c.jpeg
Star tipped staff. Does this mean there was an associated astrological event? 
3415512C-4C82-43D7-9335-26F369795C4E.jpeg.5f735ae14f8dc4f774a17a24c1dc16ab.jpeg

Two stars above the castle gate. 
8B6FB790-5C9C-45B9-8AE2-4180BFC2062F.jpeg.9e11fe850c0d9956e8b8e19681c49a06.jpeg

Two stars above the gate

F3A4B501-FBDA-491C-9997-3A683AB8B1DB.jpeg.484f9f7a82a7f893e98e22981ed36651.jpeg

Star tipped staff

C1029170-B2D4-4E70-9369-9290EF603AF6.jpeg.87118edd8a02b33282ba907ae866d8c5.jpeg

Star in field

9DDBDEA1-F9A1-4AE3-BCCA-F303BB6C5F28.jpeg.126bf6cbbd6d164c51189944b3b21a8b.jpeg

Star in cloud

These are just a few examples from my collection on which a star is present. With so many coin types that have a star on them, its bound to occur that quite a few “align” with a real event. John Vatazes ruled almost 30 years for example. Of course some astrological events occurred during his reign but this isn’t enough proof to associate the coin design with a specific event. In an era of un dated coins, most rulers who were on the throne can have any number of astrological events tied to them. 

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