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The ΠΟΛΙΤΙΚΟΝ Tornese: A Brief History and my Examples


TheTrachyEnjoyer
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The great conundrum of late Byzantine numismatics, ΠΟΛΙΤΙΚΟΝ (POLITIKON, “Of the People/City/Civic Body”) coinage poses many more questions than we can answer. Struck around the mid-fourteenth century, the terminus post quem of these issues are tied to the emperor Andronikos III, in whose name the seemingly first ΠΟΛΙΤΙΚΟΝ issues were struck. There is debate as to whether the issues were lifetime issues of the emperor Andronikos III or posthumously struck by emperor John V to honor his father. Regardless, 1321 can stand as the absolute earliest these were minted. Besides the named issue of Andronikos III, there also exist two anonymous types and one in the name of John V (although this is a purely AE issue where as the rest were billon). The anonymous issues are struck flat whereas the named issued are scyphate. The generally proposed timeline is that the named issued of Andronikos III were issued first, then the anonymous flat coins during the civil wars between John V and John VI, and finally the named John V torneses were issued once that emperor was firmly back in power. The different fabric of the coins (flat vs scyphate) does beg the question if the two groups are not separate to some degree. Beyond this, the flat coins tend to have a much heavier Western iconographic influence than do their scyphate counterparts. 
 

The terminus ante quem comes with the phasing out of the billon tornese (not to be confused with the separate AE issues of a different denomination yet same name) after the middle of John V’s reign when the emperor introduced the Stavraton system, 1367. Thusly we have a definite window from 1321-1367 when these issues were struck. 
 

The unusual and distinctive legends pose a number of questions as to the intention of the issues. ΠΟΛΙΤΙΚΟΝ or “of the people/city/civic body” is a legend not seen on other Byzantine coins. What or who exactly this refers to is unknown. It has been proposed that this could be an issue of the Latin quarter of Constantinople or some coinage meant to only circulate in Constantinople. However, there isn’t much evidence behind these theories. They serve as a possibility not reality.

All of this to say, we know the rough time period that these coins were minted in. Considering that this is perhaps the most turbulent period in the entire history of the late Byzantine empire, that window isn’t as helpful as one might think. Subjected to a number of questions, these troublesome coins have given few answers.

 

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Of my other POLITIKON coins, I won two of this type in a group lot

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Share your own ΠΟΛΙΤΙΚΟΝ coinage or thoughts below!

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Hi All,

My Bi Tornese followed by an Æ Politikon.

image.png.3ff5030a49ecdf59b233e2f67121aecb.png

ANONYMOUS PALAEOLOGUS
CONSTANTINOPLE? PHASE IV: ca 10 Dec 1354 - Oct 1376
Bi DERNIER TORNESE

Size: 17 mm
Weight: 1.58 g
Axis: 7:00
Broucheion Collection B-2018-05-12.001

Obv: + ΠΟΛ[ΙΤΙΚΟΝ] surrounding cross within circle. No border.
Rev: Castle with four towers within city walls. Cross above. No border.
Refs: DO V 1209 (Class VII); SB 2578; LPC 184 (S Bendall & PJ Donald, Later Palaeologan Coinage); PCPC-362 (S Bendall, A Private Collection of Palaeologan Coins).


image.png.02d90dbc833cd8b7b8f17ce58a0ba258.png

 


ANONYMOUS PALAEOLOGUS
CONSTANTINOPLE? PHASE IV: ca 10 Dec 1354 - Oct 1376

Æ
Size: 18x19 mm
Weight: 2.22 g
Axis: 00:00
Broucheion Collection B-2019-01-05.001

Obv: + ΠΟ - ΛΙΤΙ - ΚΟΝ within circle of dots.
Rev: Three keys with three dots between each key and between top and bottom key and the border of dots.
Refs: DO V 1218-1221 (Class X); SB 2581; Grierson-1334, pl 83; LPC, p 186, 10 (S Bendall & PJ Donald, Later Palaeologan Coinage); PCPC 365 (S Bendall, A Private Collection of Palaeologan Coins).

- Broucheion

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@Broucheion I'm afraid that both your coins are fake. The weight is wrong, the style is very wrong and the texture looks very similar to the fake LRBs of very rare 5-6th century Imperial and Germanic figures offered by Emporium Hamburg and some unlikely Carolingian rarities offered on ebay.

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Hi @seth77,

 

Thank you! I wondered about the silver coin when I bought it. It was a knowing gamble but, with the price so low, it would not hurt if it was a fake.  I'm a bit surprised the AE would be faked as well. It shows I should stick to the coin types I know and not venture out into uncharted waters without more background.

I hope my post and your reply serves as an aid to help others. Both coins came from different UK dealers who may or may not have known they were fakes.

- Broucheion

Edited by Broucheion
added dealer info
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4 hours ago, Broucheion said:

Hi @seth77,

 

Thank you! I wondered about the silver coin when I bought it. It was a knowing gamble but, with the price so low, it would not hurt if it was a fake.  I'm a bit surprised the AE would be faked as well. It shows I should stick to the coin types I know and not venture out into uncharted waters without more background.

I hope my post and your reply serves as an aid to help others. Both coins came from different UK dealers who may or may not have known they were fakes.

- Broucheion

Feel free to ask here in the future as well, whether publicly or via DM

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  • 2 weeks later...

I acquired another bucket list coin today!

(Circa 1320-1350). BI Tornese. Uncertain mint, possibly Constantinople. "Politikon" coinage. 0.4 grams, 15mm
Obv: Three keys left; pellets between them.
Rev: + ΠO / ΛITI / KON. 
Legend in three lines.
Sear 2581.
1A758624-E715-40D8-BA99-7579E6FE1916.jpeg.35928a60ca05a4313d15429781f4f19c.jpeg

4B8478AA-687F-4573-87EA-B8ADC7F29FF5.jpeg.65942952725389af53a9c90ba54742a0.jpeg

I also picked up some lovely books, a new publication from Oxford on Eustathios from Thessaloniki’s Homeric commentaries as well as the Dumbarton Oaks Economic History of Byzantium Series.73800494-3F01-488E-AC2C-D875931DC39E.jpeg.10ff7ae0f0db568b12cc94a20228fd6c.jpeg


Side note:
I was the underbidder to the underbidder on this lovely example that sold a while back. I am glad to have gotten my much worse example at a very reduced price in comparison!

C7EF630E-5D32-4988-B4F2-6B9E1447B85E.png.a4f99c38b4001cd9abab24e3f7dc0575.png

 

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@TheTrachyEnjoyer: Dude!! $2.5K, well done!! 🤑  Referring to your video here: 

 

I was interested in the previous lot, the Class XVI politikon. But it went sky high too!

Idle thought: Given the western iconography, as you note*, I’m wondering about a somewhat different connotation of the term “politikon.” Andy III and John V were attempting a difficult juggling act, courting western forces in defense, but wanting to avoid a repeat of the disaster of 1204. The word incorporates both “city” and “icon,” with the latter’s strong association with the Orthodox church. Might there be an attempt to represent the city of Constantinople as a sort of icon itself, and therefore irreversibly Romaion/Greek? "We welcome the help, but don’t you dare harbour designs on OUR city again!"

Perhaps a bit of a stretch.

* Even the scyphate types are quite western, similar to the denaro scodellato.

Edited by Severus Alexander
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