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Encounters - a short Byzantine coin book...


ewomack
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This really short, and inexpensive, book from 2006 contains some fascinating information about how the Byzantine Empire collaborated financially with other empires and governments in its time. It focuses on coinage and discusses various Byzantine coin finds all the way from England to China. For example, after the Viking raids calmed down in 10th century England, Byzantine coinage reappears in some charters under the term byzancteis nummi. The amazing 7th century cloisonné Wilton Cross, found in Norfolk, even featured a solidus of Heraklios (apparently placed intentionally upside-down). Other discussions include examples of when countries borrowed Byzantine coin designs (Lombards, Franks, Danish, Hungarians, Bulgarians, Balkans, Armenians, Georgians, Russians, etc) and when Byzantium borrowed the designs of others (the well-known example of the basilikon of Andronikus II modeled after the Italian Grosso). At one point, the book tells readers to expect some Muslim coins of the era to depict Jesus or the Virgin Mary, which might sound surprising. Yet, in one sense, such depiction did not conflict with the tenets of Islam, but in another sense, Muslim states wanted to make money easy to use and recognize and Byzantine iconography dominated the age's coinage. One 7th century gold dinar used a nearly identical design to a Heraklios solidus, but with all of the crosses removed. To sum up the power of Byzantine money, the book refers to the Byzantine solidus as 'the dollar of the middle ages.' At only some 70 pages, the book packs in a lot of information, though a lot of it high-level. Full color photos of coins and various artworks, from illuminated manuscripts to carved ivory and elaborate plates, also fill the pages. The narrative runs through Constantine (the back cover features a solidus of him gazing skyward) through the sad collapse of 1453. It presents a very brief, and sometimes not very detailed, history, but it points out fascinating historical and financial interconnections between kingdoms and empires at the time. I enjoyed the book's slightly deeper dive into Byzantine coinage and its immense contemporary reach, but it also left me wanting more detail. The photos throughout, mostly of gold coins, are excellent. It apparently accompanied an exhibit at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts in Birmingham, UK.

Has anyone else here read this book?

image.png.bdc97c81d6d8958b3f906e072a32b64b.png

Edited by ewomack
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On 10/16/2022 at 8:51 PM, ewomack said:

This really short, and inexpensive, book from 2006 contains some fascinating information about how the Byzantine Empire collaborated financially with other empires and governments in its time. It focuses on coinage and discusses various Byzantine coin finds all the way from England to China. For example, after the Viking raids calmed down in 10th century England, Byzantine coinage reappears in some charters under the term byzancteis nummi. The amazing 7th century cloisonné Wilton Cross, found in Norfolk, even featured a solidus of Heraklios (apparently placed intentionally upside-down). Other discussions include examples of when countries borrowed Byzantine coin designs (Lombards, Franks, Danish, Hungarians, Bulgarians, Balkans, Armenians, Georgians, Russians, etc) and when Byzantium borrowed the designs of others (the well-known example of the basilikon of Andronikus II modeled after the Italian Grosso). At one point, the book tells readers to expect some Muslim coins of the era to depict Jesus or the Virgin Mary, which might sound surprising. Yet, in one sense, such depiction did not conflict with the tenets of Islam, but in another sense, Muslim states wanted to make money easy to use and recognize and Byzantine iconography dominated the age's coinage. One 7th century gold dinar used a nearly identical design to a Heraklios solidus, but with all of the crosses removed. To sum up the power of Byzantine money, the book refers to the Byzantine solidus as 'the dollar of the middle ages.' At only some 70 pages, the book packs in a lot of information, though a lot of it high-level. Full color photos of coins and various artworks, from illuminated manuscripts to carved ivory and elaborate plates, also fill the pages. The narrative runs through Constantine (the back cover features a solidus of him gazing skyward) through the sad collapse of 1453. It presents a very brief, and sometimes not very detailed, history, but it points out fascinating historical and financial interconnections between kingdoms and empires at the time. I enjoyed the book's slightly deeper dive into Byzantine coinage and its immense contemporary reach, but it also left me wanting more detail. The photos throughout, mostly of gold coins, are excellent. It apparently accompanied an exhibit at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts in Birmingham, UK.

Has anyone else here read this book?

image.png.bdc97c81d6d8958b3f906e072a32b64b.png

I have the book as well. You are correct. It makes a fine companion to any other books on Byzantine coinage and the coinage of the surrounding states.

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