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Two late Nicaean stamena with a common theme


seth77
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Saint Tryphon was a Phrygian saint from the 3rd century, martyred during the Decian persecutions of 250-1. He is celebrated by both Eastern and Western churches, but, as expected, his profile is higher in the Orthodox Church.

Although revered by both churches and highly revered during the heyday of the Eastern Roman Empire as one of the great distinctly Asian saints, his image is rather scarce in numismatic terms, reserved -- because he was an Asian saint -- to the mint(s) in Asia Minor.

Theodore II Komnenos-Laskaris (1254-1258) minted a stamena in his honor at Magnesia in 1255-6 (perhaps around the time the Thessalonika mint was closed):
 

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S. 2142 AE26mm 3.13g

 

And the iconography was likely revived, to the two fleur-de-lys flanking his figure on the obverse, by Michael VIII Palaiologos, as Nicaean Emperor (1259-1261). In fact the presence of Saint Tryphon on a Michael VIII stamenon/trachy helps in attributing this very rare issue of Michael to Magnesia and to the period prior to the recapture of Constantinople in 1261.

 

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S. 2271 AE20 1.55g

The reading of the obverse legend on the Theodore II S. 2142 accounts for the 11 o'clock device -- it's the OA monogrammed abbreviation of the OAΓIOS (Saint) followed by TP (monogrammed) / V / Φ ω/ in columns flanking the image of the saint. The reverse legend is quite well recorded and preserved and names the emperor: ΘEO/[ΔωPOC ΔECΠO]THC/ DOV/KAS/ O ΛA/CKA/PI/C (Theodore Despot Doukas-Laskaris) in two columns flanking the emperor.

The saint is holding a cross in his right hand.

S. 2271 is less epigraphic -- the obverse legend seems to keep the name of the saint in the same manner as S. 2142, perhaps with the adagio of an I after the OA monogram (at 11 o'clock) -- so OAI / [TP / V] / Φ ω. The reverse keeps just enough to name the emperor M / X [Δ/ Π /TH...] MP - ϴV.

 

Being a rather rare type, the attribution of S. 2271 is still disputed, with Constantinople being also proposed, but the obverse iconography with Saint Tryphon and the finds from Asia Minor -- Pergamon and Magnesia proper (R. Glanfield discusses the finds here) -- are good indication of an issue early in Michael's reign as Nicaean Emperor.

In DOC IV-2 M. F. Hendy sticks to his 1969 attribution and places this type (Type A #26 p. 533) to this period of 1259-1261, although with a degree of uncertainty as normal for a period of volatile intermezzo, in both political and financial terms. P. Grierson in DOC V-1 confirms Hendy's attribution in his overview of the Bergama Hoard (p. 119).

With Michael, the standard of the base metal coinage starts to be variable to some point -- with coins ranging from the normal size and weight during the reign of Theodore II (around 3g) to smaller ca. 20mm and 1.5g modules like the coin presented here. Again a sign of the degree of instability that preceded the recapturing of Constantinople.

I know there's not much love here for these late Byzantines, but these interesting and historical issues, with the rare presence of S. 2271 are rather worthy.

 

(From my CT threads, updated and annotated)

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Terrific post and coins, @seth77!  You just might find that there's more interest in this stuff here than there ran to being in CT --notably with @TheTrachyEnjoyer's triumphant return to this forum!

In light of the immediate context --to either side of the reconquest of Constantinople-- I can't help asking if you can riff on the possible connotations of the fleurs de lis.  I dimly recall seeing other late trachys with them, but until now was happy to associate them with the gradual Westernification of a lot of post-reconquest coins, including Venetian influence.  If this is more or less immediately pre-reconquest --or, this early, even if it did turn out to be post-reconquest-- could there be an element of irony involved? 

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Posted (edited)

Well, it seems that my posts are not particularly popular here either. Which is, again, fine, you can't make people gravitate around what you are interested in and get excited by what you get excited. I don't really crave popularity as a raison d'etre. I will, time permitting, add my postings from CT here too despite the lack of general interest, because I understand these are mostly niche interests (for instance except you and FitzNigel, I don't think there's much interest in Frankish coinage on any English-speaking numismatic forum), and I don't think any of us minds that too much.

Now for the lys, my short answer would be that I don't know. By this time there was certainly no consistent use of Western-style heraldry, no armorials and no coats-of-arms in the Frankish sense in the Greek (Byzantine/Romaion) world. There is an interesting instance of the Palaiologan B's being used on some very rare Series III Thessalonica trachea, but I think that only goes to strengthen the theory that those small coinages were continued by some (parallel) authority beyond the reigns of John and Demetrios Komnenodoukai and possibly into early Palaoiologan period. I think that the lys here is most likely a decoration without any deeper connotation.

Edited by seth77
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Thanks, @seth77.  But I can't help thinking that, as highly evolved and ubiquitous as Western (especially French) heraldry was by this point, and Franks' obvious proximity to the Palaoiologans, a lot of the general ethos could have been appropriated, effectively by osmosis.  Not in a strict, Western-style heraldic sense, but in terms of a fleur de lis connoting Frankishness more broadly, and as such, unmistakably.

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I guess we can re-open the discussion regarding the name of various denominations, as Sear considers both those coins trachea. What would be the difference between trachea and stamena?

Then, it is not surprising that there are few collectors of these late byzantines. I showed to a few colleagues this SB 2477 of Andronicus III and an anonymous follis class A, in a condition above what I normally buy. There was not much love for the stamenon. Even for me - I do not actively collect these.

 image.jpeg.a220c22cdbad6d1d4015d6d547d65287.jpeg

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I accidentally uninstalled my authenticator so I probably lost my CT account, but there was a discussion on CT where I wrote this: "stamenon" comes from the older 'histamenon nomisma' used in the 11th century for the full-weight gold coin of the Empire. ιστάμενον means 'standard' which conveyed that a coinage is of the old weight and purity (so the standard coin) in an era that saw some innovations in terms of currency and denominations at Constantinople. Probably the term stuck to the concave coinages after the 11th century because the full weight solidus (the histamenon nomisma) was itself concave, although by the 13th century it would've been meaningless as most documents refer to the 'perperi' or 'bezanti' (the hyperpyron) as the Imperial gold coin and the 'billon' trachea was by this time all over the place in terms of both composition and weight -- so nothing standard about it. For the Latins that used the term 'stamenon' for the base metal trachy it was possibly with its meaning as the most common of the coinages, so a petty coin, rather than what it had previously meant: a stable coinage of standard characteristics (like the 'stater' of the Archaic and Classical Greece, also a ιστάμενον in its own right).

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High quality posts are always appreciated, @seth77, even if only by those who like the relevant niche!  (Plus these are the sorts of posts that show up in google searches months or years later to those looking for the info.)  Keep 'em coming!!  🙏

As far as follow-up comments, go, I think too many of us expect to be able to post a relevant coin in a followup, and with a rarity like this, that's obviously pretty difficult.  I will try to curb this tendency in myself.  (Look, no coin here! 😇)  Also, we should obviously invite our fellow Byzantine fans to join NumisForums.  And I'm hoping that @voulgaroktonou will be participating more.

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We also have here Ross Glanfield of glebecoins.org (@Glebe), who has some of the most interesting notes on 13th century and Palaiologan coinage online. His insights are extremely sharp and the amount of information he managed to use and present in his notes is awesome. Another collector that I admire for his keen eye on trachea/stamena of this general period is @quant.geek.

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Sorry for the late response, work has caught up with me again. I second the feelings of @Severus Alexander! Your posts are outstanding and very scholarly which I appreciate very much. Most posters just follow-up as opposed to posting anything thought provoking, albeit, no offense to them whatsoever.  The amount of information to process can be overwhelming to most posters. Just to add to the post, here are a few coins with St. Tryphon, but I don't have SB2271 which is quite difficult to obtain:

 

Empire of Nicaea: John III Ducas-Vatazes (1222-1254) BI Trachy, Magnesia (Sear 2110; DOC IV, Type V 1; Lianta 263-67)

Obv: IC and XC in field; Bust of Christ, beardless and nimbate, wearning tunic and kolobion; holds scroll in left hand
Rev: Full length figure of emporer on left, and St. Tryphon, beardless and nimbate, holding between them long shaft, at the head of which fleu-de-lis, and the base of which, small globe. Emperor wears stemma, divitision, jeweled loros of simplified type, and sagion; holds labarum on long shaft in right hand. Saint wears short military tunic, breastplate, and sagion; holds scepter with triple head in left hand.

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Empire of Nicaea: Theodore II Ducas-Lascaris (1254-1258) Æ Trachy, Magnesia (Sear-2142; DOC 10)

Obv: Lys to left and right in lower field; Full-length figure of St. Tryphon, beardless and nimbate, wearing tunic and kolobion; holds cross in right hand
Rev: ΘЄΟΔШΡΟC ΔЄCΠΟΤΗC ΔϪΚΑC Ο ΛΑCΚAΡΙC, in two columnar groups; Full-length figure of Theodore wearing stemma, divitision, and paneled chlamys; holds in right hand labarum-headed scepter and in left, globus cruciger. Manus Dei in upper right field

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Empire of Nicaea: Theodore II Ducas-Lascaris (1254-1258) Æ Trachy, Magnesia (Sear-2144)

Obv: IC and XC in field; Facing bust of Christ Emmanuel.
Rev: Full length figure of emporer on left, and St. Tryphon, beardless and nimbate, holding between them long shaft, at the head of which fleu-de-lis, and the base of which, small globe. Emperor wears stemma, divitision, jeweled loros of simplified type, and sagion; holds labarum on long shaft in right hand. Saint wears short military tunic, breastplate, and sagion; holds scepter with triple head in left hand.

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Posted (edited)

I’m glad to see trachea get some love here on these forums. In most circles there are little to no collectors of them, let alone experts like here, so thanks for the great write-up for the types @seth77!
 

Still being a relative novice when it comes to trachea, my collection is pretty small. I did however manage to snag this beauty recently:


Michael VIII - Sear 2271 - 27mm -2.7g

 

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Edited by Zimm
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On 6/26/2022 at 3:14 PM, Severus Alexander said:

High quality posts are always appreciated, @seth77, even if only by those who like the relevant niche!  (Plus these are the sorts of posts that show up in google searches months or years later to those looking for the info.)  Keep 'em coming!!  🙏

As far as follow-up comments, go, I think too many of us expect to be able to post a relevant coin in a followup, and with a rarity like this, that's obviously pretty difficult.  I will try to curb this tendency in myself.  (Look, no coin here! 😇)  Also, we should obviously invite our fellow Byzantine fans to join NumisForums.  And I'm hoping that @voulgaroktonou will be participating more.

Sev. Alex. - as soon as I can figure out how! 🙂

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Very interesting coins and thanks for the info on St. Tryphon, one I hadn't heard of. I also like to read about trachys - I have 5 of them in my collection, though I don't have too many coins after Manuel Comnenus, plus a couple of gold nomismata from the 11th century.

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