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Basil I Æ Follis with Leo (VI) and Constantine...


ewomack

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Basil I founded the Macedonian dynasty, one of the most important dynasties in Byzantine history. His ambitions in the West also led some to deem him "the other Justinian." Born a peasant, a combination of talent and a series of very lucky breaks landed him influential friends, a huge fortune, and the admiration of emperor Michael III. After he became Michael III's bodyguard, the emperor ordered Basil to divorce his wife and marry the emperor's own mistress (imagine having to explain that one to your betrothed). Basil received approval to murder one of Michael III's uncles, Bardas, after he convinced the emperor that Bardas sought the throne. Possibly as thanks, Michael III declared Basil co-emperor in 866. Then, after Michael III started to openly court a new favorite heir, Basil and a group of supporters murdered both Michael III and this new favorite after the pair heavily inebriated themselves at a banquet. No one seemed to put up much of a fuss over this slaughter, so Basil became emperor immediately. Similar to many Byzantine emperors, Basil I came to the throne with plenty of blood on his hands. As emperor, Basil allied the East and West empires by teaming up with Holy Roman Emperor Louis II against the Arabs in 871. Many consider Basil I a competent emperor overall. Though often called "The Macedonian," scholars apparently don't agree on his actual origins. This uncertainty extends to his alleged son Leo, who became Leo VI following Basil I's death. Rumors lingered that Michael III had actually fathered Leo, not Basil. Leo himself may have agreed, since, after Basil I's death, he had Michael III reburied with imperial honors. Basil I apparently hated Leo and supposedly even physically beat him. Suspecting a conspiracy, Basil I had Leo imprisoned and almost had him blinded, but the Patriarch convinced him otherwise, since Leo's imprisonment alone had caused public riots. Basil I died while hunting, supposedly dragged 16 miles by his belt after getting entangled in a deer's antlers. He had planned to revise Justinian's law books, but the literary Leo, as Leo VI, ended up taking on this project during his own reign.

This follis depicts, from left to right, Leo (the future Leo VI), Basil I himself, and Basil I's favorite son, Constantine, who died in 879, much to Basil I's great dismay. Like many Byzantine coins, decent portraits also seem fairly difficult to obtain for this type. The sons usually look a little ghoulish, as they do here, but this example retains more detail than I've usually seen on numerous other examples. The very worn "+LEO" text to the extreme left is unfortunate, as are some of the worn peripheral letters on the reverse. But, as usual, with Byzantines one usually needs to take what one can get. The coin, around the size of a quarter, looks fabulous in hand. Historically, it captures an intriguing miniature snapshot in time. Eventually, the hated "son" would get the throne, while the father would outlive the favorite son. But none of that had presumably happened when this coin first appeared. What a memory to have pressed in copper, still visible over 1,100 years later.

867_to_886_BasilI_Follis_01.png.a06f29aa1bbb7d82fa26f324015f609d.png867_to_886_BasilI_Follis_02.png.4d087b60ca75d07703b6b40e818e9a49.png
Basil I (867-886) Æ Follis; Constantinople mint; Obv: +LEOh bASIL COhST AVGG, Facing half-length figures of Basil in center, Leo on left and Constantine on right, Basil wears crown and loros and holds akakia, both sons wear crown and chlamys; Rev: +bASIL COhSTAhN T S LEOhNEN QO bASIL S ROMEOh in five lines, "*" in exergue; 24mm, 7.89 grams; DOC 11.1, R. 1864, Sear 1713

Please share any Basil I coins you have!

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What an excellent write up and a beautiful piece. Overall, that is certainly in the top 5% or better of available examples. You should be quite happy with it.

I have yet to get one of these great pieces, but I have at least one I’m proud of:

Basil 1 - SB 1709 - Constantinople - 7.6g 

This is a well appreciated coin as it has that great deep green patina. Won a few years ago at a Leu auction.

IMG_1370.jpeg.18d2ed0168aad172563c425d20208a0d.jpegIMG_1371.jpeg.cf8be43cc2f5e54e05360fd7cf49d331.jpeg
have a Cherson example,  sb 1719, as well, but that coin is not a looker.. so much so seems I’ve forgotten to take a picture 

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Great coin and a fun to read write up. Thank you! I don’t have many of my Byzantine coins photographed but I do have a picture of my Leo VI… the disliked son. 
LeoVIConstantinopleSB1729.JPG.9446ecbac1f7cccad917e4ee1be1e233.JPG
Leo VI, AE Follis, Constantinople. LEON bASILEVS ROM, crowned bust facing with short beard, wearing chlamys, holding akakia / LEON EN QEO BA SILEVS R OMEON legend in four lines. SB 1729, DOC 8.

Edited by Orange Julius
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Here are a couple of types of Basil (867-886) that have not yet been shown:

image.jpeg.fe8db187a2d950e9f3a019fc0cd1439a.jpeg

Basil I, the Macedonian, and Constantine (later Constantine VII, 867-887), struck winter 867/8 (according to DOC, page 483). 
26 mm. 7.60 grams.
Sear 1721. DOC 3.2 Basil I 8. 
bASILIOS S CONST AVG   ["S" is "and"]
+bASIL/S CONSTA/TINOS EN ΘO/bASILE ISR/OMEON   [It is overstruck and some extra letters at the right edge belong to the undertype] (EN ΘO means "in God" or "By the grace of God" emperor of the Romans)

For more about how to read Byzantine coins, see here:
http://augustuscoins.com/ed/Byz/legends.html

image.jpeg.27dcfb0a663f19425a2bd4494c6513ef.jpeg
The next issue:
Basil I, the Macedonian, and Constantine (later Constantine VII, 868-887)
28.6-27 mm. 6.92 grams.
Struck 868-870.
Sear 1710. DOC 3.2 Basil I 9. 

Here is my site "Introduction to Byzantine coins":
http://augustuscoins.com/ed/Byz/
 

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On 1/8/2024 at 10:01 PM, ela126 said:

What an excellent write up and a beautiful piece. Overall, that is certainly in the top 5% or better of available examples. You should be quite happy with it.

Thank you! I really appreciate your kind words. And yes, I am pretty happy with the coin. As I said above, it looks even better in hand. I find myself looking at it often.

On 1/8/2024 at 10:01 PM, ela126 said:

I have yet to get one of these great pieces, but I have at least one I’m proud of:

Basil 1 - SB 1709 - Constantinople - 7.6g 

This is a well appreciated coin as it has that great deep green patina. Won a few years ago at a Leu auction.

That is a nice example of an enthroned Basil I. That is a nice green patina as well. I have the same type for Leo VI and it has a similar patina. They couldn't get the throne quite right though, it seems. The left side doesn't seem to really match the right side. The throne on my Leo VI looks similarly askew. It's still a fantastic type. I actually find such little idiosyncrasies in Byzantine coins part of their appeal.

886_to_912_LeoVI_AE_Follis_02_01.png.16889dcea88d0ab303928de4f4712895.png886_to_912_LeoVI_AE_Follis_02_02.png.b2ea88527d35d566f46b772194ccec42.png
Leo VI (AD 886-912); Constantinople; Æ Follis; Obv: +LEOn bAS - ILEVS ROM* Leo enthroned facing, wearing crown and loros, and holding labarum and akakia; Rev: Inscription in four lines: +LEOn / Eh ΘEO bA / SILEVS R / OmEOh; 6.90g, 28.00 mm;  Sear 1728

 

On 1/8/2024 at 10:22 PM, Orange Julius said:

Great coin and a fun to read write up. Thank you! I don’t have many of my Byzantine coins photographed but I do have a picture of my Leo VI… the disliked son. 

Leo VI, AE Follis, Constantinople. LEON bASILEVS ROM, crowned bust facing with short beard, wearing chlamys, holding akakia / LEON EN QEO BA SILEVS R OMEON legend in four lines. SB 1729, DOC 8.

Thank you as well! That's a nice Sear 1729! Some of the patina looks a little like uranium under UV light, which is stunning. I would say "poor Leo" for being the disliked son, but he did end up on the throne eventually, though arguably at quite a cost. His rise to the throne reminds me a little of Elizabeth I's - favored, then unfavored and imprisoned, wondering if she would survive, then on to the throne. Being a royal must have been frightening at times, if not a lot of the time.
 

On 1/9/2024 at 6:12 AM, Ancient Coin Hunter said:

Another of Leo VI, who issued apparently one of the most iconic types in this latter Byzantine era. In this case the light patina makes the devices stand out. This coin weighs in at over 8 grams

Another nice Sear 1729! Sear wrote that this coin was apparently issued in greater quantities than any other Byzantine coin. Because of that they seem to have helped define the series overall. It's probably difficult to prove that claim definitively, but I do see many of these around. I also picked one up a while ago.

886_to_912_LeoVI_AE_Follis_01.png.b121e96bbb258854a4edf7168d5af21c.png886_to_912_LeoVI_AE_Follis_02.png.04fcd6d993365a253601aed6ecb11f53.png
Leo VI (AD 886-912); Constantinople; Æ Follis; Obv: +LEOn bAS - ILEVS ROM' Bust facing wearing crown and chlamys, holding akakia in l. hand; Rev: Inscription in four lines: +LEOn / Eh ΘEO bA / SILEVS R / OmEOh; 7.67g.;  Berk 918, Sear 1729

 

On 1/9/2024 at 12:05 PM, Valentinian said:

Here are a couple of types of Basil (867-886) that have not yet been shown:

Very nice examples! I don't see either of those very often, especially the bottom example (Sear 1710), which is quite nice. Though I don't think that those coins picture the future Constantine VII, who ruled from 913 to 959, but Basil I's "favorite son" Constantine, who died in 879, before Basil I. It looks like Leo VI was Constantine VII's father, born in 905 and made Augustus in 908. Leo VI had trouble fathering a son, similar to Henry VIII, but his fourth wife bore Constantine. Neither coin shows Leo, probably because he wasn't made Augustus until 870. Those are both great! Thank you for sharing!

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