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15th century Byzantine coinage…from the Peloponnese!


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Here is a topic I had yet to come across: Byzantine coinage…from the despotate of the Morea!

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The despotate of Morea was a quasi independent byzantine appendage state founded by John VI Cantacuzene. The breaking off of land for younger sons who wouldn’t one day inherit the throne was rather new to Byzantium unlike the west. First introduced with the spouse of Andronikos II, a western princess, the once controversial and rejected idea seems to have become more palatable over time - especially with ever growing latin influence in the empire. 
 

Fast forward 30 years after the reign of John VI and the byzantine empire was in shambles. The Palaelogan-Cantacuzene civil war had all but ruined the empire. Even the imperial regalia reflected this sad state of affairs - the royal crowns were pawned to Venice by the Palaeologans to raise money during the war. The once most powerful rulers on Earth were humbled beyond centuries of territorial loss. From a crown of splendid jewels the rulers of Rome wore glass. From silver and gold dining ware, pewter was now used. 

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From the darkness, one last glimmering light shone through. Manuel II Palaeologus, perhaps the most intelligent man to ever ascend the Byzantine throne, was crowned in 1391. This once exuberant youth who had provoked war with the Turks in Thessaloniki had aged into wisdom while waiting for the throne. Now 40, his story in many was reflects that of Marcus Aurelius over a millennium before. The seasoned, tempered, and experienced emperor first came to power as a scholarly philosopher.

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Writing a corpus of still existing letters, Manuel displayed an education of the highest quality. Forced to seek help for a dieing empire, Manuel understood that survival must come from Western aid, not Eastern submission. During the 1394-1402 siege of Constantinople, Manuel II wrote and sought aid from the Kings of France and England. Both suitably impressed, England was too bogged down by domestic turmoil to send support while France send a Marshal of the kingdom with over 1,000 men. Half a decade later in a seemingly never ending siege, the repeated advice from the French Marshal convinced Manuel to do the unthinkable: leaving his capital city while under siege and personally seek help from the West. Pictured above meeting Henry IV in London, Manuel wowed the courts of the west with a romano-greek education not seen in Europe since the days of Cassiodorus and not seen again until the full flowering of the Renaissance. 

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Many almost fantastical episodes later, Manuel returned home with some money and vague promises. Undeterred, Manuel decided that without western aid, his best defense would be to entrench the Peloponnese with the Hexamillion wall. This defensive fortification blocked off the northern entrances of the land mass to the rest of Greece, recently fallen to the Ottomans. It is during this stay, perhaps, that the following coins were minted.

C8A1A789-5D9F-4B7D-92CD-8A71AA3B796B.jpeg.7d316d2d047850bfa8de7dfc56cb9a96.jpegAFF0DA3A-1DE5-403E-AB9F-FAC941F76506.jpeg.389288b809feb5c6caf4665b1385dee3.jpeg

The obverse of these coins show Christ in the Mandorla. The reverse shoes the 3/4 length bust of Manuel with an abbreviated legend. In a much finer style than the contemporary Constantinople coinage, these coins are seemingly only known from a series of excavations made at Sparta in 1926. A few other single finds from Delphi and Greece in the eighteenth century also are known. To my knowledge, none are held in private hands. I won’t delve too deep into the coinage series itself because the excellently written article which I stumbled across is available for free online.
https://www.academia.edu/1333371/J_Baker_A_coinage_for_late_Byzantine_Morea_under_Manuel_II_Palaiologos_1391_1425_RN_162_2006_pp_395_416

Sadly I don’t have an example of this Peloponnesian issue to share (or even a coin from Manuel). I hope you all found this series of coins as interesting as I do! 

Edited by TheTrachyEnjoyer
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Thanks for this interesting article on a topic and time and place not often written about. I must admit that this is an area and time I don't know that much about. My collecting propensities are in different times and places. However, although not part of my Byzantine collection, but rather from my Medieval collection, I have this one coin which may fit into the times and region you are writing about. The coin is apparently from the Island of Chios during the early 1400's which seems to be about your time period. From what I can gather this island off the coast of Turkey was bouncing around under the control variously of the Turks, Byzantines and Crusader states and at the time of its minting was under control of the Duke of Milan which issued a coin which mirrors the gold ducats or Zecchinos of Venice, which like Milan and Genoa had interests in the region. This coin weighs just a bit under 3.5 grams but its gold may be mixed with silver as it is a light golden tone somewhat similar to electrum. The image is of St. Peter rather than the St. Mark of the Venetian ducat. and the inscription reads similarly but different from the coin of Venice. S PETRVS DUX D ME DIOLAN while on the reverse side it is Christ SIT T XRE DAT TV REGIS ISTE DVC. I think the last time the island was under Byzantine control was under Andronicus II. I hope my coin does fit into the time and place you have written about.

IMG_2283Ducat 1.jpg

IMG_2284Ducat 2.jpg

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22 minutes ago, kevikens said:

Thanks for this interesting article on a topic and time and place not often written about. I must admit that this is an area and time I don't know that much about. My collecting propensities are in different times and places. However, although not part of my Byzantine collection, but rather from my Medieval collection, I have this one coin which may fit into the times and region you are writing about. The coin is apparently from the Island of Chios during the early 1400's which seems to be about your time period. From what I can gather this island off the coast of Turkey was bouncing around under the control variously of the Turks, Byzantines and Crusader states and at the time of its minting was under control of the Duke of Milan which issued a coin which mirrors the gold ducats or Zecchinos of Venice, which like Milan and Genoa had interests in the region. This coin weighs just a bit under 3.5 grams but its gold may be mixed with silver as it is a light golden tone somewhat similar to electrum. The image is of St. Peter rather than the St. Mark of the Venetian ducat. and the inscription reads similarly but different from the coin of Venice. S PETRVS DUX D ME DIOLAN while on the reverse side it is Christ SIT T XRE DAT TV REGIS ISTE DVC. I think the last time the island was under Byzantine control was under Andronicus II. I hope my coin does fit into the time and place you have written about.

IMG_2283Ducat 1.jpg

IMG_2284Ducat 2.jpg

Definitely! This is one of many pseudo Byzantine coins in the 13th and 14th century. The crusaders/pirates/adventurers on Mytilene intermarried with the Byzantines and issued related coinage. It was actually the Gattilusi family who ousted John VI Cantacuzene by sneaking John V Palaeologus into Constantinople. Their reward was Lesbos as a fief 

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Rhodes was usurper by the Gabalas family

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And then recaptured by Byzantine forces

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(None of the above are mine)

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10 minutes ago, zadie said:

Great write-up! Are there any known sale records of Peloponnesian issues that you know of? Would be interesting to see how large of demand for these there are.

Apparently one was offered by the old Leu (unphotographed)and again by Elsen.

Curtesy of @Zimm, from Gelbe’s website

ABA40520-9BE1-4F56-A782-D7D78F34DE01.png.d8eb629cec3453357b462957380ecb3e.png 

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Wow, @TheTrachyEnjoyer, this is amazing, about an entire dimension, never mind phase of history criminally ignored by anything I know of in the English language.  @seth77 has gone into the arcana of the Frankish and Italian presence in this part of the world, as late as this.  But I had zero idea that there was still any Byzantine presence here.  Many thanks for the enlightenment.

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Posted (edited)
14 minutes ago, JeandAcre said:

Wow, @TheTrachyEnjoyer, this is amazing, about an entire dimension, never mind phase of history criminally ignored by anything I know of in the English language.  @seth77 has gone into the arcana of the Frankish and Italian presence in this part of the world, as late as this.  But I had zero idea that there was still any Byzantine presence here.  Many thanks for the enlightenment.

There is so much more to it! This is a 40,000 foot overview with three photos so I apologize for not going more into depth 😂. The symbiotic relationship between Byzantine coinage and Western European coinage (domestic as well as colonial) is very real and very understudied.  
Check out https://www.amazon.com/Coinage-Medieval-Greece-1200-1430-Mediterranean/dp/9004434348 

This two volume set is one of the better I have seen which actually synthesizes the coinage of the era. None of the breakdowns we have today would have applied back then. How many Byzantine collectors study mainland Italian coinage of the period? How many italian collectors study Byzantium? French? English? For all of these economies were actually very closely related and interacted with each other

Edited by TheTrachyEnjoyer
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As noted in my own summary of Baker's article (see link below), there are two examples of the Morean coin of  Manuel II in the ANS collection, namely ANS 1956.174.8 and ANS 1982.125.65 (misdescribed, like the Berk coin, as standard follaros of Constantinople).

Ross G.

https://www.glebecoins.org/paleos/Notes/A_Coin_of_the_Despots_of_the_M/a_coin_of_the_despots_of_the_m.html

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17 hours ago, JeandAcre said:

Wow, @TheTrachyEnjoyer, this is amazing, about an entire dimension, never mind phase of history criminally ignored by anything I know of in the English language.  @seth77 has gone into the arcana of the Frankish and Italian presence in this part of the world, as late as this.  But I had zero idea that there was still any Byzantine presence here.  Many thanks for the enlightenment.

Speaking of the Italian presence in that part of the world circa 1300, take a look at two coins which are remarkably similar, so much so it is obvious that the Byzantines and Italians influenced one another in their coinage. One is a silver Basilikon of the Byzantine emperor Andronicus II of circa 1310 weighing 2.23 grams with Christ enthroned (Sear 2402). The other is a Venetian ducat of Giovanni Dandelo, also with Christ enthroned and weighing 2.2 grams. The ducat appeared first and was duplicated by the Byzantines because of the Italian influence within the Byzantine Empire.

IMG_2286BYZ-Ven 2.jpg

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6 minutes ago, kevikens said:

Speaking of the Italian presence in that part of the world circa 1300, take a look at two coins which are remarkably similar, so much so it is obvious that the Byzantines and Italians influenced one another in their coinage. One is a silver Basilikon of the Byzantine emperor Andronicus II of circa 1310 weighing 2.23 grams with Christ enthroned (Sear 2402). The other is a Venetian ducat of Giovanni Dandelo, also with Christ enthroned and weighing 2.2 grams. The ducat appeared first and was duplicated by the Byzantines because of the Italian influence within the Byzantine Empire.

IMG_2286BYZ-Ven 2.jpg

 

IMG_2285Ven-Byz 3.jpg

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1 hour ago, kevikens said:

Speaking of the Italian presence in that part of the world circa 1300, take a look at two coins which are remarkably similar, so much so it is obvious that the Byzantines and Italians influenced one another in their coinage. One is a silver Basilikon of the Byzantine emperor Andronicus II of circa 1310 weighing 2.23 grams with Christ enthroned (Sear 2402). The other is a Venetian ducat of Giovanni Dandelo, also with Christ enthroned and weighing 2.2 grams. The ducat appeared first and was duplicated by the Byzantines because of the Italian influence within the Byzantine Empire.

IMG_2286BYZ-Ven 2.jpg

88FE2315-3DC4-403B-8B92-BD34EBAF76D4.jpeg.5009ebd1b57907b5f662b4255af9ff80.jpeg

The later basilikons are even closer IMO

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18 hours ago, Glebe said:

As noted in my own summary of Baker's article (see link below), there are two examples of the Morean coin of  Manuel II in the ANS collection, namely ANS 1956.174.8 and ANS 1982.125.65 (misdescribed, like the Berk coin, as standard follaros of Constantinople).

Ross G.

https://www.glebecoins.org/paleos/Notes/A_Coin_of_the_Despots_of_the_M/a_coin_of_the_despots_of_the_m.html

That helps as we have https://numismatics.org/collection/1982.125.65 and https://numismatics.org/collection/1956.174.8. Here is 1982:

 

1982_125_65_obv.noscale.jpg.7a6926af05e9dde50313caadc93b8758.jpg

 

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1 hour ago, quant.geek said:

Wouldn't it be lovely to cherrypick one of these in an auction... 🤩

A few coins relevant to the OP: first, my tornese of John V Palaeologos and John VI Cantacuzenus at a point when they were playing more nicely with each other:

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Next, a quarter-hyperpyron of the brilliant (I agree!) Manuel II Palaeologos:

image.jpeg.70bf0919fa0efbe4a7b498b546944357.jpeg

And finally, here's a halfpenny of Henry IV (pretty hard to get!) whom Manuel visited in pleading for aid (see the cool illustration in the OP):

image.jpeg.ead3df2aa93d594b2721f85c951272f1.jpeg

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On 7/11/2022 at 6:52 AM, TheTrachyEnjoyer said:

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The Berk listing

Actually the reverse above is upside down.

Below is a somewhat clearer image of the Despot/Berk coin, together with the ANS coins brightened up a bit.

 

1861228847_ManII-s.2560a(Morea)-1b-0.51g-BBS156-589(Elsen90-496LHS97-363.5).JPG.cd52e801d238d5fcd75915751c718a04.JPG

 

1723053118_ManII-s.2560a(Morea)-2b-0.55g-ANS1956_174.8.JPG.12b5aab4f37f678610dff1c1e68bc9d0.JPG

2000403036_ManII-s.2560a(Morea)-3b-0.50g-ANS1982_125_65.JPG.5a510fd76eef2d9a34bf757f1e2ac34c.JPG

Ross G.

Edited by Glebe
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