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A numismatic amulet?


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Some years ago I picked up a curious object, a follis of Leo VI and Alexander that had been carefully cut down in antiquity so that only the figure of Leo remained. The care with which the original coin was trimmed suggests that it was not done to create smaller change from a follis. Although we may never know for certain, I will call it an amulet. That ‘s as good a guess as I can hazard, so an amulet it shall remain! 😊


Here it is next to a follis of its type.

Follis, Class 2. Constantinople, 886-912. 7.14 gr. 27 mm. 6 hr. Sear 1730; DO 6; BNP 4-13; BM 11-12; R. 1875.

Obv: + LЄOҺ - S ALЄΞAҺGROS = “Leo and Alexander” Crowned figures of Leo and Alexander enthroned facing, each wearing loros, holding labarum between them; Alexander also holding akakia.

Rev:  In 4 lines: + LЄOҺ/S ALЄΞAҺ/ GROS ЬASIL'/ ROMЄOҺ =  “Leo and Alexander, emperors of the Romans”.


The “amulet”. 1.95 gr. 21.7 mm. 6 hr.

Obv: Virtually no trace of legend, save for the bottom of the tachygraphic sign “S” = “and” just to the right of the cross on Leo’s crown. Leo’s seated figure.

Rev: Partial 4 line legend: + LЄ / ALЄ/ ROS Ь/ ROM



And here it is, laid over the follis.

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I have something similar, but not as drastically cut down. I assumed it was trimmed to use in jewelry.

Anonymous, Time of Basil II & Constantine VIII. Circa AD 1020-1028. Æ Follis (21x25mm, 10.00g, 6h). Constantinople mint, Class 3. Obv: Nimbate bust of Christ facing, holding book of Gospels; five pellets in nimbus. Rev:  +IhSЧS / XRISTЧS / bASILЄЧ / bASILЄ in four lines across field; ornament above and below. Ref: DOC A2.40; SB 1818.


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I wish it was recently enough to remember the details, but either in this or (likelier?) the older forum, someone (I don't think this was @TheTrachyEnjoyer; apologies if it was you!) talked about how anonymous folles functioned, even in the Byzantine equivalent of pockets, as miniature ikons.  This guy was a practicing Greek Orthodox, and deeply invested and informed in Byzantine generally.  ...Thank you, with that kind of context, the transition to amulets couldn't be more intuitive.  @voulgaroktonou, I have to think you nailed it.

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Being of Roman descent, I understand the importance of images and how we see images. For instance, having the image of the Emperor on you is as having the Emperor there with you. That's why Orthodox people today are big on keeping images of Christ and the saints with them on their person. Back then, our Emperor was seen as the living embodiment of God's power on Earth and he was meant to bring us to victory. 

Constans II, AE Follis

Constans II AE Follis

Minted: 659 - 668 AD, at the Syracuse Mint

Weight: 4.07g, Diameter: 27.8mm, Axis: 6H

Obverse: -,
Constans, holding long cross, and Constantine IV, holding globus cruciger, standing facing

Reverse: TKw monogram,
Large M; monogram above, Heraclius and Tiberius standing facing to left and right, respectively

Exergue: SCL

Provenance: Ex. Agora Auction 84, Lot 284

Reference: SBCV 1110

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6 hours ago, JeandAcre said:

Intriguing, though, that in both your and @voulgaroktonou's examples, the controlling motif is an emperor, not Jesus or a saint.  I wonder if people were doing this to emphasize political loyalties, along with religious adherence.  ...Maybe that's not much of a leap.

Yes, that the figure is a secular, not heavenly, personage would suggest it's not meant as a religious token. I wonder if perhaps a coin weight? I have several Byzantine trimmed coins that might fall into that category. Too late tonight for anything more than reading and snuggling with a dog or two, but will snoop around in my boxes and see what's there perhaps tomorrow...

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