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An interesting Heraclius countermark on a follis of Maurice Tiberius


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  • Benefactor
Posted (edited)

It's been a while since I posted a Byzantine thread, mostly due to 1) inertia, and 2) waiting for something of note to come my way.  Well, such a coin has arrived, and inertia is temporarily suspended, so here it is.

The notable feature on what otherwise is a rather common coin, a follis of Maurice Tiberius, RY 8, is the countermark. To quote the information on the label, "The countermark has been identified as the monogram of Theodore, brother (or perhaps half-brother) of Heraclius (c. 634-636 AD) by comparison with his identical monograms on seals."

Heraclius, countermark on M Tiberius follis, Constantinople, RY 8, officina B.

DOC I 27b (coin); Lampinen pp 399-404 (CM).

11.57 grams


Here's an enlargement of the countermark:


This countermark raises the question of its purpose.  Theodore, according to Wikipedia, was appointed to the position of curopalates, in charge of palace administration.  He was also involved in military campaigns with his brother Heraclius.  Was this countermark used during the campaigns to validate folles of prior emperors?  It appears that for a period he was virtual viceroy in the East.  Was his countermark used there while he occupied the position?  

For a more detailed account of Theodore, here's a link to Wikipedia:




Edited by robinjojo
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Very interesting coin, @robinjojo. After a brief look, I couldn't find a reference to a countermark on a Maurice Follis for Theodore in Sear, but Theodore wasn't an emperor, so perhaps Sear didn't include a reference intentionally. So that's probably not a very common overstamp. It appears that Heraclius, and apparently his family, seemed to use countermarks extensively.

I have only one Heraclius coin and it also happens to use countermarks on an Anastasius follis.

Heraclius (610-641), Æ Follis (30/32mm, 16,54g); Sicily, undetermined mint, 616-622; Obv: coin of Anastasius I from Constantinople countermarked by crowned and bearded bust of Heraclius facing forward wearing chlamys, with Monogram to right; Rev: SCL topped by a line within small oval, stamped below the "M" of the original coin;  MIB Km 4, Sommer 11.113. Ex Rauch 86 (2010) lot 1380, Sear 882

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  • Benefactor
Posted (edited)

Okay, here's my take on the counterstamp.  I wish that I had access to the Lampinen reference, which would be the definitive interpretation.  The match is based on the seals of Theodore in that book.

I assume that his name is in Latin, as it is for the emperors.  That would be Theodorus.  

Here's a rough schematic of the monogram countermark as I see it:


The T is the central character, with an E to the lower left, merged into the T.  The lower loop of the E combined with the vertical bar of the T makes a d.  As far as I can make out the characters at the top, they seem to be r u   s.  So the monogram become TEdrus for Theodorus.  Does that make sense?  

Here the countermark with this orientation:


Edited by robinjojo
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Very interesting (and attractive) countermark @robinjojo  These Middle Eastern countermarks on Byzantine hosts are fascinating.  I posted a couple that came my way on CT: 

Byzantine Wars with Islam in Syria & Palestine - A Heraclius Countermark

In my quest for cheap ancient countermarks, I recently landed a pitted follis of Maurice Tiberius with what looked like a countermark - the seller correctly identified the host coin, but missed the countermark. In hand, I was (I think) able to attribute it, a monogram of Heraclius' name in a circle. It was apparently issued by Heraclius during his Syrian wars with the Muslim Arabs, and was used in Palestine.

The most helpful information was from a "sold" listing on FORVM - I quote from this listing:

"Heraclian countermarks on Byzantine copper coins in seventh-century Syria" by Wolfgang Schulze, Ingrid Schulze and Wolfgang Leimenstoll discusses finds near Caesarea Maritima, where this example was found, and concludes, "During the military conflict between the Byzantine Empire and the Muslim Arabs in Syria in the years 633-36 Byzantine coins were countermarked by the Byzantine military with a Heraclius monogram. Countermarking most probably was exercised predominantly in Palestine I and was carried out to revalue the few circulating copper coins in order to remedy the general supply gap and disastrous shortage of cash."

This is the FORVM coin in the listing - the countermark is beautiful:

Heraclius - Countermarks info Monogram for Palestine - FORVMpic.jpg


The FORVM example has a much clearer countermark than my example. The host coin on mine, despite some pitting problems, is remarkably intact in terms of identifying characteristics - the oddly under-sized reverse compared to the full-size obverse is interesting. The countermark, unfortunately, is not very clearly struck - my "enhanced" version show why I am attributing the way I am. Any corrections (or disagreements) welcome, as always. I was staring pretty hard to attribute this and I might be seeing things.

Are there any others of these out there? This Palestine countermark seems to be scarcer than the Sicilian issues of Heraclius, but I think these were all issued in abundance.

My example:

Byz - Heraclius cm Nov 2018 (0).jpg

Byz - Heraclius cm Nov 2018 (0a).jpg

Byzantine Empire Æ Follis
Heraclius (c. 633-636 A.D.)
Countermark on Maurice Tiberius (585-586 A.D.)
Constantinople/Palestine Mint
Host coin:
 [M]AVRIC TIB[ER PP AVG], helmeted & cuirassed bust facing / Large M, ANNO left, cross above, II / II right, Є below; CON in exergue.
SB 494, MIB 65d-67d.
(11.31 grams / 27 mm)
Countermark: HRC cruciform monogram in 9 mm circle.
Schulze HCM type 1b



Byzantine Follis with Eagle Countermark: Last Stand at Caesarea Maritima against Islam?

Feast or famine; with ancient countermarks, I find that either there is no information on them whatsoever, or a feast, with an abundance of information. This unappetizing Byzantine follis I recently found on eBay turned out to be a feast, with several theories on why it got countermarked and where.

First the coin (some may find the ugliness of this coin to be disturbing, so viewer discretion advised):


Byzantine Empire Æ Follis Heraclius (c. 610-640 A.D.) Caesarea Maritima (Egypt?) Host coin: Constantinople (?) follis star | cross | star type of Justin I (SB 62) (518-527 A.D.) or Justinian I (SB 160) (527-538 A.D.) Countermark: Stylized eagle, pellet above, in 9 mm circle. (9.64 grams / 30 x 28 mm) eBay Oct. 2023

I've only been able to find one other sale of these online, which fortunately was from FORVM, which can always be relied upon to give a lot of information. Here is FORVM:

Byzantine Empire, Maurice Tiberius, 13 August 582 - 22 November 602 A.D.; Palestina Prima Countermark

Due to new finds around Caesarea Maritima, Wolfgang Schulze re-attributed this countermark from Egypt to Palestina Prima. David Woods proposes that "Nicetas, the cousin of the future emperor Heraclius, ordered the countermarking of these coins as he advanced from Egypt into Palestine during the summer of 610 in order to signal the change of government from Phocas to the Heraclii." Another possible date is after the recovery of Syria from the Persians in 628. Schulze dates it to the Arab siege of 637 - 640 A.D., to which Caesarea succumbed. This is only the third example known of this eagle countermark applied to a coin of Maurice Tiberius. Woods identified the other examples, as "a careless accident." SH77069. Bronze follis, Hahn MIB II 65b, DOC I 22 var. (no 4th officina), SBCV 494; for countermark see Schulze INR 2009, and Woods (Heraclius, Palestina Prima), countermark: VF, coin: aF, areas of corrosion, 4th officina, Constantinople (Istanbul, Turkey) mint, weight 11.287g, maximum diameter 31.5mm, die axis 180o, coin c. 583 - 584, countermark c. 610 - 637; obverse DN mAV - RC P P AV, crowned bust facing, crown with cross and pendilia, globus cruciger in right hand, shield on left shoulder; reverse large M (40 nummi) between ANNO and II (regnal year 2), Δ (4th officina) below, CON in exergue; countermark: in exergue, eagle standing facing, head right, wings raised, in a round punch; from The Jimi Berlin Caesarea Collection (found at Caesarea, Israel); very rare countermark; SOLD


Unlike FORVM's example, the host coin on my example is the more common Justin I / Justinian I follis; I suspect mine is Justin I, based on the spacing of the letters, but I am not entirely sure of this, as the middle NVS/ANVS part of the legend is missing. The mintmark on mine is also mostly missing, but I think I can make out the N for CON.

I was able to locate Schulze's article on academia.com, and find his theories observations on what, where and why for this countermark to be very compelling.

The Byzantine ‘Eagle’ Countermark –Re-attributed from Egypt to Palestine


ABSTRACT During the turbulent years of the Arab conquest of Syria in the 30s of the seventh century CE, a series of Byzantine countermarks was in use. One of them, the ‘eagle’ countermark, has been attributed for a long time to Egypt and may now be re-attributed to Palestine on the basis of new evidence. This countermark may have been applied on old and worn Byzantine coins in order to revalue them during the siege of Caesarea (637–640 CE).

INTRODUCTION Byzantine coins bearing a countermark depicting an eagle with upraised wings were first published over 30 years ago (Bendall1976:230). Up to now such countermarks were known exclusively on coins of Justin I and Justinian I (Fig. 1)The round countermark shows a standing bird (‘eagle’) with wings curved upward and a pellet above. It has a diameter of approximately 8 mm and is placed exclusively on the reverses of the host coins. Evans stated that “all [countermarks]are placed at approximately the same place on the reverses of folles, obscuring the offcinae , but carefully avoiding disfiguring the M or the mintmark.” (Evans 2006:24). Looking at the coins in the catalogue below, we can be more precise. On most of the coins, the application of the countermark at the same place of the host coin is indisputable. The countermarks are usually placed on the mintmark or on the offcina, disfiguring one or the other and sometimes both. But nevertheless there are four coins with countermarks placed indiscriminately beside or on the M (Cat. Nos. 1, 10, 16, 21).In contrast to the worn host coins, the countermarks are usually fresh. Takinginto account the fact that Bendall only knew of three specimens and that we can use the evidence of 25 specimens today, his statement “the designs of the countermarks are as worn as the coins” (Bendall 1976:230) cannot be maintained. It seems that several ‘eagle’ countermark dies were in use, sometimes of fine, sometimes of rough style. This could point to a larger production than their rarity in excavations, museums or in trade may suggest (Fig. 2). https://www.academia.edu/6830710/Th...termark_Re_attributed_from_Egypt_to_Palestine

The article goes on with various other aspects and theories about this countermark and the tumultuous history of those times.

Feel free to share any other Byzantine and/or Arabic countermarks, etc.



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  • Benefactor

Thank you for the information on the countermarks of Heraclius and others. I really don't collect countermarks on anything like a systematic way.  I tend to be attracted to cm's with some historical relevance, or ones with intriguing designs or characters.  In other words, very sporadic. 

Yes, the Forum example is an outstanding, bold countermark.  

Since Theodore was viceroy of the East under Heraclius, the countermark was applied, I assume the countermark was made while the coin circulated in Theodore's neck of the woods.  I think I'll try to see if the seller has a photo of the countermark that he refers to in the coin's description.  

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