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Guy of Ponthieu, the Bayeux Tapestry, and so forth, along similar lines


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Posted (edited)


With some recent, very cool exceptions, notably by @Hrefn, @Anaximander, and some of the (other?) distinguished European members of the forum, the Medievals section has been looking kind of thin for a while.

I was moved to do something about this.  But instead of finishing an OP that aspired to cover the early phases of the Reconquista (around 26 pages, in this font size), or digging up and rehabilitating excerpts from documents going back even further than that, I thought it might be time to fulfill an old threat, and repost something from the old forum.  …Also with some rehabilitation, but on a less epic scale than would be called for in the other cases.

The eventual coins are of Guy I, Count of Ponthieu 1053-1100. ....And, like that much of the period, from this corner of Europe (northeastern France, across the Low Countries to NW Germany), they’re the kind of coins that only a mother, or a collector who’s already too far gone, could love.  If you’re that invested in the historical context, this is kind of what you get.

But first, some background.  Ponthieu was a small county just northeast of the duchy of Normandy, under Norman ducal suzereignty. ...More effectively so than usual for the period, particularly in comparison to contemporary Capetian monarchs. The Norman dukes, not least William I, knew how this was done.
Here’s a map.  Normandy is to the west (with Le Mans /Maine south of it), with the county of Flanders and part of the Capetian royal demesne (Beauvais) in the near vicinity, northwest and south.


…No, promise, I’m getting to the coins.  But for Guy of Ponthieu (/Gui/ Gvido/ VVIDO), a serious draw is that he shows up not only in several chronicles of the earlier 12th century (including Orderic Vitalis, a major primary source for the Norman Conquest), but also, more than once, on the Bayeux Tapestry.  

We can start with Harold Godwinsson getting shipwrecked on his coast. Guy holds Harold for ransom; (spoiler:) it takes Guy’s suzerain, William (only ‘The Bastard,’ so far) to bail him out. (...Later, at William’s court, Harold swears on sacred relics to acknowledge William’s succession to the English throne, setting the stage for William’s invasion, after Harold’s ensuing coronation. As some Victorian memorably said, ’1066, and all that.’  Meanwhile, in this medium, the narrative is almost proto-cinematic.)
‘Here Guy (VVIDO) Apprehends Harold.’ (Harold has the moustache.)
‘...Where Harold and Guy Confer [discussing Harold’s ransom].’
‘...Where the emissary [nuncio] of William [...confronts Guy, apparently in scale armor, holding a Viking-style battle axe.].’

(This last picture (the others were from a thumb drive): https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tapisserie_agriculture.JPG.) 

...Typically terrible coins ensue.  The legends are often retrograde.  That is, Frank(ish)ly Backward; we’re not in Julio-Claudian /Flavian Kansas anymore.  As if that wasn’t good enough, you get further, effectively illiterate legend blundering, complemented by the kind of strikes that invite you to wonder how hungover the mint worker was. 

...The gestalt is less about the kind of dialogue you can get from the expansive and, may we just say, competent legends on, for instance, later Hellenistic or Roman coins.  It’s along more starkly forensic lines: ‘what’s here?’ and, ‘what did they mean?’

Then you can add the paucity of current, responsible references for coins from the region. Now you’re looking at a perfect storm. With the sheer chaos of the myriad, largely illiterate variants, published and not, it’s easy to sympathize with Duplessy’s hesitance, in his ongoing series, Monnaies Féodales, to get to the volume for this part of the country.  Poey d’Avant  acknowledges his own ignorance, in light of the profusion of examples and variants, while they were coming to light in real time, already as of 1863 (Monnaies Féodales, p. 387, note).

Gui, Comte de Ponthieu 1053-1100. Denier of Abbéville.
Obv. (from 1 o’clock: ) +VVIDO COMES. (‘Count Guy,’ rendered with the same double ‘V’ that you see on the Bayeux Tapestry.)
Rev. A frankly appalling rendering, ostensibly of the legend: +ABBATIS VILLA (Abbéville). With a central design, likely riffing on the Robertian monogram of Odo (/Eudes), as king of Francia, c. early 10th century.
(This corresponds best to Poey 6696. Other variations are listed in Boudeau no. 1925; Caron 632 and pl. XXVI: 3; and Roberts 4381-3. But all Roberts does is parrot Caron and Poey, especially Poey’s no.s 6693-5. ...Nope, sticking with Poey this time.)



This one has legends which are frankly retrograde on both sides.  Apart from that, though, they provide only clearer renditions of Poey’s version than in the preceding example. As such, it’s a less ambiguous match to Poey 6697.

The reverse features a further degradation of the likely neo-Robrtian ‘ODDO’ monogram.  But more funly, the obverse legend (right, ‘VVIDO COM[I?]S (‘comitis?’), has a distinctive rendering of the ‘M,’ looking more like ‘O).’  This shows up occasionally on coins into the 13th century, but it’s not common.  

One instance, from a couple of generations earlier, is found in the early deniers of of Herbert I, Count of [Le] Mans /Maine c. 1015-1032/5.  On the basis of hoard evidence, the examples with this letter form are the only ones which can be reliably dated to Herbert’s lifetime.  In contrast to the plethora of immobilizations (and variants) that persist into the early 13th century. 



County of [Le] Mans /Maine.  Herbert I, 1015-1032/5.

Obv. 'EBERTVS' monogram.  (Evoking the 'CAROLVS' monogram; but a common convention through the 10th and 11th centuries, across a comparable range of media.)  +COMES CENOO)ANIS.

Rev.  Cross; pellets in upper angles; Alpha and Omega suspended from the arms of the cross. 

+SIGNVM DEI VIVI  (Sign of the Living God.)  Duplessy 397. 

[No, Really, in spite of very recent precedent, this is lifted from the original post.]  ...People here have been making whole threads, just recently, out of variously atrocious coins. Whether for wear, or strike, or crudity of the engraving. You would be cordially welcome to start from there. ...Maybe, or not, with medieval examples. (...If there are ancients as bad as this, um, I’d frankly enjoy the schadenfreude. ...You Were Warned!!!)

Edited by JeandAcre
YIKES, misspelled 'Bayeux' in theTITLE. Slap Hands!!! ...And restoring the pic for the reverse of the second one of Ponthieu.
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  • JeandAcre changed the title to Guy of Ponthieu, the Bayeux Tapestry, and so forth, along similar lines
Posted (edited)

Apologies, but I'm already losing the thread. Wait. Is there one, here?
Shall I begin with the end (alpha et omega)? My notes and flips are replete with symbols and archaic letters, so why not go there.  My exemplar of Herbert I, also Duplessy 397, has the Λ (the α) and Ʊ (an inverted Ω), but not Თ (the odd-shaped M). So, point goes to @JeandAcre.  FR.Feudal.Maine.HerbertI.Duplessy399_bg.jpg.fb4ecda1edb509c5d23c8c9ecbbaa5e2.jpg  FR.Feudal.Maine.HerbertI.Duplessy399_tag.jpg.76deeaab38de44dffd505017f9f43652.jpg 

However, I can evidence the monogram! Spelling it out it is beyond me, but here you have it: 


And on to Normandy, William the Bastard, and some bastardized coinage...


Hard to believe that there is lettering in there, with just an N (for Normannia) jumping out.  Crude is right.

Edited by Anaximander
Omitted an "is" (gasp!).
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Posted (edited)

Major props to you, @Anaximander, for venturing this deep into these weeds. 

I'm going to need to focus on the issues of Maine.  Your example is very solid, looking like it's from the early phases of immobilization, still 11th century.  I have a couple of those; on the basis of hoard evidence, Duplessy can date the principal variations (subtle, but still readily noticable) to the 11th century; the early 12th; and later in the 12th, noting that the type is continued all the way up to 1266 (...after more than a half-century of royal, Capetian occupation).

Especially from your line drawing, it's easy enough to parse the monogram.  First, you need to proceed from the fact that, in this milieu of already neo-Carolingian monograms, these people don't blink at using the same letter more than once.  So in the first, left half of the monogram, within the large 'E,' you get 'ERBER.'  On the right half, you get 'TVS;' the 'V' elided with the initial 'T.'  Thank you, so you get ''ERBERTVS.'

...Meanwhile, Right, for a whole region notorious for appalling issues and strikes, the Norman ones get the award for being at the absolute nadir.  (...Oop, that rhymes with 'denier.'  ...I'm scared....)

(Edit: Woops, well, actually it doesn't.  I just wanted it to, for a minute.  Sorry for that.)

Edited by JeandAcre
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Posted (edited)

Thanks, @Ancient Coin Hunter!  If you were so inclined, here's the whole thing, but only with the Latin transcription --granted, I can bet that your Latin is better than mine!

...The one time I was in Europe, as a kid in '73 (...the French hippies at the campground were a gas), I MADE dad stop at Bayeux on the way to Calais to catch the ferry.  One of the most memorable parts of the whole trip.  I really Got Lost in it.  ...We got there too late to get inside, but the cathedral there was cool, too.  Years later, it inspired a haiku.

        Bayeux Cathedral:
        Gothic sits on Romanesque
        Like a wedding cake.

(Edit:)  Whoops, Minor Detail: the link.  https://www.hs-augsburg.de/~harsch/Chronologia/Lspost11/Bayeux/bay_tama.html 

Edited by JeandAcre
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