Al Kowsky Posted August 6, 2022 · Member Share Posted August 6, 2022 (edited) Historians believe the Byzantine Era began when Constantine I declared the new capital of Rome the city of Byzantium, & changed it's name to Constantinople in AD 330, however, numismatists mark the Byzantine Era with the reign of Anastasius I, because of his currency reform. So for this thread we'll use the reign of Anastasius I, AD 491-518, as the beginning of the Byzantine Era. Are Byzantine coins crude & ugly, some are & some are beautifully crafted. Are Byzantine coins misunderstood, yes they are misunderstood by many people. Roman coinage that was representational & veristic made a gradual & dramatic change in style, influenced by styles from the East. The realistic modelling changed to a style that looks "cubist", & is best seen in the portraits of the early 4th century of the CE. There is now an arbitrary geometric construction of the face with straight & curved lines that abolishes a human appearance. The new image is god-like, not human. ' Two billon nummi of Diocletian showing the beginning of the new style taking root. By the reign of Anastasius the new style is in full bloom as can be seen on this 40 nummi coin struck in Constantinople, photo curtesy of CNG. Realistic portraits of emperors was considered impious & vain. The new style was meant to be spiritual & religious in it's simplicity. Christian images became popular & used exclusively except during the short-lived period of Iconoclasm. Pictured below are two plated galvanic shells of a famous gold medallion of Justinian I, commemorating the victory of Belisarius over the Vandals in AD 534. The original medal, now lost, was struck in pure gold & equal to 36 solidi, weighing 163.4 gm, with a diameter of 85 mm. The artistry & quality of engraving prove the mint of Constantinople was capable of making coins & medals in the old Roman style. Photo courtesy of CNG. The general population saw coinage of Justinian I that looked like the coins pictured below. These coins had wide diameters in relation to their weight, & were very thin, so in-depth modelling was virtually impossible. Anonymous bronze folles were struck in huge quantities during the late 10th & early 11th centuries depicting Christ on the obverse & an inscription on the reverse translating "Jesus Christ King of Kings" or something close to that. Many of these coins were important keepsakes of believers & some were made into pendants & jewelry. Most of these coins were crudely engraved & most survivors show heavy wear. Today examples like the coin pictured below can be bought for $15-20. Photo courtesy of Abilene Christian University Collection. Examples like this coin in mint state are rare & expensive, with sale prices reaching $1,000.00 or more. I looked a long time to find an example like this to add to my collection. Gold coins maintained their purity & weight of 4.50 gm for a long time, but portrait engraving varied in quality as can be seen in these two solidi of Heraclius & eldest son. The 1st coin was struck by a traveling mint of Heraclius & the 2nd coin was struck by the Constantinople Mint. Gold coins gradually became thinner & cup-shaped (scyphate) & the purity shows debasement like the coin pictured below. After the crusades the Byzantine Empire rapidly deteriorated & most of it's territory was lost. The gold coinage became almost unrecognizable & the coin pictured below testifies to that. Andronicus II with Michael IX, AD 1282-1328. AV Hyperpyron Nomisma: 2.85 gm, 21 mm, 6 h. Photo courtesy of CNG. It took me a long time to warm-up to Byzantine coins, but I highly prize the few examples in my collection. I enjoy studying Byzantine art & history & have added some Byzantine artifacts to my collection too. What do fellow members of NVMIS FORVMS think about Byzantine coins ? If you're a collector feel welcome to post some of your favorites ☺️. Edited August 7, 2022 by Al Kowsky spelling correction 20 1 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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