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Byzantine Gold Coins
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Byzantine Gold Coins

Constantine moved the capital of Rome to Byzantium which he renamed Constantinople (Constantine's city) in 324.

Though the official fall of Rome is set at 476 AD, I will use Jovian (364) as the first Byzantine Emperor because his rule re-established Christianity as the official religion of the Empire after a brief return to paganism under his predecessor Julian. From his reign onward through the 15th century Christianity remained the dominant religio-politcal force of the Eastern and Western Empire.

Despite the tremendous violent upheaval of this period the Byzantine Emperors managed to maintain a consistent purity to their gold coinage of .95 to .98 fineness - perhaps the greatest tribute to the power of Constantinople.

This changed after the rule of Basil II Bulgarocthonos (killer of Bulgars), 976-1025. From this time onward the coins assumed different shapes in varying degrees of debasement, representing the demise of the Byzantine empire.

click on the coin to see the image enlarged

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The Fine Style Constantine IV. Most Byzantine coins are fairly generic looking, especially in their depitctions of the Emperors. In fact, outside the unusual Constantiner VIII portrait with the eleborate vest, the only really fine style portrait is the one below depicting Constantive IV as sort of a dashing mustacheoid Hussar (to make an anachronistic analogy.)

Constantine IV AD 668-85.

AV Solidus. Constantinople, CONSTANYS PP , 4.45g, three-quarter facing bust, wearing plumed helmet and cuirass, holding spear and shield with horseman device / VICTORA A AVςu H, cross potent on three steps, CONOB in exergue. Sear 1157.

NGC Grades CH MS strk 4/5 surf 5/5..........................................$1400

Justinian II and the first portraits of Christ on coinage:

The portraits of Christ on the coins of Justinian II mark a new development in Christian iconography. At the Trullan Synod, called by Justinian in 692 AD in an attempt to reconcile the growing religious rift between Constantinople and Rome, the issue of how Christ was to be portrayed was debated. The council's subsequent ruling (Canon 82) decreed that henceforth Christ should be seen in human form, rather than the symbolic representations which had prevailed during Christianity's earlier period.

This resulted in two distinct portraits, a Westernized Flowing Hair portrait that later became the definitive portrait used in Western Iconography. And this below: the Semitic Christ, supposedly based on an ancient icon found in the Holy Land, and the only numismatic portrayal of Christ of its type. If Christ was Judean, he surely would have looked more like this.


AV Solidus (4.48 gms), Constantinople Mint.
Facing bust of Christ Pantokrator, wearing pallium and colobium, holding Gospels and raising hand in Benediction; Reverse: Crowned facing bust of Justinian II holding cross potent on three steps in right hand, globus cruciger inscribed "PAX" in left hand. .S-1413.

Not rare to find in mint state, but nearly impossible to find perfectly centered with images and legends perfectly struck on both sides. Only the second of this historically important coin I've ever handled - or seen in this condition

NGC graded MS strk 5/5, surf 4/5










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