Coins of the Byzantine Empire and neighboring states.
The suppression of imperial power in the western part of the empire in 476 was a kind of "end of the world" for contemporaries. Not only was the city of Rome in decline, but the central idea of the Roman Empire as a single Fatherland for all the inhabitants of the world was shaken. Trade and cultural ties were severed in the vast territories lost by the empire. The disastrous effects of the decline can also be seen in the coins of this time. Continuous and abundant coining of gold lasts in the eastern part of the empire with its capital in Constantinople, in modern historical science called Byzantium. The early medieval gold coins of Western Europe are only imitations of late Roman and Byzantine coinage, the style of which degrades to a completely primitive one, and the coinage becomes episodic and almost disappears with time.
The gold coins of Byzantium of the highest denomination at all the time of their release, almost until the very conquest of Constantinople by the Ottomans, were made at a solidus rate of about 4.54 grams. During periods of crisis, the quality of the metal deteriorated significantly and the coins became electrum, but, in general, the Byzantine gold coin for a long time becomes a standard and an example to follow both in the West and in the East.
Solids with the now canonical image of a slightly turned bust of the emperor in armor with a spear and a shield in his hands were issued intermittently for more than 300 years (from about 351 to 685). In full accordance with the general trend towards symbolism, apparently exacerbated by the decline, we see a greatly simplified, turned strictly frontal image of Emperor Justin II on a solid of 567-578 from our collection. Made according to the same canon as the portrait of Theodosius II, the obverse of this solid is completely devoid of any hint of the lively realism of the antique portrait. In fact, we already have an icon of the emperor in front of us, and it is in this direction that the fine arts of Byzantium will develop, which is clearly displayed on its coins.
Heraclius solidus of 629-631, presented in our collection, is a contemporary of events of exceptional importance. In the spring of 629, the emperor entered Constantinople after an extremely difficult 7-year campaign in Asia, having the glory of a conqueror of the Persians, like Alexander the Great. But against the backdrop of the Byzantine-Persian confrontation, another major event in world history passed completely unnoticed - the birth of Islam and the Muslim state in Medina (622). Thanks to the initial soft policy of Muslims towards the “people of the book” (Jews and Christians) on the one hand and the heavy tax pressure and cruel persecution against any religious dissent in Byzantium and the Persian Empire, the new religion of the Prophet Muhammad and the power of Muslims did not meet with resistance from the local population at the territories of both empires captured by the Arabs. The military strength of Byzantium after the hardest war with the Persians was weakened, and the Sassanid Empire was not able to quickly recover from the defeat for proper resistance to the conquerors. As a result, Islam was able to spread incredibly quickly and widely. Even during the lifetime of Emperor Heraclius (died February 11, 641), Syria was captured by Muslims, in 637 Jerusalem and the capital of the Sassanides Ctesiphon, at the end of 639 the conquest of Egypt and northern Africa began ...
The first Arab gold coins imitate the Byzantine solids of Heraclius only with a distortion of the images of the cross. Around 695-697, the Umayyad caliph Abd al-Malik carried out a reform of the caliphate's monetary system, as a result of which was an introducion of a gold dinar weighing 1 miskal (4.26 grams), both sides of which contain only inscriptions.
An example of an Arab coin in our collection is an imitation of the dinar of the Fatimid caliph al-Amir, minted by the crusaders of the Kingdom of Jerusalem (early issue before 1148-59).
Until the middle of the 13th century, the only mass gold coins were Byzantine and Arabic, which had the common name "bezants", while in Western Europe a small debased silver coin, denier, dominated. The general poverty of the population of the West in comparison with the rich countries of the East became one of the reasons for the “Great Campaign to the East” proclaimed in 1095 by Pope Urban II, later called the First Crusade. In 1099, Jerusalem was taken and the Latin kingdom of the same name was formed, which immediately faced the problem of organizing commodity-money relations with the local population, who preferred Fatimid gold rather than franc's coins in their calculations. The way out of this situation was found in the minting of imitations of the gold dinars of the Fatimids, which were issued in Acre. Perhaps a similar coin, unprecedented in Europe, was used in 1192 for the purchase of food by the servant of the King of England Richard I the Lionheart upon his return from Palestine, which eventually revealed the incognito of the king and led him to a long captivity ...
During the reign of the Byzantine emperors from the Macedonian dynasty (867-1056), the period of the highest flowering of Byzantine culture is associated, achieved largely due to the benevolent attitude of the rulers towards the ancient heritage.
The Histamenon Nomisma of Constantine VIII (1025-1028) from our collection is an excellent example of the "Macedonian Renaissance" - the image of Jesus Christ on the obverse of this coin can be called as an etalone example of Byzantine iconography.
The first image of Jesus Christ on coins, apparently, should be attributed to the year 450. Christ appears on the reverse of Marcian's solidus and blesses his marriage to Elia Pulcheria. The front bust image of Christ first appears about 692-695 on the obverse of the mass issues of the solidi of Justinian II. The iconography of Jesus, the Virgin Mary and Christian saints was finally formed in the X-XI centuries.
On the obverse of the histamenon of Constantine X (c. 1068-1071) from our collection we see the canonical image of Christ sitting on the throne, and on the reverse a depiction of the Virgin Mary standing in full growth. The front side of the hyperpyron of Andronicus II and Andronicus III (c. 1325-1328) is decorated with the bust of the Mother of God Orans inside the tower walls, and the reverse shows the figure of Jesus standing in the center of the composition, blessing both emperors on the sides.
The last two coins are interesting for their unusual cup shape, which became the norm for Byzantium from the second half of the 11th century. They both are made from a lower quality alloy. Hyperpyron 1325-28 contains no more than 50% gold and is an example of the last gold coins of Byzantium, the issue of which ceased by 1353, as well as a witness to the decline of the Empire that stretched for another century.
Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1453 and transformed into the capital of the Ottoman Empire - Istanbul, which after 1517 became the center of the Islamic world - the Caliphate. Gold sultani of Sulayman I Qanuni (the Lawgiver) from our collection, dated 1520, is a witness to the highest power and flourishing of the Ottoman Empire.
The idea of the "Third Rome", similar to the idea of the "Holy Roman Empire", was born after the marriage in 1472 of the Grand Duke of Moscow Ivan III and Sophia Palaiologos, the niece of the last Byzantine emperor Constantine XII. The coat of arms of the Paleologians - a double-headed eagle - can be seen on the obverse of the award coin nominated as a quarter of hungarian ducat dated 1654. This wonderful coin was issued in connection with the entry into Russia of the Left-Bank Ukraine and the Western Russian districs with Smolensk. The number of coins minted is estimated at more than 70,000 examples, and this is undoubtedly one of the largest gold issues in Russia before Peter the Great.
The gold ones are made according to the typical Russian technology of wire chasing with the use of a kopeck reverse die with the title of the tsar. But the front side was made specifically for this issue and for the first time in the history of Russian coinage and medal making contains the indication of the date in Arabic numerals. In the award system of the Moscow Kingdom, a gold hungarian quarter ducat corresponded to the award to the hundredth commander of the noble militia and sagittarius regiments, therefore, the awarding of ordinary Cossacks of the troops of Bogdan Khmelnitsky with such a sign indicates an exceptionally high assessment of the events that took place. However, most of the awards received were used in Ukraine as a regular means of payment.
The iconography of Byzantine coins had a significant impact on Western European, especially Italian, coins, some of which were destined to hold records for the longest minting.