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Creation Date

571/2 CE


Antioch (Turkey)






30 mm

0.437 oz. (12.388742 g)

Credit Line

Gift of Brad Hostetler, 2022

Accession Number



Purchased by Brad Hostetler from Arkady Nakhimovsky (Saddle Brook, N.J.) on October 1, 2021.


This coin has a little bit of extra material on the side, and is a little bumpy around the edge as well. There appears to be some wear on the details of the two figures on the obverse side of the coin. There is slight scratching on the right and left figure. On the left figure, this is most evident near the legs and the throne, as well as the right arm, which has some breaks in the shine. The right figure has more scratches near the left of their chest, and their left arm. There is a large scratch stretching from the top of the left figure, and ending on the hand touching the right figure. There is some blackening of the negative space, especially near the feet of the left figure. The obverse’s writing is too blundered to adequately read more than the names of the emperor and empress. On the reverse, small cracks exist on the large “M” shape. These are most evident near its bottom, and near the middle of the “M”. The line directly under the “M” shows wear as well, being broken up. There is also some roughness and loss of detail at the 7-8 o’ clock position. The cross and most of the top (from 9 o’clock to around 2 o’clock) is blackened. The reverse’s inscription is less blundered than the obverse, but the “A” in “ANNO is slightly worn, as are the “U” and “P” in “Theoupolis”. - Harrison Solomon (’26), December 2022

Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings


Blundered inscription


Center: M = 40

Left & Right of M: ANNO UII = Year 7

Below the M: THEUP = Theoupolis (Antioch)

Below the M: Γ


Bellinger, Alfred R. 1966. Catalogue of the Byzantine Coins in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection and in the Whittemore Collection, vol. 1, Anastasius I to Maurice, 491–602. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, no. 152b, p. 243.


The coin’s obverse (or front side) depicts two Byzantine rulers — Justin II and Sophia — enthroned and clutching scepters. They are both equally supporting a large cross between them. On the reverse, the large letter “M” designates this coin as a follis, and the other inscriptions indicate that it was minted in in 571/2 in the gamma workshop in the city of Antioch, in modern day Turkey (Grierson 1999, p. 43; Bellinger 1966, p. 242). A follis was the largest denomination of a copper coin, similar to a quarter in terms of use. In Egypt, 144 folles could be used to get 1 modios of wheat (Morrisson and Cheynet 2001, pp. 820–822).

This coin is interesting because both the empress and emperor are depicted on it. At this time, it was rare for an empress to be depicted on a coin at all, but here, Sophia is depicted at equal scale with Justin II. The coin can be compared to the mosaic portrait of John II Komnenos (r. 1118–1143) and his wife Eirene found in the gallery of Hagia Sophia. This mosaic also features an empress and emperor standing side by side, with Mary and Jesus between them. Just like with the coin, the figures are frontal (they both directly face the viewer), and are the same size, lacking any differences in scale.

Following the three levels of Panofsky’s iconographic analysis, we can decipher the meaning of the piece (Panofsky 1955). Level 1, pre-iconographic analysis, examines the form of the image. On the coin, we see two figures, of similar height, with little facial details which convert into symbols rather than representations of specific rulers. Level 2, iconographic analysis, allows us to identify the abstract forms as enthroned emperor and empress with symbols of divine authority. Through the third level, iconological analysis, we can deduce that this image positions the cross between them as a third ruler, demonstrating their close connection to the church in the eye of the viewer. The mosaic of John II and Eirene demonstrates the continuity in the Byzantine belief that the emperor and empress rule as part of a trinity with the Church.


Bellinger, Alfred R. 1966. Catalogue of the Byzantine Coins in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection and in the Whittemore Collection, vol. 1, Anastasius I to Maurice, 491–602. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection.

Brubaker, Leslie, and Helen Tobler. 2000. “The Gender of Money: Byzantine Empresses on Coins (324–802).” Gender & History 12: 572–594.

Grierson, Philip. 1999. Byzantine Coinage. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection.

Morrisson, Cécile, and Jean-Claude Cheynet. 2001. “Prices and Wages in the Byzantine World.” In The Economic History of Byzantium: From the Seventh Through the Fifteenth Century, ed. Angeliki E. Laiou, 815–878. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection.

Panofsky, Erwin. 1955. “Iconography and Iconology: An Introduction to the Study of Renaissance Art.” In Meaning in the Visual Arts: Papers in and on Art History, 26–54. Woodstock, NY: The Overlook Press.

Harrison Solomon (’26) for ARHS 110 (Fall 2022)

2022.21-obverse.jpg (850 kB)

2022.21-reverse.jpg (1048 kB)

2022.21_HSolomon_drawing.jpg (273 kB)
Line Drawing