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Creation Date



Constantinople (Istanbul, Turkey)






Diameter: 25 mm

Weight: 0.15 oz (4.2 g)

Credit Line

Gift of Brad Hostetler, 2022

Accession Number



Purchased by Brad Hostetler from Fotios Ioakeim (Limassol, Cyprus) on February 23, 2020.


The coin shows medium wear, with some discoloration as well as minimal cracks and scratches. The one noticeable scratch appears over the right eye of the figure on the obverse. The coin appears complete based on its smooth, relatively circular edge. A few characters on the reverse are partially cut off, but this appears to be a result of the minting process and not later damage. The cut off characters are on the left side, and there is blank space on the right side, indicating that the die was applied slightly off-center, thus explaining the partial characters. - Dorothy Yaqub (’26), December 2022

Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings



Romanos, Emperor of the Romans



Romanos by God Emperor of the Romans


Grierson, Philip. 1973. Catalogue of the Byzantine Coins in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection and in the Whittemore Collection, vol. 3, Leo III to Nicephorus III, 717–1081. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, no. 25a, p. 562.


This follis of the Byzantine Emperor Romanos I Lekapenos (r. 920–944) is highly indicative of the values of the culture from which it emerged. The obverse depicts the figure of the emperor. He is bearded and wearing ornate clothing and a crown. The reverse depicts four rows of Roman characters that, when translated into English, read: “Romanos, by God, Emperor of the Romans.” The characters are partially cut off on the left side, and there is negative space on the right side, which indicates that the die was not perfectly centered when the coin was minted.

It was created in the imperial mint of Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire. Situated directly between the Aegean Sea and the Black Sea, Constantinople’s prime coastal location made it a hub of trade and culture, and it was the center of many industries, including the minting of coins. Bronze coins such as this one were by far the most common due to their low monetary value; there were 12 folles in a silver miliaresion and 288 folles in a gold solidus (Grierson 1999, p. 44). As a result, the coin could serve as a vehicle for imparting a message to members of all social classes.

The significance of this coin is most apparent when compared to a similar work of art, an ivory plaque of Christ crowning Constantine VII (Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, 3273-297). Like the coin, the plaque was created in Constantinople during the 10th century, with estimates dating it to approximately 950 CE. It also depicts Constantine VII wearing similar apparel to that of Romanos: a divetesion, a long-sleeved silk tunic that was the standard uniform for important figures of the era, and a loros, a long scarf embroidered with gold and encrusted with jewels. Both also are wearing a bejeweled crown in a simple banded shape.

In addition to the emperors’ similar attire, the coin and the plaque both impart a religious message. The plaque depicts Christ crowning Constantine VI, an overt attempt to imply that his sovereignty was divinely granted. While the figure of Romanos on the coin does not contain such blatant imagery, the inscription on the reverse declares that he is the emperor “in God,” conveying a similar message. Examining the two objects together illustrates the important role of Christianity in Byzantine culture, both in daily life and in royal doctrine, as Erwin Panofsky argues in his definition of iconology (Panofsky 1955, p. 32). It was clearly very important to emperors like Romanos that their subjects saw them as having divine favor, a fact reflected in this coin.


Grierson, Philip. 1973. Catalogue of the Byzantine Coins in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection and in the Whittemore Collection, vol. 3, Leo III to Nicephorus III, 717–1081. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection.

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

Lattanzio, Giada. 2022. “Byzantine.” Fashion History Timeline, Fashion Institute of Technology. Accessed December 1, 2022.

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.

Dorothy Yaqub (’26) for ARHS 110 (Fall 2022)

2022.29-obverse.jpg (735 kB)

2022.29-reverse.jpg (731 kB)