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Creation Date



Constantinople (Istanbul, Turkey)






27 mm

0.127 oz. (3.6 g)

Credit Line

Gift of Brad Hostetler, 2022

Accession Number



Purchased by Brad Hostetler from David Pasikowski (Grand Rapids, Mich.) on September 30, 2021.


The object does not appear to be fragmented or fractured; however, there are very small chips and cracks scattered throughout the coin, especially at the bottom of the obverse. Some areas of the coin are lighter than others or slightly worn, especially on the reverse right, where there is a slightly lighter color and a few small areas of indentation along the rim of the coin. - Liz DeProspo (’25), December 2022

Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings


IC XC = Jesus Christ


[ΜΑΝȣΗΛ] ΔΕC[ΠΟΤ] = Manuel Emperor

[MP] Θ[V] = Mother of God


Hendy, Michael F. 1999. Catalogue of the Byzantine Coins in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection and in the Whittemore Collection, vol. 4, Alexius I to Alexius V, 1081–1204. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, no. 13g, p. 320.


This coin of Manuel I Komnenos (r. 1143–80) is a dark gray color with a tan/brown hue in some segments. At 0.127 oz. (3.6 g), the coin is thinner than a quarter, but the diameter of 27 mm exceeds that of a quarter by 3 mm. The coin is asymmetrical; however, you can run your finger over the entirety of the coin’s rim without feeling cracks or blemishes. The reverse of the coin depicts Mary bestowing a crown upon Emperor Manuel I Komnenos’s head; on the obverse, Jesus is shown seated on a throne holding a Bible in his left hand and raising his right hand in blessing.

This specific coin was minted in Constantinople, and features Manuel I Komnenos, who ruled the Byzantine empire for over three decades with an expansionist mindset toward the East (Brand, Kazhdan, and Cutler 1991). The coin is of the trachy denomination and is a billon coin (Hendy 1999, p. 320), meaning that it is primarily made from bronze, but contains about 2-6% silver (Grierson 1999, p. 44). Billon coins would typically be used for smaller, everyday purchases, such as grain, almsgiving or foodstuffs (Morrisson and Cheynet 2001, p. 950).

In contrast to several other works of the empire — such as the textile roundel at the Victoria and Albert Museum (T.794-1919), which depicts a scene of a stoic emperor readying himself for battle — the iconography of Manuel being crowned by a holy figure communicates a different kind of message. The holy iconography and characters depicted — Mary, Jesus, the Bible — are in close proximity to Manuel by nature of being on the same coin, with Mary even bestowing the crown upon him. When analyzed using Erwin Panofsky’s method of iconological analysis to derive cultural meaning from the imagery, the coin’s iconography was likely advantageous to Manuel’s rule (Panofsky 1955). In the context of pervasive Christian culture of Byzantium, depicting Manuel in the same physical space as Mary (and receiving a crown which denoted authority directly from her) likely served to give validity to Manuel’s rule and engineer a greater level of social compliance from the God-fearing members of the empire. Coins such as this allowed Manuel — and other emperors depicted with similar imagery — to be perceived as rulers who commanded respect even from holy authorities.


Brand, Charles, Alexander Kazhdan, and Anthony Cutler. 1991. “Manuel I Komnenos.” In The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, ed. Alexander P. Kazhdan. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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.

Liz DeProspo (’25) for ARHS 110 (Fall 2022)

2022.40-obverse.jpg (705 kB)

2022.40-reverse.jpg (873 kB)