0.388 oz. (10.9 g)
Gift of Brad Hostetler, 2022
Purchased by Brad Hostetler from Matt Freechack (Vadnais Heights, Minn.) on July 19, 2022. Said to be from the “Vitangelo Collection”.
The coin appears to be asymmetrical, and not perfectly centered. The coin's outline appears to be chipped around the 10 o'clock portion of the obverse, appearing straighter rather than round, with a protrusion around 9 o’clock. It looks like some of the coin was broken off since we see a lighter shade of brown and rougher material that is different from the rest of the coin. Around 2 o'clock of the obverse, there’s an indentation making the coin appear jagged-like. It looks like there was some damage to this portion of the coin. Interestingly, the damage is more visible from the reverse. Around 10 o’clock, the inward cut in the coin is well-defined. From the obverse, I can see the outline of the design of the top half of the coin from about 9 o’clock to 5 o’clock. There’s a lot of extra space not related to the actual design of the coin. The reverse also has lopsidedness and extra space not related to the coin; however, it is not symmetrical. I would expect the extra space to appear on the upper left quarter of the coin as we flip it, but it appears on the lower left quarter of the coin, while the design is cut off on the right side. The bottom right-quarter edge of the coin on the obverse appears to be worn out and much of the design cannot be seen. On the reverse, the bottom left corner of the coin is worn out, and the outline of the coin is not as prominent. - Nicholas Lewis (’23), December 2022
Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings
Center: M = 40
Left & Right of M: ANNO II = Year 2
Below the M: THEUP/ = Theoupolis (Antioch)
Grierson, Philip. 1968. Catalogue of the Byzantine Coins in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection and in the Whittemore Collection, vol. 2, Phocas to Theodosius III, 602–717. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, no. 84, p. 187.
This Byzantine coin of Phokas and Leontia is a copper follis. The reverse reveals its value with the letter “M”, meaning 40 nummi (Grierson 1968, p. 187). This side of the coin also consists of numerous inscriptions that indicate the mint location and the date of the coin. The obverse consists of two figures, Phokas (left), and his wife, Leontia (right). Phokas is holding a globus cruciger upright in his right hand while Leontia is to the right, holding a cruciform scepter over her right shoulder in her right hand.
This coin was minted in Antioch in 603/604 CE. The follis during this time period was equivalent to 1/288 of a solidus (Grierson 1999, p. 43). Since copper coins had a lower value, it was common for people of all financial backgrounds to be using this coin. Thus, the widespread accessibility of this coin creates propaganda of the Christian and imperial symbols depicted within the coin. This coin can be compared to how Justinian and Theodora portrayed themselves at San Vitale. In these two mosaics, they are the center of attention, wearing different clothing and jewelry with halos around them. These two images emphasize the imperial glorification of these two rulers.
Despite Phokas and Leontia having a lackluster reign, they are depicted with the same level of renown as Justinian and Theodora in their mosaic images (Grierson 1991). This relates back to the use of currency as propaganda, especially since this would be the only way for the public to see images of the rulers. As shown by Michael Yonan, materiality is central to our understanding of objects (Yonan 2019). The rulers’ intention can be realized by understanding that copper was not an expensive material during this time period; thus, we can recognize Phokas and Leontia’s goal of outreach to the public in promotion of themselves.
Grierson, Philip. 1999. Byzantine Coinage. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection.
Grierson, Philip. 1968. Catalogue of the Byzantine Coins in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection and in the Whittemore Collection, vol. 2, Phocas to Theodosius III, 602–717. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection.
Grierson, Philip. 1991. “Phokas.” In The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, ed. Alexander P. Kazhdan. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Yonan, Michael. 2019. “Materiality as Periphery.” Visual Resources 35, nos. 3-4: 200–216.
Nicholas Lewis (’23) for ARHS 110 (Fall 2022)