Antioch (İzmit, Turkey)
0.399 oz. (11.2 g)
Gift of Brad Hostetler, 2022
Purchased by Brad Hostetler from Paul Heisler (Grandville, Mich.) on July 19, 2022.
The obverse has a chip on its bottom left. This side’s design is damaged, from the bottom right diagonally up to the center top. Thus, the face of Emperor Maurice is obscured (facial features are indiscernible). The inscription above the Emperor’s bust, while mostly discernible, is broken in the middle due to the damage previously mentioned. While intricate detail on the left side of the bust is maintained, the left hand, and the object it is holding, is cut off by the minting border. The right hand and the head-piece are also maintained in a similar fashion. Lastly, The dotted minting border is dulled on the bottom right, the center top, and is absent in the bottom left due to the chip. The bottom and center top of the reverse of the coin are also damaged. The lowest inscription is therefore indiscernible. In contrast, the center inscription is discernible and well preserved. A faint cross can be found at the center top despite the damage mentioned above. Finally, the dotted minting border is dulled on the center top and is cut off at the bottom. - Andres Tuccillo (’23), December 2022
Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings
Center: M = 40
Left & Right of M: ANNO XIIII = Year 14
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. 166b, p. 343.
This Byzantine coin depicting the Emperor Maurice is a follis. Its value was equivalent to forty nummi — a nummus being the lowest denomination (Grierson 1991). The coin was minted in copper, in the city of Antioch in 595/6 CE (Bellinger 1966, p. 343). Coins such as this were used to pay the wages of soldiers and sailors (Laiou, 2007, pp. 860–861), and sometimes functioned as protective charms (Fulghum, 2001, pp. 139–140). Consequently, soldiers and sailors may have used such coins for protection on military campaigns or sea voyages.
The obverse (heads-side) of the coin contains the degraded bust of Emperor Maurice, wearing imperial robes and a crown with a trefoil ornament. His left hand holds a mappa (a white cloth used to start chariot races by the official) and his right holds an eagle-topped scepter. A Greek inscription, which translates to “Our Lord Maurice, eternal Augustus,” arches above this image (Bellinger 1966, p. 338). This depiction can be compared to that of Emperor Anastasius on the Leaf of a Byzantine Diptych (J. Paul Getty Museum. 84.XB.304.7). Anastasius ruled about a century before Maurice, and yet he wears imperial robes, a crown, holds a mappa in his left hand and a scepter in his right. This iconography (symbolic imagery) connects Maurice to emperors before him.
The reverse (tails-side) contains the following inscriptions: (1) a large center ‘M’ which delineates the coin’s denomination; (2) ‘ANNO’ to the ‘M’s left and ‘X IIII’ to its right, showing that the coin was minted in the 14th year of Maurice’s reign; (3) a highly degraded Greek inscription below the ‘M’ that identifies Antioch as the minting location; (4) a ‘Γ’ enclosed within the ‘M’ indicating that the coin was minted in the gamma workshop of Antioch; and (5) a Christian cross above the ‘M’; (Bellinger 1966, pp. 338–343).
Due to the lines, texture, scale, and shape of these minted designs, the viewer's attention is drawn to Maurice and the ‘M.’ Iconologically (the intrinsic meaning of the iconography, according to Erwin Panofsky), this visual emphasis reveals how the value of the coin is based on the power of Maurice; that he is responsible for its value and that he is in control of the economy. Also, the mappa Maurice holds commonly symbolizes the control that the emperor has over the empire (similar to the control the chariot racing official has over the race). Therefore, the mappa and the centrality of the emperor’s bust and ‘M’ is meant to symbolize Maurice’s control, legitimacy, and economic power.
Bellinger, Alfred R. 1966. Catalog 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.
Fulghum, Mary Margaret (Molly). 2001. “Coins Used as Amulets in Late Antiquity.” In Between Magic and Religion: Interdisciplinary Studies in Ancient Mediterranean Religion and Society, eds. Sulochana R. Asirvatham et al, 139–148. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.
Grierson, Philip. 1999. Byzantine Coinage. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection.
Grierson, Philip. 1991. “Numismatics.” In The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, ed. Alexander P. Kazhdan. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Morrisson, Cécile. 2001. “Byzantine Money: Its Production and Circulation.” In The Economic History of Byzantium: From the Seventh Through the Fifteenth Century, ed. Angeliki E. Laiou, 909–966. 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.
Theophanes Confessor, Chronicle. Translated by Cyril Mango and Roger Scott. 1997. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Andres Tuccillo (’23) for ARHS 110 (Fall 2022)