Constantinople (Istanbul, Turkey)
0.176 oz. (5.0 g)
Gift of Brad Hostetler, 2022
Purchased by Brad Hostetler from Paul Heisler (Grandville, Mich.) on July 19, 2022.
The coin is copper but is now covered in a seaweed/dark green patina. On the obverse side of the coin there is a lot of wear to the left of the face of Maurice. As a result we lose part of the inscription about Maurice’s head and some of the details in his garments. We can also see wear on the reverse’s right side going along the edge of the coin. The coin seems to have been compressed because it has lost its original curvature and is instead more flat. The coin doesn’t seem to have many scratches and is instead smooth to the touch. - Ian Weihe (’24), December 2022
Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings
Center: K = 20
Left & Right of K: ANNO ϚI = Year 7
Below the K: B
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. 52b, p. 313.
Similar to the Statue of Liberty this half follis of Maurice (Bellinger 1966, p. 313) has a pretty patina due to the aging of the bronze. On the obverse is the emperor himself (Bellinger 1966, p. 313). In his left hand he is holding a shield meant for battle and in his right hand he is holding a cross, signifying the religious values that the empire had. Maurice is wearing traditional battle garments and a helmet (Bellinger 1966, p. 313). Maurice’s head splits an inscription at the top of the coin that says “Our Lord Maurice Tiberius, eternal augustus” (Bellinger 1966, p. 313).
On the reverse there is a large K located directly at the center of the coin. The K marking designated the worth of the coin as being 20 nummi, or a half follis (Grierson 1999, p. 17). Since there were so many coins like this, it is fair to assume that this coin was readily available to everyday people. To the left and right the K are markings that indicate the coin was minted in the seventh year of Maurice’s reign. The B below the K represents the workshop in Constantinople where this coin was minted (Bellinger 1966, p. 313).
This coin is significant because of its specific illustration of Emperor Maurice as a warrior. This depiction serves a propagandistic purpose to show citizens and outsiders that the empire and emperor were warriors. This gives better context of who Maurice was and an idea of what the empire values during Maurice’s reign. In comparison to the copper coins issued by Maurice’s predecessor, Tiberius II, and by his successor, Phocas, those issued by Maurice feature many more variations of the emperor as a warrior, minted in cities throughout the empire. Micheal Yonan highlights the importance of materiality in art-historical study (Yonan 2019). In this case the material of this coin can help us further analyze the deeper meaning. Copper was extremely common at this time resulting in almost everyone having access to this type of coin. The image of him as a warrior was meant for everyone to see. As a result, this message becomes propagandistic as he hopes his constituents will view him as a warrior. Knowing the role this material played is important in understanding why he would depict himself as a fighter. As a result Maurice is unique for his time as he tries to highlight his obligation to bring victory for the empire.
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.
Grierson, Philip. 1999. Byzantine Coinage. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection.
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.
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.
Yonan, Michael. 2019. “Materiality as Periphery.” Visual Resources 35, nos. 3-4: 200–216.
Ian Weihe (’24) for ARHS 110 (Fall 2022)