0.223 oz. (6.3 g)
Gift of Brad Hostetler, 2022
Purchased by Brad Hostetler from Paul Heisler (Grandville, Mich.) on July 19, 2022.
There appears to be some loss at the edge of the coin from the three o’clock to the six o’clock position on the obverse, since the border around the image is not present in this area. The raised ridge at the edge of the coin which is present from the nine o’clock to the twelve o’clock positions is not present elsewhere, suggesting further loss. The border around the image on the obverse is a series of small circular imprints around much of the image, but this becomes a smoother, more connected line in the areas with the loss, which suggests that the material has been worn down in this area, reducing the amount by which the image is raised from the surface. This is the case on both the obverse and reverse, suggesting the coin experienced wear on both sides simultaneously. The wear is not uniform, though, since the left side of the face of the image on the obverse is worn down closer to the level of the rest of the coin than the right side of the image. There are a couple of places on the lower half of the image on the obverse where the color is lighter in contrast to the rest of the coin, as well as on parts of the image border on both sides of the coin. This suggests that these are areas that have experienced wear. The edge of the coin is not smooth all the way round, there are sections that are more jagged, indicating areas where the coin could have been chipped or otherwise worn. This includes at the four o’clock position on the reverse and close to the twelve o'clock position on the obverse. - James Butler (’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, pp. 343.
This Byzantine coin of the emperor Maurice (r. 582–602) is a follis — a lower, more common denomination made of copper. The obverse features a large portrait of the emperor, framed by an inscription meaning “Our Lord Maurice, eternal Augustus”. His robes and eagle-topped scepter (staff) in his left hand signify his role as Roman consul (Kazhdan 1991b). The mappa (cloth) in his right hand was waved to start the circus games (Kazhdan 1991a). These indications of imperial authority convey the emperor’s power to whoever holds the coin. This choice of representation of Maurice reminds people that his power — and by extension, that of the state — is always present.
On the reverse, the central “M” indicates that the coin is a follis, with the “ANNO” and “XIIII” inscriptions denoting that it was minted in the fourteenth year of his reign. The word “THEUP” references the city of Antioch, where the coin was minted in 595/96 CE (Bellinger 1966, p. 343). Christianity was the religion of the empire, as demonstrated by the cross at the top of the image. The follis was worth 1/288 of the gold solidus coin, and its low value meant that it was used by regular people for everyday purchases (Grierson 1999, p. 45). For instance, one follis could buy about 200g of bread (Morrisson and Cheynet 2001, p. 842).
The relatively well-preserved nature of the imagery on the coin demonstrates the durability of the copper from which it is made. In addition, choosing copper as the material for such a common denomination points to its wide availability at the time of minting. These qualities of the material allowed the emperor’s image to spread far and wide and to have a sense of permanence for those in possession of the coin. The way people interact with the coin is naturally very physical compared to their interactions with images in public spaces such as statues, so the durability and prevalence of the material facilitates this more personal relationship with the emperor’s image.
The representation of the emperor is consistent with other objects, such as a stamp of a previous emperor, Justin II, on a silver dish (British Museum, 1962,0204.1), which shows similar clothing and is designed to promote the propagandistic message of state power by certifying the quality of the silver. The coin is noticeably more detailed, however, since this would be possessed by almost anyone in the empire — a useful means of conveying the message.
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.
Carlisle, Maria Cristina. 2016. “Imperial Icons in Late Antiquity and Byzantium: The Iconic Image of the Emperor between Representation and Presence.” IKON 9: 75–98.
Dumbarton Oaks. n.d. “Maurice Tiberius (582–602).” In God’s Regents on Earth: A Thousand Years of Byzantine Imperial Seals. Accessed October 19, 2022. https://www.doaks.org/resources/online-exhibits/gods-regents-on-earth-a-thousand-years-of-byzantine-imperial-seals/rulers-of-byzantium/maurice-tiberios-5822013602.
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.
Kaegi, Walter Emil, Alexander Kazhdan, and Anthony Cutler. 1991. “Justin ll.” In The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, ed. Alexander P. Kazhdan. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Kaegi, Walter Emil and Anthony Cutler. 1991. “Maurice.” In The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, ed. Alexander P. Kazhdan. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Kazhdan, Alexander. 1991a. “Mappa.” In The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, ed. Alexander P. Kazhdan. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Kazhdan, Alexander. 1991b. “Scepter.” In The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, ed. Alexander P. Kazhdan. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Mango, Marlia M. 1991. “Antioch on the Orontes.” In The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, ed. Alexander P. Kazhdan. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Morrisson, Cécile. 2010. “Money, Coins and the Economy.” In The Byzantine World, ed. Paul Stephenson, 34–46. London: Routledge.
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.
The British Museum. n.d. “coin.” Accessed October 18, 2022. https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/C_B-12398
James Butler (’23) for ARHS 110 (Fall 2022)