0.180 oz. (5.0 g)
Gift of Brad Hostetler, 2022
Purchased by Brad Hostetler from Paul Heisler (Grandville, Mich.) on July 19, 2022.
On the left side of the obverse, the inscription is worn down on the top and bottom. On the reverse there is more wear on the top of the coin. The top letter of the inscription to the left is worn as well as the top letter on the inscription above the K. Other than wear, the coin is complete. There are no cracks or losses with the coin. The discoloration of the coin is on the top and the right side of the obverse greenish patina. On the reverse, there is some white dust between the K. Overall, this coin is in excellent condition. - Mia VanWie (’24), December 2022
Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings
[DNI]VSTI NVSPPAV = Our Lord, Justin, Eternal Augustus
Center: K = 20
Left & Right of K: ANNO X = Year 10
Above the K: Θ+C
Below the K: TES = Thessaloniki
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. 78, pp. 223–224.
This Byzantine coin of Justin II and Sophia dates to 574/575 CE. The obverse features an image of Justin II and Sophia enthroned as co-rulers with halos surrounding their heads. They are dressed in typical robes and headpieces characterized by pendilia hanging down on either side (Grierson 1999, p. 28). Justin II, on the left, holds a globus cruciger, and Sophia, on the right, holds the cruciform scepter. The inscriptions on the obverse translate to “Our Lord, Justin, Eternal Augustus” (Bellinger 1966, p. 221; Grierson 1999, p. 38).
The reverse displays more inscriptions, indicating the coin's value as 20 nummi, mint location as Thessaloniki, and date (Bellinger 1966, pp. 220-223; Grierson 1999, p. 20). The meaning of Θ+C, above the K, is unclear, but some historians think it could be ΘEOC, or God (Bellinger 1966, p. 223). It is a bronze half-follis, and its exchange ratio to the top coin, the gold solidus, was 1:576 (Grierson 1999, p. 43). Ten to sixteen of these half-folles would allow the coin’s typical owner, an average person, to buy 1 kg of second-quality bread (Morrisson and Cheynet 2001, p. 829).
This coin is significant because it displays Justin II and Sophia as co-rulers (Brubaker 2000, p. 583). It was not uncommon for coins in the Byzantine empire to have two emperors displayed on them since rulers did this to familiarize the public with the intended successor (Grierson 1999, p. 25). One example of this is the gold solidus of Justin I and Justinian I. In this depiction of the two emperors, hieratic scale indicates that Justin I, as the much bigger figure, is senior to Justinian I, the smaller figure (Grierson 1999, pp. 25–26, fig. 48). The coins of Justin II and Sophia do not use hieratic scale. This makes them appear as two equal co-rulers, which was not a common depiction for empresses at this time. This equality is also suggested by the imagery on the Cross of Justin II in the Treasury of St. Peter’s Basilica. Justin II and Sophia are again both depicted with equal size in roundels placed on the left and right arms of the cross. Analyzing the iconography, using the methods of Erwin Panofsky, of these repeated images of Sophia as being equal to her husband indicates her power and significance at a time when it was not customary for a woman to be shown with such equality. Sophia was known as strong-willed, persistent, and ambitious, which speaks volumes about her remarkable status as a co-ruler.
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.
Brubaker, Leslie, and Helen Tobler. 2000. “The Gender of Money: Byzantine Empresses on Coins (324–802).” Gender & History 12: 572–594.
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.
Mia VanWie (’24) for ARHS 110 (Fall 2022)