Byzantine Coins Influenced by the Shroud of Christ
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Byzantine Coins Influenced by the Shroud of Christ

Giulio Fanti

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eBook - ePub

Byzantine Coins Influenced by the Shroud of Christ

Giulio Fanti

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About This Book

Numerous studies have been carried out on Byzantine coins, but there are still no univocal interpretations on the details of the figures represented there and in particular on those relating to Jesus Christ. The information derived from the studies on the Holy Shroud, the most important Relic of Christ in Christianity, has clearly resulted in some new interpretations.

This is the first book in the world that deals extensively with the effigy of Christ, despite being the most sought after and collected by numismatists. Furthermore, the book relates the different images of the Redeemer on Byzantine coins with the image of Jesus Christ on the Shroud, the most important Relic of Christianity. The numerous collectors will therefore be interested in having not only a numismatic analysis of these coins but also a historical-religious study. This book, which should be understandable to everyone, demonstrates the strong influence that the Shroud had in the Byzantine era.

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Chapter 1

Byzantine Coinage

While the history of Byzantine coins lasted about one millennium, this book focuses on the period from 692 to 1204 with some mention up to 1254 AD and later as it relates to the Shroud. The entire millennium will first be summarized to frame the numismatic period of interest in a more general context. The detailed development will begin with the monetization of the first appearance of the face of Christ in 692 AD during the reign of Justinian II.
Our main interest for the Byzantine coins will end with the sack of Constantinople in 1204 AD when the Shroud disappeared for more than a century before being seen again in Europe at Lirey in France. However, coins minted in the Empire of Nicea under John III Ducas-Vatatzes up to 1254 AD and during the Venetian Republic will also be discussed because some of these coins were greatly influenced by the Shroud.

1.1 Byzantine Coinage Overview

The official period of the Byzantine Empire starts in 395 AD and ends in 1453 AD, it is, however, not easy to define a fixed date for the beginning of the Byzantine coinage [Grierson, 1982], because there was a gradual development out of a Roman predecessor. Grierson & Mays [1992] describes the coins of the transition period from the Roman Empire starting with Arcadius (395–408 AD), while both Bellinger [1966] and Sear [1987] start the Byzantine coinage with emperor Anastasius (491–518 AD).
Following the death of Theodosius I in 395, the Roman Empire was divided between his two sons, Arcadius and Honorius, and in the fifth century the eastern provinces were ruled by Arcadius.
An important and lasting monetary reform that remained unchanged for centuries during the Byzantine Empire was that of 309–310 introduced by the Roman emperor Constantine the Great. This was necessary due to the scarcity of gold coins.
Many scholars identify the beginning of Byzantine coinage with the monetary reform of Anastasius (491–518) in 498. It seems appropriate to divide Byzantine coinage into the five periods in Tables 1.1a and 1.1b [Grierson, 1999], though some expand it into seven periods [Wroth, 1908].
Table 1.1a Simplified Byzantine coinage of the First and Second period [Sear, 1987; Grierson, 1999; Sommer, 2010; Fanti and Furlan, 2019]
Period Denomination Metal Weight [g] Purity Exchange ratio
I Solidus-Nomisma Gold 4.55 ≈100% 1
Approx. Semissis Gold 2.27 ≈100% 2
550 Tremissis Gold 1.52 ≈100% 3
Hexagram Silver 6.7 12
Follis Copper 288
Half-Follis Copper 576
Decanummium Copper 1152
Pentanummium Copper 2304
Nummus Copper 11520
II Approx. 550–1092 Solidus or Hista-menon Nomisma Gold or Electrum 4.55 11% (Electrum) up to ≈100% 1
Semissis Gold 2.27 ≈100% 2
Tremissis Gold 1.52 100% 3
Tetarteron Gold ≈4 90% 1
Hexagram Silver 6–6.7 12
Miliaresion Silver 2.3–3.0 12
2/3 or 1/3 of Miliaresion Silver 18 or 36
Follis Copper 288
Fraction of Follis Copper
Table 1.1b Simplified Byzantine coinage from the Third to the Fifth Period [Sear, 1987; Grierson, 1999; Sommer, 2010; Fanti and Furlan, 2019]
Period Denomination Metal Weight [g] Purity Exchange ratio
III 1092–1204 Hyperpyron-Nomisma Gold 4.55 98–60% 1
Nomisma Trachy Electrum 4.55 10–30% gold 3–12
Aspron Trachy Billon* 4.55 copper–silver 48–384
Tetarteron Copper 4 ≈864
Half-Tetarteron Copper 2 ≈1728
IV 1204–1367 Hyperpyron-Nomisma Gold ≈4.5 50–60% 1
Basilikon Silver ≈2 12
Tournesion Billon 96
Aspron Trachy Billon 0.75 384
Assarion Copper 3–4 768
V Hyperpyron Gold ≈4 1
1367–1453 Stavraton Silver 7–9 2
Half-Stavraton Silver 3–5 4
Ducat Silver 1.1 16
Tournesion Copper ≈2.4 192
Follaro Copper ≈0.8 ≈576
*The billon is an alloy used for coinage, containing silver (or gold) with a predomi...

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