Byzantine mints

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Byzantine mints at the time of Justinian I (mid-6th century)
Byzantine mints and specimens, from the Numismatic Museum of Athens

The East Roman or Byzantine Empire established and operated several mints throughout its history (330–1453). Aside from the main metropolitan mint in the capital, Constantinople, a varying number of provincial mints were also established in other urban centres, especially during the 6th century. Most provincial mints except for Syracuse were closed or lost to invasions by the mid-7th century. After the loss of Syracuse in 878, Constantinople became the sole mint for gold and silver coinage until the late 11th century, when major provincial mints began to re-appear. Many mints, both imperial and, as the Byzantine world fragmented, belonging to autonomous local rulers, were operated in the 12th to 14th centuries. Constantinople and Trebizond, the seat of the independent Empire of Trebizond (1204–1461), survived until their conquest by the Ottoman Turks in the mid-15th century.

History[edit]

The original Roman mint network was reorganized and centralized by Emperor Diocletian (r. 284–305) at the end of the 3rd century, parallel to the restructuring of the Roman Empire's provincial and fiscal administration. The mints were limited to one per diocese (except for a few exceptions) and placed under the dual control of the praetorian prefectures and the comes sacrarum largitionum.[1] During the next two centuries, some mints were closed and others opened as fiscal necessity or administrative changes dictated. In addition, the various emperors had mints attached to their retinue (comitatus) which followed them on their journeys and campaigns throughout the Roman Empire. After a law promulgated in 366/369, the minting of precious-metal coins was confined to these comitatensian mints, operating either from a permanent base or by making use of the regional mints nearest to the current location of the emperor and his comitatus. Otherwise, regional mints were mostly limited to issuing base-metal coins.[2]

During the course of the 5th century, the original Roman minting system collapsed. The western half of the Roman Empire was overrun by Germanic tribes, although some mints remained active in the West under the new barbarian rulers and continued to mint coins, including high-quality gold solidi, in the name of the eastern emperors, most notably in Ostrogothic Italy and Burgundy.[3] In the East, most mints seem to have been active until some time into the reign of Zeno (r. 475–491), but by the accession of Anastasius I (r. 491–518) only the mints of Constantinople and Thessalonica remained active.[4][5] In 498, Anastasius initiated a major coinage reform (carried out by the comes sacrarum largitionum John the Paphlagonian[6]), which is held to mark the start of the "Byzantine" coinage system proper. At the same time, he re-opened the mints at Nicomedia and later at Antioch.[4] The number of mints expanded greatly during the reign of Justinian I (r. 527–565), in large part due to his reconquest of Italy, Africa, and parts of Spain. As many as fourteen mints were active during Justinian's reign, with new mints opened or taken over from the Vandals and Ostrogoths in Carthage, Rome, Ravenna, Carthagena, and in smaller provincial centres. Most of these were confined to copper coinage. Ravenna and Carthage alone produced silver coins in quantity, while gold issues were restricted to Catania, Thessalonica, and Constantinople; the latter cities, however, far outstripped the others in output.[4][7][8]

The territorial losses of the early 7th century, with the Byzantine–Sassanid War of 602–628, the Slavic incursions into the Balkans and the onset of the Muslim conquests, drastically diminished the number of active mints; and in 628/629, Emperor Heraclius (r. 610–641) closed all remaining provincial mints in the East except for Alexandria, which fell to the Arabs in 646. In the West too, one by one the cities hosting the various mints fell to various enemies, until by the 9th century, only Syracuse remained.[9][10]

With the fall of Syracuse in 878, Constantinople remained the sole mint for gold and silver coinage until the late 11th century. The provincial mint at Cherson was reopened circa 860, but its output was restricted to copper coinage. Thessalonica became the main provincial mint after it reopened in the second half of the 11th century, and other provincial centres – Thebes or Corinth in southern Greece, Philadelphia in the 14th century, Magnesia and Nicaea during the Empire of Nicaea – were active at times during the Byzantine Empire's final centuries. Usurpers or semi-autonomous local lords also occasionally established mints of their own, like Isaac Komnenos of Cyprus, Leo Gabalas of Rhodes, or the Gabras family of Trebizond. Constantinople, however, remained the main mint, providing the bulk of the coinage.[9][11]

List[edit]

Name Attested activity Mint mark Comments
Adrianople 1354–1356 Active as a mint for the co-emperor Matthew Kantakouzenos during his rule over Thrace (1347–1357). Didymoteichon is an alternative site.[12]
Alexandretta 609–610 ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔ Active during Heraclius's (r. 610–641) revolt against Phocas (r. 602–610).[13]
Alexandria Before 330 to after 475, c. 525–646 ΑΛΕΞ, ΑΛΞΟΒ Active from before Diocletian (r. 284–305) to the reign of Zeno (r. 475–491) as the mint of the Diocese of Egypt. Re-established circa 525, active until its fall to the Arabs.[13][14]
Antioch Before 330 to after 475, c. 512–610 ΑΝ, ΑΝΤΙΚ, ΑΝΤΧ; THEUP, THEUPO, ΘVΠOΛS Active from before Diocletian (r. 284–305) to the reign of Zeno (r. 475–491) as the mint of the Diocese of the East.[15] Re-established by Anastasius I (r. 491–518). Renamed to Theoupolis (Greek: Θεούπολις, "City of God") after the 526 earthquake.[16] No coins are attested after 610, its establishment having probably been transferred to Jerusalem (see below).[17]
Arta c. 1204–1271 Main mint for the Despotate of Epirus. Attribution is conjectural but probable, as Arta was the capital of Epirus.[16][18]
Carthage 533 – c. 695 CAR, KAR, KART, CT, CRTG, KRTG Established by Diocletian (r. 284–305) circa 296 but suppressed in 307 and its staff transferred to Ostia.[19] A new mint was established by the Vandals there, and was taken over by the Byzantines in 533. Extant until circa 692/693 or 695, when it was moved to Sardinia before the threat of Arab conquest.[13][20]
Carthagena c. 560–624 Active in southern Spain until the fall of the last Byzantine strongholds to the Visigoths in circa 624.[13][21]
Catania c. 582–629 CAT Established in 582/583 and last coinage attested in 628/629.[13][22]
Cherson 6th century, late 9th – early 11th centuries ΧΕΡCWΝΟC, ΧΕΡCΟΝΟC, Active under Justinian I (r. 527–565), Maurice (r. 582–602), and from the reign of Basil I (r. 867–886) to Basil II (r. 976–1025).[23]
Constantia in Cyprus 610 and c. 626–629 ΚΥΠΡΟV, ΚΥΠΡΕ, KYΠΡ, CΠΡ Active during Heraclius's revolt and again in 626–629, chiefly to cover military needs.[13][24]
Constantina in Numidia 540/541–592/593 CON Only sporadically active,[13] attribution now generally dismissed.[25]
Constantinople 330–1204, 1261–1453 CON, CONOB, CONOS, COB Active throughout the Byzantine era, except for the period where it functioned as the mint of the Latin Empire (1204–1261).[23]
Cyzicus 518–629 KYZ, KY Active since before Diocletian (r. 284–305), who made it the mint for the Diocese of Asia.[26] Re-established by Anastasius I (r. 491–518), it remained active until 629/630, with an interruption in 614/615–625/626 due to the war with Sassanid Persia.[23][27]
Isaura 617/618–618/619 ISAYR Established to cover military needs in the war against Sassanid Persia. Transferred from Seleucia in 617, and suppressed soon after, probably due to the Persian advance.[23][28]
Jerusalem 608–614/615 ΙΠ, ΙΧ, IEΡOCO, XC NIKA Established in 608/609 during Heraclius's revolt by Phocas loyalists, possibly by transfer of the Antioch mint, and survived until the Sassanid Persians took the city in 614/615.[13][29]
Magnesia 1214–1261 Main mint and treasury of the Empire of Nicaea after the transfer of the Nicaea mint there.[30][31]
Naples After c. 661 to c. 830–840 NE Active from the reign of Constantine IV (r. 641–685), probably after circa 661/662 when it became the seat of a doux, to Theophilos (r. 829–842). Effectively outside imperial control as the doux became increasingly independent.[32]
Nicaea c. 1208–1214 Main mint of the Empire of Nicaea until transferred to Magnesia, probably both because of the proximity to Latin territory in Bithynia and to be closer to the Nicaean emperors' favourite residence, Nymphaion.[30][33]
Nicomedia 498–627 NIK, NIKO, NIC, NIKM, NIKOMI, NI Established by Diocletian (r. 284–305) circa 294 for the Diocese of Pontus.[19] Active until the late 5th century, reopened by Anastasius I (r. 491–518) circa 498 and active until 629/630, with an interruption in 617/618–625/626 due to the war with Sassanid Persia.[13][34]
Nicosia 1184–1191 Main mint of the usurper Isaac Komnenos. Other mints were also established on the island of Cyprus.[30][35]
Perugia 552/553 P Attribution conjectural,[13] now generally dismissed.[25]
Philadelphia 1188–1189, 14th century ΦΛΔΦ First coinage during the short-lived usurpation of Theodore Mangaphas in 1188–1189.[36] 14th-century coins bearing the mark ΦΛΔΦ have been attributed to the city, which at the time and until its fall in 1390 was a Byzantine exclave surrounded by Turkish territory.[37]
Philippopolis 1092 and a few years after Active during the early years of the monetary reforms of Alexios I Komnenos (r. 1081–1118). Adrianople has also been suggested as an alternative site.[30][38]
Ravenna c. 540 to early 8th century RAV, RA, RAB, RAVEN, RAVENNA Extant until the fall of the Exarchate of Ravenna (584–751) to the Lombard kingdom in 752.[39]
Rhodes c. 1232 to c. 1248 Local coinage of the two brothers Leo Gabalas and John Gabalas, autonomous rulers of Rhodes and nearby islands.[40]
Rome c. 540 to c. 750 ROM, ROMA, ROMOB, Theoretically in operation until circa 751, when Rome and the Pope broke away from Byzantine overlordship, but already under effective papal control from the 7th century.[41]
Salona c. 535 and thereafter Location probable, but not certain; active only during the reign of Justinian I (r. 527–565).[16][21]
Sardinia c. 695 to after 717 S Established, probably at Cagliari, through the transfer of the mint of Carthage in 692/693 or 695, it is attested until the reign of Leo III the Isaurian (r. 717–741).[13][42]
Seleucia Isauria c. 615–616 SELISU, SEL Established to cover military needs in the war against Sassanid Persia. Transferred to Isaura in 617.[13][28]
Syracuse After 643/644 to 878 SECILIA, CVΡΑΚΟVCI Active from circa 643/644 to its fall to the Arabs in 878, sometimes supplemented by Catania. Prior to that, coins struck at Constantinople were transferred to the island where they were marked SC[L].[23][43]
Thebes Second half of the 12th century Attribution is conjectural, it concerns a mint established to mint half-tetartera for the joint themes of Hellas and the Peloponnese. Corinth and Athens are alternative proposed sites. Solidly attested from the reign of Manuel I Komnenos (r. 1143–1180) until the first reign of Isaac II Angelos (r. 1185–1195), it may have been established as early as circa 1092.[16][44]
Thessalonica 330–629/630, late 11th to mid-14th centuries TES, ΘΕC, ΘΕS, THESSOB, TESOB, THSOB Active from before Diocletian (r. 284–305), who made it the mint of the Diocese of Moesia. Later, it was the main mint for the Diocese of Macedonia and the praetorian prefecture of Illyricum, until 629/630.[16][45] Reactivated by Alexios I Komnenos (r. 1081–1118). From 1204 to 1224, it was active as the mint of the Kingdom of Thessalonica, from then until the Nicaean conquest in 1246 as the mint of the "empire" of Thessalonica. Last identifiable coins are dated to 1369–1387.[46]
Trebizond Late 11th to mid-12th centuries, c. 1230–1461 Local issue by the Gabras family, semi-independent rulers of Chaldia in the late 11th/early 12th century[35] From the reign of Andronikos I Megas Komnenos (r. 1222–1235) on the mint for the Empire of Trebizond (1204–1461).[47]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Kazhdan 1991, pp. 1376–1377; Hendy 1985, pp. 378–380.
  2. ^ Hendy 1985, pp. 380–394.
  3. ^ Hendy 1985, pp. 395–397.
  4. ^ a b c Sear, Bendall & O'Hara 1987, p. 19.
  5. ^ Hendy 1985, pp. 397–398.
  6. ^ Hendy 1989, p. 89.
  7. ^ Grierson 1999, p. 5.
  8. ^ Hendy 1985, p. 415.
  9. ^ a b Kazhdan 1991, p. 1377.
  10. ^ Sear, Bendall & O'Hara 1987, pp. 19, 21; Grierson 1999, p. 6.
  11. ^ Sear, Bendall & O'Hara 1987, p. 21.
  12. ^ Hendy 1985, pp. 446–447.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Sear, Bendall & O'Hara 1987, pp. 19, 22.
  14. ^ Hendy 1985, pp. 378, 397.
  15. ^ Hendy 1985, pp. 378, 397.
  16. ^ a b c d e Sear, Bendall & O'Hara 1987, p. 22.
  17. ^ Hendy 1985, p. 416.
  18. ^ Hendy 1985, pp. 445, 523–524.
  19. ^ a b Hendy 1985, pp. 379–381.
  20. ^ Hendy 1985, pp. 399, 422.
  21. ^ a b Hendy 1985, p. 405.
  22. ^ Hendy 1985, pp. 406–407, 418.
  23. ^ a b c d e Sear, Bendall & O'Hara 1987, pp. 19, 21–22.
  24. ^ Hendy 1985, pp. 415–416.
  25. ^ a b Hendy 1985, p. 406 (Note #150).
  26. ^ Hendy 1985, pp. 378–379, 381.
  27. ^ Hendy 1985, pp. 416–418.
  28. ^ a b Hendy 1985, pp. 416.
  29. ^ Hendy 1985, pp. 415–416.
  30. ^ a b c d Sear, Bendall & O'Hara 1987, pp. 21–22.
  31. ^ Hendy 1985, pp. 443–444.
  32. ^ Hendy 1985, pp. 421–423.
  33. ^ Hendy 1985, pp. 443–445.
  34. ^ Hendy 1985, pp. 415–418.
  35. ^ a b Hendy 1985, p. 438.
  36. ^ Hendy 1985, pp. 438–439.
  37. ^ Hendy 1985, p. 446.
  38. ^ Hendy 1985, pp. 434–435.
  39. ^ Hendy 1985, p. 422.
  40. ^ Hendy 1985, p. 525.
  41. ^ Hendy 1985, pp. 422–423.
  42. ^ Hendy 1985, pp. 422, 424.
  43. ^ Hendy 1985, pp. 418–419, 421–423.
  44. ^ Hendy 1985, pp. 435, 437.
  45. ^ Hendy 1985, pp. 379–380, 400, 417.
  46. ^ Hendy 1985, pp. 446, 523–524.
  47. ^ Hendy 1985, pp. 445, 522–523.

Sources[edit]