Visigothic coinage

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Chindasuinth: tremissis
+CN•SVINLVS PX, facing bust +ISPALI PIVS, facing bust.
AV Tremissis (1.56 g, 6h). Hispalis (modern-day Seville) mint. MEC 255.

The coinage of the Visigoths was minted in Gaul and Hispania during the early middle ages, between the fifth century and approximately 710.

The principle denominations were the solidus and the tremissis, gold coins issued in the late imperial era by both Western and Eastern emperors. The earliest coinage is from Gaul, where the Visigoths settled at the beginning of the fifth century, and was followed by coinage from Hispania in the beginning of the sixth century, which became the centre of Visigothic rule after they lost the majority of their territory in Gaul to the Franks.

The first coins, commonly known as the pseduo-imperial series, imitate contemporary Roman and Byzantine coinage. with copied legends. After 580 coins were issued in the name of the Visigothic kings. This royal coinage continued until the second decade of the eighth century, when Visigothic rule was ended by the Islamic conquest of Iberia.


The most recent work on the Visigothic coinage is the first volume of the series Medieval European Coinage (MEC), published by Philip Grierson and Mark Blackburn in 2007. Visigothic coins can be found between the catalogue numbers 166 and 277. Another important catalogue is George Carpenter's study, published in 1952 by the American Numismatic Society, which covers the period between 580 and 713.

The pseudo-imperial coinage imitating Western archetypes is catalogued by Henry Cohen, in Description Historique des monnaies frappées sous l'Empire Romain, Vol. 8, and in Roman Imperial Coinage, Vol. 10. Imitations of Byzantine coins are covered by the catalogue of the collection of Dumbarton Oaks (DOC) and Moneta Imperii Byzantini (MIB).

Historical context[edit]

The Visigothic Kingdom under Alaric II (484-507, c. 500)

The history of the Visigoths can be divided into three important periods:

  • a migratory period, which started in 376 and ended with the Visigothic settlement of south-west Gaul in 418.
  • a Gallic period which ended in 507 with the battle of Vouillé, after which Clovis I, King of the Franks, conquered most of the Visigothic territories of Gaul.
  • an Iberian period, which was ended by the Islamic conquest of the Iberian peninsula in 714.

The Visigoths migrated to the Western Roman Empire in the 370s and became significantly romanized. In 418 they were recognised as foederati, and were granted Aquitane by Honorius. This was the first centre of the Visigothic Kingdom, which over the course of the fifth century extended over the Pyrenees, including a significant portion of Hispania. In the first half of the seventh century, after the fall of the Kingdom of the Suebi (in c. 585) and the final abandonment of continental Spain by the Byzantine Empire, the Visigoths became sovereign rulers of most of the Iberian peninsula. The resulting state survived until the Islamic invasion of 711.

In the study of the coinage of the Visigoths a different periodisation is applied. The coinage of the migratory and Gallic periods are not distinguishable, both consisting of pseudo-Imperial issues. The third period coinage can be divided into two phases, the first which continues the imitation of Imperial coinage, and the latter in which the coins are issued in the names of the Visigothic Kings.

Gallic coinage[edit]

Imitation of Honorius: siliqua
D N HONORI-VS [P F] AVG, bust of Honorius facing right, with pearl diadem, mantle, and armour. VICTOR[I-]A AVGGG, armoured Roma seated facing left , holding Victory on a globe with her right hand and a sword in her left hand.
AR siliqua, 1,37g, minted in Gaul before 415. Unpublished.

South-central Gaul was the heart of the Visigothic Kingdom from 418 to 507. The pseudo-imperial coinage of this period consists mainly of solidi and tremisses. Siliquae are also known. All denominations are very similar to their Roman archetypes, faithfully copying legends and designs, albeit crudely. The tremissis was worth a third of a solidus, and the siliqua an eighth of a tremissis. The coins do not bear any identifying marks to distinguish them from Roman issues; they are identified by style and archaeological context. The dating is hence approximate.[1]

The most probable mint for these issues is Toulouse,[1] in South Gaul, the royal capital. It is thought that there was also a mint at Narbonne,[1] where in 414 Ataulf married Galla Placidia, sister of Honorius. This hypothesis arises from a solidus, now lost, but published in the 18th century, minted in the name of Priscus Attalus, a puppet emperor supported by Ataulf.[1][2] This coin bears the mintmark "NB", which may indicate Narbonne.[1] A mint at Narbonne is also referenced in a poem of Sidonius Apollinaris (carmen 23)[3] of 460, but under imperial control - as no issues from such a mint are known this may be poetic license.[1] Narbonne definitely had a mint during the reign of Liuvigild in the late 6th century, but minting likely already started in 507, when the city became the capital of the Visigothic Kingdom.[1]

The Visigothic coinage in Gaul were initially imitations of Western Roman coinage, which ended in around 481. After 509, imitations of Byzantine coinage follow, starting with those of Anastasius I Dicorus.[1]

Imitations of Honorius[edit]

The first coins of the Visigoths, struck approximately between 420 and 440, imitate those minted in Ravenna by Honorius (393-423).[1] The most common type has an obverse type with the legend D N HONORI – VS P F AVG and the bust of the emperor facing right, wearing a diadem and armour. On the reverse the legend reads VICTORI – A AVGGG and the emperor is depicted on foot, holding a labarum with his right hand, and a globe bearing a Victory in his left hand. His left foot rests on a prostrate captive. On the side of the emperor the letters R – V indicate the mint of Ravenna, and the exergue bears the inscription COMOB.[4]

The coinage of the Visigoths can be distinguished from the imperial prototypes by the style. The engraving is generally more crude, and small figures have disproportionately large heads with respect to their bodies. The letters of the inscriptions also vary; the vertical bars of the "G" are short whereas in the originals they are particularly long.[5]

Imitations of Valentinian III[edit]

Imitation of Valentinian III: tremissis
D N PLA VALENTINIANVS P G, bust of emperor facing right, with pearl-diadem, armour and drapery. COMOB, cross within a laurel wreath.
AV tremissis, 1,44 g, minted c. 471-507. MEC 171.

From c. 450 the Visigoths produced imitations of the coins of Valentinian III (425-455). One type of solidus and two types of tremissis were issued under his name. The solidus is catalogued as MEC 167-9, and copies a coin of the same value, Cohen VIII 212, 19. The obverse shows a portrait of the emperor facing right, with diadem, mantle and armour. On the reverse the emperor stands with a foot on a serpent with a human head. In his right hand he holds a cross, and in his left a globe supporting a Victory.[6][7]

The first tremissis (MEC 171-172) depicts on the reverse a cross encircled by a laurel wreath, and imitates a tremissis struck in various mints (Cohen VIII 216, 49), while the second (MEC 173) imitates a solidus (Cohen VIII 212, 17).[8] On the reverse of this issue, Victory is depicted facing, holding a cross and with a star in the field to the right.

Imitation of Libius Severus[edit]

Various solidi in the name of Libius Severus (461-5) exist (Cohen VIII, 227.8). The most common type is the same as that of the solidi of Valentinian III, with the emperor standing on a human-headed snake.[9]

Imitation of Libius Severus: solidus
D N HBIVS SEVE-RVS P F AVG, bust of emperor facing right. VICTORIA AUGGG, standing emperor, feet on a human-headed serpent, with a cross and Victory. R-A//COMOB.
AV solidus, 4.38 g, c. 461-466. MEC 175

Hispanic coinage[edit]

The Visigothic kingdom in Spain at its height c. 650, showing known mint locations.

In 507 the Battle of Vouillé was fought between the Franks commanded by King Clovis I and the Visigoths led by Alaric II. Alaric was killed in the battle, and the Visigothic army suffered a crushing defeat, which led to Clovis' conquest of Toulouse and the large part of the Visigothic possessions in Gaul. The Visigoths only succeeded in defending Septimania, between the mouth of the Rhône and the Pyrenees.

The centre of the Visigothic state was then in the old Roman province of Hispania Tarraconensis, then in the central Iberian Peninsula, where their kingdom prospered until the Islamic invasion of 711.

Pseudo-imperial coinage (509-580)[edit]

Imitation of Justinian I: tremissis
C N IVSTIИIINVS IPVC, bust of emperor facing right. VICTOΛ VIΛ IIVSTOИVI, Victory facing right, holding a palm and a crown; COИOB.
AV, tremissis, 15mm, 1,42 g. Mint of Narbonne or Barcelona. c. AD 527-565. Not in MEC.

The coinage of this period consist exclusively of solidi and tremisses. A copper coin was historically considered part of this issue. Bearing the monogram AMR, it was associated with a tre

missis of this period bearing the same letters. In the past this coin (MEC 341) was attributed to Almalaric (510-531), but modern scholarship attributes it to the Burgundian king Godomar (524-534).[10][11]

The solidi minted in this period bear the names of the Byzantine emperors Anastasius I (491-518), Justinian I (518-527) and Justinian II (527-565). They are distinguished from imperial issues by style, and other imitations by being exclusively found in the Iberian peninsula.[10] The most common reverse types are: with a standing Victory holding a cross, above a letter rho, and a type with a Victory facing right, holding a palm, and raising a crown with her other hand.[10]

Royal coinage (580-710)[edit]

From the 580s, the Visigothic kings began to strike coins in their own names. This last phase of the Visigothic coinage lasted a hundred and thirty years: coins beyond 710 are unknown, as the Visigothic kingdom was overthrown by the Umayyad invasion.[12]

Only tremisses were minted in this period, and the purity of the gold used diminished over time.[12] The coins bear the name of the king and also the name of the mint where they were struck. Unlike Frankish or later Anglo-Saxon coins, the name of the moneyer is not given.

From Liuvigild to Chindasuinth[edit]

Liuvigild: tremissis
King facing right, with a cross superimposed on his tunic. Blundered legend. Victory advancing with palm and crown, crescent on the line of the exeurge; ILOON.
AV (1,39 g, 6h), c. 580-583. MEC 209.

The first of the royal coinage was issued during the reign of Liuvigild (567-586).[12] For a short period coins imitating Byzantine issues, but with the name of Visigothic king were struck - an example is MEC 210. This tremissis of Liuvigild was minted in Barcelona. The obverse shows a stylised bust of the king facing left, with the legend "XIVVIGILDVS"; on the reverse, a cross on steps, with the legend "REX VARCINONA", identifying the mint.[13] Another type, MEC 209, shows the king facing right on the obverse, and Victory with a palm and crown on the reverse.


  • Philip Grierson and Mark Blackburn, Medieval European Coinage (MEC) - Volume 1, The Early Middle Ages (5th–10th Centuries), Cambridge, 2007. p. 39-54 ISBN 978-0-521-03177-6
  • George Carpenter Miles, The Coinage of the Visigoths in Spain: Leovigild to Achila II, New York, American Numismatic Society, 1952
  • J.P Kent, Un monnayage irrégulier du début du Ve siècle de notre ère, BCEN (Bulletin trimestriel du Cercle d'Études Numismatiques) 11 (1974), p. 23-28


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Grierson: cit., pp. 44-46
  2. ^ L'immagine è riportata in Kent: Un monnayage..., p. 24
  3. ^

    Salve, Narbo, potens salubritate
    Urbe et rure simul bonus videri,
    Muris, Civibus, ambitu, tabernis,
    Portis, porticibus, foro, theatro,
    Delubris, Capitoliis, monetis,
    Thermis, Arcubus, horreis, macellis,
    Pratis, fontibus, insulis, salinis,
    Stagnis, flumine, merce, ponte, ponto...

  4. ^ Solidus Honorius 402 76001657.jpg Original solidus of Honorius.
  5. ^ Grierson: MEC, p. 44
  6. ^ Valentinian III Solidus 425 691788.jpgL'originale di Valentiniano
  7. ^ Visigoth Valentinian solidus 450 74000886.jpgCopia barbarica
  8. ^ Valentininianus III solidus 76001662.jpgIl solido di Valentiniano
  9. ^ Libius Severus solidus 612158.jpgIl solido di Libio Severo
  10. ^ a b c


    — pp. 46-49
  11. ^


    — p.76
  12. ^ a b c


    — pp. 49-52
  13. ^ "Leovigildo (573-586), tremisse di Barcellona, MNAC". Retrieved 17 April 2009.