Early (6th-11th century) Byzantine Coinage
is far too numerous to cover comprehensively
on just this one page-books are devoted to it
-but here are a few samples:


Justinian II and the King of Kings

When the capital of the Roman Empire formally transferred to Constantinople from Rome in 330AD, a new Rome arose from a provincial city in the Eastern half of the Empire. In just a few short years it would rival, and very soon thereafter eclipse, the original. When most of the Western half of the empire gradually was overrun (and fell) to groups of barbarians from outside and within during the next 150 years, Constantinople became the center for classical culture. The Byzantine Empire slowly evolved, being changed by the emergence of Medieval Europe to the West and of Islam to the East and South. In spite of the pressures from these potential enemies, the essential culture of early Byzantium preserved many Roman traditions, particularly in art and in architecture, as well as other applied arts, such as coinage. Moreover, the Christian Orthodox faith developed and grew strong, as it moved away from the western Faith; and, despite (or perhaps because of) the ever present disputes about the role of iconography in worship, we can see the Eastern Orthodox Faith worked out in its coins. see generally http://www.liturgica.com/html/litEOLitIcon.jsp and http://www.aidanorthodox.co.uk/Journeys/journeys.htm

April 7, 529: Emperor Cæsar, Flavius, Justinianus, Pious, Fortunate, Renowned, Conqueror, and Triumpher, ever Augustus (also known as the Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian I) issues the first draft of Corpus Juris Civilis. His body of Civil laws becomes, one could argue, the fundamental work in Western (European) jurisprudence.

The precepts of the law are these: to live honestly, to injure no one and to give every man his due. The study of law consists of two branches -- the law public and the law private. The former relates to the welfare of the Roman State; the latter accrues to the advantage of the individual citizen. Of private law, one may say it is of threefold origin, being collected from the precepts of nature, from those of the law of individual nations or from those of the former civil law of Rome. -- IURIS PRÆCEPTA SUNT HÆC HONESTE VIVERE ALTERUM NON LÆDERE SUUM CUIQUE TRIBUERE -- also translated as "The precepts of the law are these: To live honorably, not to injure another, to give each his due" [Justinian, Institutes, Book 1, Title 1, Sec. 3].

Everything therefore has been completed by the aid of Our Lord God Jesus Christ, who has rendered the task possible for Us as well as for Our ministers, and We have already collected the principal constitutions and digested them into twelve books, in the Code which is distinguished by Our name. Afterwards, applying Ourselves to the preparation of a very extensive work, We permitted the aforesaid illustrious man to collect and compile with certain changes the contents of many most valuable treatises of antiquity, which at that time were almost utterly confused and disconnected. But while making Our inquiries, We were reminded by the aforesaid eminent man that there were almost two thousand books written by the ancient jurists, and more than three million lines produced by them, all of which it would be necessary to read and thoroughly examine, and from which must be chosen whatever would be best. This has been accomplished by the grace of God and the favor of the Supreme Trinity, in conformity to Our orders ... from Second Preface -- Given on the seventeenth of the Kalends of January, during the third Consulship of Our Lord Justinian, 533.

The thirty-eight years of Justinian's reign are the most respected period of the later empire. Full of enthusiasm for the memories of past glory, he set for himself, and achieved, the heavy task of reviving a Rome. The many achievements of this talented leader include military triumphs, legal reform, ecclesiastical polity and architectural significance. His policy of restoring the empire as a civilizing force dominates all. Great, powerful and united; of these many features of his reign -- each of them epoch-making -- we can give no more than the merest outline . . . . http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08578b.htm See also http://www.roman-emperors.org/justinia.htm

Justinian copper from years 12 and 14 of his rule

Heraclius and sonsMarch 21, 630 (some report the date as the 20th): Roman Emperor Heraclius restored the True Cross, which he had recaptured from the Persians, 13 years after its theft. The legend of the True Cross begins in the year 326, when it was discovered by the mother of Constantine I, the Empress Helena. http://web.archive.org/web/20100719065816/http://www.philipresheph.com/.../holycross.htm

The True Cross was kept in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem until the year 614. Then Chrosroes II of Persia moved it to his own land after he captured Jerusalem. Leaving Persia, it goes to Constantinople, then returns to Jerusalem. See http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04517a.htm and http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04529a.htm

The cathedral treasury at Sens, one of the richest in antiquities in France, contains a fragment of the True Cross presented to it by Charlemagne. In 1248, inspired by a pilgrimage to Sainte-Chapelle (the location of a piece of the True Cross in Paris), Bishop Hugues de la Tour began work on a new cathedral at Clermont. Indeed, pieces of the relic were claimed all over Europe. August 18th is the feast day of Saint Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great. http://missel.free.fr/Sanctoral/08/18.php In 327-328 Helena made a pilgrimage to the Middle-East to walk in the footsteps of Christ. She initiated the building of several Christian churches on sites she determined to be sacred according to trusted traditions of the area. During her journey she is credited by many for the discovery of the True Cross. This relic was venerated in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem by the end of the 340's. Helena died shortly after her journey. She was later made a saint in both the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches because of her awesome discoveries, her piety and her widespread charity. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07202b.htm

Constantine VI and Irene

On the death of Leo IV, the widowed Irene assumed the regency of the Empire on behalf of her son Constantine VI (780-797). In her mind he is too weak and worthless to rule. Irene had him deposed and blinded, and she then ruled in her own right. She is the first woman to rule in her own name (797-802). Despite having reduced taxes and providing generous gifts, following a palace revolution, she left office in exile.

Basil I with Constantine  Basil I alone  John I

Basil I, a peasant from Macedonia, rose from groomer in the imperial stables to co-emperor under the patronage of Michael III. He murdered his mentor in A.D. 867 and founded thereby the Macedonian dynasty. Basil for all his moral faults becomes an effective ruler; his armies were successful against the Arab tribes, his diplomacy kept the Bulgars at bay. Late in his lifetime he began a revision of the great legal text, the Codex of Justinianus.

In order to secure his dynasty, Basil made his sons co-emperors, most often depicting his eldest and favorite son, Constantine, on the reverse. According to the usual conventions of imperial portraits, with Basil identified as the senior ruler by his scale, position on the left, and the more ornate garment (the loros), if the two appeared together. Constantine died prematurely in A.D. 879 and Basil fell into a deep depression. Leo and Alexander (also his sons) were portrayed with him after Constantine's death. Basil died in a hunting accident in 886.

John I (969-976 AD-coin is the two views to the far left above) put down an attack on Constantinople by a Russian prince from Kiev named Svjatoslav. He extended his predecessor's conquests as far as Palestine, expanding Byzantine power in the Near East to become its strongest since the early 7th century. John died of typhoid and was followed by the sons of the former Empress Theophano. She had been banished for her implied part in the murder (969) of her husband Nicephorus II (she his second wife).

Theodora King of KingsIn 1055 Theodora received the crown (January 14th) of sole Empress of the Byzantine Empire (she had ruled several months as co-equal with her sister Zoe). Theodora was the youngest daughter of the Byzantine Emperor Constantine VIII and Helena, daughter of Alypius. She was the last of the Macedonian line that had ruled the empire for nearly 200 years. She ruled for about 600 days. She was the first eastern ruler to take office after the Great Schism of 1054 which began the formal the subsequent latinisation of Western Christendom under the domination of the Bishop of Rome and it's Frankish supporters.

Basil I introduced a new type of depiction of Christ and usage on coins. Icon veneration had returned under the reign of Michael III, just before Basil took sole office upon Michael's death. The new style placed Christ on the obverse and the emperor on the reverse. Basil copied the image of Christ from the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, an visage said to have possible ties to that found on the Shroud of Turin. The style was used during the Macedonian dynasty. The gold coin of Theodora, seen to the left and right, well demonstrates this type, showing Jesus Christ on the obverse (Obv) and the Empress on the reverse (Rev).

Many more coins at: http://www.beastcoins.com/Byzantine/Byzantine.htm (list of rulers and many fine examples)
This page New: 03/22/2014

Return to Newsletter

Return to 1916 -- Earlier Roman Coins -- Constantine and other later Rulers