Coins from Byzantine Mints offer fascinating looks into a time period and culture that is often overlooked. Many of the Ancient Coins minted by them still have their original details, which makes the connection all the stronger. If you are looking to hold a little piece of history in your hands, these coins are for you.
In 330 A.D., the Roman Emperor Constantine moved the capital of the empire from Rome to Constantinople, altering the course of history forever. After the move, the Byzantine Empire, as it would then be called, assumed control of the minting system, which had recently been reorganized by the Emperor Diocletian. Chief among them was the Constantinople Mint, which would be the most important and only continually operating mint for gold and silver coins throughout the empire’s millennium-plus history. Regional mints operated, opened, and closed in the ensuing years. A little more than a century and a half later, when Anastasius came to power, only the Constantinople and Thessalonica mints were still in operation. Anastasius initiated reforms in coinage in 498 A.D that began what is commonly considered the proper Byzantine coinage system. He concurrently re-opened the Nicomedia mint and later re-opened the one in Antioch. Expansions in the empire under Justinian I led to the opening of new mints. From the seventh through the ninth centuries, the number of mints was reduced dramatically until Syracuse fell in 878, which left the Constantinople Mint as the only one continuing to produce gold and silver coins. Additional mints opened in Corinth, Philadelphia, Magnesia, and Nicaea during the final centuries of the empire before the fall of Constantinople in 1453.
Coins struck at Byzantine Mints may be gold, silver, or base metal. What sets them apart from most other ancient coins is the fact that so many remain in uncirculated condition today. In fact, we have several such coins available today that look just as they did when they did over fourteen hundred years ago. These coins offer collectors a fantastic connection with this historic civilization.
The designs of byzantine coins are products of their times. During the first three centuries A.D., Christians were largely persecuted throughout the Roman Empire. By the fourth century, the religion was grown rapidly, and Constantine became the first emperor to convert to the young religion. As the Church grew in membership, so too did its prominence in official affairs, including coinage. For this reason, religious symbols, most notably the Cross, frequently appear on Byzantine Mint coinage. For example, Phocas is depicted holding a Cross on the Gold Solidus. Such symbolism was an early iteration of the Christian notion of the divine right, which has its roots in the Old Testament, namely 1 Samuel. The Cross was so important that it frequently appeared on both faces of a coin, as is the case with the aforementioned Solidus, on which an angel holds a globe with a Cross on the top.