Featured 29 May 1453

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Voulgaroktonou, May 28, 2018.

  1. Voulgaroktonou

    Voulgaroktonou Well-Known Member

    On Tuesday 29 May 1453 an Ottoman army of ca. 80,000 men, led by Sultan Mehmet II, captured the city of Constantinople after a 53 day siege, bringing to an end the Eastern Roman empire. Rather than submit to the Sultan's demand to surrender Constantinople, the emperor Constantine XI Palaiologos chose to die fighting in defense of the city and his faith. Although the 7,000 defenders fought bravely, the city's massive 5th c. AD walls, which had for a millennium proved impregnable to successive sieges, were no match for the Turkish cannon, and the 80,000 man Ottoman army overwhelmed the small defending force of Byzantines and their Italian allies. Once Constantine realized the city was lost, he threw off his imperial regalia and plunged into the midst of the fighting. His body was never found.

    There have been numerous studies of the fall of Constantinople, but one of the most convenient for English readers is Sir Steven Runciman's The Fall of Constantinople 1453. The quoted sections that follow are from his wonderful book. On Monday the 28th, realizing the end was near, the emperor encouraged his small force by reminding them what they were fighting for. “To his Greek subjects he said that a man should always be ready to die either for his faith or his country or for his family or for his sovereign. Now his people must be prepared to die for all four causes. He spoke of the glories and high traditions of the great Imperial city. He spoke of the perfidy of the infidel Sultan who had provoked the war in order to destroy the True Faith and to put his false prophet into the seat of Christ. He urged them to remember that they were the descendants of the ancient heroes of Greece and Rome and to be worthy of their ancestors. For his part, he said, he was ready to die for his faith, his city, and his people.”

    That evening the last Christian service was held in the great church of Holy Wisdom, the Hagia Sophia, that for a thousand years had been the heart of Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Latin Catholic and Greek Orthodox put aside their bitter doctrinal differences. “Priests who held union with Rome to be a mortal sin now came to the altar to serve their Unionist brothers. The Cardinal was there, and beside him bishops who would never acknowledge his authority; and all the people came to make confession and take communion, not caring whether Orthodox or Catholic administered it. There were Italians and Catalans along with the Greeks. The golden mosaics, studded with the images of Christ and his saints and the emperors and empresses of Byzantium, glimmered in the light of a thousand lamps and candles; and beneath them for the last time the priests in their splendid vestments moved in the solemn rhythm of the Liturgy. At this moment there was union in the Church of Constantinople.”

    Coins of this last Roman emperor are very rare, but a small hoard of them entered the market in 1991. Thanks go to my wife Susan who urged me to purchase one of the eighth stavrata at the time. My coin is no. 129 in Bendall's publication of the hoard in Revue Numismatique 1991, p. 134-142 and plates XIII-XVII The obverse depicts the image of Christ, while the emperor's portrait appears on the reverse. It's a diminutive, unprepossessing silver coin, but its history speaks volumes.

    This year 29 May falls on Tuesday, the same day that witnessed the fall of the City in 1453. Some Greeks have told me they consider Tuesday an unlucky day in which to do business for this reason. I think I'll stay home from the office... S2569Aa.jpg
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  3. TypeCoin971793

    TypeCoin971793 Just a random nobody...

    Great writeup. I read about the aftermath of the seige, and it is stomach-churning awful. The account I read talked about how the Ottomans joyously tortured and killed all survivors in Constantinople. Not fun.
  4. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Just a guy making his way in the universe

    There is a legend that Constantine XI will return one day to lead the Greeks, as his body was never found. Having visited Hagia Sophia it would be nice if it were returned to its status as a Christian church rather than a museum. Afterall, the large and imposing blue mosque sits across the plaza from Hagia Sophia.
    medvet likes this.
  5. philologus_1

    philologus_1 Well-Known Member

    Excellent write-up! I'm adding Constantine XI to my always-growing-want-list!
    Below is the closest connector I have to this significant event. (It was issued just 2 years prior to the fall of Constantinople, by the conquering ruler Mehmet II, and would have likely been circulating in the Ottoman Empire at the time of this event.)

    Any corrections welcome!
  6. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    Wow!! Interesting writeup, thanks!
  7. Quant.Geek

    Quant.Geek Well-Known Member

    An outstanding writeup! Constantine XI is high on my want list. I missed out on a recent Gemini auction that had one from Bendall's hoard :(
    Caesar_Augustus likes this.
  8. Voulgaroktonou

    Voulgaroktonou Well-Known Member

    There is a 19th c. Greek poem, whose translated title is "The Marble Emperor" that treats of this legend. Yes, if fairness ruled in peoples' hearts, Haghia Sophia would again be a Christian church for the Faithful, just as the many mosques permitted in the west serve their faithful.
    medvet and ancient coin hunter like this.
  9. Orfew

    Orfew Supporter! Supporter

    Great writeup, thank you.
  10. Voulgaroktonou

    Voulgaroktonou Well-Known Member

    Thank you. I hope a Constantine XI comes your way soon!
    Quant.Geek likes this.
  11. Voulgaroktonou

    Voulgaroktonou Well-Known Member

    Wow - yours is a very nice contemporary coin! Perhaps it was used to pay the Hungarian iron worker Urban, who, when Constantine XI could not afford his services, accepted the Sultan's offer to forge the cannon that overcame the walls of Constantinople. Perhaps my diminutive little coin was used to pay the defenders who shored up the battered walls at night once the shelling had ceased. I have no Ottoman coin contemporary with the siege, but only one from ca. 25 years later, of Mehmet II dated to 883 A.H. = 1478-79. au63.jpg
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  12. philologus_1

    philologus_1 Well-Known Member

    With all ancient coins I hold, I love pondering such viably conceivable suppositions as the two you ventured: "Perhaps it was used to pay the Hungarian iron worker Urban", and "Perhaps... used to pay the defenders who shored up battered walls". :)
    Deacon Ray and TIF like this.
  13. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    The OP coin is a great example of how a humble scrap of metal can carry a world of information and wonder. The coin is far out of my usual range of collecting but how can I not love the coin now that I know the story?

    @Voulgaroktonou, your post perfectly demonstrates the danger of CoinTalk... now I want one too :D
  14. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Just a guy making his way in the universe

    Constantine XI in one representation...

  15. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE

    Very nice write-up and great coin @Voulgaroktonou ! I DEFINITELY want to find a CXI!

    Like @philologus_1 , I only have a coin of Mehmet II during this important Historical event:

    Ottoman Turks Sultan Mahmed II 1451-1481 took Constantinople in 1453 Serez mint AR 1.2g.jpg
    Ottoman Turks Sultan Mehmet II 1451-1481 took Constantinople in 1453 Serez mint AR 1.2g
  16. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander Blame my mother. Supporter

    A dream coin, one of my favourite books (Runciman), and a writeup following in Runciman's footsteps. Well done, sir!!

    Here's the first post-siege coin minted in Constantinople, 7 years afterwards:
    Screen Shot 2018-05-28 at 10.13.09 AM.jpg
    Mehmet II akçe, Konstantiniyye (Constantinople), AH865=1460-61.

    This may be as close as I ever get to a Constantine XI. I've always wondered if there was any overlap in mint workers...
  17. Milesofwho

    Milesofwho Omnivorous collector

    I only have his predecessor, John VIII. His coins circulated during the siege too! The Constantine XI hoard also came with coins of John VIII and Manuel II. The obverse sigla are either a fleur de lis-dot, lambda-dot, or nothing-dot. 3DADFD66-D483-4456-9C77-C37B87AA6902.jpeg 21DA9117-E7B0-469A-A9A7-E4E117D06B95.jpeg
  18. 7Calbrey

    7Calbrey Well-Known Member

    The nearest coin to Constantine XI that I have, is just Constantine X with Empress Eudocia. But that is just close only in name and number since they date back to four centuries prior to the fall of the Byzantine Empire. So I managed to post beside this coin, a photo of the inner part of Hagia Sophia after it was Transformed into a mosque in 1453.

    3ByzEmp 001.jpg 3ByzEm R 001.jpg sophia 001.jpg
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  19. Bert Gedin

    Bert Gedin Well-Known Member

    Thanks to Voulga and Susan for a story well worth reading. Do any ancient coins have much meaning without a historical background ? If I ever get hold of a Constantine XI Palaiologos coin, I'll know something about him.
    philologus_1 likes this.
  20. philologus_1

    philologus_1 Well-Known Member

    When I visited the Hagia Sophia the quality of the artwork on the walls amazed me! I snapped the picture below in part because the middle portion was such a clear and strong portrayal of the obverse of several Byzantine coins.
  21. Deacon Ray

    Deacon Ray Well-Known Member

    Than you for posting @Voulgaroktonou ! Fascinating coin and very moving essay!
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