A Byzantine "Six Header"

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Al Kowsky, Jun 17, 2021.

  1. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    Byzantine numismatic jargon has labeled these common gold coins as "six headers" because six different people are portrayed on one coin. Although common, well struck coins in choice condition can be very expensive. Nomos AG sold a gem grade example last year for $4,489.00 :jawdrop:! Nice examples in V.F. grade can be had in the $500-700 range.

    Sear 1859, Al Kowsky Collection (2).jpg
    Romanus IV Diogenes, with Eudocia, Michael VII, Constantius, and Andronicus. AD 1068-1071. AV Histamenon Nomisma: 27 mm, 4.43 gm, 6 h. Constantinople Mint. Obverse: Jesus Christ standing on foot stool crowning Romanus & Eudocia who are holding a globus cruciger. Reverse: Michael holding a labarum & akakia, flanked by Constantius & Andronicus who are holding a globus criciger & akakia. Slight doubling on reverse side. Sear 1859. Al Kowsky Collection.

    All the listings I've seen of this coin type describe the obverse side of the coin with Michael VII, flanked by his brothers Constantius & Andronicus. I believe this to be incorrect. I believe the side with Christ flanked by Romanus & Eudocia should be the obverse side, regardless of the form of this scyphate coin. Weather the obverse is concave or convex should have no bearing on this designation.

    The reign of Romanus IV & Eudocia is one of the most bizarre chapters in Byzantine history. When Romanus lost the epic Battle of Manzikert, he was forced to surrender & lay on the ground while Sultan Alp Arslan put his foot on the neck of Romanus.

    Miniature medieval painting of Romans & Alp Arslan

    After this humiliation the Sultan treated Romanus as an emperor with all respect due to one. He allowed Romanus to return to Constantinople with a set of embarrassing demands for surrender. When the disgraced Romanus did return he was forced to relinquish his status as emperor & was jailed. Later he was bound & had his eyes removed with a red-hot iron poker :eek:. He then was put on a donkey & paraded about the city like a dying corpse. Soon there after maggots formed in his eye sockets & he died an agonizing death. Eudocia was exiled to a church she founded at the mouth of the Hellespont, tonsured & compelled to wear a veil.

    Romanos_et_Eudoxie, Bibliotheque Nationale de France.jpg
    A period ivory plaque thought to depict Christ flanked by Romanus & Eudocia. Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris.

    Byzantium, The Apogee, by John Julius Norwich. Copyright 1993.
    Byzantine Coins & Their Values, by David R. Sear. Copyright 1987
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2021
    philologus_1, Spaniard, Ryro and 18 others like this.
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  3. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter 3rd Century Usurper

    Lots of figures on the coin!

    What a tough ending for Romanus.
  4. sand

    sand Active Member

    That's a beautiful coin, Al. And an interesting essay, with beautiful photographs. All of the blinding that went on, was one of the dark aspects of the Byzantine Empire. I read, that the Byzantines considered blinding, to be more "merciful", than just killing someone. I'm not sure that I agree. If they wanted an emperor to "retire", then sometimes they blinded him/her, because they considered a blind person, to be unable to be emperor. However, Isaac II was an exception to the rule. He was deposed and blinded, but then 8 years later, he became emperor again, for a 2nd reign. However, the Byzantines did not have a monopoly on cruelty, during the Ancient times, Dark Ages, and Middle Ages. Therefore the expression "I'm going to get Medieval on your XXXXXX".
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2021
  5. sand

    sand Active Member

    EDIT : I combined the words, from this post, with my previous post. I guess I can't delete this post.
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2021
  6. Andres2

    Andres2 Well-Known Member

    what an awsome coin, Al , congrats

    my humble bronze of Romanus IV Diogenes:

    Jezus Christus Byzantium Romanus IV (2).jpg

    another punishment for fallen Byzantine emperors:
    slicing the nose off, an emperor should be whole & sound, that way they prevented a come back of the fallen emperor.
  7. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander Blame my mother. Supporter

    Sweet coin, and definitely a must-have emperor, due to the Manzikert disaster. Not easy to get a portrait, unfortunately. Here's my budget portrait, on a holed 1/3 miliaresion:
    romanus iv.jpg

    Surely the anvil die must have been concave? Otherwise the blank would just slide off, I would think.
  8. Only a Poor Old Man

    Only a Poor Old Man Well-Known Member

    Great coin. I always wanted one of those... I don't think they are that common, they don't seem to appear lately that often especially in such a good condition.

    What's the uncertainty? The artist even went into the trouble of writing everyone's name and title next to their heads! :p

    Here is mu humble bronze example of Romanus IV:

  9. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    sand, Thanks for the kind words :happy:. You're right on about Byzantine cruelty :rage:! Some historians believe the Byzantine use of "Greek Fire" in warfare was cruel also. America's use of napalm in the Viet Nam War has often been compared to "Greek Fire". I guess anything goes in warfare :(...
  10. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    Andres, Both of the folles you've posted are handsome coins with attractive patinas :D. Some researchers believe the ivory plaque is the image of Romanos II & his child bride :rolleyes:, although this is hard to substantiate. See the link below.
    Romanos Ivory - Wikipedia
    Only a Poor Old Man and Andres2 like this.
  11. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    S.A., Of course you're right about the bottom die being concave, but this doesn't mean the image of that die can't be designated as the obverse of the coin ;). The portrait on your coin is a handsome one :D. Romanus IV was a great general despite losing the Battle of Manzikert. Someone thought enough of him to create a pendant out of this coin :happy:.
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  12. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander Blame my mother. Supporter

    Ah! I'm used to the obverse = anvil terminology. To quote Barry Murphy as an authority here:
    But looking around on the web, I see this terminology is not consistent, esp. for modern coins. (Sometimes "obverse" means something like "the most important side of the coin.") You learn something every day!

    But was that before or after Manzikert? :hilarious:
    Ryro likes this.
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