The most common denomination is the Follis (nice and bulky), while the smaller ones are a bit rarer as they are harder to find and they often are so worn that they don't even look like coins anymore. Imagine my surprise then when I came across a rarity that was also in great condition! The denomination was quite rare to begin with - a tetarteron (τεταρτηρον)! This literally means a 'quarter' and it is exactly that; the 1/4 of a Follis. These were introduced quite late, around 1092 by Alexios I Komnenos. They lasted until the 13th century and plenty were struck, but they are really hard to find especially in an acceptable condition. And then there is the holy grail of tetartera, a particularly rare type that was struck during the very short reign of Andronikos I Komnenos that also happens to feature a very attractive design. A facing Virgin Mary holding a facing baby Jesus! This is my new arrival that I am presenting to you today When I came across this one I was surprised at the level of detail that survived on the coin. You could actually tell that Virgin Mary is holding a haloed baby Jesus, an image quite familiar to those who are accustomed to the Eastern Orthodox iconography. Also the legends were quite readable too. I can easily read the ΑΝΔΡΟΝΙΚΟΥ on the reverse without having to resort to my imagination. I looked around on wildwinds and acsearch for other examples of that type and I was surprised to see how rare it is and that their condition wasn't as good as the one of my coin. I know that there are at least two examples of the type on Cointalk, so I am curious to see if there are more lurking around, perhaps in an even better condition. Overall I am very happy with my purchase. There is of course the issue of the split flan that makes the coin look like it was run over by a truck (twice!), but at least it doesn't affect the design and in my opinion adds to the charms of the coin. But what makes this coin extra special is the man who struck it. I can't think of any other Byzantine celebrity whose entire life was like a movie (an X-rated one) even way before he even became an emperor. This of course is Andronikos I Komnenos (Andronicus Comnenus latinized). (From Extracts of History by Zonaras, 15th century - Wikimedia Commons) It is difficult to sumarise this guy. He was on the run for much of his life. He slept around with the wrong women - a lot! He got imprisoned and kept escaping - a lot! He suffered one of the most brutal deaths (even for Byzantine standards), yet he lived to old age. And he was actually on the throne for only the last 3 years of his life, but he made a right mess of it... His actions (or lack of) contributed to the collapse of relations between Byzantium and the west, but let's start from the beginning... He was probably born in 1118 and was of noble blood being the grandson of emperor Alexios I. However as he was way down the succession line, he didn't have any realistic prospects of ending up in the throne so he pursued a military career where he did fairly well. That was until he was captured by the Turks for a year and afterwards ended up in the court of his emperor cousin Manuel I Komnenos to recuperate. This is where his problems/adventures really began. He was a tall handsome fella with an eye for beautiful women and the good life. He didn't think before he acted and he was of the mindset that if he wanted something then it was rightfully his. His cousin was fascinated by him and they were great friends. They were around the same age after all. We know lots of details of what happened in Andronicus' life, and this is mainly down to 3 contemporary sources. John Cinnamus, the archbishop of Thessaloniki Eustathius, and the historian Nicetas Choniates. While he was staying in the court, Andronicus seduced Manuel's niece Eudoxia. That was a bit of a scandal, but Andronicus laughed it off as the emperor himself was in an affair with Theodora, Eudoxia's sister. Her family was understandably fed up with the whole situation, so in order to calm things down, in 1152 Manuel appointed Andronicus to a post in Cilicia and then Hungary, where an alleged conspiracy to overthrown Manuel got him into trouble. So close was the relationship with his cousin though, that his only punishment was a mere luxurious exile in the not-so-far-away Pelagonia where Andronicus managed to rekindle his affair with the fair Eudoxia. This time Eudoxia's brothers had enough and came close to assassinating him, but he literally escaped at the last moment by fleeing through a hole in the tent where he and Eudoxia were having a sexy time. His enemies kept spreading the rumors that he was conspiring against his cousin's life (we don't know if that is true) and that eventually led him to be imprisoned in the imperial palace in Constantinople. He managed to escape twice to various degrees of success and sometimes hilarity. He found a way to access a disused drain next to the tower he was kept that allowed him to hide around the palace and return as he pleased. When his captors realized he was gone, they arrested his wife of that time and put her in the same cell. One day Andronicus returned to the cell to the horror of his wife who thought she had seen a ghost. He eventually took the gamble to escape for good and flee the city but was recaptured and thrown back to prison until 1164, where he escaped again by having his servant make a wax copy of his cell key. He was almost caught by a patrol after climbing down the palace wall, but he outwitted them pretending to be a poor slave escaping from an abusive master. He fled to the black sea, but so big was his infamy that he was soon recognized and captured again. He managed to escape again on the way back to prison by faking diarrhea and he literally fled with his pants down. He found refuge in the court of a Russian prince, and at that point emperor Manuel decided to pardon his cousin as he thought by doing that he would be much less trouble. It didn't take long for Andronicus to return to his old ways and after a disagreement with Manuel he decided to go to Syria to romantically pursue Manuel's wife sister, princess Phillipa of Antioch. Manuel was outraged but luckily for him Andronicus got tired of Phillipa fairly quickly and he then ventured to Jerusalem to socialize with its Frankish rulers, while wasting official funds at the same time. His womanizing did not stop at all even though he was now in his fifties, and this time his next target was another niece of the emperor, Theodora Komnene the widow of King Baldwin of Jerusalem. This time Manuel had enough and ordered the blinding of Andronicus. He managed to flee just in time taking Theodora with him, and their romance surprisingly lasted for another 12 years. Through that time they were traveling around the Muslim world where Andronicus was the guest and advisor to various rulers, often assisting in raids of Byzantine territories. One day Theodora and his children were captured and Andronicus had to surrender to Manuel. He was a man of theatrics and somehow he managed to convince the emperor of his remorse thus avoiding death or a harsh punishment. Manuel must have been the sentimental type. Quite understandably Adronicus calmed down a bit and he led a quiet life for a few years in the region of the Black Sea where he was appointed as the governor of Oenaeum. All this was to change though when Manuel died in 1180. (Maria of Antioch - Wikimedia Commons) Manuel was married to Maria of Antioch who was known as 'Ξενη' (the foreigner) a Latin princess and Phillipa's sister. When he died she became a regent as their only son Alexios was only 11 years old. This didn't go down well with the populace of Constantinople as they hated the idea of Maria ruling them. One of the characteristics of Manuel's reign was that he had western-friendly attitudes giving plenty of rights and tax-breaks to the Latin merchants that resided in Constantinople and enriching the trade and relations with Venice and Genoa. Maria followed the same policies making the Greek speaking majority population feel that they were discriminated against the Latin minorities. Rampant corruption didn't help either as it only fed that resentment. Andronicus grabbed this opportunity to get involved firmly back in the political scene of Constantinople. He marched into the city with a rather insignificant army, but popular support forced Maria to accept him as 'protector' of the young emperor. She was forced to retire to a monastery effectively leaving Andronicus to run the affairs of the empire. And this is where he made his biggest mistake as he allowed one of the darkest chapters in the city's history to take place. This is known as the massacre of the Latins of 1182. This is a very complex subject that deserves a write-up of its own, but in essence it was the result of pro-western corruption, religious resentment, and the geopolitical games between Venice, Genoa, and the Byzantine empire. We don't know if Andronicus took an active part in ordering the massacre but we know for sure that he allowed it to happen. For days, the mob attacked the Latin quarters of Constantinople killing indiscriminately men, women and children. It was what we nowadays call a 'pogrom'. Tens of thousands were killed and many thousands were sold off as slaves. This sent shock-waves throughout Europe and outraged the Frankish countries. Enrico Dandolo, one of the Latin emissaries that was in direct negotiation with Andronicus at the time, would later become Doge of Venice and be responsible for the 4th crusade and the sack of Constantinople in 1204. It is important to remember that Andronicus is not even an emperor yet. He took his time removing one obstacle after another. Maria's other children started dropping like flies (poison was suspected) and eventually Maria herself was accused of conspiring against the state. Her own son the young emperor was forced to sign her death sentence and she was strangled with a silk cord. Andronicus managed to convince everyone and himself that he should become a co-emperor and he 'reluctantly' accepted the position. Now only the young boy emperor stood between him and complete rule, and soon he followed the fate of his mother. The poor lad was strangled with a silk cord, beheaded, and the headless body was thrown in the Bosporus. Andronicus, now 63 years of age, was the sole emperor of the Byzantine empire in 1183. As an emperor, he tried to make some effort towards reform in the beginning. He tried to fight corruption and he succeeded to a degree, but this damaged his relationship with the army and the aristocracy. He was harsh with his perceived enemies and executed lots, but somehow he had the support of the people due to his talented populism. This was to change though when William the King of Sicily attacked the empire and pillaged Thessaloniki. Andronicus was blamed as he failed to protect the city and its inhabitants. During that time he married the 11 year old fiance of the murdered Alexios, Agnes the daughter of the King of France. That was another scandal as she was too young even for the standards of the time. As his popularity was waining, his paranoia increased and he started seeing enemies everywhere. He started executing people left and right. As Nicetas Choniates notes: "A day on which he ordered no man's death, was a day wasted". One of these orders led to his demise. When he ordered the arrest of popular aristocrat Isaac Angelos, the people objected and there was a riot. When Isaac took sanctuary in Hagia Sofia, the crowd proclaimed him emperor. Andronicus realized the game was lost and fled the city in a small boat along with two women, his child-bride and his favorite mistress. He was soon captured and what followed was the most gruesome death in the history of Byzantium. He was paraded in front of the new emperor while the courtiers were pulling out his hair and his beard. They knocked out his teeth and chopped of his hand. After a few days he was thrown to the mercy of the mob which wasn't in a merciful mood. They blinded him, but only in one eye so he could see what was happening to him. He was paraded through the forum on a camel and all sorts of humiliations were bestowed upon him ranging from urine and boiling water thrown at his face and manure shoved into his nostrils. He was eventually hung upside down at the hippodrome so the mob could focus on his genitals. There was a contest about who could stab him deeper in the buttocks and anus and the grand finale was when somebody shoved a sword through his mouth and throat. As Andronicus wasn't a trained sword swallower it is safe to assume that it was the final blow. The fascinating and often questionable life a very colorful character was now over. (Death of Andronicus , Guillaume de Tyr, Historia - Wikimedia Commons) If you want some additional reading, there is an excellent lecture by Melville Jones which is one of my primary sources: http://www.aabs.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/melvillejonesandronicus.pdf Also, as we are approaching the general US election, here is an article I found on Trump, populism, and Andronicus: https://theconversation.com/trumpus...l-us-about-the-rise-of-populist-leaders-70779 I hope you liked this write-up and managed to read it to the end! Post your tetartera, and as they are scarce, post any Byzantine coins you find interesting!