Featured Byzantine Justinian I Follis - Salona (or Ravenna) Miltiary Mint

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Marsyas Mike, Jan 8, 2020.

  1. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    My first purchase this year was a batch of five Byzantine folles from eBay, otherwise undescribed. One was weird and worn with an odd reverse - just an M and a cross. I had no idea what it was until I got it in hand and I did a little digging on the Internet.

    Turns out it is a Justinian I follis from the Salona (or possibly the Ravenna) mint. It is thought this was from a military issue for the Gothic Wars - so I learned from a CNG auction:

    "The correct attribution of this unsigned series of bronzes remains uncertain, but numerous examples have been found in the environs of Salona in Illyria, an important Byzantine fort and staging area for military activity in Italy. Both Belisarius and Narses used it as a headquarters in their campaigns against the Ostrogothic king Baduila (Totila, 541-552), who conducted a brilliant guerrilla campaign against superior Imperial forces until his death at Busta Gallorum in 552. There is some debate about the date of coinage at this mint. Grierson supports a date in the 540s-550s, at the height of the Italian war, while Hahn in MIBE dates it later, to 562-565, based on similar styles of bust found on dated Ravenna mint issues from late in Justinian's reign. In any case, the reduced size, simplified design, and scarcity of these bronzes speaks of a short-lived issue of limited circulation."


    Another article by Elena Baldi speculates on whether or not these might've come from Ravenna: https://www.researchgate.net/public...xts_of_Classe_New_evidence_and_interpretation

    Here is mine:

    Byz Justinian I - Salona mint Follis Lot Jan 2020 (0c).jpg

    Justinian I Æ Follis
    (c. 540s-550s or 562-565 A.D.)
    Salona / Ravenna Mint (?)
    (Military Mint)

    IVSTI[NI]ANVS PP, Helmeted facing bust, holding globus cruciger and shield; cross
    to right / Large M; cross above, no mintmark or Officina.
    DOC I 358; MIBE 248; SB 329.
    (6.43 grams / 21 mm)

    Here is the whole batch this came from, showing how oddly small this is compared to other folles of the era (Justin I and two Justin II/Sophias - the cut-down Class B Anonymous was posted separately) - coinwise I feel I started the year out pretty lucky (that CNG example sold for $1300.00, though it is nicer than mine):

    _Lot - Byzantine Follis 5 from Adam Jan 2020 (0).jpg

    Are there any other Salona Byzantines out there? These seem to be a bit scarce, although CNG has auctioned several recently and the archaeologists seem to be digging them up on a regular basis.
  2. Avatar

    Guest User Guest

    to hide this ad.
  3. PlanoSteve

    PlanoSteve Supporter! Supporter

    Nice! Is it actually "holed" as it appears? (I have a high degree of confidence that it was handled by at least one of my maternal ancestors...:D:p.)

    That whole "batch" is awesome...I'm sure they have many stories to tell...if only they could speak! :joyful:;)
    Marsyas Mike likes this.
  4. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the observation, PlanoSteve - you made me look closer! :watching:

    I think those are pits, not holes. However, looking closer, they are opposite, or close to opposite to each other. So maybe it is a hole, plugged by gunk of the ages? I don't really want to poke at it - I don't like to disturb antique gunk. Most of my collection would fall apart if I did that!
    Theodosius and PlanoSteve like this.
  5. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    I once picked up this Justinian half-follis on Ebay. It sat in a remote part of my collection for a long time, before I heard of the attribution of this series to a Byzantine military mint in Salona. It thus fits well into my collection of "coins of the Gothic war".

    Hahn discusses this type as MIB 251 and the follis above as MIB 248.3. According to Hahn, the strongly and intentionally underweight nature of these coins suggest that they functioned as "credit money" among the Byzantine army in Italy. Hahn mentions that many pieces have been found in and around Salona, but he says that these coins could just as well have been the product of a travelling military mint. Hahn also acknowledges the stylistic similarities to coins from Ravenna.
    I think coins of this series are quite scarce, especially in good condition.

    Screenshot 2020-01-08 at 18.21.28.png
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2020
  6. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    That is a lovely example of the half follis, Tejas - probably the nicest I saw from the ones I saw poking around on the 'net. Thanks for sharing it.

    An interesting thing about this issue is that the ones I saw are pretty much all nicely struck on rather round, even planchets (unlike official AEs from the official mints). My theory: military efficiency at the military mint!

    Here's a slew of them (all denominations) from acsearch:

    PlanoSteve likes this.
  7. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the list - maybe not quite as scarce as I thought. But in any case an intriguing series. The fact that coins of this series have no mint mark make the attribution to a travelling military mint quite plausible if not likely. To think that these coins were minted perhaps in military camps during a campaign of the Gothic War is quite awe-inspiring.
    Marsyas Mike likes this.
  8. Plumbata

    Plumbata Well-Known Member

    Personally, the varied Æ issues of Justinian are supremely interesting because of not only their wide variety, generally impressive size and quintessentially "Byzantine" aesthetic but also because they are exemplary products of the last great glimmer of Late Antiquity, an era where peoples/nations were on the move, change was in the air, and the (Western) world order was about to undergo a dramatic and fundamental shift; the ripples of which still wash over us all today.

    Your Italian/Croatian military mint issue is great and like @ValiantKnight I am highly interested in these more obscure issues which seem to represent an ultimately doomed attempt to cling to the Roman status quo ante.

    Congrats on the fortunate acquisition and thanks for writing up and sharing your findings!
  9. Caesar_Augustus

    Caesar_Augustus Well-Known Member

    Very nice finds Maryas Mike!
  10. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    Mike, Congratulations on your newly acquired hoard, especially the possible Salona - Ravenna follis of Justinian I :D! Byzantine coinage is fertile ground for finds like the one you discovered. The hole on that coin appears so perfectly round on the obverse side you'd immediately suspect it was done by a drill of some kind. Maybe a soldier on that campaign drilled it himself as a keepsake but couldn't match both sides o_O. It seems unlikely that a hole so round would be caused by porosity :confused:. Or possibly it started out a small hole from porosity & the soldier decided to enlarge it for jewelry. Food for thought....
Draft saved Draft deleted

Share This Page