Featured Constantine VII replaces Romanus I (Byzantine)

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Valentinian, Apr 23, 2019.

  1. Valentinian

    Valentinian Well-Known Member

    Byzantine history is, well, Byzantine. The complicated reign of Constantine VII illustrates it. There are more twists and turns than I can recount here, but some events are key to understanding this coin which is clearly overstruck.


    The overtype is Constantine VII, 913-959.
    27 mm. 6.14 grams.
    Facing bust of Constantine VII, holding globus cruciger in left hand
    CONST BA - S ... around
    Four line reverse legend:
    CONST/ENOEbA/SILEVSR/ROMEON ["N" looks like "h" on all of these coins]
    Sear 1761.

    (This coin and the next came in the mail yesterday. It was great fun to sort out their story.)

    You can skip the next paragraph which identifies the undertype as Romanus I, Sear 1760 (the second next coin).

    Clearly the obverse is overstruck on a previous reverse, the final two lines showing:
    SILEVSRW/OMEWN [Note: The omega form is like W here but like O on the Constantine VII.] Remembering that late Byzantine coins usually have 6:00 die-axis, flipping the coin over using the axis of the undertype we can see the top of the undertype's obverse was at 1:30 on the reverse. Yes, ILEVS RWM can be made out there to the right. At 3:00 in this orientation the beginning of the undertype's obverse legend is RWM ... for Romanus. This, and the details of the reverse, show the undertype is Sear 1760 of Romanus I (the second next coin).

    The books say Romanus I ruled 920-944, inside the reign of Constantine VII. How is that?

    Here is where it gets Byzantine.

    Leo VI, the wise, did not have a male heir until his fourth wife presented him with Constantine VII. (Having four wives got Leo in a lot of trouble with the church.) When Leo died there were historical complications I omit. Then Constantine VII became emperor while still a minor, with his mother Zoe as regent.


    Constantine and Zoe. 914-919. Note Zoe is larger.
    You can see the name "Zoe" as "ZOH" in the middle line of the reverse ("H" is "eta" in Greek).
    Sear 1758.
    Obverse Legend: + CONSTAN CE ZOH b

    Invasions by the Bulgarians required the help of an able military man and the admiral Romanus I pushed himself into the role of regent and co-emperor, forcing out Zoe. He issued coins in his own name.


    Sear 1760, in the name of Romanus, under Constantine VII.
    Obverse legend: + RWMAn BASILEVS RWM

    He promoted his oldest son, Christopher, who was already an adult military man, to co-emperor and then his other two sons too. Constantine VII was moved down the list of heirs. However, Christopher died and Romanus became despondent, seeming not to care for his other two sons, and wrote a will that would have given the empire (back) to Constantine VII. The sons conspired and overthrew him, forcing him to take vows and join a monastery. Shortly thereafter, the populace backed Constantine VII and overthrew the sons and forced them to join their father (in 945).

    So, you can understand that it was time to call in the coins of Romanus I and restrike them as coins of Constantine VII, which explains the overstrike on the first coin. That type was issued from 945 to c. 950, when Constantine VII began to issue coins with his own young child, Romanus II:

    Constantine VII and Romanus II, c.950-959 [That is, until Constantine VII died.]
    Their facing busts.

    Sear 1762 under Constantine VII.

    They may not be beautiful. They may not be high grade. But Byzantine copper coins have great stories!

    Show us a Byzantine coin, maybe with an overstrike.
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2019
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  3. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter 3rd Century Usurper

    Great post @Valentinian. I read John Julius Norwich's Byzantine History and the number of times emperors are forced to become monks is amazing. Furthermore, there was the cutting off of the nose, blinding (among other gruesome punishments) and empresses and princesses were forced to join convents upon their downfall. Great stuff. I wonder why there haven't been more miniseries about Byzantium. The scandalous material is definitely there. :cat:
  4. Alegandron

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

    Nice write-up @Valentinian ! Thank you for the info. I know so little about Byz coins, and literally rely on your Site and your postings...

    This is the extent of my Byz collection, limited as it is! Yup, I am pretty decrepid in this area of history...

    BZ Justinian I 527-565 CE AE30 Folles 12.2g 40 Nummi M monogram.jpg
    BZ Justinian I 527-565 CE AE30 Folles 12.2g 40 Nummi M monogram
    Ex: @John Anthony

    BZ Justinian I 527-565 CE AE Folles 30mm 17g 40 Nummi M monogram.jpg
    BZ Justinian I 527-565 CE AE Folles 30mm 17g 40 Nummi M monogram
    I believe this is from @Valentinian

    BZ Justin I 518-527 CE Copper Folles Antioch 20 nummia K monogram.jpg
    BZ Justin I 518-527 CE Copper Folles Antioch 20 nummia K monogram

    BZ Anastasius I 491-518 AE Post Reform Folles M monogram.jpg
    BZ Anastasius I 491-518 AE Post Reform Folles M monogram

    BYZANTINE EMPIRE. Andronicus II and Michael IX, AD 1295-1320.
    AR Basilikon, 22mm, 2.1g, 6h; Mint of Constantinople.
    Obv.: IC XC KVREI BOHΘH, Christ enthroned, right hand raised in benediction,large dot either side.
    Reverse.ΑVΤΩΚΡΑΤΟ - PΕC PWΜΑION; Andronicus standing left and Michael standing right; holding between them a labarum.
    Reference: DOC V part 1.Class VIII.(f) 528-534
    From the @H8modern Collection
    Ex: @John Anthony

    BZ Manuel I Comnenus 1143-1180 CE Aspron Trachy 35mm 4g Christ Gospels Labaran globus cruciger Virgin maphorium SB 1966 scyphate
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  5. Voulgaroktonou

    Voulgaroktonou Well-Known Member

    Wonderful post, Valentinian. The coinage is a useful weather-vane to tracking the vicissitudes of fortune between Constantine VII, his over-pushy father - in law, and his 3 step brothers.

    Here are a few of mine.
    1. Pattern in bronze for a solidus. Sear 1742A (DO9). 3.23 gr. 20.5 mm. 5 h. Constantinople, 931. Romanus and Constantine VII.

    2. Miliaresion. Sear 1752 (DO16). 3.13 gr. 25.7 mm. 12 h. Constantinople, 914-21. Constantine VII alone. Possibly struck after Zoe's downfall in 920/21, but before Romanus I promoted himself; no miliaresia are known from the early joint reign of Const. and Zoe.

    3. Miliaresion. Sear 1754 (DO18). 2.57 gr. 24.8 mm. 8 h. Constantinople, 921-31.
    Precedence: Romanus, his eldest son Christopher (died 931), and Constantine VII.

    4. Miliaresion. Sear 1755 (DO20). 2.87 gr. 23.5 mm. 1 h. Constantinople, 931-44.
    Precedence: Romanus, Constantine VII, and Romanus' other sons Stephen and Constantine Lecapenus. Note tiny bust of Romanus within cross.

    5. Miliaresion. Sear 1757 (DO21). 3.08 gr. 23.2 mm. 12 h. Constantinople, 945-59. Precedence:Constantine VII and his son Romanus II. In Dec. 944, Romanus' surviving sons Stephen and Constantine deposed their father, and in Jan. 945, Constantine VII in turn deposed them, associating his son Romanus II on the throne.
    Quant.Geek, ominus1, Bing and 8 others like this.
  6. chrsmat71

    chrsmat71 I LIKE TURTLES!

    Here is a coin of Heraclius and H. Constantine, overstruck on a coin of himself. These may be considered more of a counter stamp than an overstrike since the new stuff doesn't even attemp to cover the whole flan.

  7. BenSi

    BenSi Well-Known Member

    I have been reexamining some coins in my collection, your post gave me an excuse to share.

    Both of these coins are of the same issue but very different. They were issued by the last emperor of Constantinople before the fall to the Latins of the 4th crusade in 1203 AD. He ruled from 1195 to until he fled the capital in 1203. His Name Alexius III,

    Now beyond the visual differences in the two coins one changes coin history ever so slightly.

    Both of these coins are minted in Constantinople, they were the last of the Metropolitan Tetartera, these tetartera minted in the capitol were worth more than the coins from Thessalonica because they had a small silver content to them. The Metropolitan tetartera are far rarer than the coinage that covered the country side. In fact, Phillip Grierson thought they were for ceremonial use only. We now know from documents and additional finds that they were part of the coinage system and not just ceremonial use. By the reign of Alexius III the silver content had dropped so low in billion trachea it was theorized that the Metropolitan denomination became obsolete and no longer issued.

    In Dumbarton Oaks catalog IV Michael Hendy had dated the last Metropolitan tetartera being minted in 1197, two years after Alexius III took the throne. This was based on the coinage before 1197 did not contain the family name that Alexius III adopted, Comnenus.

    The first coin fits that description the title on the left side leaves off the family name. As did all of the coins minted before 1197 regardless of denomination did. The coin itself is extremely rare, I have been fortunate to acquire two examples.
    OBV Bust of Virgin nimbate, orans, wearing tunic and maphorion, turned to r. Manus Dei in upper r. field

    REV Bust of emperor wearing stemma, divitision, collar piece, and jeweled loros of a simplified type; holds in r hand labarum headed scepter and in l. Globus cruciger.
    Size 18/19mm

    Weight 2.7gm

    Well This second coin breaks the date theory because of those last letters on the left side are the abridged Comnenus name so the coin was minted after 1197 AD

    Size 18/21mm

    Weight 2.7gm

    Dumbarton Oaks Catalog lists 1 known example with weight of 3.38gm and a size of 19mm

    Strange how different both coins appear to be in style. I acquired the last one over 15 years ago I have seen one other example and it too had the Comnenus name attached.
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2019
  8. Orange Julius

    Orange Julius Well-Known Member

    Ooooh! I have a coin that is related!

    My coin below is SB-1762 of Constantine VII and Romanus II overstruck on a SB-1760 of Romanus I, like your under type.

    In the photo below, I've tried to illustrate the under type peeking through.

    I posted about this coin on FORVM when I was trying to figure it out. I got a really great and interesting reply by a member who also may be here on CT... but since some of us have different user names... I'm not sure. I'll paste his reply below:

    "Your identification of both the type (SBCV 1762) and undertype (SBCV 1760) are correct. And, yes, this is a very common overstrike.

    I suspect the relationship between Constantine VII and his father-in-law, Romanus I, was quite complex. Romanus I, it is said, always treated Constantine VII with honour, even though he was allowed no actual power and not even much of a voice in the affairs of state.

    A sentence that’s often quoted is De Administrando Imperio 13.147, part of a manual of statecraft written by Constantine VII for the training of the young Romanus II: “The lord Romanus, the emperor, was a common, illiterate fellow, and not from among those who have been bred up in the palace, and have followed the Roman national customs from the beginning; nor was he of imperial and noble stock, and for this reason in most of his actions he was too arrogant and despotic …” But this is in the context of a particular issue: whether marriages between imperial ladies and foreigners were permissible – Romanus had arranged a controversial marriage between one of his grand-daughters and the Bulgarian king Peter I – an issue about which Constantine VII (always the snobbish Porphyrogenitus) felt very strongly. And later in the same chapter Constantine strikes a more wistful tone: “… the aforesaid lord Romanus was in his lifetime much abused, and was slandered and hated by the senatorial council and all the commons and the church herself …”

    Actually, the practice of overstriking is common during most of Byzantine numismatic history and the causes are varied. I would not assume that the only reason (or perhaps even the principal reason) for the many overstrikes of Romanus’s coins by Constantine VII was a desire to disparage the memory of his predecessor."

    As for my coin, below are examples of the over and under type:

    Overtype Constantine VII and Romanus II SB-1762
    Undertype Romanus I SB-1760
  9. arnoldoe

    arnoldoe Well-Known Member

    Here are my bronzes from Constantine VII / Romanus
    1 Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus with Zoe. Struck 914-919. SB 1758.
    2: Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus Struck 919-920? SB 1759
    3 Romanus I Struck 920-944 SB 1760
    4 Constantine VII Struck 945-50 SB 1761
    5 Constantine VII and Romanus II Struck 953-959 SB 1762
  10. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member

    While neither overstruck nor bronze my Constantine VII and Romanus fourree solidus is gold plated over silver ad quite 'Byzantine'.
  11. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter 3rd Century Usurper

    Michael II the Amorian and Theophilus, AE Follis, 23 mm 6.2 grams

    820-829 A.D.

    Michael supported iconoclasm, which disallowed the use of icons in favor of script and and related artistic themes which almost certainly was a reflection of the influence of Islam on Byzantine art.


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  12. 7Calbrey

    7Calbrey Well-Known Member

    I managed to shoot a couple of Byzantine coins with my IPhone. The first is a follis and reads possibly ENTUT on obverse. The second is a half-follis struck under Maurice Tiberius. I picked up the third coin from my old folders : It is surely an over-strike. Entu O.JPG Entu R.JPG Maur O.JPG Maurse R.JPG JustinianrOv    FollisCon.jpg Justinianr R    overstruck.jpg
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  13. GerardV

    GerardV Well-Known Member

    What a great and crazy time in history! And the coins tell a great story along with the human element.
    7Calbrey likes this.
  14. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member

    This legend is ἐν τούτῳ νίκα In This Conquer, the Greek version of In Hoc Signo Vinces. Constans II SB1000. Sear says they were dated at far right with a year which is off fan on the examples I have seen. The issue was overstruck on cut down pieces of earlier coins an usually look pretty bad.
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  15. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

    ..surely preferable to the alternative..(death) :)
  16. Quant.Geek

    Quant.Geek Well-Known Member

    Been so swapped lately between teaching, work, and family that I have very little time for anything else. Haven't posted anything in a while, but figured I'll post something to get my mind off of work on a Friday afternoon. Here are a few of my Constantine VII coins to stay within topic:

    Byzantine Empire: Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus (913-959) Æ Unit, Cherson (Sear 1771; DOC 29)

    Obv: Facing bust of Constantine VII, beardless, wearing robes and crown with trefoil ornament
    Rev: Large K over ω
    Dim:18.28 mm, 2.64g


    Byzantine Empire: Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus and Romanus I (913-959) Æ19, Cherson Mint (Sear-1772; DOC 38)

    Obv: Sear Monogram 49 of Constantine VII and Romanus I
    Rev: Sear Monogram 50 of Constantine VII and Romanus I

    Sear Monogram 49


    Sear Monogram 50



    Byzantine Empire: Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus (913-959) Æ Follis, Constantinople (Sear 1761; DOC 26)

    Obv: + COҺST ЬASIL ROM; Bust of Constantine VII facing, bearded, wearing modified loros and crown with cross; in left hand, globus cruciger; in right hand, akakia
    Rev: + COҺST / ЄҺ ӨЄO ЬA/SILЄVS R/OMЄOҺ in four lines
    Dim: 26 mm; 5.49 g; 6 h

    Overstruck on a follis of Romanus I Lecapenus minted in Constantinople at 920-944, Sear 1760

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  17. Valentinian

    Valentinian Well-Known Member

    @Quant.Geek , your Cherson mint pieces are very nice. Thanks for adding them to this thread.
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