Featured Heraclius and Husrav II (Khosrau II)

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Sulla80, Aug 17, 2021.

  1. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    Although countermarked Byzantine coins are not usually something I seek out, I couldn't resist this one. It was described in the auction listing as "a glorious mess". It started out as a coin of Heraclius and his eldest son, Heraclius Constantine. Heraclius Constantine holds the Byzantine record for shortest reign (3 months). The underlying coin is clear, including date (X/X/I - year 21 == AD 630/1) , mint (CON - Constantinople) and officina (Γ). The countermark is nicely placed and nearly uncirculated.

    A coin of Heraclius reauthorized by Heraclius
    Sicily cmrk Heraclius.jpg
    Undertype: Heraclius, with Heraclius Constantine, AD 610-641, Æ Follis (26.5mm, 6.42g, 7h). Constantinople mint, 3rd (Γ) officina, Dated RY 21 (AD 630/1)
    Obv: Heraclius, on left, wearing crown and military dress, holding long cross, and Heraclius Constantine, on right, wearing crown and chlamys, holding globus-cruciger; cross above, [monogram] to left, K to right
    Rev: Large M; cross above, [A]/[N]/N/O X/X/I across fields; Γ//CON
    Ref: DOC 106c; MIB 170; SB 810
    Notes: Both sides show a Sicilian countermark - with the argument made that dies were from Catanian engravers, applied centrally on coins from Constantinople - perhaps in Syracuse?.

    This countermark is described by Whiting (1952) :
    "The twin-bust countermark (B.M. Series ii "after 630") is always found over folles of Heraclius, showing the Emperor in military dress and his son Heraclius Constantine in long civilian robes. This type of follis was first issued in 629 and was continued for ten years, though the flans after 631 became lighter and smaller. Sicilian countermarks are most usually found over year 21 (630/1) issues and the dies were placed so that the reverse SCLs obscures the legs and feet of Heraclius, while the obverse lies near the top of the M follis sign."
    -Whitting (1952)

    Dumbarton Oaks (DOC) refers to this as 7th Century countermark "Class B"
    There are three types of countermarked Sicilian coins identified by Heraclius, and this is called Type II by Grierson (1982) and referred to in Dumbarton Oaks as "Group (b)". Grierson notes :
    • these countermarks are unusual for having a rev and obv countermark that is always in the same die axis - made by a pincer like instrument similar to a bullotira used to make lead bullae
    • the countermarks are always found on heavy "reformed" folles (c.9-11 g) [however, my coin at 6.42g seems to deviate from that norm]
    • by 630 Heraclius would be typically have a long beard, and he highlights this as a "slowness of Sicily in following the East"
    • based on the style, the countermarks were likely made by workmen trained in Catania and applied in either Catania or Syracuse, reinforced by the description in DOC
    Why did Heraclius countermark his own coins?
    The weight of the follis mostly declined during his reign from ~11g to about 5g with a bit of bump up in weight (close to 11g) as he centralized minting at Constantinople at the end of the Persian War (RY 20, AD 628). There would be incentive to demonetizing older, heavier coins, and reauthorizing the lighter ones with a countermark, while reminting with the metal from the heavier ones. Flans could also be trimmed to recover metal and then reauthorized with a countermark.

    Here are three examples of this countermark from DOC Plate XX.

    Heraclius, Husrav & the True Cross
    Khosrau II drachm.jpg
    Sasanian Kings, Husrav II Aparviz (Khosrau II), AD 591-628, AR Drachm, AHM (Hamadan) mint, RY 33 (?) == AD 624.
    Obv: Crowned bust right, ideogram on left, king's name on right
    Rev: Fire altar with ribbons; flanked by attendants; star and crescent flanking flames, date on left, mint on right

    Husrav took the True Cross from Jerulalem in 614, relocating it to Khuzistan. By 620 AD, Heraclius was almost driven from Constantinople by Sasanian offensives, but he regrouped and counter-attacked in 622. Fortune turned against the Sasanians who lost Anatolia and ultimately removed Husrav from control in 628.

    Piero della Francesca in the mid-15th century painted a series of frescoes depicting the legend of the True Cross from the time the tree was planted to a depiction of the Annunciation.

    "The True Cross became famous over the centuries as it performed miracle after miracle. According to the legend, the Sassanian king Chosroes II (AD 590-628; Khosrau in Persian) coveting its power, stole the relic and used it to subjugate his citizens. Heraclius, Emperor of Byzantium, in A.D. 628 came with his troops to rescue the cross by force."
    -TravelingInTuscany.com, Piero della Francesca

    Piero della Francesca, Battaglia di Eraclio e Cosroè, affresco, 356 x 747 cm, Basilica di San Francesco, Arezzo, image Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

    Attractive provenance: the coin of Heraclius is ex Doug Smith, well known contributor to CoinTalk, photographer, and author of a collection of educational articles that can be today found on forvm (apologies in advance to @dougsmit for what is certainly an understated and inadequately described bio). I enjoy his writing & insights on ancient coins and more broadly. A comment connected with this coin on CoinTalk:

    "I deny collecting them [Byzantine coins] but quite a few have followed me home."

    This sounds familiar.

    As always, additional coins, references, comments and corrections are much appreciated.

    Post your coins with attractive provenance, coins of Heraclius & Husrav, coins that followed you home, or anything else that you find interesting or entertaining.

    Last edited: Aug 21, 2021
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  3. furryfrog02

    furryfrog02 Well-Known Member

    That is a glorious mess and I love it!

    Here is my messy example:
    Heraclius and Heraclius Constantine, Follis, Sicily.png
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  4. Ryro

    Ryro The last of the Diadochi Supporter

    Great coins and very interesting write up. I did not recall Khosrow II taking the "true cross".
    I wonder where it went from there?
    Like you and Doug I don't collect Byzantine coins... but, like chewed bubble gum, sometimes they stick to the bottom of my shoe. They kinda look like chewed bubble gum too!
    Heraclius with Martina and Heraclius Constantine AD.610-641. Æ Follis - 40 Nummi (22mm, 3.90g). Nicomedia mint, 2nd officina. Dated RY 15. Heraclius, in center, flanked by Martina, on left, and Heraclius Constantine, on right, each wearing crown and chlamys and holding globus-cruciger. / Large mark of value M; ANNO and cross above, monogram to left, X/Ч to right; B//NIK. DOC 165; MIB 177; SB 836

    Had the cross and a funny hat!
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  5. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter 3rd Century Usurper

    Chewed bubblegum that stuck to my shoe? Exactly. Even though my focus is Roman Imperial a large number of such coins have been sticking to my shoes.


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  6. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    I believe I still have the record for 'Doug Smith' provenances but I will point out that I still have a few thousand coins I could be talked out of if you have what I really want so the title is up for grabs. In this particular case, I sold off what I considered a rather interesting coin because it was a bit much like one I was keeping. Looking at the pictures I could see how many would say I sold the better one but the ragged one is special to me because it arrived in the mail loose in the envelope with part of it's metal sticking out of a hole in that envelope. Inside, it had cut clear through a PVC flip and one of those cardboard mailer pads. One more good shake and It would have been lost. Those edges are razor sharp. rz0360bb0654.jpg rz0362fd2423.jpg
  7. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    Nice "bubble gum" coins @Ryro, @ancient coin hunter, and @furryfrog02 "a glorious mess" :). @dougsmit, I am pleased to own your duplicate, both are nice coins. I expect that you are safely in the lead on attractive provenance.

    There are some questions around the recovery by Heraclius. (see Zuckerman cited below). There are pieces/fragments around the world, including one that the Guardian reports was saved from the fire in Notre Dame, Paris.

    Constantin Zuckerman (2013). Heraclius and the return of the Holy Cross. Constructing the Seventh Century. Travaux et mémoires (17). Paris: Association des amis du Centre d'histoire et civilisation de Byzance. pp. 197–218.

    Here's an illustration of the change in intrinsic value of a coin from Justinian to Heraclius. Both coins are Æ Follis or 40 Nummi. One could mint 3 of the OP Heraclius from the one Justinian (AD 541 RY 15: 21g v. AD 630 RY 21: 6.42g).
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  8. Orielensis

    Orielensis Supporter! Supporter

    Interesting coins and write-up, @Sulla80 !

    I don't usually collect Byzantine, but this Heraclius came to me in a lot. I kept it since it was minted in Alexandria very shortly before Egypt was conquered by the Sasanian Empire in 617/618 AD.
    Byzanz – Heraclius, 12 Nummi, Alexandria.png
    Heraclius, Byzantine Empire, AE dodecanummium (12 Nummi), 613–618 AD, Alexandria mint. Obv: Heraclius, bearded, on l., and Heraclius Constantine, no beard, on r., busts facing, each wearing crown with cross, and chlamys; legend dd MM h hERAC (mostly off flan). Rev: large cross potent on two steps, I to left, B to right; in exergue, ΑΛΕΞ. 17mm, 4.59g. Ref: Sear Byzantine 853.

    And here is his antagonist, Khosrau/Husrav/Khusru II:
    Orient, Antike – Sassaniden, Khusru II, Drachme.jpg

    Sasanian Empire, Khosrau II, AR drachm, 590–628 AD, Ram Hurmizd mint. Obv: cuirassed bust r., with winged crown, three stars within crescents around. Rev: fire altar with two attendants, star and crescent flanking flames. 31mm, 4.07g. Ref: Göbl 213 (?). Ex AMCC 1, lot 482 (their picture).
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2021
  9. cmezner

    cmezner do ut des Supporter

    Nice write-up.

    Don't have a Heraclius, but I do have a Khosrau II AR Drachm from Isfahan:
    32.27 mm, 4.057 g Gayy/ Jayy (GD) mint, Dated RY 37 (626 /7 AD). Khosrau was murdered in 628 AD
    Göbl type II/3; Alram 917

    Ob.: 'pzwt GDH - Afzud xwarrah hwsrwb - Husraw (May the royal Glory increase Khusru) Bust of King to r. wearing elaborate eagle-winged crown, within double border decorated with crescent and a six-pointed star fixed on the vertical bar; the two wings are fixed to the bar going out from the rim. Crescent and six pointed stars at 3, 6 and 9 o’clock
    Rev.: Zoroastrian fire altar, an "atasdan" with a capitellum and plates, near which two attendants wearing headdresses stand facing ahead with star and crescent flanking altar flames, all within triple rim decorated with stars and crescent at 3, 6, 9 and 12 o’clock. Pahlavi legend: to the left - the year of his reign; to the right - the mint
  10. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish) Supporter

    Very cool coins and write up @Sulla80 ! Sasanian and Parthian coins are two categories I can see myself getting more serious about over time. Fun thread.

    Here is my Khusro II

    Khusro II: My First Tentative Step into a new Collecting Area
    Sasanian Empire
    Khusro II (AD 590 – 628)
    AR Drachm, BBA mint (court mint), Regnal year 30, struck ca. AD 619 / 620
    Obv.: Pahlavi script at left and right. Khusro bust facing, head right, wearing winged crown with star and crescent, inside double dotted border, crescent and stars at 3, 6 and 9 o’clock.
    Rev.: Date (left) and mint mark (right). Fire altar with two attendents, inside triple dotted border, crescent and stars at 3, 6 and 9 o’clock.
    Ref.: Göbl SN type II
    Ex Sallent Collection, Ex JAZ Numismatics, Ex Aegean Numismatics
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  11. PeteB

    PeteB Well-Known Member

    Here is one of Heraclius, with a different obverse design (single bust) and countermark placement, at Sicily...with a 100+ year earlier Justin I undertype:
    Heraclius. 610-641 AD. Æ Follis (29mm). Syracuse mint. Struck 615/6-627/8 AD. Obv countermark: Crowned and draped facing bust; monogram to right. Reverse countermark: SCLs below bar. DOC 241; MIB Km 4; Anastasi 33 SB 882. Countermarked on a follis of Justin I, struck 518-522 AD (SB 64)
  12. PeteB

    PeteB Well-Known Member

    I didn't see a Khusro I above:
    SASANIAN KINGDOM: Khusro I (?), 531-579, AR drachm (4.2 gm, 3h, 32mm). Obv: Crowned bust right. Rev: Fire altar flanked by attendants
  13. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    Nice collection of upload_2021-8-21_6-49-12.png , @cmezner, @Orielensis and @Curtisimo. I also enjoyed the Alexandrian Heraclius (@Orielensis) and the engaging write-up from @Curtisimo

    Khusro, Khusrau,Chosroes, Xusro, Husrav, 'hwslwb'...what should we call this guy who reigned 39 years? I find the Beast coin & Numista sites useful for decoding, and my only book is Sunrise. Mint names confuse me, and dates even when fairly visible can be hard to differentiate (still questioning my date on OP coin)....any other favorite Sasanian books or online sites?

    @PeteB - great to add the grandfather of Khusrau II to the thread, and to see another of the SCL countermarks. I think this is DOC Class A on a pre-593 follis, imposed at various sites in Sicily, with bust of Heraclius, imperial monogram, and SCL "reverse"?
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2021
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  14. cmezner

    cmezner do ut des Supporter

  15. PeteB

    PeteB Well-Known Member

    Thank you, @Sulla80!
  16. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

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