Featured Isaac Comnenus of Cyprus

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Valentinian, Aug 3, 2020.

  1. Valentinian

    Valentinian Supporter! Supporter

    Here is a coin of Isaac Comnenus (1185-1191), usurper on the island of Cyprus. I like Byzantine AE but hadn't expected to seek such a rare ruler, but I got one anyway.


    Tetarteron. 19 mm. 3.60 grams.
    Christ pantocrator, enthroned. EMMA NOV...
    Virgin, nimbate, crowning the emperor. ΙICAAKOC [off the flan to the left] DECPOTIC to right.

    Sear 1998 "Extremely rare" although acsearch shows some have been found since Sear was published in 1987.
    DOC 4.1, #10, page 363 and 4.2 plate XIX (images from coins in the ANS, not DO). Sear noted that it was not certain this type was not of Isaac II, but by 1999 when DO 4 was published Grierson was able to assert that find spots make it clear this was correctly attributed as a coin of the usurper Isaac Comnenus.

    Here is the location of Cyprus from Google maps:


    This Isaac Comnenus (there are also two other Byzantines of that name) was a grandson of the brother of emperor Manuel (1143-1180). Near the end of the reign of Manuel he was appointed governor of Cilicia and was later captured in battle with the Armenians. After years in captivity, he was ransomed by the Knights Templar in 1185. Instead of returning to the capitol, he went to Cyprus and showed forged documents to make himself governor there and soon declared himself emperor in opposition to the regular Byzantine emperor Androncus (1183-1185) who was harsh and hated and soon replaced by Issac II (1185-1195). So there were two Isaacs at the same time. Isaac II attempted to retake the island from Isaac Comnenus, but failed.
    In 1187 some of the ships of the Third Crusade of the fleet of Richard the Lionheart shipwrecked on the island. The survivors were treated poorly and when the rest of the fleet arrived, Richard demanded restitution (picking a fight, which seems to be what leaders did in those days) which was refused. Of course, battle resulted. Richard captured and then imprisoned Isaac Comnenus and conquered the island. Cyprus was never part of the Byzantine empire again. Richard left it to the Templars and then to Lusignan, the deposed King of Jerusalem.
    Here is a map Europe in 1200:
    On that map Cyprus is in gray, not pink, which is the color of the Byzantine empire. The empire was much reduced in 1200 compared to hundreds of years earlier. You can use that map site to see a political map of Europe at any multiple of 100 years of our era. Click on the map to enlarge the regions.

    Show us any coins of usurpers, or other rulers of the period.
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  3. BenSi

    BenSi Supporter! Supporter

    Nice example. Congrats.
    Here is one of my best for the same ruler.
    ISAAC COMNENUS OF CYPRUS AG TETARTERON S-1994 DOC 7CLBC 6.3.6AOBV Bust of Christ, bearded and nimbate, wearing tunic and kolobion; r. hand raised in benediction. Holds gospels in l.

    REV Bust of emperor wearing stemma, skaramangion or divitision and saigon; holds in r. hand scepter cruciger and in l. ?

    Size 20mm

    Weight 2.39gm

    DOC list 2 examples with a weight of 2.67 gm and sized at 19mm and 21mm
  4. BenSi

    BenSi Supporter! Supporter

    By the way @Valentinian your coin is a high grade for the type , rarely do you see them any better. I do have one coin that I purchased with a heavy patina/growth on it. I left it in cleaning fluid and forgot about it and got a wonderful obverse.

    Here is the before pic.

    Here is the after cleaning pic, it is a shame the reverse is only aF.
  5. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander Blame my mother. Supporter

    I had that one on my watch list, in fact I may have pushed your bid up. :oops: Not too far, though, since I have the following trachy:

    Screen Shot 2020-08-03 at 11.34.41 PM.jpg
    seth77, Johndakerftw, VD76 and 2 others like this.
  6. BenSi

    BenSi Supporter! Supporter


    One more , super rare , not great condition but legit. Isaac Comnenus SBCV-1996
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