Featured Medieval - Some Thoughts on the Normans and their Coins

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by FitzNigel, Jun 4, 2017.

  1. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist

    Norman lands are in pink. Original image was found

    I've been on a bit of a binge buying Norman coins of late. I will partially blame @Magnus Maximus for this, but I have always had an interest in the Normans (My doctorate was mostly a study of the Norman's in Europe, but also the Angevin kings of England). As I've been buying more Norman coins, I've been thinking about their adaptability and opportunistic nature which is illustrated in their coins. The Normans have their origins among the many Viking invaders of the 9th century, but were given territory in Northern France by the Carolingian King Charles the Simple. In this land, now called Normandy, these Norse-men would adopt the Christian religion and Frankish culture, but hold on to this sense of having a 'different' identity. Through both planned and opportunistic conquests, the Normans would establish kingdoms and principalities throughout Europe, with four main Coin producing areas: Normandy, England, Southern Italy & Sicily, and the Crusader States (primarily Antioch).

    Not my coin - this is from CNG Auction 379, lot 497
    FRANCE, Provincial. Normandie (duché). Richard I Sans Peur (the Fearless). 943-996. AR Denier (21mm, 1.26 g, 2h). Rotomagus (Rouen) mint. Struck circa 980-985. + RICΛRDVS I (S sideways), short cross pattée, with pellet in each angle / ROTOMΛGVS (S sideways), temple façade with pellet in pediment; in center, short cross pattée in saltire, with pellet in each angle. Duplessy, Féodales 17; Legros 192; Dumas, Fécamp773-2669; Poey d'Avant –. VF, some ghosting.

    The first Norman coins naturally came from Normandy. These deniers were consistent with others minted throughout France in terms of size and weight, as Norman coinage appears at a time when royal control of the minting process was slipping away. In fact William Longsword, the first Norman whose name appears on coinage, may also have been the first count or duke to have officially gained minting rights from the king (others had usurped this right before). The pictured coin is from William's heir, Richard the Fearless. This type is the most common coin found today of those that were minted in Normandy.

    Med-05a-FNor-1106-Henry I-D-XX-13.jpg
    French Feudal, Normandy
    Henry I, r. 1106-1135
    AR Denier, 19.53 mm x 0.9 grams
    Obv.: +NOR[M]MANIA. Short Cross with pellets in each quarter
    Rev.: Short cross with annulets and bars on either side, triangle above and below
    Ref.: Dumas XX-13, Roberts, 4837 reverse

    The Normandy coins degenerated in time. Whereas there was once a clear picture of a temple on the reverse, over the course of a few generations this would become a series of various geometric shapes. There was even a time when the legends degenerated into geometric designs, only to later be reestablished. The chaotic nature of the later Norman coins means it is often a mystery determining exactly who was duke when certain types were minted, and we are thus reliant on Archaeological finds and context.

    Med-09a-Eng-1125-Henry I-D-15-Bury St. Edmunds-Gilebert-871.jpg
    Henry I, r. 1100-1135 (1125-1135)
    Bury St. Edmunds AR Penny, 17.16 mm x 0.8 grams
    Obv.: +hEN[R]I[CVS]. Bust facing crowned and diademed, head three-quarters left, sceptre in right hand
    Rev.: [+]G[ILEBE]RT[:ON]:E[DM]N. Quadrilateral with incurved sides and lis at each angle over cross fleury
    Ref.: North 871, SCBC 1276, De Wit 3186

    When William the Bastard conquered England he refrained from importing Normandy's coinage system to England (it was by his reign as Duke that the coins of Normandy where becoming degenerated). William took over the English coinage and continued their weight, fineness, and style (likely as a part of his propaganda campaign to associate himself as the legitimate successor to Edward the Confessor). William would also continue the Anglo-Saxon practice of minting new types every six years or so. This practice would continue until the reign of his son and second heir, Henry I. As Henry would combat the issue of clipping in England, he would end the practice of recoinage with his fifteenth issue (pictured above), and would also attempt to introduce a round half-penny.

    Med-14-INCal-1098-Roger I-TFol-Mileto-3789.jpg
    Norman Italy - Calabria
    Roger I, r. 1072-1101 (1098-1101)
    Mileto Mint AE Trifollaro, 28.04 mm x 8.3 grams
    Obv.: ROG [ERVS] COME +S. Roger, mounted left wearing Norman helm, holding kite shield and striped banner
    Rev.: + MARIA [MATE]R DNI (’N’ retrograde). Enthroned nimbate Virgin Mary holding on lap Christ child, nimbate and in swaddling clothes right
    Ref.: MEC 14.93, De Wit 3789

    The Norman invasion of Southern Italy would be much more complicated than the invasion of England. For the Norman's part, there was no single invasion under the direction of the duke, but rather a series of incursions by various knights and warriors. The family of the Hautevilles would be the most successful in establishing and consolidating their rule. The situation in Southern Italy would be much more varied and convoluted than the Dukes of Normandy invading England. The Lombards had been engaged in a series of battles with the Byzantine Empire which still held much of the peninsula. Byzantine coinage was quite common in the counties of Capua, Apulia, and Calabria, and the Normans would utilize the copper and gold denominations of the Byzantines. Even with these, there would be some tinkering. In Calabria, Roger I would modify the weight of the Follaro, with lighter issues, and a heavier issues which has often been called a Trifollaro. This issue also contains a rather unique design with Roger mounted on the obverse, and the virgin and child in the reverse. The mounted depiction is rather common on royal seals however.

    Med-14-ISic-1140-Roger II-Tar-Palermo-203 R1.jpg
    Norman Italy - Sicily
    Roger II, r. 1130-1154 (1140-1154)
    Palermo mint, AV Taris, 12.66 mm x 1.1 grams
    Obv.: Outer Cufic legend denoting date and mint, inner Cufic legend al-malik Rujar al-mu’tazz bi-llah, pellet in center of dotted circle
    Rev.: Outer cufic legend denoting date and mint, in center, cross potent on shaft with pellet between IC XC NI KA
    Ref.: MEC 14.202, De Wit 3796

    As the Normans adjusted to Byzantine systems of coinage, they would also invade Sicily and adopt the Muslim monetary system. Western Europe, including the Normans' homeland, only used silver deniers or pennies. Gold had not been used in hundreds of years except for rare ceremonial occasions (for example, there is a gold coin bearing the Anglo-Saxon king Offa's name which otherwise is exactly the same as gold coins used in the Muslim world, including an inscription which praises Allah). The Normans would continue the practice of minting gold Taris with Cufic inscriptions, but would have themselves named as king, and begin introducing Christian iconography (such as the cross).

    Norman Italy - Capua
    Anfusus, r. 1136-1144
    AE Follaro, (13.19 mm) x 0.69 grams
    Obv.: O/A/N in left field, standing figure holding sword
    Rev.: Pseudo-Cufic legend, cross above and below
    Ref.: MEC 14.188
    Note: Seller's photo with the reverse upside-down. Size is estimated based off the type. I am also cursing myself for posting this before it arrives...

    The Normans essentially had two native monetary systems in operation within the newly created kingdom of Sicily (which encompassed southern Italy). Additionally, the silver deniers of their native Normandy have been found in large hoards in Southern Italy, suggesting that they may have continued to circulate the coinage of their homeland. With different monies and cultural influences, the Normans began to blend them together, as evidenced by this copper follaro attributed to Roger II's son Anfusus. This was an issue from Capua: an area with no Muslim influence, yet it contains a pseudo-Cufic script on the reverse which was likely included to familiarize the people with the designs absorbed from the conquest of Sicily. It too contains Christian iconography with crosses above and below the "Cufic" script, and also continues the particular Norman military theme on the obverse (this obverse design would carry on into the Crusader State of Edessa).

    Med-14-ISic-1166-William II-Fol-Messina-3811.jpg
    Norman Kingdom of Sicily
    William II, r. 1166-1189 A.D.
    Messina Mint, AE Follaro, 17.23mm x 1.7 grams
    Obv.: + OPERATAT IN VRBE MESSANE outside, O / REX W / SCOVS in center (OV ligate)
    Rev.: Arabic legend "al'malik / Ghulyalim / al-thani" (King William 2nd) in center, "bi-amr al-malik al-musta'izz" around edge
    Ref.: De Witt 3811

    In time, the Normans would begin minting their own silver/billon coins which would circulate in addition to the copper and bronze they appropriated through their conquests. For a time they would contain both Latin and Arabic inscriptions (the Greek having already fallen out of favor), and eventually the Coins would solely be minted with Latin inscriptions. This Follaro of William II is the design type which would eventually become the more common silver/billon coin of Southern Italy.

    Crusader - Antioch
    Tancred, Regent, r. 1101-1103, 1104-1112
    AE Type 2 Follis, 20.3 mm x 3.3 grams
    Obv.: Bust of Tancred facing, wearing turban, holding sword
    Rev.: Cross pommetée, fleuronnée at base; IC XC NI KA in quarters
    Ref.: De Wit 4076
    Hard earthen dark green patina, light cleaning scratches. Overstruck on a First type follis of Tancred (CCS 3b)

    While the Normans would adapt the native currencies of Southern Italy and eventually incorporate their own, they would also do the same in the Crusader States. The Normans, both in Normandy and Southern Italy, were instrumental in carrying out the First Crusade, and some of the Normans from Southern Italy would rule over the Principality of Antioch. Bohemond I was the Norman who ruled Antioch, but the principality was held in regency for most of his reign due to either captivity or absence. The regent was Tancred, whose grandfather was Robert Guiscard, brother of Roger I mentioned above. Tancred was a leading figure in the crusades, and was even named the prince of Galilee. As regent of Antioch, Tancred would issue coins in the Byzantine style which was customary for the region (as it was recently a part of the Byzantine Empire). Western influence could be seen with depictions of Saint Paul on the obverse of some issues (Paul being the founder of the bishopric of Rome was closely associated with the Pope - not necessarily an endearing figure to the Byzantines since the schism of the church of 1054). Perhaps more interesting is an issue of Tancred's where he is depicted with a long beard and wearing a turban. This was likely meant to show Tancred as blending in with the now native and Muslim population of Antioch, as is a further example of the Normans integrating into a culture which they invaded. This wearing of Eastern dress was something which had also been comented on by chroniclers, lamenting that Western Europeans were acting and behaving more like the heathens of the East.

    Med-16-CrAnt-1149-Bohemond III-D-4085-7.jpg
    Crusader Principality of Antioch
    Bohemond III, r. 1149-1201 (1149-1163)
    AR Denier, Class B, 16.53mm x 1 gram
    Obv.: +BOANVNDVS, bare head right
    Rev.: +ANTIOCHIA, cross in circle
    Ref.: De Witt 4085-7

    As the Normans integrated, so too did they change. Like in Southern Italy, a silver coinage similar to the deniers they knew from Western Europe would be introduced, and these would be used alongside other coins found in the region for the relatively short period that the Crusader States held on to the Levant.

    Anyway, I find this combination of adopting but also changing local custom to be a fascinating element of the Normans - not just in their coins, but in other areas too (such as the military - the main focus of my doctoral research). Feel free to share any Norman coinage (I'm sure there is some out there, even if these guys are a little hard to get ahold of).
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  3. Mat

    Mat Ancient Coincoholic

    Great thread, great writeup & coins!:cool:
    FitzNigel likes this.
  4. Orfew

    Orfew Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus

    Great writeup and excellent coins.
    FitzNigel likes this.
  5. alde

    alde Always Learning

    Thanks FitzNigel for the great write up and coins. Here's my only Norman coin at present.
    Duke Richard I (The Fearless) 943-996
    He was great grandfather of William the Conqueror and Grandson of Rollo (860-932). Norman Duke Richard I 943 to 996.jpg
    VD76, +VGO.DVCKS, Orfew and 12 others like this.
  6. Alegandron

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

    Fun read! Thank you!
    FitzNigel likes this.
  7. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist

    That's a good example of the type! I'm still looking for a nice one at a price I'm willing to pay...
    alde likes this.
  8. Nerva

    Nerva Well-Known Member

    Great read, thanks! Two from me: Henry I and Stephen, both English. Middle picture shows size relative to later Henry III issue, when flans were more standardised. Nice iridescence on the Henry, and both relatively well-struck for these notoriously sloppy issues. Standards fell off from late Anglo-Saxon times.

    I'm interested in your points about assimilation. I'm no expert, but I'm wondering how judgment changes depending on comparison. Relative to the ancient empires, they assimilated more to local customs. But relative to many of the other marauding groups of that time, they seem more organised. Projects like the Doomsday Book were well ahead of their time. You've got me thinking, and I'm now interested in Norman coins from elsewhere. I'm still looking for a William I coin, too... IMG_0116.JPG IMG_0121.JPG IMG_0119.JPG
    VD76, +VGO.DVCKS, Pellinore and 14 others like this.
  9. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter 3rd Century Usurper

    Thanks for the history lesson and for sharing those outstanding coins. Obviously the coinage of the time was somewhat chaotic with Byzantine, Muslim, Crusader, and Norman coins all circulating. There must have been some kind of system of weights, measures, and values that allowed merchants to accept a variety of coins as payment for goods and services - this topic alone would be enough for a doctoral dissertation.
    +VGO.DVCKS and FitzNigel like this.
  10. randygeki

    randygeki Coin Collector

    Interesting post
    FitzNigel likes this.
  11. ancientcoinguru

    ancientcoinguru Well-Known Member

    I always like your posts @FitzNigel, very educational! My interest in medieval coins continues to grow.:)
    FitzNigel likes this.
  12. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist

    Nice Coins Nerva! In terms of being 'ahead of their time,' your example of Domesday book is just another example of them adapting to an existing culture. It was the Anglo-Saxon system of Shires and Hundreds which allowed for the survey to take place - it was only the Conquest which facilitated the need (William needed to know what loot he now owned). No such survey takes place in Normandy or Sicily. They only thing that comes close are a series of knights' surveys which were conducted in a more 'feudal' manner (I.e., the knight comes in and says what he owes, rather than a governmental survey).
    +VGO.DVCKS likes this.
  13. Nerva

    Nerva Well-Known Member

    Thank you! Agree there was Anglo Saxon basis. We know frustratingly little about the details of Anglo-Saxon society, but it does seem that really important things were happening there (development of common law etc). A theme in economic history has been pushing back the origins of the industrial revolution and thinking that the institutional basis might lie much further back in history - what were they up to in the ninth century? All that said, I'd still make a case for the Normans as innovators, at least relative to other conquering groups in Europe. It's not as simple as either/or, and I don't think I'm actually disagreeing with you, but I think I'd put a little more balance towards innovation/imposition in the English context at least.
    +VGO.DVCKS and FitzNigel like this.
  14. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist

    No denying there was some innovation, but I think it is mostly them changing local custom to fit how they were used to living, then adapting to new challenges that came their way.
    +VGO.DVCKS likes this.
  15. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander find me at NumisForums

    An awesome theme!

    William the Fearless (Rouen mint):
    Screen Shot 2017-06-04 at 4.36.53 PM.png

    Bohemond III (ex Murray Gell-Mann collection, the Nobel prize-winning physicist)
    Screen Shot 2017-06-04 at 4.35.48 PM.png

    And I'll also throw in this Viking coin, a Hiberno-Norse Phase II penny from Dublin, moneyer Ndremin:
    Screen Shot 2017-06-04 at 4.35.18 PM.png

    I also have the trifollaro and the tari, though no photos yet.
    VD76, +VGO.DVCKS, RAGNAROK and 13 others like this.
  16. Puckles

    Puckles Cat Whisperer

    I enjoyed the article and would love to add an English William I PAXS penny to my collection. That aside, I think we would have been better off without the Normans. The devastation and misery they and their descendants inflicted on Europe for centuries outweighs any positive contribution from them.
  17. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist

    Glad you enjoyed it - I'd love a William I PAXS too! As for positive contributions, I don't think we could overlook the fact that without the Normans, we would have no kingship of Henry II which would lead to Common Law, and with no Henry then no king John, in which case we wouldn't have Manna Carta and constitutional governments. Maybe these would have developed in some other manner, but of course we would never know!
    johnmilton, +VGO.DVCKS and Puckles like this.
  18. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist

    Awesome Coins! (But you have Richard the fearless - William Longsword I believe is incredibly rare, but I'd love to see one...). I also have an ex. Dr. Murray Gell-Mann Collection!
    John, r. 1199-1216 (1205-1216
    London Mint, AR Short Cross Penny, 18.12mm x 1.54 grams
    Obv.: hENRICVS RE[X]. Bust facing crowned with sceptre, curls enclose pellets
    Rev.: + WALTER . ON . LV. Short cross voided with quatrefoil in each angle
    Ref.: North 971, SCBC 1353, CC99 JH1D-020, De Wit 3196
    Ex. Dr. Murray Gell-Mann Collection
    VD76, +VGO.DVCKS, RAGNAROK and 10 others like this.
  19. TheRed

    TheRed Well-Known Member

    Great post @FitzNigel Despite usually collecting Angevin and Plantagenet hammered coins, I have acquired a few Norman coins. The only one I could find a photo of is this little guy.

    Henry I AR Penny
    Quadrilateral on Cross Fleury type 1125-1135
    London mint Aedgar moneyer

    Attached Files:

    VD76, +VGO.DVCKS, RAGNAROK and 9 others like this.
  20. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist

    Time to take some more pictures then!
    +VGO.DVCKS, TheRed and alde like this.
  21. Parthicus

    Parthicus Well-Known Member

    @FitzNigel : Great write-up on some interesting history and coins. I especially like the Italian-Sicilian coins which show cultural mixing. I have bid on the Calabrian horseback-type at auction before but have been outbid; maybe someday I'll be successful. On your specimen, the halos on Mary and Jesus look like they are wearing space helmets... wait a minute, it's more proof that aliens visited Earth in the past! :blackalien:
    +VGO.DVCKS, RAGNAROK and FitzNigel like this.
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